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Friday, June 1, 2018

Use Google Maps to Win Your Pothole Case

Many bicyclists think the City of Philadelphia (and other municipalities) is immune from lawsuits. While this is generally true, the City can be sued for bicycle crashes caused by potholes or other defects in the street. 42 Pa.C.S.A. §§ 8542, 8255.

In order to win a pothole case, the bicyclist must prove that the City had "constructive" or "actual" notice of the pothole before the bicyclist's crash.  See, e.g., Mason v. City of Allentown, 2013 Pa. Dist. & Cnty. Dec. LEXIS 443 (Pa. C.P. 2013).

Constructive notice means the City was not actually aware of a pothole before the crash, but should have been aware of the pothole.  Had the City been acting with reasonable diligence, moreover, then the pothole would have been discovered and corrected .  The longer the pothole existed before the crash, the more likely the City will be found liable through constructive notice.

But how does a bicyclist prove the age of a pothole?  And how does a bicyclist prove the existence of a pothole once it's paved over?

I previously wrote about Pennsylvania's “Right to Know Law” (or “Open Records Law”), 65 P.S. §§ 67.101, et seq., and how bicyclists can submit information requests to determine whether roadwork was performed in the area of a pothole.  Right to Know requests can also be used to determine if the City received prior complaints about a pothole.

Google Maps is another powerful tool, particularly Google's "time machine" feature.  

In most cities, Google Street View cars will photograph the same roadway once every few years.  In addition to capturing bizarre glimpses of everyday life, these photographs often capture potholes and other roadway defects. 

Here's a pothole - in a bicycle lane - that injured one of my clients last month:

Taken on May 25, 2018
Taken on May 25, 2018

That same pothole is depicted on Google Maps, which also shows the pothole's progression:

From October 2016, Showing Roadwork at the Future Pothole Site

From July 2017, Showing the Pothole for the First Time
From November 2017, Again Showing the Pothole

The first Google Maps image shows roadwork in October 2016 where the pothole would eventually develop.  The next two images establish that the pothole existed as far back as July 2017.  My client's accident happened nearly ten months after that.

Thanks to Google Maps, it should be a breeze charging the City with constructive notice.

If your injuries were caused by a pothole or defect in the street, you should contact an attorney at PHILLY BIKE LAWYER - all consultations are free, just call (267) 423-4464.  Call now or submit an inquiry here.  You have six months from your bicycle accident to file your pothole claim with the City.  

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Protected Bike Lane in University City to be Discussed on April 19

As part of its Vision Zero plan, the City of Philadelphia has proposed a protected bike lane on Chestnut Street, between 34th and 45th Streets, in University City.  The public is invited to attend an open house to discuss the project.

Open House Details
Date: Wednesday, April 19, 2017
Time: Between 6:30 - 8 PM
Where: The Enterprise Center, 4548 Market Street, Philadelphia, PA

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Spring is a Dangerous Time for Bikers

It was a long winter, but Spring is finally here.  That means Philadelphia's bicycle scene is blossoming, just like the cherry trees along the Schuylkill River.  That should bring a smile to everyone's face.

But Spring can also be a dangerous time for bicyclists.  Many are getting back on the road for the first time in several months.  City drivers are reacquainting themselves with the 4 foot rule.  And, to make matters worse, the Spring thaw means potholes will be everywhere.

A word of advice: get back into it slowly.  Review the laws, stay away from Broad Street and, most importantly, have your bicycle serviced at your neighborhood shop.

If you have the misfortune of being in an accident, call PhillyBikeLawyer at 267-423-4464.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

63 Pedestrian and Bicyclist Fatalities in 2016

2016 has been a horrible year for pedestrians and bicyclists in Philadelphia, with 63 fatalities to date. Mayor Kenny has promised to implement a Vision Zero policy, as one of his soda tax payoffs, but little progress has been made.

Read more at philly.com.


Friday, September 2, 2016

Is urban cycling worth the risk?

Interesting article by the Financial Times:  https://ig.ft.com/sites/urban-cycling/
Illustrations: Lucas Varela; Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2016

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

How Citizens United Led to Philly's Progressive Soda Tax

As previously reported, Philadelphia has become the second city to pass a soda tax.  Revenue from this tax will go towards building safer streets in Philadelphia under Mayor Kenney’s Vision Zero plan, which is good news for bicyclists.

However, many are still unaware of the private funding that Mayor Kenney received to overcome opposition from the Beverage Lobby.  Philadelphia For A Fair Future, a non-profit group, provided funding to Kenney’s Administration, which was used to mount an effective pro-tax campaign.  This non-profit group was formed under 501c(4); meaning, it was allowed to  raise unlimited amounts of money without disclosing the identity of donors.[1]  Recently, former NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg - who failed to uphold his own soda ban - admitted that he donated an astounding $1.5 million to Kenney’s non-profit.

Money in politics has become highly topical since the Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.  In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court ruled that non-profit groups, which can accept unlimited corporate funding,  do not have to release the names of donors. Under this ruling, corporations can increase their influence on politics by injecting cash into campaigns through anonymous donors. 

Thanks to Citizens United, Kenney was able to solicit anonymous funding.  Had the Beverage Lobby known Bloomberg was one of Kenney's pro-tax funders, one could imagine a different sort of opposition. Indeed, Philadelphians might have thought differently about the soda tax had they known an out-of-state billionaire seeking revenge against the Beverage Lobby paid for Kenney’s television commercials.  Certainly, Bloomberg would have been an easier target than preschoolers

And that’s the irony of the soda tax.   A democrat mayor passed a progressive tax opposed by corporate lobbyists thanks largely in part to Citizen’s United - what is widely considered to be a corporate-friendly ruling.

Kenney has provided other cities with a roadmap for passing a soda tax.  Step one is to seek dark money funding from anti-soda billionaires.  Other cities have already begun planning soda tax legislation.  Bloomberg has already pushed for a soda tax in Seattle and Multonam County, Oregon.[2]  

By: Sean Pryzbylkowski

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Philly's Groundbreaking Sugary Beverage Tax Passes, What's Next and What It Means for Bicyclists

Up until today, Berkeley, California has been the only U.S. city to enact a soda tax into law.  Philadelphia is now the second major city with a sugary drink tax. Today, Kenney’s tax became law after Pennsylvania legislators approved his revised bill. 

Mayor Kenney’s original bill sought to tax sugary drinks at three cents per ounce. City Council reduced that to one and a half cents per ounce, with the inclusion of diet soda. By adding diet soda, projected revenue increased to $91 million annually, just $4 million less then the original bill.

The battle between cities and soft drink companies has happened before, most notably, in New York City.  On September 13, 2012, New York City’s Board of Health approved Mayor Bloomberg’s ban on the sale of soda over 16 ounces. Between 2010-2015 the American Beverage Association spent $15.2 million lobbying against Bloomberg’s legislation, ultimately challenging his soda ban in court. After a final appeal in 2014, New York’s highest court deemed the ban unconstitutional on the basis that the City’s Board of Health exceeded its regulatory authority. 

Assuming the Beverage Lobby will challenge Kenney’s tax in court, they face a more difficult task here in Philadelphia.  New York’s legislation faced additional judicial scrutiny since it imposed a ban, as opposed to a tax. Furthermore, New York’s Board of Health was found to have exceeded its regulatory power. Only New York’s City Council, and not its Board of Health, had the power to enact such as legislation, according to New York's high court.

Philadelphia’s new tax, which was passed through its legislative body, should be able to withstand a legal challenge.  Under the Pennsylvania Constitution, a tax must apply uniformly across products, though absolute uniformity is not required. Leonard v. Thornburgh, 507 Pa. 317, 321 (1985). Where application of a tax depends on the product – here, a sugary beverage – then there must be a “just and reasonable basis for the difference in treatment.” Id.  

Beverage lobby outside City Hall on June 16, 2016.

With Kenney’s tax, there appears to be sufficient uniformity.  It applies to a large universe of drinks – all sugary beverages – and does not single out any particular brand, product, individual or business. To the extent that Kenney’s tax targets only “sugary” drinks, the City has “wide discretion in matters of taxation” – meaning, the City has the power to decide how to generate revenue and, in some circumstances, can impose taxes to influence consumption. Id. at 320. Imposition of a sugary drink tax should be well within the City’s taxation power. 

And that’s good news for bikers. Vision Zero should get the funding it desperately needs. Meaning, better bicycle infrastructure and safer streets in Philly's future. 

By:  Sean Pryzbylkowski

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Beverage Lobby Dumps Millions into Philly's Soda Tax Fight, Likely Dooming Vision Zero

Protesters in Philadelphia stand outside of City Hall with hopes to stop Mayor Kenney’s proposed sugary drink tax.  Projects to be funded by the proposed tax, such as universal pre-k, may remain pipe dreams.  

For Philly bicyclists, the proposed tax is needed to fund Mayor Kenney’s Vision Zero promises.   Vision Zero will enable the city to improve upon bicycle infrastructure, with the goal of eliminating bicycle accidents.

Kenney’s proposed sugary drink tax, however, has incited ire from the beverage lobby.  After Kenney announced the tax, the American Beverage Association, which is funded by companies like Coca Cola and Pepsi, spoke out in opposition.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the American Beverage Association has already spent roughly $3 million dollars fighting against Kenney’s proposed tax.

Protests are expected to continue outside City Hall through Wednesday afternoon, when the bill may be decided.  Similar lobbying efforts effectively prevented a sugary beverage tax proposed by the Nutter administration.  If history repeats itself, funding for projects like Vision Zero will never come to fruition.  

And that’s a problem.  The City needs to invest in new  bicycle infrastructure and safety.  In 2014 alone, Penndot reported 551 bicyclecrashes in Philadelphia.

Mayor Kenney has budgeted $250,000 towards bicycle safety projects, which is dependent on the sugary drink tax passing.  Meanwhile, corporations are dumping millions into stopping the proposed tax.

A compromise could be reached tomorrow.  Many City Council members are unhappy with the tax amount.  Darrell Clarke, President of City Council, opposes a 3 cents tax, but would possibly support a smaller tax.   Some members of City Council are open to a tax that would charge a cent and a half.  Such a compromise would slash potential revenue in half, more than likely killing many of Kenney’s smaller pet projects, including Vision Zero.

 By:       Sean Pryzbylkowski

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

The Beverage Lobby is Poised to Kill Vision Zero in Philadelphia

Vision Zero is a movement that started in Sweden in the 1990's.  The initiative, which seeks to eliminate traffic-related deaths, has been adopted by several American cities, including New York City, Chicago, and Los Angeles. These cities have vowed to overhaul infrastructure, surveillance systems, public policy, and introduce new legislation in order to protect pedestrians and bicyclists.

Philadelphia’s first Vision Zero legislation was signed into law on December 23, 2015 by Mayor Nutter.  The bill, championed by council members Cindy Bass and Mark Squilla, added an additional $5 fee onto vehicle registration with proceeds funding street safety improvements.  The bill won praise from Philadelphia’s bicycle community, including the Bicycle Coalition.  The idea of implementing a legitimate Vision Zero plan in Philadelphia was so popular, that Mayor Kenney turned it into a talking point during his campaign.

Now in office, many of Kenney’s pet projects, like universal prekindergarten and Vision Zero, appear to be contingent on the survival of his proposed soda tax.  That’s bad news for bicyclists.  Despite many trying, only one city in the entire country has managed to pass a soda tax- Berkeley, California. 

Kenney also seems to forget that Philadelphia has twice tried to pass soda taxes in order to balance its budget.  In 2011, Nutter proposed a soda tax to raise $60 million annually for schools, causing beverage lobbyists to overtake City Hall, eventually killing the idea.  Just last year, City Councilman Bobby Henon considered a tax on sugary beverages to fix the school district's financial woes.  Thanks to the beverage lobby, that idea never made it into the proposed education funding package.

Why should we expect anything different this time around?  Kenney is already under fire for his presentation of the soda tax, which he repeatedly pegged at 3 cents per ounce.  The Mayor omitted that fountain drinks would be taxed at 4.5 cents per ounce, and the soda tax sits atop the existing 8 percent sales tax.

Even if Kenney can win public support for his tax, the City will need to fight-off forthcoming lawsuits from the beverage industry.  Such lawsuits successfully overturned beverage restrictions implemented by New York City’s Board of Health in 2012.  

I hope Kenney has a backup plan for funding Vision Zero.

Friday, January 29, 2016

If You Plan On Biking Next Week, Expect Potholes

Temperatures are supposed to reach the 60’s next week.  After our recent snow storm, many will welcome the mild weather as an opportunity to go biking.  With warming temperatures, however, potholes abound.

Rapid freezing and thawing is one of the primary causes of potholes.  To make matters worse, this process is accelerated by rain and snow melt-off.  Water also masks a pothole’s depth.
While the weather is alluring, this is a dangerous time for cycling.  The City is struggling with managing snow piles, which means less resources will be allocated to filling potholes.  If you do notice a pothole, you should report it using Philly311.

If you are involved in a bicycle crash caused by a pothole, there are some things you should know.  The City can be sued for injuries caused by potholes under 42 Pa.C.S. §§ 8542, 8255. However, the injured party has to provide written notice of the accident to the City within a certain number of days of the occurrence in order to preserve his/her right to file a lawsuit.

Often times, the most difficult part of these cases is proving that the City had constructive or actual notice of the defect, as required by the statute.  Generally, constructive notice is proven by demonstrating that the defect existed for such a period of time that it could have been discovered and corrected through the exercise of reasonable care. Whereas, actual notice is proven by demonstrating that the City was aware of the defect prior to the accident. This is why it is important to report potholes.

If you were injured in a pothole crash, contact Philly BikeLawyer for a free consultation at (267) 423-4464.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Bicycle-Related Citations Dramatically Dropped in 2015

We made a public records request to the Philadelphia Police Department to get some statistics on bicycle-related citations since 2010. Here's what the PPD provided...

Source:  Philadelphia Police Department - TVR Download from Philadelphia Traffic Court
*Note: Numbers subject to change, based on information received from PTC

Riding on sidewalks in business districts continues to be the most cited statute.  Keep in mind, both Phila. Code § 12-808 and 75 Pa. C.S. § 3508 prohibit cyclists from riding on sidewalks in business districts.  However, 3508 also requires cyclists to yield to pedestrians on sidewalks and on pathways. It's unclear which sub-section of 3508 the PPD is citing.

75 Pa. C.S. § 3501 is usually cited when a bicyclist violates a traffic law, such as failing to stop at an intersection.  Just 19 of these tickets have been written since 2010.

From a public policy perspective, it makes sense that police are more inclined to cite a cyclist for riding on a sidewalk than for violating a traffic law.  Citations are meant to deter bad behavior.  The PPD should more interested in deterring cyclists from riding on sidewalks.  Indeed, cyclists pose more of a threat to pedestrians than cars.

Overall, enforcement dramatically declined in 2015 despite growing ridership- why is debatable. Factors may include: decreased enforcement efforts, increased compliance by cyclists and a growing bicycle infrastructure.

If you've received a traffic citation while operating a bicycle, give Philly Bike Lawyer a call at 267-423-4464.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Vision Zero Philadelphia: The New Policy That Could Eliminate Bicycle Crash Deaths

According to the most recent data published by the US Census Bureau, Philadelphia is the most bike-friendly city with a population of more than one million people in the United States.[i] Roughly 1.9% of the City’s workers commute by bike. In a world pushing for more sustainable practices, the growing rate of bicycle commuters is great news. However, the question remains as to how safe it is for cyclists to share the road with drivers. In 2014, three cyclists were killed out of a total of 551 crashes that involved pedestrians in Philadelphia.[ii] As a comparison, New York City experienced 20 cyclist fatalities, with roughly four times more cyclists than Philadelphia.[i][iii] But New York City has something Philadelphia doesn’t: a Vision Zero policy.

Bicycle commuting has risen in popularity all over the country, but no large city has as many bike commuters as Philadelphia has. Courtesy of the League of American Bicyclists

Vision Zero is an effort to reduce and ultimately eliminate all traffic-related deaths. The movement started in Sweden in 1993 and earned Swedish parliamentary approval in 1997.[iv] The country’s Vision Zero initiative focuses on both human error and mechanical systems to improve safety. Education and public services help reduce human error. Improving systems has been more vital to the Vision Zero initiative. Vehicle technology, infrastructure improvements, and increased surveillance systems can all help save lives. A city can do little to improve vehicle technology, but it can push for measures on every other front.
Over the past few years, American cities have begun to implement Vision Zero plans or have stated initiatives to eliminate traffic-related deaths. Many cities have set strict deadlines: Chicago hopes to eliminate deaths in 10 years[v]; Los Angeles’ goal is 2025, giving the city eleven years to eliminate deaths.[vi] New York City announced a Vision Zero policy in 2014, outlining 63 separate initiatives and adding 40 more earlier this year.[vii] The initiatives include reducing the city speed limit to 25 MPH, adding more crossing guards at schools, installing speed cameras, adding speed humps, and enhancing street lighting. New York City has also made engineering changes at 50 intersections in the past decade. The city claims that fatalities at these intersections have decreased twice as fast. New York City also added slow zones on main arteries, which make up 15% of the city’s roads, but 60% of pedestrian deaths.[viii]
Philadelphia has a Pedestrian and Bicycle Plan, which was instituted in 2012.[ix] This plan seeks to cut fatalities and injuries in half by 2020 and raise rates of biking to 6.5%. Unfortunately, the plan has yet to meet its tangible goals. One such goal was to reach the League of American Bicyclists’ platinum level by 2013. The city still holds a silver ranking, up from bronze in 2009. The award, updated every four years, is evaluated based on a city’s engineering of bicycle safe areas, bicycle education, encouragement of bike culture, enforcement of laws, and evaluation and planning for bicycle safety.[x] In awarding a ranking, the League looks at a community’s programs, facilities, bicycle use, fatalities, and other government services related to biking.
Philadelphia’s mayor-elect Jim Kenney stated his support for a Vision Zero policy, meaning such a policy could be adopted once Kenney is inaugurated.[xi] The Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia, aided by Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, is hosting a Vision Zero Philadelphia Conference on December 3, 2015 at the Hospital’s Alumni Hall.[xii] The conference will host a number of expert speakers and panelists, including Department of Transportation, SEPTA, and police employees, as well as other government employees and private sector experts.
It is unclear exactly what new objectives Kenney may initiate, but there are many options. The League of American Bicyclists highlights many such goals. To reach a platinum status, which the city currently seeks, a community should have “very good” bicycle friendly laws and “excellent” public education. From an engineering perspective, 78% of arterial streets should have bike lanes. A community also needs 1 bike staff for 20,000 citizens, suggesting Philadelphia should have almost 80 bike staff. The major outcomes are .5 fatalities and 90 crashes per 10,000 commuters, and 12% ridership for commuters. These fatality and crash goals are important stepping stones for a potential Vision Zero policy, and are realistic for the City’s next League review in 2017.
Philadelphia currently has 600,000 commuters and averages 30-40 pedestrian fatalities per year, around .6 fatalities per 10,000 commuters, just over the League’s cutoff.[xiii] However, when one narrows the dataset to just cyclists, the number is slightly better. While no cyclists died in 2013, the city typically averages two or three deaths per year.[ii] As of the 2012 plan, 239 of the over 2500 miles of streets in Pennsylvania had bike lanes. By increasing the availability of these safe lanes, the city should hopefully allow for safer commutes. In general, increased bike lanes mean more bicyclists, with lanes reducing overall crashes by roughly half.[xiv]
Philadelphia has a long way to go to meet the criteria set forth in its Pedestrian and Bicycle Plan and even further to become a city with no traffic-related fatalities. However, the increasing popularity of biking and the increased awareness of safety mean increasing efforts to lower the dangers of biking in the city. Accordingly, the city just planned its first protected bike lanes this year. Protected lanes contain a buffer between bicycles and vehicle traffic, such as shrubbery, parking spaces, or median strips. The lanes in Philadelphia, which rest between the curb and a row of parked cars, will become the standard, according to the Department of Streets commissioner. [xv] The launch of one of the nation’s most accessible bike share programs this year, one of the only that does not require a credit card for a membership, may help ridership in the city.[xvi]

A Protected bike lane in Vancouver, Canada. Photo courtesy of Paul Krueger

If Philadelphia follows on its current path, the city could be the first with over one million citizens to reach a gold or platinum status from the League of American Bicyclists. Such a status would be a landmark for any Vision Zero initiative. While truly eliminating fatalities may not be immediately achievable, a consistently improving status from the League of American Bicyclists is an effective marker of a City’s progress. With each step towards zero traffic-related fatalities, cyclists can feel more confident and comfortable riding on their city’s streets.
- By Jeff Williams

[i] http://bikeleague.org/content/where-we-ride-2014-analysis-bike-commuting
[ii] http://www.phillymag.com/news/2015/05/11/bike-crashes-philadelphia/
[iii] http://gothamist.com/2015/01/16/cyclist_deaths_bike_lanes.php
[iv] http://www.visionzeroinitiative.com/en/Concept/The-vision-zero/
[v] http://www.cityofchicago.org/content/dam/city/depts/cdot/Admin/ChicagoForwardCDOTActionAgenda.pdf
[vi] http://www.dailynews.com/government-and-politics/20140929/making-los-angeles-streets-great-ending-pedestrian-deaths-are-mayor-eric-garcetti-and-ladots-goals
[vii] http://www.nyc.gov/html/visionzero/pages/initiatives/initiatives.shtml
[viii] http://www.nyc.gov/html/visionzero/pages/initiatives/street-design.shtml
[ix] http://www.phila.gov/CITYPLANNING/PLANS/Pages/PedestrianandBicyclePlan.aspx
[x] http://bikeleague.org/bfa/awards
[xi] http://kenneyforphiladelphia.com/priorities/
[xii] http://bicyclecoalition.org/our-campaigns/visionzero/#sthash.b2ecYtSe.dpbs
[xiii] http://bicyclecoalition.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/SaferStreets.Final_.12.5.141.pdf
[xiv] http://usa.streetsblog.org/2012/10/22/study-protected-bike-lanes-reduce-injury-risk-up-to-90-percent/
[xv] http://www.phillymag.com/news/2015/05/26/new-bike-lanes-philadelphia/
[xvi] http://time.com/3854835/best-bike-work-cities/

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

UberX's Insurance Gap Can Create Nightmare Scenarios for Bikers

UberX is marketed as a low-cost alternative to taxis and UberBlack.  You get the same on-demand service at a cheaper price.  Seemingly, the only trade-off is that you don’t get the limo vibes associated with UberBlack.  Instead, you’ll be taxied around in your neighbor’s Prius.  There are, however, some serious legal consequences caused by UberX.

While the UberX driver is on the clock, he/she is driving in a commercial capacity, creating nightmares for bicyclists who don't have their own auto insurance.  According to Uber guidelines, UberX drivers are only required to carry personal auto insurance.  That means their coverage comes from their household policies.  Most personal auto insurance policies, however, include a “business use” exclusion.  Meaning, the auto insurer will deny coverage if the vehicle was being used as a taxi at the time of the accident.  Some auto insurers are slowly introducing supplemental coverage to address this very problem.   

This “gap” can create headaches for car accident victims.  Indeed, there is often a dispute as to who will cover the accident- Uber or the personal auto insurance.  Further complicating matters is the fact that Uber claims that its UberX and UberBlack drivers are independent contractors, and not employees.  These conflicts can potentially delay compensation and payment of medical bills for the cyclist.

If you’re struck by an UberX or UberBlack car, you’ll want to speak to a bicycle accident attorney experienced in handling insurance coverage disputes.  Call Philly Bike Lawyer for a free consultation: (267) 423-4464.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Using Traffic Violations To Win Your Bicycle Accident Case

In bicycle accident cases, the plaintiff has to prove that the defendant acted negligently (without due care under the circumstances). This burden of proof is very fact-intensive and often boils down to the credibility of the parties or witnesses. One way to lessen this burden is for the plaintiff to argue that the defendant was negligent per se because he/she violated a pertinent traffic rule. 

If you are not familiar with the doctrine of negligence per se, consider the following instruction a judge may give to the jury:
The law provides: [quote relevant statutory provision].
[Name of plaintiff] claims that [name of defendant] violated this law. If you find that [name of defendant] violated this law, you must find that [name of defendant] was negligent. 
If you find that [name of defendant] did not violate this law, then you must still decide whether [name of defendant] was negligent because [he] [she] failed to act as a reasonably careful person would under the circumstances established by the evidence in this case.
This is Pennsylvania Standard Civil Jury Instruction 13.100 (© 2013 The Pennsylvania Bar Institute). 

Let's repeat the instruction in the context of a bicyclist getting "doored"...
The law provides: No person shall open any door on a motor vehicle unless and until it is reasonably safe to do so and can be done without interfering with the movement of other traffic, nor shall any person leave a door open on a side of a vehicle available to moving traffic for a period of time longer than necessary to load or unload passengers. 75 Pa.C.S. 3705.
Jane Doe claims that John Doe violated this law. If you find that John Doe violated this law, you must find that John Doe was negligent.
If you find that John Doe did not violate this law, then you must still decide whether John Doe was negligent because he failed to act as a reasonably careful person would under the circumstances established by the evidence in this case.

If the jury agrees that John Doe violated Pennsylvania's "Opening and Closing Vehicle Doors" Statute, 75 Pa.C.S. 3705, then John Doe is negligent per se. That means the plaintiff has met her burden of proof, with respect to negligence, by merely demonstrating that a traffic violation occurred. 

The experienced bicycle accident lawyers at PHILLY BIKE LAWYER know how to employ this powerful doctrine. 

Below are traffic statutes that are often implicated in bicycle accident cases, along with diagrams demonstrating how the violation occurs...


75 Pa.C.S. § 3705. 
Opening and closing vehicle doors.

No person shall open any door on a motor vehicle unless and until it is reasonably safe to do so and can be done without interfering with the movement of other traffic, nor shall any person leave a door open on a side of a vehicle available to moving traffic for a period of time longer than necessary to load or unload passengers.


75 Pa.C.S. § 3331(e). 
Required position and method of turning.

Interference with pedalcycles. 
No turn by a driver of a motor vehicle shall interfere with a pedalcycle proceeding straight while operating in accordance with Chapter 35 (relating to special vehicles and pedestrians).

Photo Credit: Steven Vance


75 Pa.C.S. § 3303(a)(3). 
Overtaking vehicle on the left.

The driver of a motor vehicle overtaking a pedalcycle proceeding in the same direction shall pass to the left of the pedalcycle within not less than four feet at a careful and prudent reduced speed.


75 Pa.C.S. § 3322. 
Vehicle turning left.

The driver of a vehicle intending to turn left within an intersection or into an alley, private road or driveway shall yield the right-of-way to any vehicle approaching from the opposite direction which is so close as to constitute a hazard.


75 Pa.C.S. § 3324. 
Vehicle entering or crossing roadway.

The driver of a vehicle about to enter or cross a roadway from any place other than another roadway shall yield the right-of-way to all vehicles approaching on the roadway to be entered or crossed.

Photo Credit: Steven Vance

Every case is different! The best thing to do is to speak with an attorney about your bicycle accident case. For more information, contact PHILLY BIKE LAWYER at 267-423-4464. 

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

How the Papal Visit Will Affect Bikers

The City is setting up a no-car-zone during the Papal visit and public transportation will not be entering downtown. Visitors and residents may be looking towards their bicycles for transportation into and around the City.

The Philadelphia Bicycle Coalition is keeping bikers informed on what they need to know for when the Pope is in town.

Check out this PhillyMag article for more.


Thursday, August 13, 2015

Three Bicycle Bills Pending in the PA Legislature

House Bill 1360

Legislation Adjusting the Helmet Requirements for Bicycles 

This legislation would amend Title 75 (the Vehicle Code) to require children to wear helmets when operating a bicycle until they are 16. Currently, only children younger than 12 must wear a helmet while operating a bicycle.

Introduced By: Representative Anthony DeLuca (right)
Posted On: April 1, 2015
Status: Pending Review by the Transportation Committee as of 6/24/15

Senate Bill 85 

Legislation Adding Bike and Jogging Trails

This legislation would amend the Conservation and Natural Resources Act (1995 Act 18) to require the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources to designate or construct and maintain a bicycle and jogging path at least one mile in length in each of the State parks of 1,000 acres or more. Currently only 120 of the 41 parks have trails designated for biking, and even less have jogging trails.

Introduced By: Senator Stewart Greenleaf (right)
Posted On: December 8, 2014
StatusPending Review by the Environmental Resources and Energy Committee as of 1/14/15

House Bill 150

Legislation Creating "Bicycle Share-The-Road" Registration Plates 

This legislation would amend Title 75 (the Vehicle Code) for the purpose of establishing a "Bicycle Share-The-Road" registration plate to be issued by the Department of Transportation with all collected fees to be used solely by the Department.  

Introduced ByRepresentative David M. Maloney Sr. (right)
Posted OnDecember 2, 2014
Status:Pending Review by the Appropriations Committee as of 5/4/15

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Open Records Requests are a Powerful Tool in Road Defect Cases

With infrastructure lagging behind our City’s growing bicycle population, many accidents are caused by poor road conditions and defects. In such cases, the Commonwealth's “Right to Know Law” is a powerful tool for victims.

Under Pennsylvania's “Right to Know Law” (or “Open Records Law”), Act 3 of 2008, 65 P.S. §§ 67.101, et seq., members of the public have the right to inspect/copy, with certain limitations, City records upon request. This includes records from the Streets Department and Permits Office.

As stated in a previous post, the City can be sued for injuries caused by potholes or other defects in the street. 42 Pa.C.S.A. §§ 8542, 8255. Often times, the most difficult part of these cases is proving that the City had constructive or actual notice of the defect, as required by statute. See, e.g., Mason v. City of Allentown, 2013 Pa. Dist. & Cnty. Dec. LEXIS 443 (Pa. C.P. 2013).

Generally, constructive notice is proven by demonstrating that the defect existed for such a period of time that it could have been discovered and corrected through the exercise of reasonable care. Whereas, actual notice is proven by demonstrating that the City was aware of the defect prior to the accident. This is why open records are valuable.

Through a city-wide initiative, more people are calling in and reporting potholes and other defects. These complaints should be filed and recorded by the Streets Department. By making a records request, a victim can find out if the City had knowledge of the defect through a prior complaint.

It may also be worthwhile to request records from the Permits Office. These records may show that a business or other entity performed construction in the area prior to the date of accident. In other words, someone else may be liable for victim’s injuries.

While record requests are helpful, these are nevertheless difficult cases to prove. In addition, the injured party has to provide written notice of the accident to the City within a certain number of days of the occurrence in order to preserve his/her right to file a lawsuit.

If your injuries were caused by a pothole or defect in the street, you should contact an attorney at PHILLY BIKE LAWYER - all consultations are free, just call (267) 423-4464.

For more information on Philadelphia’s Open Records Policy, click here.

For a copy of a standard Right to Know Request Form, click here.

Standard Form, for PDF visit https://www.dced.state.pa.us/public/oor/Form-UniformRequest.pdf.