Bicyclists in urban areas are often forced to interact with motorists in close proximity, which creates safety conflicts and leads to thousands of injuries every year. For cyclists who ride cautiously and in compliance with the law, the cause of these accidents is generally due to the motorists’ lack of attention to cyclists and other pedestrians that are using their shared roadways.

Every year, new innovations are designed to increase the visibility of cyclists, or to otherwise improve a cyclist’s ability to interact with the urban environment. While the use of technology such as this is not a replacement for safe cycling habits and techniques, every little bit helps! Two devices which bear mention are the following:

  1. Zackees – These are riding gloves that include illuminated turn signals, which are designed to call motorists’ attention to a cyclist’s intent to turn. A cyclist’s visibility to motorists, particularly at night, is frequently cited as a contributing factor to collisions. Forward and rear facing lights, as well as reflectors, are generally required by law when using a bicycle at night.

However, the risk of collision is further increased when cyclists are required to cross the path of motorists or otherwise change course. The intent of illuminated cycling gloves is to increase visibility of the cyclist and to call specific attention to the intended turn in a manner motorists are accustomed to seeing while driving.

  1. Morpher Helmet – This is a collapsible bicycle helmet which folds flat when not in use. It should come as no surprise that wearing a helmet is by far one of the best things a cyclist can do to increase their personal safety while riding. In the state of New Jersey, the use of a helmet is required by law for all juveniles, but this varies across the country.

One of the principal reasons cyclists say they do not wear a helmet is due to the lack of portability. There is really no convenient place to put a big, bulky helmet when the bike is not in use, and this is particularly true amongst persons who use their bikes to commute. The collapsible helmet is designed to solve this problem by allowing the helmet to fold up for convenient storage in a bag, purse, briefcase, etc., when not in use.

For any questions about bicycle-related injuries, do not hesitate to contact experienced legal counsel. Ride safe.

Neck and shoulder stiffness and pain are a common complaint among cyclists. Many people incorrectly assume that this pain is the result of injury or is otherwise an inevitable result of the body position one takes while riding a traditional road bike.

Neither is necessarily true. Are you experiencing this type of pain? There are several possible answers, but none of them should be immediately brushed off. Your pain may be the result of your body’s fit in the seat of your bike, your overall core fitness and/or the position you assume—likely subconsciously—while riding. Luckily, all of these problems can be easily remedied.

How?

  • For Bike Fit: A short visit to your local bike shop can be the answer. However, subtle adjustments can be hard to accomplish. If you have access to a GURU Dynamic Fit System, I highly recommend it. As the cyclist uses the software, the GURU program automatically adjusts the cyclist’s fit down to the millimeter. Here in the Mercer County area, you can find this incredible service offered through Hart’s Cyclery. Here is a link to the details of his custom fitting service.
  • For Core Fitness & Riding Position: Body2Bike wrote an excellent article that outlines common issues and provides fitness and positional techniques you can employ to resolve them. The article also includes photos as examples of the proper neck and shoulder posture a cyclist should have to avoid further pain. Check out the article here.

Remember, your relative fitness and muscular fatigue can contribute to your overall safety while cycling. Pay attention to them and stay safe!

For any questions bicycle-related injuries, do not hesitate to contact experienced legal counsel.

Bicycle tires should be changed when the tire wears out or otherwise becomes damaged, such that its integrity is compromised. Due to variations in environmental conditions, rubber compounds, individual weight/riding style and other such matters, it is impossible to give a very precise answer to this question. However, if you can answer “yes” to any of the following questions, chances are good that you should replace your tires:

  1. Can you see “threads” in any of the tread’s contact surfaces? Bicycle tires are generally made with layers of fabric and rubber, not unlike the “steel belts” in an automotive tire. If these become visible, your tread is too thin and the tire should be replaced.
  2. Do you have any visible holes, gashes, “bubbles” or cracks in the tire or its sidewalls? With age, use and exposure to debris, our tires become damaged. Defects can create weak spots which will pre-dispose the tire to failure.
  3. Are your tires flatting more frequently than usual? Flatting results from a combination of tread integrity/depth and environmental conditions. When one’s tires wear thin, they are more prone to flatting.
  4. Is there a wear indicator to suggest it’s time to replace the tire? Some, though not all, bicycle tires have “wear indicators” to alert the rider to the need for replacement. This may come in the form of a different color of rubber at a preset depth within the tread which becomes visible, or there may be grooves or dimples to indicate when the tire needs replacement.

It is important to remember that when it comes to maintaining your equipment and protecting your personal safety, do not skimp! If you have any doubt over the condition of your bike or your equipment, go to your local bike shop and have it inspected by a professional mechanic!

Bicyclists are always encouraged to purchase and wear bicycle helmets, but once you buy one, that’s not the end of the story.  Most helmet manufacturers and industry groups recommend replacing one’s bicycle helmet every 3-5 years, provided the helmet has not been subjected to a crash. However, if a helmet has served its role and defended your noggin from a crash, it should be replaced immediately!

With that said, it is important to note that the useful life of a bike helmet will vary depending on how it has been used and the types of materials to which the helmet has been exposed. A bicycle helmet isn’t one singular product.  The various glues, resins and other products used to make the helmet, break down over time.

Some industry groups point out that certain chemicals used in consumer products may also impact upon the useful life of a helmet. Examples cited by some include hair formulations and DEET, which is a chemical used in certain bug repellants that has been shown to degrade some plastics. One’s individual skin chemistry and their frequency of use are also thought to play a role in “wearing out” one’s helmet quicker than the average.

Alternately, other groups, such as the Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute, a non-profit out of Washington State, argue that helmets have a longer life than industry groups suggest.

However, as a bicycle accident attorney and avid cyclist myself, I say, “Why take the chance?” Few pieces of gear are as important to your safety while riding as your helmet. They are readily available and fairly cheap, so why skimp?  Replace your helmet at least every 3-5 years, and any time following a bicycle accident.

More detailed information on this important topic can be found via the following links:

Ever wonder how pros competing in events like the Tour de France can spend 5+ hours in the saddle day-after-day? While part of it is certainly that they are elite athletes, they also have the benefit of working with coaches and other pros to insure their bikes fit the nuances of their body perfectly, and that their cycling form is spot on.

Pedaling Technique: Elite coaches preach the benefits of training to improve pedaling efficiency. Doing so will help you ride for longer with less fatigue and ensure you are maximizing the power from each pedal stroke into forward momentum. A key element of an efficient pedal stroke is to have correct riding position and cadence on your bike. Some elements are:

  • Keeping the knees in line with pedals (they should track straight up & down, like pistons);
  • Keeping the upper body stable (proper bike fit is key here)
  • Maintaining a high cadence (85-90+ is often cited as the sweet spot)

More information on improving your technique can be found here.

Bike Fit: Any bike shop can offer you a “fit,” but only one in Mercer County, to my knowledge, has the ability to do a dynamic “Pro-fit,” which will supply you with the ability to “feel” subtle changes in real time: Hart’s Cyclery in Pennington, NJ. I would recommend checking out their “GURU Bike Fit” service.

Skeptical? I was. That is, until I tried it. The tweaks Ross Hart, the shop’s owner, set up for me made a WORLD of difference. Overnight I was more comfortable, had better stamina on the road, and less overall muscle fatigue. Give Ross a call. You’ll be glad you did!

Trek bicycles has issued a major recall related to the quick release mechanism affecting bicycles equipped with disc braking systems.  The recall states “An open quick release lever on the bicycle’s front wheel hub can come into contact with the front disc brake assembly, causing the front wheel to come to a sudden stop or separate from the bicycle, posing a risk of injury to the rider”.  Obviously, this is a very serious injury risk and has reportedly resulted in several injuries, including at least one instance of quadriplegia.

The concern reportedly involves bicycles manufactured from 2000-2015.  Due to the vast number of bicycles at issue, consumers are strongly encouraged to thoroughly explore whether their bicycle may be implicated in the recall. The Consumer Product Safety Commission’s report of the recall can be accessed here.

While the recall reportedly arises from the loose hub lever coming into contact with the disc brake, the simple release of the hub mechanism is something which would create a very real and substantial risk of an accident which should not be ignored.  As an avid cyclist and bicycle accident lawyer, I would encourage everyone who rides to routinely inspect and maintain their bikes, and to check any and all quick release mechanisms before every ride and after every rest period during a ride.  It’s quick, easy and can save your life.

If you, a loved one or friend has been hurt in a cycling-related accident, or if you have a question concerning cycling safety, my office is here to help.

Ride safely.

“Dooring” events – crashes or other collisions triggered by a motorist opening their door into a cyclist or the cyclist’s path — are one of the more common collision events for cyclists in urban areas.  Often with devastating results.  As a bicycle accident lawyer, I’ve seen folks who have suffered catastrophic head injuries, shoulder injuries, neck injuries, etc., as a direct result of these incidents.  Unfortunately, the  cyclist is often without any means of preventing or avoiding these crash events.  Why?  Visibility and notice are the key problems.

Contrary to what many motorists (and jurors) may think, the cyclist usually has no warning that a “dooring” event is about to occur.   A cyclist’s ability to see into the passenger compartment of a parked vehicle is usually very limited, most commonly due to window tinting (present on most mini-vans and SUVs) or sun glare reflecting off of the vehicles’ windows.  Now, factor in the reality that cyclists are legally obligated to ride as far to the right side of the road/lane as possible in order to avoid obstructing the flow of traffic, and the recipe for disaster should be clear.  The easiest means to avoid these accidents is to place an obligation on motorists to look before they open their doors!  Why? Simple.  Unlike the approaching cyclist, a motorist has direct knowledge of their plan to open the door, has no impediments to their ability to see through their windows, and has the added benefit of being able to view the approach of the cyclist in their mirrors.The vast majority of States in the US have traffic statutes which address Dooring by imposing a duty on all drivers to verify they can safely open their car doors before they do so.  Unfortunately, New Jersey has no such statute.

As an avid cyclist and bicycle injury attorney in New Jersey, I think it is time for that to change.  I urge you to do your part by writing to your state legislators and seeking change.  Not sure who they are?  You can look them up here. For more information of “dooring” and a summary of the way this hazard is addressed across the United States, visit League of American Cyclists website.

You are probably aware that bicycles sold in the United States are required to meet certain design requirements set by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).  But did you know that bicycles which are only intended for use by children have their own safety standards? Due to a variety of reasons, including developmental differences (such as lower hand strength and relative levels of coordination), safety requirements applicable to children’s bicycles may vary.

General Information – Children’s Bicycle Categories:  Bikes specifically designed for use by children are typically categorized by their wheel size (12”, 16”, etc.).  Bicycles with smaller wheels are targeted the children who will have lower relative strength and coordination and, as such, differing safety requirements under the CPSC guidelines.  For example:

Sidewalk Bikes:   The CPSC classifies bicycles as “sidewalk bikes” based upon size and features.  Typically these include “balance bikes” a/k/a “balance trainers” and bikes with 12-inch wheels.  Those with a seat height of less than 22” (in the lowest setting) need not have any brakes, so long as they do not have a “freewheeling feature” and are affixed with a permanent label which stated “no brakes”.  Those with a seat height in excess of 22” (in the lowest setting) must have a foot brake.  Reflectors are not required on sidewalk bikes, though they may be present on units available for sale.

Balance Bikes:  Also known as “balance trainers”, these bicycles have no drive system whatsoever and are propelled with the lower extremities or by the assistance of an adult.  The purpose of these bikes is to teach children (typically 18 months – 4 years of age) how to balance and steer.  They fall within the scope of the CPSC’s  ‘sidewalk bike’ classification, and thus are not required to have many standard bicycle safety features, such as brakes and reflectors.

Bikes with 12-Inch wheels:  Bicycles in this classification are intended as entry-level training bikes, and are targeted at children 3-4 years of age.  As with balance trainers, the CPSC classifies these bicycles as ‘sidewalk bikes’.  Bicycles with this wheel size are typically sold with training wheels and foot-operated coaster brakes. If sold with a chain drive, it must be shielded.

Bikes with 16-Inch wheels:  Bicycles in this class are intended for children ranging between 4-6 years.  They are required to have a chain guard which covers the top of the chain and 90⁰ of the portion of the front drive sprocket which makes contact with the chain.  These are often sold with training wheels, though there is no requirement that they be so equipped.  Brakes are required, but they may be found with either caliper brakes or a combination of a rear foot-operated coaster brake and a hand-operated front caliper brake.

Bikes with 20-Inch wheels:  Bicycles in this class are intended for children of at least 6 years of age, but may be marketed for use by much older individuals (e.g., BMX or “stunt” bikes).  This is typically the smallest format in which multi-speed gearing is available, though many are sold in a single speed BMX-style configurations.   Brakes are required, but they may be found with either caliper brakes or a combination of a rear foot-operated coaster brake and a hand-operated front caliper brake.  Chain guard requirements apply to single speed models.  This is the first bicycle size intended for use upon the roadways and thus, additional requirements are imposed for reflectors to enhance visibility at night.

Considerations for Brake Type

Coaster Brake (a/k/a Foot Brake) vs. Hand Brakes:  Coaster braking systems are incorporated into the hub of the bicycle’s rear wheel assembly and are actuated by applying reverse pressure on the front sprocket.  These systems are routinely found on bicycles targeted to the youngest individuals, as hand strength may not be sufficiently developed to permit the reliable use of hand brakes.  Hand brakes become appropriate as hand strength develops.  As a practical matter, a child’s level of coordination should also be considered when choosing braking systems.

More information on the CPSC’s requirements may be found here.

The CPSC may be contacted at (301) 504-7913 or via e-mail at: sect15@cpsc.gov.

On February 10, 2015, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) issued an announcement that Marin Mountain Bikes has issued a recall notice concerning approximately 450 units of its 2014 model MBX 50 and Tiny Trail boys and girls bicycles.  The bikes in question have 16” wheels and were intended for young children.  They were reportedly sold in stores nationwide between September, 2013 and December, 2014, and retailed for approximately $250.

The company provided this description of the defect at issue:  “The handlebars can loosen or separate during use. This can cause the rider to lose control and/or crash, posing the risk of injury.” Consumers are advised to immediately stop using the recalled bicycle and contact Marin for a replacement handlebar stem.

For more information, consumers can contact Marin Mountain Bikes at (800) 222-7557 between the hours of 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Pacific Standard Time, Monday through Friday, or visit the company’s website at www.marinbikes.com  (click on “Recalls/Safety” for more information).

The CPSC notice, which contains a sample photo of the recalled bike, can be viewed here.

As a bicyclist and consumer safety advocate in Lawrenceville, New Jersey, I find myself regularly performing research and, in my travels today, I came across an announcement that UVEX, a major producer of bicycle helmets, has recalled several helmet models due to a risk that the chinstrap mechanism will fail.  In addition, the helmets involved in the recall also reportedly fail to comply with the impact requirements set by the Consumer Product Safety Commission.  The combined defects produce a significant risk for head injury.  The affected model numbers are “XB017, XB022, XB025, XB027, XB032, XB036 and XB038”

More information on the recall can be found through the CPSC website here.

While I am pleased that UVEX has announced this recall, the bigger question from my perspective is “How can a company produce, market and distribute a bicycle helmet which does not comply with the impact requirements set by the CPSC?”  It’s both shameful and amazing.

If you or anyone you know has been injured in a bicycle-related accident, my office is here to help. Contact Stark & Stark today for your free consultation.