Urban Velo

Cycling Legalese: Alleycats

bkevinidesCycling Legalese is our online cycling law column from everyday cyclist and Chicago based injury lawyer, Brendan Kevenides.

You hear a lot about alleycats here at Urban Velo and beyond… But what’s the legal side of street racing?

Q: I hear a lot about alleycat racing. But aren’t they illegal?

Traditionally, alleycat bicycle racing was meant to replicate what bike messengers do on a daily basis: Quickly and efficiently ride through crowded urban landscapes to deliver parcels. In its purest form, during an alleycat riders are informed of a number of checkpoints they must reach. At each, they receive instructions regarding what to do next, then it’s forward to the next stop. Knowledge of city streets and back alleys, as well as strength on a bike are key components for success. The first racer to travel to all checkpoints and cross the finish wins. The spoils are modest: a smallish amount of cash, a new bicycle or component. The real prize, however, comes from knowing (and letting it be known) that you are the best at what you do. Collecting wins is better than employee of the month plaques, yet not as obnoxiously self-aggrandizing as collecting yachts and sports cars.

Here’s the thing though: Alleycat races are dangerous and illegal. Bike races must be approved by state or local authorities before they may take place on public streets. Generally, approval will not be granted unless accommodations are made so that the event does not interfere with traffic. The point of alleycat racing is to test one’s ability to travel by bike in the city under the kinds of conditions faced daily by bike messengers, in traffic. Obviously, no governmental authority would sanction a race in moving traffic. One significant downside to these races operating outside the law is that they are uninsurable. If a racer is hurt due to a poorly designed or designated course, or some other negligent act or omission by the race organizer, he or she will likely be out of luck with regard to receiving compensation.

Bad things can and do sometimes happen in alleycat racing. In March, 2008 a racer was killed during what used to be the biggest and most important such race in Chicago, the Tour Da Chicago. During the race, several racers ahead of the main pack reportendly approached the six-way intersection of Lincoln-Damen-and Irving Park. As they did, the pace, which had been high, slowed because the light was red. However, one of the racers, Matt Lynch, apparently tried to take advantage of everyone else slowing and shot into the intersection. When he did he was struck and killed by an SUV traveling at full speed. Matt made a mistake and it cost him his life. When deciding whether to enter an alleycat race, the prospective participate should consider the stakes and carefully take stock of his or her ability and experience. Recently, there has been a trend of alleycat races being organized and participated in by bicyclists who are not messengers, riders who may not have the kind of ability and smarts that someone who rides for hours every day on crowded city streets does. A while ago I asked Ben Fietz of the Chicago Couriers Union to offer his insight about alleycat races. He graciously did so. Here is what he wrote to me:

Alleycat races are pretty much always illegal, and can be very dangerous. That said, they can also be a very important part of the messenger community and the biking community in general. It sounds crazy, but I probably wouldn’t be where I am today if I hadn’t participated in alleycat races. In their purest form, alleycat races are a way for messengers to compete against each other and find out who is actually the fastest and who knows the city the best. I have the top spot at one of the best messenger companies in Chicago, and the truth of it is that I got into the company that I work for by racing in alley cats and proving myself about six years ago.

That used to be the main purpose of alleycats. They were races put on by messengers for messengers. But a few years ago, alleycats started to get really popular with city cyclists, and they started entering alleycats, and eventually throwing their own. It got to the point in Chicago where there were more non-messenger thrown races than messenger ones. Of course companies with hip marketing departments became aware of this scene, and sponsorship for the races grew. The early alleycat races usually didn’t have any sponsors at all, they would just be a cash race, winner takes all. It has gotten to the point where people are having alleycat races in cities which don’t even have any messengers in them. I heard about a race in St. Augustine Florida, which seems kind of silly. A couple of years ago, Velocity wheels sponsored and threw an alleycat in the city in Michigan which their headquarters are located. Once again, there were no messengers in the city, but they had an alleycat with a huge prize list, and people came from all over to race.

There aren’t as many alleycat races in Chicago as there used to be. The Sadie Hawkins race in the fall is a yearly race, which has very little involvement by messengers, but it’s a fun race and usually has a huge turnout. A messenger has been throwing a race about once a month downtown. These races are short and fast, and are set up to favor messengers. There are usually a couple of stops in each race that are very hard to find unless you are a messenger. The biggest race used to be the Tour Da Chicago, until Matt’s death.

* * * * *

As far as the safety of alleycats, it is pretty much up to the individual racer to race within your limits. There isn’t really any way to make a completely safe alleycat race. The whole point is that you are racing on city streets with traffic. The difference between a good alleycat race and a bad one is the level of organization and how well the race flows. But how well the race is organized really doesn’t have any bearing on how safe that race will be to enter, just how much fun it will be.

Alleycat racing, if it is to be done at all, should be left to folks who know what they are doing. A group of riders racing through city streets pretending to be something they are not, professional bicycle couriers, is a recipe for disaster. Before deciding to participate in an alleycat understand what you are getting into.

—Disclaimer—
Nothing contained in this column should be construed as legal advice. The information contained herein may or may not match your individual situation. Also, laws differ from place to place and tend to change over time. No reader should act or refrain from acting on the basis of any information presented herein without seeking the advice of an attorney in the relevant jurisdiction. This column is meant to promote awareness of a general legal issue. As such, it is meant as entertainment. It does not create an attorney-client relationship between the author and the reader.
—Disclaimer—
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Cycling Legalese: Almost Doored

bkevinidesCycling Legalese is our online cycling law column from everyday cyclist and Chicago based injury lawyer, Brendan Kevenides.

What if by virtue of luck and reflexes you narrowly avoid a parked car’s door swinging open only to be struck by a passing vehicle? Who is responsible?

Q:Recently, I was almost doored. Luckily, I was able to swerve out of the way and avoid injury. But I could have been nailed by another car when I swung left to miss the door. I was wondering, if I got hit could I have held the driver that opened the door responsible?

You were not almost doored. You were doored. It sounds like you avoided injury thanks to some good reflexes and a bit of luck. Had you crashed because of that carelessly flung open door, the driver that opened it likely would have been responsible for the harm. A driver does not get a free pass because a bicyclist evades their bad conduct.

A driver may be responsible for the harm caused by his or her negligent driving even if there is no actual contact. However, the lack of contact between car and bicycle can create evidence problems. When there is no contact it may be more challenging to prove that the driver’s conduct actually caused the bicyclist’s injury. Proving a casual connection between the driver’s bad action and the injury sustained by the cyclist is a vital part of every bicycle injury case. Inevitably the driver will assert that (1) he or she did nothing wrong, and (2) the bicyclist overreacted and crashed on their own. Furthermore, the burden of proving the casual connection between the driver’s conduct and the harm is a burden borne by the injury victim.

Recently our law firm resolved a case that highlights the challenges that may arise from a near miss situation. Our client and his friend were participating in an organized ride. The route took them through a downtown area in a central Illinois city. They were on a road with one lane of travel in each direction with no shoulder or parking on either side when our client heard his friend yell, “Truck!” He looked to see a semi tractor trailer bearing down on them. It did not look like it was going to stop so the two pushed as close to the curb as possible. The truck passed them at about 35 mph within 18 inches, in violation of Illinois’ three foot passing law. Somehow, while the two cyclists were attempting to get out of the way of the passing semi, they ran into one another, causing our client to fall and break his leg. There was no contact between the cyclists and the truck, which continued on without stopping. The driver was never identified, and the subject truck was never found. No witnesses were able to obtain a license plate or identifying number from the truck. All we had was the name of the trucking company which had been emblazoned on the side of the vehicle. That turned out to be enough to hold the company responsible. With the name of the corporation we filed a lawsuit seeking to hold it vicariously liable for its driver’s negligence. The case eventually settled for a substantial sum.

Incidents in which there is no actual contact between a motor vehicle and bicycle are undoubtedly more challenging. The cyclist’s credibility will be challenged by the defense. His or her version of events must be able to stand up to strong scrutiny. But where a driver causes serious injury by forcing the cyclist to take dangerous evasive action, he or she may be accountable for the harm.

—Disclaimer—
Nothing contained in this column should be construed as legal advice. The information contained herein may or may not match your individual situation. Also, laws differ from place to place and tend to change over time. No reader should act or refrain from acting on the basis of any information presented herein without seeking the advice of an attorney in the relevant jurisdiction. This column is meant to promote awareness of a general legal issue. As such, it is meant as entertainment. It does not create an attorney-client relationship between the author and the reader.
—Disclaimer—

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Your Polo Update: Tin Man Edition

Yes, I have been more or less sidelined due to my ticker. No, that doesn’t mean I’m giving up polo. No, it doesn’t mean you can have my equipment. NO IT DOESN’T MEAN YOU CAN HAVE MY EQUIPMENT STOP ASKING.

While on a hopefully temporary sabbatical, I have the chance to sit down and fill you in on just a few of the happenings within the North American Bike Polo world. Let’s start our round up with upcoming tourneys:

 

GentlemensFirst, let’s talk about Davis’s 3rd Annual Gentlemen’s Polo Deathmatch out of Davis, California. The tourney is held in the “blue cage of death,” and is free (donations are accepted, of course). Both days are listed as a “friendly 3×3 polo tournament,” so let’s just assume it’ll be Saturday placement and Sunday tourney. Hey, the price is right, and the blue cage of death sounds like a lot of fun for a weekend. Just remember to have a safe word.

 

DecaturThe Decatur Illinois Bike Polo Gathering is going on July 27th and 28th, featuring one court with 2 foot walls, this shuffle tourney (you don’t go with a team, friend. You get one when you show up) features camping and food included. You also have a chance to win a Joust via raffle, and that’s kinda swell, isn’t it? At twenty bucks a head, why not, right? Seems like a fun time, and there is still plenty of space left to register.

 

 

ApoloclypseFinally, we have The Last Stand IV, Apocalypse Later, which has such a reputation for being a great tourney that I really don’t even need to mention much more than this: it’s probably, really, actually going to be the last time this tourney is being put on. 75 bucks a team, includes food and dollar beers. It’s a tiny tourney of 16 teams only, so there’s a good chance that it’ll be all filled up by the time you read this, but you should give it the old college try anyway. The format is your typical swiss round Saturday to double elim Sunday, with boozing and partying peppered in-between. If you can make it, make it.

 

Now, normally I’d share something that caught my eye in the League of Bike Polo (ALL HAIL) forum at this point. I’d bring up the subject and discuss my thoughts on the matter. Well, the one I found was a discussion about what makes for top shelf shots (shots that leave the ground and fly in the air/into the goal). When I dove into the topic, however, I was met with the following:

Thinking of the moment immediately prior to impact. Is the face of the mallet moving at a constant rotational velocity, or is it still accelerating? Higher elastic deformation if accelerating, and I think adding wrist on gives just that much more at impact and follow-through. –Alias of DC Bike Polo, Robot.

I mean, I think I understand what Robot Alias was getting across, but come on. It’s polo. Let’s not think about it that much. Sheeeesh.

Anyway, I guess people are excited about figuring out the 1s and 0s of how to make a little ball fly in the air once being struck by a piece of plastic on a glorified ski pole. Keep on keeping on, polokins.

 

Arc 4Moving over to new products, I can honestly say there isn’t very much popping up on the old Crusher-radar 2000. One thing that did come up just today is a very interesting little picture from Modifide of smaller Arc head (dubbed the Arc 4). It looks as though it’s taking into account an earlier drawing made that the Modifide group put together (I seem to remember the picture looking more like a cube), but still maintaining the hourglass figure. Note, however, that this will be a limited run, so as soon as these go live, snatch them up if you’re interested.

fixcraft goldFixcraft Friday is coming down the line, and with it will come—I can assume—at least one new color option for the Cleat mounting system. But it’s rare that the new color will be the only exciting deal happening this Friday, so put some coffee on and keep refreshing the page to see what else pops up at a great price.

 

 

As far as Northern Standard, Milwaukee, MILK, or Magic are concerned (yes, I know there are more companies than that), no news. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t check out what they’ve already got, of course, but there are no new products as of my typing. Get off my case, man.

So that’s your update, dear poloistas. I hope your summer tourneys are going swimmingly, and remember to drink plenty of water while you’re out there.

The Importance of Bike Polo Fair Play

I recently watched an episode of (I think) Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel just before heading off to polo. One of the topics discussed was the increasing amount of attacks on officiators by athletes, their parents, and spectators in general. There was really some faith-in-humanity destroying segments, including interviews with a family of a ref who was recently killed due to a head injury sustained by an angry athlete in Utah.

And I guess this is the way it is now: refs arriving early to games they are officiating in order to find escape routes , contacting the head of security for events and asking who they should run for if things go wrong—it’s the nature of sports in our country.

So how does this apply to you and I, polo players extraordinaire? To put it as simply as possible: our sport is young enough that we can avoid that trend.

When bike polo was first invented in Ireland, sportsmanship was very different than it is today. You played hard, but players were also expected to be knowledgeable about rules and recognize when they’d done something particularly against them. Officiators were respected and obeyed (and, to the defense of your great grandfather, there was still plenty of arguing and cursing, but the call on the field was obeyed as law—that’s why the officiator was there).

ESPIs-Seven-2012-96-1024x680The reason for this is really pretty easy to grasp, too: you’re playing a game, and games have rules. If you break those rules, you’re ruining the entire basis of the game, and that’s just as lame as you can get. Take the call and move on.

Lots of sports are now so entirely focused on amazing achievement and not on sportsmanship – look at American football as your paradigm of the player becoming more important than the sport—and this has caused a fundamental shift in respecting officials and in listening to their enforcement of the rules.

One thing that is constantly called for in our sport is a more organized, widely available set of refs to officiate every NAH event—and I don’t disagree. However, I think we as the players of that sport also must make sportsmanship as integrated as possible in the game itself. We don’t have to look at rules as limiting, but rather enabling for great plays to be achieved and for the playing field to be more equal between teams. You might be a heartless brawler, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you should win everything simply because the other team is scared you’re using a spraypainted-yellow-iron mallet.

NAH-RulesetOur rule set – as flexible and changing as it is – started as one single rule: don’t be a [jerk] (I honestly don’t know if I can swear on Urban Velo, but you know what that rule actually says). Within that simple little rule is the entire foundation for sportsmanship. It wasn’t a specific binding law, it was an understanding through polo that there were situations where a player could manipulate the game in such a way that made them dangerous to other players (while benefitting themselves). Before the larger rule set, players themselves made on-the-court decisions if a particular event was fair or violated that first rule of polo. It worked because we agreed to have it work.

I’m not suggesting that sportsmanship can be instilled by just removing all of the other rules we have now and going back to one, but I am suggesting it’s important to keep that ground rule in your mind—to instill it in new players and remind veteran players to keep the first rule as a basis for actions in heated tourneys. We’re fortunate that we don’t need to deal with players who attack refs (there’s always the possibility that it will happen, and that will be a fun day of shouting at my computer screen as I write incomplete sentences about the end of our sport). I think it’s important that we continue to keep a level head about sportsmanship and accept calls as they come – learn what the rules are – and keep ourselves vigilant against making ourselves more important than the game we are playing.

Cycling Legalese: Should I Carry Insurance?

bkevinidesCycling Legalese is our online cycling law column from everyday cyclist and Chicago based injury lawyer, Brendan Kevenides.

It comes up amongst serious commuters all the time, should cyclists carry insurace? Are you already covered by existing policies? In this column Brendan lends some insurance guidance on what to look for in a policy.

Q:My bike is my primary means of transportation, so I ride a lot. Should I have insurance just in case, and, if so, what kind?

Talking about bikes is awesome. Insurance, not so much. But if you ride a lot in the city it is time to eat your peas and contemplate it, if only briefly. If something bad happens you will wish you thought about it. Cars, trucks and buses tend to produce horrible results when they collide with people on bicycles. For that reason, motor vehicle owners are generally required by law to have insurance to compensate anyone they may injure. Nevertheless, nationally one in seven drivers, over 14%, fails to carry the necessary coverage, according to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners. In big cities, based on my experience, the statistics are ever scarier. I would guess that in Chicago where I practice, one quarter to one-third of all drivers go without auto coverage. That means if you get hit by one of these scofflaws your chances of being compensated for your injuries and damage to your bike are nil. But you can protect yourself by purchasing insurance before a crash.

Here is a brief primer on the coverage you should have:

Health insurance: I know, it is expensive and these days fewer employers offer it to their employees. Those dreary facts noted, do whatever you can to get yourself covered. Get on a parent’s policy. Look for a job with great benefits, even if the salary is not the best. Companies like Whole Foods, REI and Starbucks are well known for providing employees good benefits packages. Even with a seemingly minor injury medical bills can mount up fast. An ambulance trip to the hospital alone can run you close to a thousand dollars. Add in some x-rays and an ER trauma protocol and your bills could be jaw-dropping. The bottom line is that if there is any way that you can swing getting health insurance, you should.

Auto insurance: A bicyclist should have car insurance. If you get hit and injured by a driver you may look to your own auto policy for protection. It matters not that you were on a bike instead of in your car at the time of the crash. If one of the conveyances involved was a motor vehicle, then your auto policy may provide you with coverage. Your auto policy will likely have two relevant provisions: “med pay” and un/underinsurance motorist coverage. The medical payments provision of your policy will pay your bills up to a set amount, usually between $5,000 and $10,000. Med pay can get eaten up fast by medical bills but it is better than nothing. Also, it will not be necessary to prove that the other driver was at fault to recover under the medical payments provision of your policy. If you are injured by a motorist that coverage is generally available. Uninsured and underinsured coverage generally provides more substantial coverage. However, you will be required to provide proof that the un/underinsured driver was at fault for causing your injuries. You may wish to have an attorney assist you in recovering un/underinsured motorist coverage from your insurer.

Non-owners auto insurance: No car? No problem getting car insurance. Consider non-owners auto insurance. These policies are offered by many insurance companies and tend to be more affordable than owner’s coverage, generally about half the premium of a traditional auto owner’s policy. They may provide medical payments coverage, just like traditional auto policies. Also, they may protect the non-car owning bicyclist who is injured by an uninsured or underinsured driver. The other nice thing about non-owners policies is that if you decide that the no car thing is not for you, you will have established an insurance history which may help you get a fair rate on car insurance.

Bicycle insurance: This is another option for the bicyclist who does not own a car. Also generally less expensive than traditional auto insurance, these policies provide coverage to pay your medical bills and to fix/replace your bike. They may also protect you should you injure another cyclist or pedestrian. There seem to be more and more companies sprouting up to offer bicycle insurance. One company that seems to be aggressively marketing its services is Markel American. Curious about what they had to offer, a few months ago I investigated. What I found was that for $310 a year, $25.83 a month, I could receive $25,000 in “bicycle liability” and “vehicle contact protection.” Markel defines bicycle liability coverage as “protection for bodily injury or property damage” for which the insured cyclist becomes liable to another person such as a pedestrian, another bicyclist, or motorist. Vehicle contact protection is coverage to benefit the bicyclist should he or she be injured by an uninsured or underinsured driver. That $310 price also includes $10,000 in medical payments coverage defined by Markel as coverage providing “protection for the reasonable charges for necessary medical, surgical, x-ray, dental, ambulance, hospital and professional nursing services and funeral service expenses incurred within one year form the date of an accident causing bodily injury to an insured while using an insured bicycle.” Generally, the insured may receive compensation under a medical payments provision of an insurance policy regardless of who was at fault for causing his or her injuries. The quote I received also provided some nice benefits should the insured bicycle become damaged in a crash.

Homeowners and renters insurance: If you own a home or rent an apartment it is a good idea to have this sort of coverage. These policies may compensate you if your bike is stolen, even if it is swiped far from home. They may also protect you with liability coverage if you injure someone else while riding your bike. However, they probably will not offer a source of compensation to you if injured while cycling.

Insurance companies market themselves as offering safety and security should your world turn upside down. Sometimes they do. However, whether a particular policy is really worth the premium depends upon how it works when it is really needed. Please do not accept anything I have written here as an endorsement of any particular company or any service or policy it provides. I strongly encourage readers to investigate for themselves when purchasing insurance. Of course, all insurance policies are different. Ask lots of questions when purchasing a policy. Assume nothing.

—Disclaimer—
Nothing contained in this column should be construed as legal advice. The information contained herein may or may not match your individual situation. Also, laws differ from place to place and tend to change over time. No reader should act or refrain from acting on the basis of any information presented herein without seeking the advice of an attorney in the relevant jurisdiction. This column is meant to promote awareness of a general legal issue. As such, it is meant as entertainment. It does not create an attorney-client relationship between the author and the reader.
—Disclaimer—

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Your Polo Update: Get Tourney In Ya Teeth

It’s from the polo war room that I write to you, and with the season in full swing, I’m more than happy to be here amongst my many leather bound mallets and polo related beverages. This is probably my second favorite time of the polo season, actually, as anything is still possible in relation to Nationals and Worlds, there are so many tourneys to go to, and people are still working out exactly what they’re going to blame the NAH for the most.

My money is on the 17 year Cicadas, btw. Totes the NAH’s fault.

So, let’s see what’s going on by way of the tourneys:

SoloPoloIIFinalLowResFirst, we have the Solo Polo Santa Fe II out of Santa Fe. A pickup tourney were you go, free of charge, and just play. Despite my natural desire to hate them for spelling “immediately” as “IMMEADITLY” on the flyer, it does seem like a pretty rock solid good time if you’re able to make it there. Breakfast and lunch provided, fun to be had by all, and lots of room for polo rookies.

 

 

NORTHSIDES2013_horizontal2Next, I want to highlight the Northside Regional Qualifier which is taking place June 15th and 16th . It’s the Northside Regional folks, I shouldn’t really have to explain this one too terribly much. How-ev-er I will tell you what makes it great: one court for dedicated pickup the whole tourney, and the courts are lit until 1AM – so don’t you worry your pretty little heads if someone is a few minutes late to get into their game. Lots of beer to be had at the registration party (at a pub) and a brewery crawl for people who understand that Michigan has some of the finest beers about.

 

eleanorAnd ON THAT VERY SAME WEEKEND OH MY GOD is the SouthEastern Regional Qualifier which has been dubbed by organizers as “Ya’ll about to drink so much moonshine you’ll think you’re Hellen Keller.” If that doesn’t set up your expectations, I don’t quite know what will. This tourney will only see five teams qualify for Nationals, so competition is expected (by me) to be fierce and bloody. At least I’m hoping so. If you are planning to attend this one—as in already have registered and are all set—make sure you get your housing sorted. Looks like it’s going to be tight quarters unless you’re prepared.

As a side note: if you look at the thread for this tourney on League of Bike Polo (ALL HAIL!) you’ll see that, once again, someone thinks that Horse is the person running Lancasterpolo.com and not me. I guess nobody can believe that a short hobbit-y fellow could talk so much about polo. Let’s leave the tourneys before I start crying.

Next, let’s talk about some of the hoopla in the forums.

One topic that caught my fancy was a conversation about joint pain. Outside of VFW bingo nights, conversations about joint pain often come up on the LoBP forums and are often met with the same series of comments: “man up,” “here’s a wrap you can try,” and “yeah, me too.” The best advice I’ve come across as far as what people say has worked is twofold: take a break and exercise the joint. I understand why that can sound like bullish advice, but it makes sense: you’re using a specialized set of muscles to play the sport, and those muscles, probably, don’t see much workout during your regular day. Making them stronger can help in making them more resistant to the strains our sport puts on them. Give your wrists a break for a while and after they feel better, figure out a way to work them out for strength.

(Insert joke here. Laugh to yourself. Moving on…)

Honestly, though, I think it’s important to not act like a buffoon if you’re experiencing nagging pain in polo. Nothing could be worse than doing real harm to yourself because you chose to ignore the pain. Taking a few weeks off is much better than taking a few years, right?

Now, let’s talk about bike polo equipment:

MKE smallmouthFirst, Milwaukee has released this new head you should be excited to catch. See what I did there? Okay, seriously though, the Small Mouth Monohead from MKE has been out for quite a while, but I’ve never caught up to talk about it: at five inches and about 83 grams, the never-recycled UHMW head is as clean as it is dependable. Pre-drilled so you have a harder time messing up your mounting, the head has a 2.5 inch outside diameter and a single capped end. Currently at $21.99, it’s well within the price range of high quality heads and really is just a no-nonsense, I-want-to-buy-a-good-mallet-head purchase.

malletsNext I was excited to see that Portland Bike Polo’s “Electric Salmon” head is back and up for sale. (I’ll spare you all the fish jokes I had lined up for this one given that I used a bunch for the MKE above.) Anyway, the Electric Salmon is UHMWPE milled  to have an open side and a capped side. Weighing in at about 78 grams, the head is softer than what you’ll find with a UHMW head but lighter for it. What I appreciate most about the head (outside of how good it feels, as I had one for a little while before giving it to our resident mallet expert Kyle), is how honest the product page is: “If your spirit animal is Thor riding the Incredible Hulk, you will break this mallet. If you smash the mallet into the ball instead of into the ground, the mallet will last for months.”      Coming in at 25 dollars a head, it’s high in cost compared to some other non UHMW heads – but take heart: multiple orders get discounts in initial price, depending on how many more than 2 you buy.

fixcraft cleatFinally, Fixcraft is planning to release its new mounting system on the 7th of June (during their Fixcraft Friday event). There has been a lot of hub-bub about this new mounting system and I can echo the excitement. I wrote an initial review here, if you want to read particulars, but I think I can safely say that the world of polo is pretty excited to see what Fixcraft has come up with this time. Price is unknown at this point, so we’ll have to see how it falls in line with other mallet assembly options. They’ve also redesigned their mallet heads, and shafts, thought it doesn’t seem like you need to use either, necessarily, to use the cleat mounting system. I don’t have a link to point you to, so I’ll point you to the Merch Table and let you gander around there for a while.

And that’s your polo update! Before I leave you, I want to invite you to comment and make suggestions as to what you want to see here. More strategy? More about tourneys? Something else? Feel free to drop a line and let me know what you’re wishing for. I’m like the godmother of polo, minus the wings.

Cycling Legalese: Naked Ride Trouble

bkevinidesCycling Legalese is our online cycling law column from everyday cyclist and Chicago based injury lawyer, Brendan Kevenides.

Getting ready for the World Naked Bike Ride? We’ve got some tips to keep you legal and out of jail for the night.

Q:I am thinking about doing my first Naked Ride. I know a lot of people do it, but could I get in trouble?

The World Naked Bike Ride, taking place in cities around the world, is coming up. The reasons for doing it vary by individual, but generally the ride is meant as a celebration of cycling, a work of participatory performance art, and an act of political protest against big oil. It is also meant to draw attention to cyclists as roadway users. (Can you see me now, Mr./Ms. Motorist?)

I have participated in Chicago’s large edition of the event, helping the security detail and the police provide a safe atmosphere for riders. (I ride with the security detail fully clothed. No one wants to see their lawyer streak by in the buff.) From my experience in Chicago, and based on what I have read of the event in other cities, the event is generally peaceful and the police tend to be mostly tolerant. However, there are ways to get in trouble on the ride. Here is a basic guide on how to avoid getting busted:

Ride With The Pack: Staying with the mass of riders you are arguably a part of a well-established political and artistic act meaning that you are probably entitled to the protection of the First Amendment allowing for free speech. On the other hand, once you have separated from the group you are just a dude naked in the street and as such may have a harder time arguing that your conduct is protected under the First Amendment. You could be arrested for violating local indecent exposure laws. If you run into mechanical trouble (with your bike that is) or need to break from the group for any reason, put your clothes on to avoid a run in with the police.

Don’t Act A Fool: It may not be your nakedness that ends up getting you into trouble, but rather your conduct. It seems that some folks down a bit too much liquid courage in preparation for dropping their drawers in front of thousands of city dwellers. Doing so could lead to running afoul of local BUI laws, in places where they exist, or public drunkenness and disorderly conduct laws pretty much everywhere. Avoid alcohol for this event.

Don’t Be A Creep: Perhaps this should go without saying, but be aware that it may not take much to make people around you feel uncomfortable. Do not take anyone’s picture without asking them first. This is common courtesy. Also, be advised that while the World Naked Bike Ride is generally a friendly, welcoming event, unfortunately, it does attract some weirdos who come out just to shoot video and photos. The folks in the security detail will be on the look out for these people but be advised that the creeps do come out. Understand what you are getting into and, as they say, “bare as you dare.”

—Disclaimer—
Nothing contained in this column should be construed as legal advice. The information contained herein may or may not match your individual situation. Also, laws differ from place to place and tend to change over time. No reader should act or refrain from acting on the basis of any information presented herein without seeking the advice of an attorney in the relevant jurisdiction. This column is meant to promote awareness of a general legal issue. As such, it is meant as entertainment. It does not create an attorney-client relationship between the author and the reader.
—Disclaimer—

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Corey’s Stories — All Charges Dropped

summons A few months ago I was riding my bicycle along 6th Avenue, a busy 6 lane, one-way road, with the flow of traffic on a clear sunny day. I had packed my lunch and was heading to the office of Elite Couriers to refuel for the rest of the day’s activities. In the block before the intersection where I needed to make a right turn was a police car parked in the far right lane. In front of it was a food delivery guy. Traffic was snarled trying to get around the obstacle. In addition there were the gawkers who slow traffic further, curious to see why their forward progress was delayed.

As I attempted to ride around the cluster, a police officer jumped from the passenger side of the vehicle and ordered me to stop. He asked me for my ID. I asked him why. He told me because I was not using the bike lane on the other side of the road. I told him that I was making a right turn at the next intersection. He then made me wait in front of his patrol car as he checked my ID. It was a humiliating and infuriating experience. The police officer snagged another food delivery guy for the same reason as I waited.

I stood in front of the patrol car, my bike on the ground, arms folded. My blood was boiling. A few friends rolled by on their bikes, attempting to stop to see if I was OK. I vigorously waved them on. If the NYPD would cite me for something as trivial as not riding in the bike lane, I was certain they would cite them as well. Somewhere in the warped minds of HQ, it would be viewed as an effective sting against outlaw cyclists.

The police officer got out of the car, handing me my ticket last. I let him know that the law allows me to ride out of the bike lane if I am preparing to make a turn. His response as he handed me the ticket: “Tell it to the judge.”

On the pink ticket, a summons, there is a line indicating when the accused should appear in court. The line on my summons was blank. I was hoping to receive a letter in the mail saying that the matter would be dismissed. After two weeks, I received nothing. There are many cyclists in New York that ignore these minor tickets because they are deemed trivial. They fail to understand that they become warrants. If by some chance they meet another law enforcement agent in the future in New York City, they will be detained. I do not want that possibility dangling over my head. A month after being cited, I went to the Criminal Court to clear my name. (Writing that last sentence was painful, just the very notion of going to CRIMINAL court because I got caught making a right turn on a bike disgusts me.)

New York State Courts has a huge room with a roped-off maze to enable a long line to form. There are a hundred or so people waiting to check in for various violations and misdemeanors. Some cases are dismissed, others require a court room appearance. When I approached the window, I handed the clerk my ID and the summons filled out with a NOT GUILTY plea checked. I was handed a different piece of paper and directed to go to a court room down the hall. (This was all happening on a normal work day meaning that the more time I spent in court, the less time I spent at my paying job.)

I sat in the front row of the benches for the accused in the court room. I was eager to settle the matter and be on my way. Lingering in a dingy court room, listening to the variety of inappropriate behaviors witnessed and cited by the police, while an integral part of the US Constitutional right to a speedy and public trial, was not how I wanted to spend my day. I sat in the court room for several hours hearing case after case being called. The bailiff would call the accused forward, the judge would browse the information on the citations and say how much the fine was for the offense. The accused would either pay the relatively small fee and plead guilty or plead not guilty and return for a trial with the citing officer.

New York has a very high cost of living. As such, everyone needs to make lots of money to exist. Many people, even though innocent, plead guilty rather than waste more time returning to court. Frivolous tickets are a travesty of justice and a waste of both government and citizens’ resources.

I listened to all the cases for the morning. I was one of the last cases called. It was only after waiting for so long that I was told my case was scheduled the following month. I was early. The judge said my fine was to be $75. The public defender, who knew nothing about my case, asked if I was going to pay it. I looked her in the eye and boldly said no. She told me that I would have to come back for a trial as if it were going to be a more severe punishment. I told her that I was not guilty and that I could show her on my iphone the statute proving my innocence. I asked if they could dismiss the case. I was told the citing officer needed to be present. Great. Five hours wasted. No resolution. Still a suspected criminal.

On the official day of the court case, I arrived at 346 Broadway at 9am. I had a few tense words with security when they collected my bike pump, tools and helmet. They have sticker pairs where they keep your stuff, putting one sticker on your things and hand you the matching one for retrieval later. I told them not to put stickers on my helmet, the dude shrugged and did so anyway. I went to the appointed court room and handed my paper to the bailiff. (It was disturbing that I have been to Criminal Court for bicycle offenses enough that his face was familiar.) I took my seat on the first of the benches. I was hoping to be finished quickly. I sat as other people entered the court room. I kept an eye on the clock, hoping I would not have to waste another day sitting in court. There was a quiet tension in the air. Construction across the street from the windows made the occasional thundering boom as if we were on the edge of a war zone.

The bailiff stood at the front of the court and said amid all of the murmuring: Corey Hilliard. The noise diminished as he glared around the courtroom. He loudly said: RAISE YOUR HAND IF YOU’RE HERE! The woman sitting next to me and dozens of other nervous people around the courtroom all raised their hands. I laughed. He then said after getting everyone’s attention for people to raise their hands after their name was called. He called my name again. This time I was the only one to raise my hand. I was directed to talk to the public defender in the hallway.

The woman introduced herself and asked about the case. She showed me the ticket. I told her it looked different. Revised. I remember some information that was on the pink ticket, a duplicate of the one she was supposed to be viewing, missing. I told her everything that happened. I also gave her a printed copy of the exact statute that would exonerate me. She was impressed with my “legal research.” She kept the paper and we went back into the court room.

I waited as the first few cases were heard. This judge was in a good mood or just a very awesome guy from the old school approaching retirement. Many of the NY State judges are stern individuals that believe their job is to dish out punishment to the masses brought before them. One case was for public urination. The judge questioned the man about the affair that occured at 3 am. He asked if he had been drinking. The man replied yes. The judge told him to let it out before heading out of the house. The judge joked to the bailiffs as the man left the court room that “The kidneys break down after midnight.” Another case was of a young woman caught for public drinking. She was asked what what was her life story. She was a college student, majoring in criminology. The judge asked if she could find criminals. He said, “Look around do you see any criminals here? To me they look like citizens that got caught doing nothing.”

Officer Perez arrived. He sat in the bench closest to the front of the court room near the judge. I burned holes in the back of his head with my eyes for wasting my time. I watched as he was the only police officer in the court room, a rarity for low level citations. The bailiff called out for a Carlos Perez. It was a defendant in a case. Officer Perez sat back down. As we waited I noticed his feet shaking. He was nervous, uncertain. Good. This was going to be a battle of wills and I intended to win.

The public defender asked to speak outside once more. She asked more in depth questions about me. Have I been convicted of any crimes? No. Was I a messenger? I paused for a moment. New York City has been on an unofficial quest to legislate everything cycling related specifically messengers. Most of this legislation is all punitive in nature. Admission of my profession could be detrimental to my case. I told her that I was formerly a messenger. (Technically correct as I no longer operate Vespid Couriers in Philadelphia.) I told her that I was a free lance writer. (You are reading this right now…) She told me that the case would probably go well as the judge was happy-go-lucky and most other judges like to make everyone guilty. We returned again to the courtroom to hear more cases. She spoke to me once more before I was called. She told me that the maximum fine for my charge would be $270. I shrugged my shoulders. I had no intention of paying a cent. I was pissed and was planning to file a complaint immediately after the case. It had to be dismissed first.

My turn to have my case heard finally came. Officer Perez and I were called forward, me on the left, him on the right. Perez stated his badge number and precinct. I, with pen and paper in hand, wrote all of that down. The public defender and bailiffs were intrigued by my note taking. The judge asked what happened. Perez said in official jargon told the judge that I was heading northbound on 6th Avenue, traveling on the eastern side of the roadway. The bike lane, on the western side of the roadway, was free and clear of obstacles and debris. The judge then asked me what happened. I told him I was on the right side of the street, about to make a right turn when I got stopped and that the bike lane was on the left side of the street. I continued that it would be counterintuitive to try to make a right turn from the far left side of the street. The judge was about to make a ruling, because on the surface it would have appeared as though the officer was correct. The public defender then spoke with the sheet of paper in her hand: “Your honor, the law says…” The judge stopped her. “You are going to read me the law? You expect me to read that? What is that, single spaced?” He ranted. “Bloomberg (the mayor) ought to ride a bike to work every day…, a girl’s bike.” He mumbled something under his breath. Then said, “ACD.” I looked to the public defender. She told me I was free to go. Perez had already turned and was out the door of the court room. I went out after hoping to make eye contact. Hoping to remind him about the tell-it-to-the-judge comment. But he was quickly walking out the police officer doors to the courthouse. I mumbled to myself “toodles,” knowing the process of filing a complaint would soon follow.

I picked up my belongings from the front of the courthouse and went out to the sunny day. Work on the bike was calling. I went forward nervous that at any moment I could be stopped and cited for the slightest of infractions. I would have to be mindful about every action on the bike and who was watching. A few deliveries into the day I figured out the legal acronym for ACD: ALL CHARGES DROPPED

Corey’s Stories – Having Fun With The Locals

coreybridge Just outside of New York City over the George Washington Bridge lies the Henry Hudson Drive. Most people simply call it River Road because it runs beside the mighty Hudson River. It is seven miles in length and has smooth, well paved surfaces thanks to relatively low motor vehicle traffic. It has spectacular views of Manhattan and the river on one side, a rock face cliff wall and vegetation on the other.

I ventured out for an early morning ride with an old mountain bike buddy from Philly. Given that my fitness is pretty good from training and riding as a bicycle messenger, I rode at his pace. He was testing his brand new Independent Fabrications. It was super light, equipped with a titanium Campagnolo grouppo. I was riding my filthy sticker covered Specialized with 105. It was an easy paced ride where we talked about random stuff without trying to race the entire route. We’ve been friends for years so the competitive half-wheeling has long gone from our rides.

We rolled along the West Side bike path of Manhattan without the usual parade of weekend warriors due to both the early hour and the expectation of rain in the forecast. We quickly zipped by the few other users of the trail on the way to the bridge. Once over the bridge we passed dozens of joggers near the beginning of the path. Occasionally we stopped for minor adjustments of our bikes. For him it was saddle height position of a new bike, for me tweaking the bolts after unpacking out of a bike box from a recent trip to Toronto.

On the flat roads and mild rolling terrain we rode together and talked. On the first few steeper or longer hills I waited for my buddy at the top. At the end of River Road is Alpine hill. It is longer and steeper than most of the other hills along this isolated road. Because it is at the end of the road it usually feels more difficult. My buddy and I came to a truce about the hills and I rode at his pace up the final few hills.

Two men on road bikes passed us as we climbed the last hill. I am competitive by nature and was itching to unleash my hard earned fitness on someone. My buddy gave me the nod and I danced up the hill toward the duo.

washbrI passed the first guy without a glance. As I caught the second guy I had a big smile on my face and stared at him as I passed. But then something unexpected happened when I got beside him: he had a serious face on, refusing to even turn his eyes sideways and began pedalling harder. My smile deepened almost to a laugh. This was going to be fun.

When one is really fit they need not stand to go faster, a simple increase in pedaling cadence is all that is necessary.

I smiled as I ascended the road to drop the guy. He was almost a memory in the rear view mirror when I heard a click. He didn’t want to get beat so he chose a harder gear. Didn’t matter to me. I have done 180+ rpms on my fixed gear mountain bike recently. I can churn chunky peanut butter into a frothy smoothie.

Then I heard it again. Click. I laughed in my head. Then again. And again. And then the grind-click that can only be the jump into the big chainring. Within that brief period he panicked his way through all of his gears to try to beat me pedaling rapidly in one. He caught up to me with the same stone face of intense concentration. I thought about shifting too, but that would have been too easy.

I learned racing on downtube shifters. I knew from experience that one shifts first then accelerates. Shifting while trying to accelerate up hills can put great strain on the derailleur hanger or throw the chain off of the cranks. Under load, chains can snap in two.

Rather than shift or stand on the pedals, I let Mr. Mask Of Anger ride onward ahead of me. About fifty meters later he gets to the police station near the top and turns around. As he began to head back down the hill we made eye contact. I still had the same menacing smile on my face, almost laughing. He gave me a head nod. I looked back down the hill and his riding companion was far off, my buddy even further down the hill.

I waited as planned for my friend at the top and we took the flat inland car route back to the bridge. I told him about me laughing in the guy’s face during this mini battle and him giving me the head nod afterward. My buddy told me that as he was still climbing, the guy descending gave him a look that said: drop dead. I laughed even harder.

Road racing is about inflicting physical and mental torture on your competition the same way that fire destroys a wax candle — it can melt through the burning wick or proximity to the flame. Either way, the wax resigns. I look forward to racing this summer in the heat.

Cycling Legalese: Hit And Run, Now What?

bkevinidesCycling Legalese is our online cycling law column from everyday cyclist and Chicago based injury lawyer, Brendan Kevenides.

Hit and run collisions involving cyclists happen all too often. In this column Brendan shares some words about how to legally protect yourself both before and after a hit and run.

Q: While riding I was sideswiped by a car and they ran. My injuries were quite severe and I spent some time in the hospital. Is this a no win situation for me?

Brendan Kevenides, P.C.:In my experience, hit and run crashes involving drivers and cyclists happen with disturbing frequency. Generally, a driver will take off after causing a collision for three reasons: (1) Fear of consequences; (2) He/she lacks a moral compass; (3) He/she lacks auto insurance coverage. Very often all three factors are in play to compel a driver to flee a crash. Leaving the scene of a collision in which bodily injury or property damage results is a crime.

Unfortunately, a city cyclist should anticipate the possibility of being in a hit and run crash. However, there are steps he or she can take to protect themselves both before and after such an incident:

Buy insurance: In 49 states, drivers are required to carry motor vehicle insurance coverage. (New Hampshire is the outlier.) Useful and integrated into our culture though they may be, cars and trucks have the potential to cause enormous harm. For that reason, motor vehicle owners are required by law to have insurance to compensate anyone they may injure. Nevertheless, nationally one in seven drivers, over 14%, fail to carry the necessary coverage, according to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners.

Many auto policies provide uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage. These provisions of a policy provide important protection if you are injured by another driver who either has no insurance, or coverage that is insufficient to compensate you for your injuries. Generally, the amount of un/underinsured coverage mirrors the amount of the policy’s bodily injury coverage. A bicyclist’s own motor vehicle insurance may provide coverage if he or she is seriously injured by a motorist who either lacks insurance or who has insufficient coverage. If you are hit by a driver that flees the scene, your insurance provider will usually treat that as if you were hit by an uninsured driver and cover you ever though you were biking at the time of the crash. However, some insurance policies require that you notify your insurer very soon after a hit and run incident, often within 30 days, or you may run the risk of coverage being denied. A carless person may buy a non-owners auto insurance policy. These policies are offered by many big name insurance companies and tend to cost considerably less than a standard policy, generally about half the premium of a traditional auto owner’s policy. Importantly, they may protect the non-car owning bicyclist who is injured by an uninsured or underinsured driver.

Not all insurance policies are the same. Rates may vary greatly depending on location and the specific coverage purchased. Non-owners car insurance policies may differ materially from one to the other. Also, they may not automatically come with un/underinsured coverage. Make sure that you ask your insurance agent lots of questions, making sure you understand exactly when the policy you are buying will and will not cover you.

Press record: Technology has finally gotten to the point where is it relatively easy and inexpensive for a cyclist to ride with a small video camera secured to the front of their bike, or helmet. Riding with one of these cameras recording your ride can be a tremendous help if you are involved in a crash. A review of the video after the fact may uncover the identity of the vehicle and driver involved.

Just a few short years ago, it was impractical to ride with a video camera. Many models were too big and too heavy. Even if they were small and light they could not be attached and detached quickly and easily enough to be convenient for urban riding. In the city you you need to be able to lock it up or take it with you if you hope to keep it. Now though more bicyclists are riding with small quality cameras that are weather proof and which can be clipped on and off the bike as easily as a bike light. The increasingly ubiquitous GoPro cameras start at about $200. They are small, light, weather proof and have almost limitless mounting options. The Epic Carbine HD, for about $220, is another option. I personally own this camera and can attest to its small size, lightness and ability to attach and detach from the bike or helmet with ease. Should something happen, it is nice to have an electronic witness watching your back.

Even if you do not ride with a video camera on your bike, you should try to make use of your cell phone’s camera immediately after a crash. If you are able to do so, snap a photo of the offending vehicle and its license plate as soon as possible, in other words before the driver takes off. The act of taking a photo my even make the driver feel compelled to remain at the scene. They will be on notice that they will not likely get away with fleeing.

Look for the eye in the sky: I often gets calls from bicyclists who have been hit by motorist who have fled the scene and whom the cyclist could not identify. There are ways to find a hit and run suspect, however. It is important to go the the scene of the crash as soon as possible and look for local businesses who may have security video cameras in use. A little luck is usually involved, but sometimes a security camera will have captured a crash and the vehicle that caused it. If the video is of good enough quality to have read the vehicle’s license plate number then the rest is easy. The other step that I generally take is to send a Freedom of Information Act request to the local department of transportation and police department which may also have video cameras operating in the area. If the crash occurred at a busy intersection the possibility of one of these cameras having captured the crash is increased.

—Disclaimer—
Nothing contained in this column should be construed as legal advice. The information contained herein may or may not match your individual situation. Also, laws differ from place to place and tend to change over time. No reader should act or refrain from acting on the basis of any information presented herein without seeking the advice of an attorney in the relevant jurisdiction. This column is meant to promote awareness of a general legal issue. As such, it is meant as entertainment. It does not create an attorney-client relationship between the author and the reader.
—Disclaimer—

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