John Forester, M.S., P.E.
Cycling Transportation Engineer
Consulting Engineer, Expert Witness & Educator in
Effective Cycling, Bicycles, Highways & Bikeways, Traffic Laws
7585 Church St., Lemon Grove, CA 91945-2306
WITH DEPOSITION OR TESTIMONY
Barbas vs Maharishi International University:
District Court, Polk County, IA, 1990. I Assisted Joseph Phebus of Phebus, Tummelson, Bryan & Knox, attorneys for Plaintiff. Barbas was a student cycling onto campus at night. He hit a chain that the university had strung across an entrance to the campus area, fell down and received head injuries. The entrance was badly designed so you couldn't tell the path you were supposed to follow, the lighting was bad, and the chain had no reflectors on it, but Barbas was not using a headlamp. I testified to these matters and that a typical bicycle headlamp, particularly one in accordance with Iowa state requirements, would be most unlikely to disclose the chain across the cyclist's path before he hit it. Barbas received a substantial award, although a bit reduced because of some fault on his part.
Westcott vs Dahon California, Inc.:
Contra Costa Superior Court, CA, 1990. I assisted Charles Hawkins of Hawkins, Blick & Fitzpatrick, attorneys for plaintiff. Westcott and a friend were riding folding bicycles designed by Dahon California and made for the California corporation by Dahon Industries in Taiwan. They were riding on a smooth bike path. Westcott looked around to see her friend and fell to the ground, suffering injuries. The Dahon is a most unusual folding bicycle that folds into a package small enough to be carried onto a bus, streetcar or commuter train. It has small wheels and the frame has unusual shape and hinges. It does not have the usual head tube and upper and lower headset (steering) bearings, but has a single large bearing where the lower headset bearing normally is, with a hinged steering assembly above it. The hinged steering assembly carries a pivot point behind its axis into which a pin from the hinged top tube locks. As a result, the steering geometry is rather different from most bicycles. I test rode the Dahon and concluded that it was the worst handling bicycle that I had ever ridden. It was practically impossible to ride without hands on the handlebars -- not that one normally should so ride, but this is a useful test of stability. The bicycle would not steer according to lean, it tended to wander about of itself, and it did not have the feedback force that tells the rider of a normal bicycle when the front wheel is turned to an inappropriate angle. I concluded that this extremely poor handling allowed the front wheel to steer to one side when Westcott turned to look for her friend, and thus steered the bicycle out from under her, causing her fall and injuries.
I measured the trail distance of the Dahon bicycle, finding it rather smaller than is usual. The trail distance is the distance that the front tire contact patch is behind the steering axis, and is the most important determinant of bicycle stability. Small trail is unstable, large trail is stable. Therefore I modified a Dahon bicycle to increase the trail distance in steps from 1-9/16" to 2-3/4". As trail distance increased, the handling and stability improved, until at 2-3/4" they were almost like a touring bike. Review of the Dahon instruction manual showed that the designers had little idea of the characteristics that a bicycle should have, and other information suggested strongly that they had not properly tested the design before beginning series production. Dahon settled on the morning trial was to start.
Thorson vs Sears, Troxel & Cycle Pro:
Circuit Court of Orange County, Florida, 1990. I assisted Joe Thillman, attorney for Paula Thorson. Thorson and her husband were traveling during darkness by bicycle on an unlighted road, each with a child on a rear seat manufactured by Troxel and sold by Sears, each bicycle equipped with front and rear lamps manufactured by Cycle Products and sold by Sears. Tommie Smith, who was driving in the same direction, rounded a curve and hit Paula Troxel from the rear. Smith claimed she did not see Thorson until the collision. The child seat concealed the bicycle's rear reflector, and would conceal any rear reflector that is mounted where the U.S. government requires, and did not carry its own reflector. Troxel supplies the rear reflector for its more expensive models of child seat, but Sears chose not to specify the rear reflector for those it sold under its own name. The Cycle Products rear lamp was very defectively designed, without a reflector to redirect the light to the rear and with a lens that concentrated the small amount of light emitted to the rear into a narrow beam that was likely not to be directed at any particular driver behind. Case settled favorably for plaintiff.
Thonack vs City of Pleasanton:
Alameda Superior Court, CA, 1991. I assisted J. Michael Brown of Pleasanton, attorney for Plaintiff. City of Pleasanton had installed a bollard post in the center of the entrance to a bicycle path, supposedly to keep out motor traffic but which it failed to do because drivers of motor vehicles could drive on either side of it. The bollard was not marked itself and there was no center stripe or island to alert cyclists that it was there. The city had also installed a wordy sign beside the path at the same location. Mrs. Thonack followed her husband toward the path, negotiated the entrance ramp, didn't initially see the bollard because her husband obscured her view, was then distracted by reading the sign, and hit the bollard. I testified in deposition that bollards were dangerous, that this bollard was useless, that Pleasanton had not taken the measures to ameliorate its dangers that are described in the California Bikeway Standards, and that placing a sign that required lengthy reading at a place where there were several hazards was poor highway engineering. Pleasanton settled favorably for Plaintiff.
Swanlund vs Shimano:
Hennepin District Court, MN, 1991. I assisted Hugh V. Plunkett of Popham, Haik, Schnobrich & Kaufman and Dean Cambourakis of Wilson, Elser, Moskowitz etc. in defense of Shimano. Swanlund, accompanied by his family, went for a ride of several miles, including 3/4 mile of gravel road followed by an asphalt-paved bike path. Shortly after crossing a street with its curb ramps, Swanlund fell, breaking his neck and becoming paraplegic. After the fall, the front wheel was found some feet away. Plaintiff alleged that the operating principle of the Shimano quick release that retained the front wheel was defective, allowing the front wheel to come free while Swanlund was riding, thus causing the fall and the injury and justifying punitive damages. However, the front fork showed no signs of the contact with the ground that would result if the wheel came free while riding and Swanlund's final rest position was inconsistent with the somersault action that that contact would cause. Plaintiff's primary expert, James Green, advanced a variety of scenarios, none of which complied with the laws of physics. His final conclusion was disproved by a simple test that I performed. He also advanced supposed test data that led us to conclude that he had not performed the test that supposedly produced the data. Because the design of the quick-release mechanism prevents a properly-locked q-r from coming loose of itself, Plaintiff alleged that Swanlund had not understood how to properly lock the q-r at the start of the ride, although Swanlund, an intelligent engineer, had used q-rs for some years and had instructed his daughter in their use. Case was settled shortly before trial on terms favorable for Shimano.
Mitchell vs California et al.
I assisted Thomas B. McNutt of McCashin & McNutt, attorneys for defendant H. Tano, bicycle manufacturer. Mitchell borrowed a mountain bicycle from Myers at a campground, and both rode up an abandoned road that led to an abandoned quarry. The road crossed two dry creek gullies at which the road had washed away and had not been replaced. At these places it was necessary to walk the bicycles. On the return trip, Myers preceeded Mitchell, who followed later. At the second creek crossing, Myers walked his bike down into the creek and, hearing Mitchell coming fast, climbed up again to warn Mitchell to slow down. Mitchell came fast, failed to slow down, hit a boulder at the edge of the crossing, and fell headfirst into the gully. During site inspection, August La Riviere, expert for another party, attempted to demonstrate the susceptibility of the bicycle to pitchover at various approach speeds, but did the experiment poorly. Defendant H. Tano settled for a small sum.
Wagner vs California & Santa Barbara County:
Santa Barbara Superior Court, CA, 1991. I assisted Neill Tardiff of Tardiff & Staton, and Caltrans Legal Dept., attorneys for defense. Wagner, a high-school student, left school by bicycle without a headlamp about sunset. While descending an overpass over a freeway he collided with a pedestrian who was crossing the road, sustaining paralyzing injuries. Wagner sued California and Santa Barbara County, alleging that the absence of street lights, sidewalks and bike lanes caused the accident. I testified that had Wagner been using the legally-required headlamp the pedestrian would have seen him approaching and would have adjusted his crossing so he wouldn't be hit. Successful defense.
Brogdon vs Latham:
Sacramento Superior Court, CA, 1991. I assisted Robert Barnett of McPherson, Barnett & Mattice, attorneys for plaintiff. Brogdon, an 11-year-old cyclist, was descending a hill on a road that was protected by stop signs. Latham, a 5-year-old cyclist, came down the sidewalk of a cross street, negotiated a curb cut onto the road that Brogdon was using, and then neither crossed the road nor turned right. Instead, he steered diagonally across the road toward another curb cut that was over 100 feet to his right on the opposite side of that road, to get onto the sidewalk on that side of the road. Brogdon initially assumed that she should overtake him on his left, as is normal, but became confused as he apparently swerved in front of her. In the collision, Brogdon fell and incurred permanent brain injury. Defense argued that Latham was merely crossing the street and Brogdon had plenty of time to see and avoid him, but conceded once they took my deposition that analyzed the movements in terms of normal traffic movements.
Mathews vs Bridgestone Cycle:
Los Angeles Superior Court, CA, 1991. I assisted Barry Fischer, attorney for plaintiff. Mathews participated in mountain bike races. About 5 or 6 miles into one race his front wheel came off, jammed between the fork blades, the down tube, and the left crank. The bicycle rolled over the jammed front wheel and Mathews was pitched forward to suffer facial injuries. The front fork was not damaged in any way. Examination of the front fork showed that it had been ridden a short distance with the quick release not properly clamped and that its fork tips were too far apart, 104 mm instead of the standard 100 mm into which a standard 100 mm hub fits. A quick release mechanism has only 2 mm of clamping movement. With 4 mm difference between the length of the hub, 100 mm, and the width of the fork, 104 mm, the quick release was clamping only against the spring force of the fork blades, not the solid metal-to-metal contact through the hub that is required for holding the wheel in place. Mathews recognized this, but didn't recognize that the fork was defective and should have been replaced. Each time he reinstalled the wheel, he readjusted the quick release. Obviously, he forgot to do this before the accident. That accounts for the signs that the bicycle had been ridden a short distance with the quick release not properly clamped, and for the release of the wheel when it went over the appropriate bumps.
At trial the defense attorney pretended during cross examination that there was no evidence that the fork should have been 100 mm, arguing that the evidence for the defect was like saying that a part for a Ford car was defective because it wouldn't fit a Chevrolet. The attorney I was assisting failed to use redirect to bring out the standardized nature of bicycle components, and the judge dismissed the case.
Milechman vs Mountain Bike Factory Outlet et al.:
Marin Superior Court, CA, 1992. I assisted Edward P. Garson of Wilson, Elser, Moskowitz, Edelman & Dicker, attorneys for defendant Suntour. Milechman, a medical heart specialist, purchased a mountain-style bicycle. This bicycle was equipped with a Suntour cantilever-style brake on the front wheel and a Suntour roller-cam brake on the rear wheel. Milechman had ridden ten-speed type bicycles for transportation while a medical student. Immediately after purchase the bicycle was taken on a ride that involved moderate climbs and descents of about 8%, being then ridden up a 15% hill to Milechman's home. On Milechman's second ride he stopped at a stop sign before the main part of the hill, started the descent, failed to control his speed with the rear brake, became panicky at the sight of a turn ahead, applied his front brake and fell at the start of the turn, fracturing both wrists. He said that he didn't pitch over the handlebars but fell to the outside of the turn while the bicycle fell to the inside. He had ridden about 650 feet. After the crash the front brake was shown to be fully operational while the rear brake was adjusted so that its maximum retardation was about 0.15g.
Milechman alleged that his inability to control his speed with his rear brake was the result of a design defect in the cable clamp of the roller-cam brake, which allowed the cable to slip as he squeezed the brake lever. Plaintiff's experts disassembled the brake without making any measurement of the grip of the clamp on the cable, and no positive signs of slippage were found. Tests made on equivalent brakes showed that when properly tightened the cable clamp performed properly. A similar clamp is used on several top-quality brakes that have been made for many years. A riding test with an equivalent bicycle showed that even with the rear brake adjusted as alleged it was easy to descend the hill at reasonable speed. Motion simulation calculations showed that had Milechman applied the front brake gently (0.1g) he could have stopped at any point on the descent, even had he applied it as late as 100 feet before his fall. Of course, that front brake had the ability to safely produce a retardation of more than 0.5g if required.
Conclusions: Milechman made at least three mistakes. He should have used both brakes whenever he needed retardation. When he discovered that the rear brake alone was not producing the desired retardation he should have applied the front brake. He waited too long to apply the front brake, and when he did he misused both it and the steering, thus causing his fall. Successful defense for all defendants.
Gibel vs Steyr-Daimler-Puch (actually Stelber Industrie):
Los Angeles Superior, Los Angeles, CA. I assisted Brad Child of Millard, Stack & Stevens. A bicycle made by Juniorwerke division of Stelber Industrie had the defective weld between steer tube and fork crown. After many years, cyclist rode over a pothole around a water system valve cover and the largely cracked weld finished failing. I provided information about this design and a copy of the CPSC report on these bicycles so that the previously-designated expert metallurgist could complete his testimony with information about bicycles. Settled at a reasonable value.
Shoemaker vs Scott:
San Diego Superior, San Diego, CA. I assisted Lance T. Bury, attorney for the plaintiff. Shoemaker was a tri-athlete who had installed Scott Clip-On aerobars on a Moulton bicycle. He used the aerobars for some weeks and thought that he understood their use. While cycling on a wide, smooth, modern, four-lane rural highway he crested a gentle climb and started to descend an average descent. As his speed increased he decided to shift to his highest gear. To do this he removed his right hand from the aerobar to reach for the shift lever in the conventional location on the down tube. He had not previously shifted gears while keeping one hand on the aerobar, but had previously moved both hands to the conventional positions before shifting or braking. As he reached for the shift lever the bicycle swerved violently from side to side, he lost control, and fell, incurring brain injury.
A series of test rides with Scott Clip-On aerobars (I had not previously used aerobars of any type) showed that the cyclist who adopts aerobars has to learn new skills in steering the bicycle and should practice moving hands from the aerobars to the normal bars, brake levers, and shift levers, and back again, starting at slow speeds and only gradually working up to higher speeds, and starting with gentle turns and only gradually working up to sharper turns. In addition, the final test ride showed that using the aerobar position appears to lower the speed at which front wheel oscillation occurs or to increase the susceptibility of the bicycle to such oscillation. Although the physics of front-wheel oscillation is not well understood, it is recognized that an increase in the mass forward of the steering axis (the cyclist's arms as well as the aerobars) and has an adverse effect on stability.
I learned to steer properly with only one hand on the aerobar at all speeds I could produce on level ground. Then, with only one hand on the aerobar and the other, as a safety measure, poised over the conventional bar so I could grip it rapidly, I increased speed on a descent similar to that on which Shoemaker's accident had occurred. As speed increased to the low 30s mph, my bicycle started front-wheel oscillation. I stopped the oscillation with the hand on the conventional bar and by using the brake whose lever I could thereby reach. After two tries of this test with the same results I concluded that further testing would present excessive risk unless the aerobars were fitted with brake levers so I could slow or stop during the descent while gripping the aerobars with both hands.
Scott had failed to consider and to test the effect of the aerobar position on the stability of bicycles and, therefore, had failed to warn users of the possible instability and what measures to take for it. Scott had also failed to warn users of the need to learn new steering skills and of the type of training program necessary to learn them. Scott had failed to design some of its types of aerobar so that brake and shift levers could be mounted on them, and to design and supply the control-cable connectors necessary for duplicate levers in both the aerobar and the conventional positions.
A settlement agreement was reached after I testified in deposition and before trial.
Johnson vs Rivera & Derby Cycle:
Essex County Superior, NJ. 1993 I assisted Ken Berkowitz of Blume, Vazquez, Goldfaden, Berkowitz & Donnelly, attorneys for plaintiff. Johnson, a high-school student, purchased a Nishiki bicycle, manufactured to Derby's specification, specifically for transportation to and from his evening job. The bicycle was equipped with 10 reflectors (the all-reflector system) and while the owner's manuals for Derby's bicycles described the reflectors and how to care for them they didn't warn that the reflector system was unsafe for use at night and that a headlamp was absolutely necessary for safe operation at night. Johnson trusted to the reflectors and didn't use a headlamp. As Johnson descended a hill with a coasting speed of about 30-35 mph, a car climbing the hill suddenly turned left directly in front of him because the motorist did not see Johnson. Johnson was left permanently disabled physically, mentally and emotionally. The case appeared to be fairly simple: motor-vehicle headlamps on low beam direct insufficient light to the left side of the road to illuminate reflectors to the extent required for conspicuity, whereas bicycle headlamps provide sufficient illumination. I corroborated from my own experience the data of psychological experts that few of the public understand the ineffectiveness of reflectors in such traffic-accident conditions, but that fact should have been known to experts in the bicycle business. Derby's expert, James Green, disagreed with these points and wrote a report raising other points: that Johnson was speeding, that he should have yielded to the left-turning motorist, that the car was moving slowly, that the impact point was on the wrong part of the road; advancing an accident reconstruction based on these points. I testified on the correct methods for calculating and measuring speeds and for reconstructing accidents, showing that these gave different results than Green maintained. Further testimony by Derby's officials showed that they believed that the all-reflector system to be safe for riding at night and that they were mistaken about both the safety and the legal requirements for cycling at night. That is why they didn't know how to write a proper safety manual. The jury found the accident to be entirely Derby's fault and awarded $7 million to plaintiff.
Day vs County of Los Angeles
Los Angeles Superior, CA 1993. I assisted Richard Riley of Knopfler & Robertson, attorneys for plaintiff. Day was cycling on a route that he frequently used, a slight descent of a multi-lane rural highway with good surface, wide shoulder, and curb and gutter. The open space beside the road was being used as the equipment site for a construction project and the contractors had built a curb-height ramp into the shoulder to ease the bump as their trucks traversed the curb. One of their trucks had also dropped a pile of wet concrete (that had subsequently hardened) onto the shoulder a short distance above the ramp. Day hit the concrete, wobbled, hit the ramp, and fell, incurring brain injuries. Defendant's expert La Riviere claimed that Day's derailleur had jammed and caused him to fall. Trial produced a verdict for plaintiff, with 50% off for failing to see the lump of concrete.
Mayol vs Bank of America:
Superior Court, Middlesex, Middletown, Connecticut. I assisted William Gallitto of Gordon, Muir & Foley, attorneys for plaintiff. Mayol received an AMF Roadmaster bicycle as a dividend from purchases made on his Bank of America card. His son unpacked the bicycle from its shipping box and assembled it. The son and Mayol rode the bicycle around their large rural driveway to see that all seemed working. On the first ride on that bicycle, accompanied by his wife and a friend, Mayol descended a hill about one mile from his house. Mayol was ahead and just out of sight. Near the foot of the hill the road curved to the left and Mayol was found in the bushes to the right of the curve, with a broken neck and no recollection of what had happened.
The front wheel of the bicycle was potato-chipped, the handlebars were bent, and the saddle was twisted around, all obviously the result of hitting the curb and going off the road. The rear wheel was undamaged, but all of its spokes were loose. The looseness could not have occurred as a result of damage to the wheel, because there was no damage. The rim could be shaken by hand about ½ inch each way. Easy finger force gripping pairs of spokes would put a noticeable bend into the spokes. I concluded that the spokes initially had sufficient tension to make the wheel look correct but not sufficient to carry a load. As the wheel rotated under load the reduction of tension at the bottom of the wheel, which is the physical action that allows a bicycle wheel to carry its load, reduced the insufficient tension to zero or close to it. This allowed the nipples to unscrew a bit with each revolution. A wheel with slack spokes tends to make the bicycle steer first to one side and then, as a correction is applied, to the other side. Unfortunately, the wheel became dangerously slack on this descent, and Mayol was unable to steer the bicycle around the curve in the road. The case was settled satisfactorily after my deposition was taken.
Thienes vs Miyata Bicycle Co:
Superior Court, Orange County, CA; Jan 1994. I assisted Mark Worthge and Gary Tavetian of Wilson, Elser, Moskowitz, Edelmen & Dicker, attorneys for defendant Shimano. Thienes was a club cyclist described as a beginner, riding a relatively new bicycle. On a century ride he approached an intersection where the traffic signal was red. He rode up a driveway, probably hitting the transition where the curb cut rose to normal curb height. He intended reaching the pedestrian push-button but he fell, receiving neck injuries that paralyzed him. His front wheel was off the bicycle after the fall. Inspection of the bicycle showed that the front fork blades were bent backwards and sideways almost equal amounts while retaining their original distance apart. This showed that the fork had been bent while the hub of the wheel was still in place. The impressions in the paint on the fork tips, with very shallow impressions into the metal, showed that the quick release mechanism had never been fully tightened, although it had been clamped several times. However, the paint and metal at the top of the slots of the fork tips showed only very shallow impressions of the axle's threads. Thienes testified that he thought that the quick-release mechanism operated as a kind of bolt, that in the closed position it retained the wheel, not realizing that its clamping force depends on the amount of force used to close it. The conclusion was that the front wheel was clamped sufficiently hard to retain the wheel against Thienes's weight (otherwise the impressions of the axle threads would have been deep), but required little force to move the operating lever to or from the clamped position. When Thienes rode against the sharp rise at the transition from the curb cut, the force of the collision bent the forks back and sideways, caused him to fall, and in the fall the easily-moved operating lever was pushed into the released position and the wheel came loose. Settled before trial.
Ralke vs State of California et al.:
Superior Court, Los Angeles; 1994. I assisted Barry Novak, attorney for plaintiff. Ralke, a moderately experienced cyclist, was riding northward with two companions along Pacific Coast Highway, north of Los Angeles. The highway was being resurfaced for a considerable distance, for which reason the traffic lanes had been planed down about two inches. The shoulder had not been planed, and in some places, but not in others, it stood about two inches above the roadway. The surfaces were very similar, and the sun was at an angle at which it did not cause the step to cast a shadow. Any delineators intended to show the extent of the work were placed far too far to the right, defining the area of rocks fallen from above rather than defining the edge of the roadway. Ralke was riding third of the three. She did not see the step up, rode against it at a slight angle, and incurred a diverting-type fall, resulting in permanent injury to her right hip. I testified that such a structure was very dangerous when hit at a slight angle, that it was difficult to distinguish in the absence of a shadow, and that the policy was faulty that allowed such an unintended structure without placing delineators to warn drivers away from it. The case was settled at the start of trial with satisfactory results for plaintiff.
Horton vs Kent:
Circuit Court Cook County, IL; 1994. I assisted Charles Wright of Modesto, Reynolds & McDermott, attorneys for Defendant. Jason Horton, 6 yrs old, was in the first day of use of his new bicycle. The bicycle had been purchased by his father, Ulysses, at a toy shop. Jason had chosen the bicycle by pointing to one hanging from the ceiling, and Ulysses had agreed. Ulysses took an unassembled bicycle home in a box and assembled it there. The bicycle was too large for Jason: he could not straddle the top tube and his fingers could not properly reach the brake levers. Therefore, he could stop the bicycle only by falling off it. The bicycle manual and the box carried the typical warnings about bicycle size. Nevertheless, Ulysses let Jason ride the bicycle. In the course of the first day of riding around his neighborhood, Jason's mother and grandmother both saw his predicament but did nothing about it. Toward the end of that first afternoon, Jason was riding on a park path with several of his friends. The path was perpendicular to a sidewalk. Jason got going too fast to make the turn onto the sidewalk and, unable to slow down, dashed out between two parked cars into the street. A car was coming and Jason was killed. The Hortons sued Kent, alleging that the bicycle was unsuitable for a child of 6 years of age and that the instruction manual was too difficult for a person of Ulysses's low level of intelligence and education. The first claim is correct, the second might be, but neither of these was negligence by Kent. Plaintiff's expert knew human factors but was ignorant about bicycles and cycling, making several mistakes about these. However, Kent's insurance company decided to settle for $200,000. Considering the facts, I consider that an unwise settlement.
Dzambik vs City of San Jose:
Santa Clara Superior, CA; 1994. I assisted Gary B. Mitchell, of Mitchell & Walwyn, attorneys for plaintiff. Dzambik, while riding in the company of other cyclists, hit a depression in the roadway surface of a city street that was hard to see. This was not a pothole, but a dip that was fairly deep. It was almost invisible at that time of day in the shadow pattern cast by the trees beside the road. The dip caused one of Dzambik's hands to slip off the handlebar and he fell. The case was settled before trial.
Keyser vs Potomac Pedalers Touring Club & L.A.W.:
Superior Court, Richmond, VA; 1994. I assisted Archibald Wallace, III, of Sands, Anderson, Marks & Miller, attorneys for defendants. Keyser participated in the Great Eastern Bicycle Rally operated by Potomac Pedalers and the League of American Wheelmen. Keyser was a cyclist with little experience on her first cycling event away from home. She left her helmet at home. She went on the first morning warm up ride before breakfast. Riding last, with one other cyclist a bit ahead of her for company, she was overtaken by a truck that was closely followed by a car. For some reason, she swerved after the truck passed. She collided with the right rear panel of the car. She fell onto her right side, hit her head on the road surface, and suffered brain injury. She sued the event operators, alleging that they should not have chosen such a narrow road, that the road was dangerous, they should have posted warning signs on all roads that riders would be using, and that they should not have let her ride without a helmet. Plaintiff's expert James M. Green claimed that these represented the existing standard of care for ride operators. I wrote a report pointing out that all of his claims were false. The road was not dangerous; the road was of the type generally chosen for cycle touring events; very few, if any, organizers of touring events posted warning signs on the roads that cyclists would be using; that while organizers encouraged the use of helmets they did not, at that time, require their use. I also pointed out that the accident to Keyser was her own fault for swerving, the extent of her injuries was caused by her own negligence in not using her helmet, and that she could have purchased a helmet at that time at the local bike shop, as described in the event literature. On the basis of the reports, the case was settled favorably for Defendants.
Thomas vs Wheelsmith:
San Mateo Superior Court, CA; 1994. I assisted David McLaughlin of Ropers, Majeski, Kohn, Bentley, Wagner & Kane, attorneys for defendant Wheelsmith. Doug and Pam Thomas were riding a Santana tandem, with wheels built by Wheelsmith (on order of Santana) that incorporated rims by Sun Metal, down a twisty descent. On a left curve they experienced a rear wheel wobble, heard a blowout, felt loss of control and rolling of the rear rim on the road surface, lost control, and fell, incurring injuries. After the accident the rear wheel was bent into a potato-chip shape and considerable portions of the casing of the rear tire were off the rim. They sued Santana, Wheelsmith, and Sun Metal. The initial allegation was that Wheelsmith had built the wheel with improper wheel tension, either generally too tight or some spokes tighter than others, while a second allegation was that the rim was too small for the tire, allowing tire blowoff. When the wheel was pressed between two rings of plywood to make it straight, the spoke tensions appeared adequate, and certainly no specific evidence of poor spoke tensioning appeared. Measurement with a special rim measuring tape showed that the rim was properly sized for the tire. Although the wheel was bent so much that it couldn't turn, the tire showed no skid patch. Inspection of the inner tube in the area where the tire bead was outside the rim showed a long split, indicating that the fully-pressurized tube had blown as the bead climbed over the side of the rim. These are clear evidence that the cause of the accident was the tire blowing off of the rim. The initial wobbling felt by the Thomases was caused by the tire going out of true as one portion of one bead climbed the side of the rim. The blowout then occurred, followed by the wheel rolling on its rim, probably also skidding sideways, until the wheel potato-chipped from the lateral load as the bike fell over at low speed. Examination of the design of the rim showed that its hooks were more rounded than most and its center had a deep vee. I estimate that these features make this design of rim particularly susceptible to tire blow-off. It is possible that heat developed by use of the rear brake during the descent increased the tire pressure and thereby increased the rate of bead movement toward blow-off. The case was settled for less than the cost of trial before I made a mathematical analysis of the forces concerned in tire blow-off.
Cuzzacrea vs Asahi et al:
Orange County Superior, CA; 1994. I assisted Terry O'Reilly of O'Reilly and Collins, attorneys for the plaintiff. Cuzzacrea and another man were riding a newly-purchased tandem bicycle on a city street. They were heading diagonally across the road after having made a partial turn to the left when the front end went down, the bicycle stopped, and they fell. Cuzzacrea suffered head and facial injuries. The road surface was smooth, they were traveling at medium speed. The front wheel was potato-chipped to the left and for half of the circumference on the right-hand side the spoke nipples had pulled through the rim, with partial pull-through for the adjacent spokes on the same side. The rim was a simply designed 26 x 1.75, 36-hole aluminum rim. Metallurgical testing of the rim showed that it was 6061 alloy that had been half-hardened. Tensile testing of exemplar wheels showed that their rims had the same alloy and hardness, and that the spoke nipples required about 600 pounds of force to pull through the rim.
I testified that this rim was probably not designed for the severe loads that tandems apply, but that the pull-through strength of 600 pounds provided a factor of safety of about 3 over the tension required to carry the load of a tandem. I testified that wheels are strong radially but weak laterally, so that they deform into a potato-chip shape with relatively little lateral force. The bending continues until the change in shape reduces the spoke tension that was initially built into the wheel until it can no longer bend the rim. However, when this happens the spokes don't pull through the rim, even though the geometry of the wheel multiplies by 10 any lateral force applied to the rim at one spoke. The only reason that I could see for the spokes pulling through the rim was that the wheel was initially built with far too high a spoke tension so that the spoke nipples were almost ready to pull through the rim. When some normal movement of the bike and riders leaned the bicycle or steered the front wheel, this caused the road surface to apply a lateral load that a proper wheel would resist. However, the increase in spoke tension adjacent to that load, plus the initial over tightening, exceeded the pull-through strength of the rim and one spoke pulled through. This meant that the adjacent spokes on the same side had to carry the road-surface load plus the initial lateral load due to spoke tension that the failed spoke had been carrying. This overloaded them, and the process repeated in each direction until the wheel had deformed sufficiently to reduce the tension of the spokes to a very low value. The cause of the accident was the initial over tightening of the spokes.
The defense asserted that operator error had turned the wheel sharply across the direction of travel, thus applying a side load that would fold any wheel. Defense offered no tests or calculations to support its position. Normally, such mistaken steering action merely causes the cyclist to fall, sometimes with a bent wheel, but it is impossible to determine whether the bend was caused before the fall or by the fall. However, this postulated mechanism fails to account for the very unusual massive pull-through of spoke nipples, which must have been caused by very excessive spoke tension. That excessive tension would also have made the wheel extraordinarily sensitive to side loads, so that normal side loads would cause it to fail as it did.
Case was settled at start of trial with very satisfactory results for plaintiff.
Hall vs Willow Tree:
San Mateo Superior, CA, 1994. I assisted David McLaughlin of Ropers, Majeski, Kohn, Bentley, etc. in defense of Willow Tree. Hall was the girlfriend of a racing cyclist and had been riding his mountain bicycle for some time. He then gave her an old racing frame and had a local bike shop fit components to it to suit her. On her first ride with the new bicycle, Hall descended a grade that varied from 3.6% to 5%. At an intersection on that grade a truck towing a long horse trailer, owned by Willow Tree, turned left in front of Hall. Hall swerved left to try to clear the rear of the trailer, but hit it and was severely injured.
Quite clearly, the driver of the truck was legally at fault. However, there are other facts. Hall had between 6 and 8 seconds to react to the truck's turn. The cyclometer on Hall's bicycle registered a maximum speed of 21 mph, and the calculated maximum coasting speed of Hall on that grade was 25 mph. At either speed, Hall had plenty of time to stop or turn to avoid the accident; she wasted about 4 seconds. Examination of the bicycle showed that the brake levers had been installed so high on the handlebars that it was difficult to reach them from the normal position. They could be reached from the top of the bars, but that position prevents the cyclist from applying normal gripping force to the levers. Hall had never before cycled with racing style handlebars. The delay caused by the inappropriate position of the brake levers combined with Hall's lack of skill in using them probably produced the delay that prevented Hall from avoiding the collision.
The case was settled at a low cost to Willow Tree.
Kessler vs Town of Woodside:
San Mateo Superior Court, CA; 1994. A utility company had dug and filled a narrow trench along the shoulder of a road that was often used by cyclists. With time, sections of the trench surface sank below the road level. The town of Woodside repaired some sections but left others untouched. Kessler caught his front wheel in the slot and fell. Settled after I testified about both the danger of such slots and the difficulty of visually determining that a section of such a surface repair had been improperly repaired.
Catchings vs State of Arizona et al.:
Maricopa Superior Court, AZ, 1994. I assisted John Shaw and Richard Plattner of Plattner Verderame, attorneys for the plaintiff. A bicycle path crossed under a freeway by means of a tunnel. The tunnel, 330 feet long and 10 feet wide, was below the level of the bike path and was entered at each end by descending ramps between walls, steep ramps that had sharp S curves. The tunnel had no center stripe and no warning signs to compensate for its geometrical deficiencies. Furthermore, the tunnel had never been swept and had accumulated some sand on its floor. More importantly, the tunnel had electric lights that provided the level of light appropriate for nighttime use, when the users' eyes were adapted to the dark, but insufficiently bright for use during daylight when the users' eyes were adapted to the bright sunlight, and had no gradual transition from bright outside light to darker inner light. In these respects the tunnel failed to meet the standards of the Federal Highway Administration and the Illuminating Engineers Society for designing and illuminating highway tunnels. On a bright sunny morning Catchings cycled into the tunnel, another cyclist traveling fast in the opposite direction exited the tunnel, and Catchings's companions found Catchings lying on the floor of the tunnel.
I took photographs demonstrating that insufficient daylight entered the tunnel to make a person carrying a sheet of white paper visible beyond 40 feet into the tunnel, to the eyes of a person that were adapted to the external daylight. I testified that the light inside the tunnel was less than 10% of that outside, and that the highway lighting handbooks, and medical physiology texts, said that full adaptation to a reduction to a level of 10% would require a minute. I testified that the tunnel failed to meet the standards for tunnel design and lighting in that it did not have transition zones of gradually decreasing light levels. I testified that Catchings, having just entered the tunnel and unable to see properly, was probably surprised by the sudden appearance of the other cyclist, swerved, and either skidded out on the sand or hit the wall with his handlebar.
The jury found for the defense, feeling that causation was not proved.
Hebert vs City of Capitola:
Santa Cruz Superior, CA; 1995. I assisted Brad D. Wiles and William L. Minkner, attorneys for plaintiff. Hebert was tripped by the ridge of a section of gutter that had been lifted by a tree root, as he was moving to the right to allow a car to overtake. He suffered typical injuries. The evidence was plain, the jury found that the condition was dangerous, as I had testified, but that injuries were not to be expected from this type of hazard.
Lechner vs King & Sacramento County:
Sacramento Superior, CA, 1995. I assisted James P. Osman, attorney for plaintiff. Both Lechner and King were regular users of the American River Bike Path near Sacramento, which crosses the American River on the Hazel Avenue Bridge. The connections of the path with Hazel Avenue are such that they strongly encourage cycling on only one side of Hazel Avenue, the west side, while discouraging cycling on the other side. Therefore, both Lechner and King, as do most cyclists using the path, ride on the west side of Hazel Avenue regardless of which direction they are traveling. At the time of the accident, Lechner was traveling south on his correct and right shoulder of the roadway while King was traveling north on his left and incorrect shoulder of the roadway. They collided head on.
King disobeyed traffic law. However, most cyclists, including Lechner, did the same whenever they traveled in that direction. The roadway was not defective; it was perfectly ordinary. The defect was in the path connections that strongly enticed cyclists in one direction to ride on the wrong side of the road. Both road and path were the responsibility of the county; therefore the county was at fault for its design, and I was prepared to explain why.
Mr. Osman chose to have no written report from me and he did not inform the attorney for the County of the theory of the case. In deposition, the attorney for the County determined that I had inspected the entire area, including the paths, and he asked me a few questions about both roadway and paths, but he stopped questioning me once I said that the roadway was not defective. He failed to ask me whether I had any other opinions about the case or whether I had an opinion about the negligence of his client. I was astonished at this abrupt termination. At this time Osman had two reasonable choices: to direct the attention of the attorney for the County to possible defects in the design of the paths (either off the record or by questioning me), or to go to trial against a defendant who had failed to properly prepare himself. Osman did neither. He gave up the case, blaming me for his decision by saying that I had not presented his case.
Vasquez vs City of Brea:
Orange County Superior, CA, 1995. I assisted Richard Stout of Christenson & Stout, attorneys for plaintiff. Vasquez, riding slowly and following a bicycle route street, made a right turn. Shortly after the intersection, the roadway surface was eroded about one inch deep from the curb to about 30 inches away. Vasquez, riding in the eroded area, caught his front tire against the lip of the eroded area. As the force tended to turn his wheel to the right, which would cause him to fall to the left, Vasquez properly counteracted this force by turning his wheel to the left. However, he was unable to regain control and fell to his right, hitting his upper arm against the curb, incurring a serious fracture that required extensive medical treatment. Defense expert Gerald Bretting attempted to show that this could not have happened, and therefore Vasquez fell because he tried to stop, possibly to examine a flat tire, and failed to release his foot from the pedal. He opined that Vasquez must have started to fall before he reached the dangerous area and that if he did reach it he would have fallen further to the right, say with his hip on the curb instead of his upper arm. I showed that the evidence for the longitudinal position of the fall was dubious (that for the lateral position was good, because the injury matched the curb), the amount of lateral movement in the fall was physically indeterminate, and there was no evidence of a flat tire. Jury found for plaintiff.
Fregly vs Cannondale and Fregly vs City of San Francisco:
San Francisco Superior, CA 1995. I assisted Joseph Nierenberg of Weber & Nierenberg, attorneys for plaintiff. There were two accidents, and the injury of the first may have influenced the degree of injury in the second.
In the first accident, Fregly was descending a hill in San Francisco. She applied her brakes and the front brake jammed, pitching her over the handlebars. She was riding a fairly new mountain bicycle that she had taken on several lengthy group rides. Both the bicycle shop and the inspectors on these rides had had trouble adjusting the brakes, which did not retain their adjustment.
The bicycle was equipped with Cannondale CODA cantilever-style brakes that were equipped with Force-40 cable linkages. Before my examination, J . M.and Michael Mayda had inspected and tested the brakes using Mayda's brake test machine. Their tests showed that the brakes, particularly the front brake, were much more erratic in action than than other brakes. They attributed this to the brand of high-friction brake block used by Cannondale, possibly accentuated by the extra force produced by the Force-40 linkage.
I determined that the high-friction brake blocks did not produce the erratic operation. I determined that while the Force-40 linkage produced 40% more force than typically-adjusted standard linkages (hence its name), it did not produce as much force as standard linkages adjusted for maximum force, and was otherwise in good operating condition. Therefore, the linkage was not at fault. The erratic operation was caused by a new feature of the brakes. Instead of having the brake arms mounted directly on the brake studs, these brakes used an intermediate sleeve between the stud and the bore of the arm. This made brake-arm adjustment easy. However, this system allowed twice as much wobble of the brake arm, and this increased wobble became even more pronounced if the mounting bolt became loose. If the brake arm was in one position when the brake was applied, the brake acted normally, but if it had wobbled in the opposite direction the brake tended to jam. I analyzed the amount of wobble and calculated the tendency to jam. Of the four brake-arm mounting bolts on the bicycle, one of those for the front brake was loose. The combination of fits that were too loose between studs, sleeves, and brake arms, aggravated by the one loose bolt, made this type of brake dangerous.
In the second accident, Fregly had just crossed an intersection and was overtaken by a San Francisco Municipal bus. The bus sideswiped Fregly knocking her down, sustaining facial injuries in the same area as in her first accident.
Both Cannondale and San Francisco settled once the evidence and the conclusions were presented.
Novy vs United States Cycling Federation, Matrix Cycling Club and Greater Dallas Bicyclists Association
Dallas County District, TX, 1995. I assisted Richard L. Smith of Strasburger & Price, attorneys for the defendants.
Robert Novy participated in a road race as a Category 4 rider. The course was basically flat with a few rolling hills. As the group approached the crest of one of these hills, some riders heard a noise that suggested that two riders ahead had touched wheels and might fall. Novy, who was adjacent to the center line of the road, crossed the double yellow line and was hit by a car coming over the crest of the hill. Novy, holding a PhD in chemical engineering, suffered permanent severe brain injury.
The Novys sued the race organizers and employed James. M. Green as expert. Green, who claims considerable road-racing experience, claimed that the race organizers were negligent in holding a road race where the riders were allowed to use only one side of the roadway. Green claimed that it was easy to produce a "rolling road closure," in which the road is entirely closed to traffic for some distance in advance of the racers to some distance behind the racers, and therefore the racers have the safe use of the full width of the roadway. Green claimed that this was necessary because racing conditions that he claimed are unavoidable frequently forced cyclists to cross the centerline. He claimed that these conditions were present and pushed Novy across the center line. Green also produced a video simulation of the accident.
I produced a report showing that Green's assertions were false. Racing
conditions do not push cyclists across the center line, each racer has the
option of slowing and, possibly, falling over a stopped racer ahead instead of
crossing the line, that operating with a rolling closure is so difficult and
expensive that rolling enclosures are used for fewer than 4 races in the nation
each year, and then primarily for visual effect rather than safety. Green's
reconstruction contradicted the evidence given in depositions, and failed to
account for the cyclists between the supposed bike-bike collision (for which
there was no evidence that it occurred) and Novy, who rode straight on without
hitting anything. Green's video depiction of the accident contained several
errors, including cyclists steering away from an accident that had not yet
happened and cyclists falling in a physically impossible way.
The plaintiffs settled after receiving my report.
Freeman vs City of Piedmont
Alameda Superior Court, CA, 1996. I assisted William B. Smith of Abramson & Smith, attorneys for the plaintiff. Freeman was following his young son along the sidewalk of an arterial street in the City of Piedmont. They had visited a city park beside this street, and on leaving the park the son did not want to ride in the roadway, so he turned right onto the sidewalk. The land sloped sharply away to their right and the roadway was supported by a retaining wall. As they rode, the sidewalk became cantilevered out from the retaining wall, and was surfaced with wooden planks parallel to the line of travel with slots between of varied widths. Young Freeman's tires were fat enough to have no trouble, but the older Freeman's tires were thin enough to get caught in a particularly wide slot. He pitched over the handlebars and suffered facial injuries. The legal situation was complicated because Piedmont had a set of bicycle ordinances that are not allowed by the California Vehicle Code. Piedmont prohibited cycling on all sidewalks, yet had not posted the prohibition anywhere, and had erected signs showing that it expected cycling along this sidewalk. Furthermore, Piedmont had subsequently installed cross-wise planking to remove the dangerous parallel slots.
Settled satisfactorily for plaintiff.
Gale vs Dahon
United States District Court, Rutland, VT, 1996 I assisted Leo Bisson of Downs, Rachlin & Martin, attorneys for plaintiff. Paul Gale was a retired man who traveled a lot by RV. His son gave him a folding Dahon Classic III bicycle for use during his trips. This bicycle folds in two places: the frame folds in the middle, and the steering column folds backwards, somewhat to the left side. The latch for the steering column is a three-pivot, two arm over-center latch, rather like the latches on tool boxes. If it is pushed over center, it is very safe, but if it is not pushed over center it can be opened by pulling on the handlebars and will vibrate toward the position where this is very easy.The latch has an adjustment to give it the correct grip: not too loose or it will allow play and can come loose, not too tight to be pushed over center. The adjustment is made at the factory. Gale's latch was adjusted too tight; it could be pushed over center if the user understood what that meant and paid attention, but it could be pushed so it felt tight but was not safe. The instructions did not say what was required.
Having ridden the bicycle on several short trips in different campgrounds, for less than 100 miles as indicated by tire wear, Gale stood on the pedals to climb a hill, pulling on the handlebars as he did so in the normal manner. The steering column folded back and Gale fell to his left and incurred severe injuries to his left hip and femur.
To prevent such accidents, Dahon had manufactured a hook that, slipped around the steering column, ensured that the latch was in the correct position and prevented it from coming loose. However, Dahon had not installed this hook on bicycles in stock, nor had it informed the users of its availability for their installation.
The jury decided that the bicycle was not defective but that Dahon was negligent in not installing the hook on current stock and distributing it to owners of older bicycles, and that Gale was partially negligent in not closing the hook as its design required.
Sheldon vs Sims
Orange County Superior Court, CA, 1996. I assisted Warren C. Dean, attorney for plaintiff. Cyclist Sheldon left the curb and shortly thereafter was hit by a car driven by Sims. The question concerned whether this was a dart-out type accident or one in which a cyclist who had established his position on the road was hit from behind. The outside lane was very wide, 32 feet, and had a few parked vehicles along it. Sims was an elderly driver who was driving slower than traffic far to the right of the normal path. The bicycle showed that it had been hit from behind, perhaps at an angle that was slightly from its right. By working out the range of possible movements that matched the testimony of witnesses, I was able to show that Sheldon had been in the traffic lane for considerable time and distance before he was hit. Case settled favorably for plaintiff.
Hesse vs City of Corte Madera
Marin Superior, CA, 1996. I assisted David Ames, attorney for plaintiff. Hesse was descending Corte Madera Ave., a twisty, 2-lane road between suburbs. On the ascending side of the road was an area with a right curve where ascending cars cut the corner and eroded the edge of the roadway. There was no curb and gutter, just a dirt bank. Corte Madera had filled the eroded area with crushed rock without asphalt binder. Ascending cars had then kicked the crushed rock out and scattered it across the roadway. Hesse came to the graveled area, lost control, and went off the roadway. Corte Madera argued that Hesse should have seen the gravel, but it settled favorably.
Kreiss vs Solano Cyclery
Alameda Superior Court, CA, 1996. I assisted David Ames, of the Hyde Law Corp., attorney for plaintiff. Kreiss had bought a new Kona mountain bike from Solano. On his second or third ride the rear tire deflated and Kreiss replaced the tube, intending to patch it later. On about his eighth ride, while he was making a turn on a steep road behind the UC Berkeley campus, his front tire deflated and he fell, suffering painful but not permanent injuries. After the accident, the front tube had about 6 pairs of pinch cuts caused by running flat as Kreiss tried to come to a stop. The front casing also showed slight damage from running flat, but had no other damage Because of the many cuts in the tube, it could not be tested for other leaks in the normal way. The rear tube that had been removed before showed a sequence of small holes or incipient holes spaced at spoke hole spacing. These had obviously been caused by a defective rim tape that did not completely cover the spoke holes. The rim tape was a slippery plastic, without adhesive, and so narrow relative to the width of the rim that it could be pushed aside sufficiently to uncover the edges of the spoke holes. The same rim tape and the same rim were used in the front wheel as the rear wheel. Plaintiff argued that the initial release of air in the front tire was caused by a similar hole, since there was no sign of penetration by an outside object. Defense initially argued that the pinch cuts had been caused by using a screwdriver to mount the tire, and then that the air had been released by one of the pinch cuts that looked a little different, but these contentions were disproved. However, the jury found that without definite evidence for the initial hole (which could not be demonstrated by the conventional air test because of the torn condition of the tube) there was insufficient evidence to demonstrate that the initial failure in the tube had been caused by the defective rim tape.
Morales vs Town of Tiburon
Marin Superior, CA, 1996. I assisted Philip Snell of Fish & Snell, attorneys for the plaintiff. Tiburon had reconstructed a once-narrow road, among other things adding bicycle lanes. The normal road surface was asphalt, but these lanes were built as five-foot wide concrete gutter pans with the joint between asphalt and concrete along the edge of the lane. The concrete naturally had expansion joints which produced a bumpy ride. Therefore, many cyclists used the normal traffic lanes instead. Morales was an experienced racing cyclist who often participated with several friends in the Paradise Loop Ride, using this particular road. Morales and two others were ahead, sprinting for the city-limit sign, as was usual. The rear tire of Morales's bike punctured. He slowed down and starting moving over to the curb to let those behind go by. As he crossed the joint between asphalt and concrete he lost control of his bicycle, swerved a bit, hit the curb, and his head hit a fire hydrant, killing him. In the area where he lost control, the asphalt side of the joint had eroded, as often occurs with an asphalt to concrete joint, leaving a groove sufficiently wide and deep to divert a bicycle wheel. The combination of the diversion caused his front wheel by the groove and the poor control caused by the flat rear tire, Morales lost control of his bicycle. This design of bicycle lane does not meet the requirements of the California standards for bicycle facilities. After a non-binding arbitration, the case was settled satisfactorily for plaintiff.
Hesse vs Town of Corte Madera;
Marin Superior, CA; 1996. I assisted David Ames of the Hyde Law Corp., attorney for the plaintiff. Hesse, an experienced sporting cyclist, was descending a hill on a curving, two-lane road with trees on both sides, and with the downhill side to his right. The slope was not steep, requiring the use of brakes only for sharp curves. He came to an area where the road curved leftwards fairly sharply. As he reached that curve, a place where much of the road surface was in dappled shade from the overhanging trees, he discovered that the road surface was covered with small particles of road surfacing material. Unable to either stop or turn sufficiently on this slippery material, he hit the guard rail, flew over it, and landed on a path with steps that was below the road.
The particles of road surfacing had come from the edge of the opposite side of the road. Motorists ascending the hill tended to cut that corner, putting their right wheels into the ditch at the edge of the road surface. The town's maintenance crew had repeatedly filled the ditch with asphalt concrete, to prevent the dirt from being cut away by the tires. However, the asphalt was neither properly supported nor properly compacted, so that it also was torn away by the tires and spread across the road surface. There were tire tracks even to the right of the asphalt in the ditch.
The town argued that motorists cutting such a corner was unforeseeable, that it had done the maintenance using the proper procedures, that the material did not come from the road surface, that the sun shone on the road, thus making the material clearly visible, that Hesse was racing, and that Hesse should have seen the material from a sufficient distance to reduce his speed to where he could safely ride across the material. The town put up magnified photos of similar material that had been purposely scattered, and another expert who rode across that material.
My investigation and testimony showed that the opposite of each of these assertions was more likely correct, that some assertions were plainly false. The case was settled favorably for the plaintiff.
Woolf vs Toys "R" Us and Rand International
Circuit Court, Lee County, Florida, 1996. I assisted Andrew Haggard, of Haggard, Parks, & Stone, attorney for plaintiff. Scott, Woolf's son aged 14, rode his bicycle homeward from his girlfriend's house. He had delayed beyond the appropriate time for lights, but did not use either headlamp or rear lamp but had the normal reflectors on his bicycle. All states require headlamps at night, but only four, including Florida, require rear lamps. He was riding with a friend, whose bicycle had neither reflectors nor lights. Scott rode sometimes behind, sometimes to the left of his friend because he believed that the reflectors on his own bicycle would protect them both. On a straight, level two-lane road without shoulders a motorist hit Scott from behind but not the other boy. Scott died.
This would appear to be a straight case of cyclist negligence by disobeying the law. However, the rear reflector, by federal law and that of most states, is expected to be bright enough to prevent this type of collision. It did not, because Rand International had chosen a defectively designed reflector. The federal specification for bicycle reflectors is defective, but that is because the bicycle industry pressured the federal regulators. A rear lamp would have been at least as good as a reflector, but Toys R Us neither used the state-provided instructional pamphlets about nighttime equipment nor provided any other advice about that subject. After my report and deposition testimony on these matters, defendants settled for a favorable sum.
Jillie vs County of Santa Clara and City of Sunnyvale
Santa Clara Superior, California, 1996. I assisted Joseph C. Howard, of Branson, Fitzgerald & Howard, attorneys for defendants. Jillie was an experienced bicycle commuter on his regular trip homeward along a country expressway in Sunnyvale. At this location, the expressway has two westbound lanes and one exit lane. Jillie was cycling at the right side of the exit lane. Considerably behind Jillie were a Volvo, otherwise unidentified, in the #1 lane, and a car driven by Guiterrez, in the #2 lane. The Volvo driver apparently intended to change lanes and moved to the right side of the #1 lane, but not out of it. Guiterrez, a recent immigrant, unlicensed and uninsured, with little driving experience, overreacted to the Volvo's move and swerved into the exit lane, hitting Jillie at a speed of about 50 mph and killing him.
Jillie's widow sued the governments, alleging that cyclists should never have been allowed on the county expressways because their design was dangerous for cyclists. I provided a report, supported by extensive excerpts from my book, Bicycle Transportation, showing that the expected accident rate for cyclists was much lower on expressways than on typical parallel major streets. I also testified at arbitration that the design of the expressway at this location was standard, safe, and had nothing to do with the cause of the accident. After arbitration failed and the case was submitted to the courts, the judge dismissed the case.
Johnson vs Zuppan:
Santa Clara Superior, CA 1998. I assisted Samuel Bort of Cesari, Werner & Moriarty, attorneys for Zuppan. Johnson had purchased a bicycle equipped with Look automatic pedals. Having owned this bicycle for two months and having used it frequently during this time, he was riding on a four-lane street protected by stop signs and with bicycle lanes. Zuppan was driving his car on one of the cross streets and came to the stop sign. Johnson asserts that Zuppan drove his car into Johnson's path before stopping. Johnson braked to a halt, but failed to get his foot out of the pedal and fell over, incurring injuries. Johnson claimed that the Look pedal had been adjusted too tightly to get his foot out properly.
Johnson's experts measured the range of pull-out torques available on the pedal, demonstrated that it worked as designed (I was there watching their inspection), but testified that Johnson could not have turned instead of braked in the situation he was in. The question of whether Zuppan actually entered the intersection was never completely resolved, but the weight of the evidence was that he did not until moving his car to park it after Johnson had fallen over.
I measured the pull-out torques of a variety of automatic pedals on the market and showed that the Look pedals were in the common range. I built a test fixture to measure the ability to produce torque in the pull-out direction, and used it to show that the required pull-out torque was easy to produce. I calculated that Johnson could have made a right turn, at his stated speed, to avoid Zuppan's car, and demonstrated that in practice. I testified to these conclusions. The case was settled before trial.
Wettstein vs U. S. Army:
U. S. District Court, N. Calif.; 1997 I assisted John Koeppel, of Ropers, Majeski, Kohn, Bentley, et al., attorneys for Stanyan Cyclery. Wettstein was descending a hill on the San Francisco Presidio grounds, when he swerved, flipped over the handlebars, landed on his head and died. There were some road surface defects at that location, but there was also the question of the possible contribution of a possible bicycle defect in causing the swerve. I examined the bicycle and found that the handlebar clamps were properly tightened and the handling was normal. I rode it at the accident site to determine the probable speed during the accident.. Therefore, the possible contribution of a bicycle defect was eliminated and Stanyan settled for a small sum.
Simon vs Granger's:
Arbitration, Los Angeles Superior Court, CA 1998 I assisted Gary C. Brustin, attorney for Simon. Simon was riding in a peloton duing a training ride. As the peloton approached the driveways of the Granger's Heating and Ventilating business, which debouched onto the right side of the roadway, a Granger's truck exited the driveway and turned right. From this truck fell a ten-foot length of electrical conduit, which lay across the two right-hand lanes of the roadway. The peloton had about 2 seconds to react to this piece of conduit. The leading riders largely avoided it, but some rode over it, bending it and making it bounce. One end of the conduit caught in Simon's front wheel, jamming it, breaking the fork, and throwing Simon to the ground with severe facial injuries.
Granger's presented factual and legal arguments: that the conduit, otherwise unidentifiable, came from some other passing truck; that the cyclists were disobeying the law by riding close together; that the cyclists would have had sufficient time to avoid the conduit had they been riding lawfully.
Based on the evidence and my analysis, the arbitrator held that the conduit fell from the truck as it exited the driveway, that cycling close together, in a peloton, is lawful, and that the leaders of the peloton, while some were able to avoid the conduit, had insufficient time to lead the riders following them around it. The arbitrator awarded Simon recompense for his injuries.
Rodekuhr vs Celtic Glass:
San Francisco Superior, CA 1998. I assisted Kim David Staskus, attorney for Rodekuhr. Ritchie, driving a truck owned by Celtic Glass, was proceeding westbount on Division and turned left, southbound, onto Potrero, hitting cyclist Rodekuhr about half-way through the turn. Rodekuhr was caught under the truck and his head was badly injured. He has no memory of the day. There were two witnesses: the driver behind the truck, interviewed immediately, and another driver, Quintana, waiting for a red light at Tenth, a fifth leg of the intersection, who was located only later. The driver behind Ritchie's truck saw only the back of the truck making the turn, and never saw the cyclist. Quintana said that he saw Rodekuhr descending Potrero northbound, moving to the wrong side of the road, then turning right onto Division, eastbound, just Ritchie was turning, producing a head-on collision.
The investigating officer had initially assumed, from the position of the impact point, that Rodekuhr had been traveling eastbound on Division, straight-through the intersection, until hit by the left-turning Ritchie. This assumption was countered by the testimony of Quintana. On this basis, Celtic Glass moved for a summary judgement.
Rodekuhr was a well-respected, competent, lawful cyclist who traveled to work by train and bicycle. Eastbound Division street was the direct route between his office and the train station, and he was traveling at the time appropriate to meet his regular homeward train. For him to be descending Potrero Street would require him to have gone to a rather small area of San Francisco for some purpose, climbing hills and negotiating a tangle of one-way streets. For him to act as Quintana testified, he would have to prepare for a right-hand turn by crossing to the left-hand side of the street, which makes no sense. The intersection is irregular, with a fifth leg (10th St) coming into Division rather than directly into the intersection. The intersection is largely below a freeway, whose piers obstruct some views.
Detective work by others disclosed that Celtic Glass was in financial trouble, that Ritchie's driving license had been revoked (Calif. DMV had mistakenly said it was valid), and that Quintana had a felony record. My work showed several items. Rodekuhr would have had to follow a peculiar route to be descending Potrero. The motion of the truck in turning left would conceal Rodekuhr's path eastbound on Division from the following motorist. The damage to the bicycle could not have been caused by a head-on collision, but only by the the bicycle being hit, rather near its rear wheel, from the left, followed by being dragged under the truck. The area in which Quintana said he saw Rodekuhr cross to the wrong side of Potrero, the only area without a raised median, was concealed by freeway piers from where Quintana said he was. In short, Quintana's testimony was incredible.
My report analyzing these matters with respect to the motion for summary judgement resulted in dismissal of the motion. The case was later settled on terms favorable to Rodekuhr.
Davidson vs Sportmart, Rand, et al.;
Santa Clara Superior, California, 1998. I assisted Christopher Bagnashi, of Knopfler and Robertson, attorneys for Sportmart. This is a front-wheel quick-release separation case. The accident bicycle had special fork tips that had a circular depression around the axle end, or, shall we say, the fork tip was thicker everywhere except just around the axle end. The object of this design is to prevent the front wheel from coming out if the quick-release mechanism had been properly adjusted and was then released. Removing the wheel requires that the adjusting nut be unscrewed, thus destroying the proper adjustment. Of course, when the wheel is replaced, the adjustment must be made again, thus introducing this source of error with every wheel change. In other words, the presumed corrective measure makes the problem worse. In this case, the simple explanation was complicated by unwarranted allegations of defective forging, the thickness of the paint, and improper initial installation. Settled before trial.
McNabb vs Motiv Sports
Orange County Superior, CA, 1999. I assisted Troy Edwards of Lewis, D'Amato, Brisbois & Bisgaard, attorneys for defendant Costco. Motiv manufactured a bicycle that was purchased by Costco, assembled and serviced by Huffy Service, and sold to McNabb from the Costco store. McNabb rode the bicycle about three times in the next 8 months. On his third ride, he was riding on a front hub that had no ball bearings in it but additional washers to return it to proper width. As a consequence of having no ball bearings in the front hub, that hub had locked up and McNabb was riding with the quick-release loosened to enable the bicycle to roll. On that ride, the front wheel disengaged as he went over a small ridge, and he landed on his face, incurring injuries. McNabb claimed that Costco had previously sold this bicycle to an unidentified customer who had then returned it, and the service done by Huffy was to repair the bicycle for sale, again as a new bicycle. McNabb claimed that Huffy had either failed to discover that this alleged previous owner had removed the ball bearings from the front hub, or knew that the bearings were missing and faked a repair by inserting the additional washers.
The physical evidence showed clearly that balls had been present when the hub was manufactured. The issue concerned when the balls were removed: before service by Huffy; or after sale to McNabb. The expert for plaintiff, LaRiviere, complicated matters by bringing in extraneous and demonstrably inaccurate theories. The expert for Huffy, Gerald Bretting, exhibited a hub that had been adjusted to run without balls, arguing that this was a difficult condition to detect, so that Huffy should not be held responsible for failing to detect it. Of course, this defense assumes that McNabb was sold a bicycle without balls in the front hub. I showed that while it was possible to set up a hub as Bretting had done, the required precision adjustment could not be done with the dust covers in place, and it was highly unlikely that it had been achieved by chance. Without that precision adjustment, there was so much wobble in the hub that any bicycle mechanic, almost any observer, would observe it. Therefore, the balls were removed after sale to McNabb. The case was settled before trial.
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