CYCLISTS: What Do You NEED to Know to Be Safe on the Roads?

What Cyclists Need To Know To Be Safe On The Roads Video Transcription

Jennifer Q: Hello everybody and welcome to the show this morning. My name is Jennifer Quinn and I go by Jenny Q. I’m here, it’s actually quite an honor to be here to have a quick little chat with Jim Dodson. He’s doing some amazing things helping cyclists be safe and also live their best lives. Now, who would expect an attorney to have that as his mission but that’s what he does. So, without further ado, it’s my pleasure and honor to bring on Jim Dodson, The Florida Bike Guy. Hello, welcome this morning, Jim.


Jim Dodson: Morning Jenny. How are you doing?

Jennifer Q: I’m doing great. How are you?

Jim Dodson: Well, it’s rainy in Florida but I’m excited to be on with you.

Jennifer Q: It’s rainy in Florida. How often does that happen?

Jim Dodson: It happens a lot in the summer but this is one of those patterns where it is happening in the mooring and it’s kind of affecting my ability to get out and ride.

Jennifer Q: Oh, well that’s never good. How often do you ride personally?

Jim Dodson: Well, of course I’m working, so I just get to ride three days a week. I normally try to get in two rides during the week and then we ride on the weekends as well.

Jennifer Q: Ok, very good. One thing that I want to do really quick before we dive into talking about all the things that make your practice so unique, I want to give a few shout outs. I see we have some live viewers. Welcome to the live viewers. So, I want to say good morning to Jerry and hello to Paul. And, if you are watching live go ahead and leave a comment so that we can give you a shout out as well. So, Jim I want to know because your practice is so specific and you work with cyclists, how did that come to be? How did it come to be that you devoted your practice to working with cyclists?

Jim Dodson: Well, I have been an injury lawyer for many years. Historically, I’m a mountain biker. My son and I rode mountain bikes throughout the time he was in college and we took trips together. And, then in 2011, I got a road bike and I started enjoying road biking and realized there was a need there for a couple of things. Cyclists needed a voice from someone who knew exactly what it’s like to ride and then could therefore express and understand the mechanics of what happens when you have a crash and something goes wrong. And, there was a huge void in my view of a safety advocate. Someone who is really out there speaking and educating cyclist to understand what they need to do to protect themselves, what to do when the unexpected happens and the steps that they can take before a crash occurs to make sure that they are adequately protected when situations like this occur. Bike crashes like all the other adverse things that happen in life are kind of random. You just never know.

Jennifer Q: Well, they are random. So what’s great about what you’ve done is you can actually speak to the exact problems that cyclist have because you are a cyclist yourself.

Jim Dodson: Correct. And it actually makes a huge difference. It makes a big difference to them. I think it makes a huge difference to someone who has been injured in a crash to know that they are talking to someone who understands what it’s like to not be able to ride, who understands how it feels to be surprised and threatened on the road or have a car buzz you too closely. All of these things that we put up with on the road, day in and day out. I’m someone that can talk their language. I can give you examples of some cases where it’s made an enormous difference simply because I knew that from a cycling standpoint the accident could not have occurred the way the police thought it might have.

Jennifer Q: Well, you know what? I would actually and I also think the viewers would love to hear about the cases because in talking to you and hearing the stories is kind of like watching CSI only though it’s really super real. So, I would actually love to hear at least one if not more of the stories how because of your specific knowledge you were able to settle a case.

Jim Dodson: Well, one case that comes to mind was really a great guy and a very experienced cyclist. It was actually a case that wasn’t really far from my local area. He was riding alone on a 30 mph residential street. The car was coming from the opposite direction and as the cyclist gets to the intersection the car made a left hand turn into his path. He veered to the right so he was actually close to the crosswalk area when he got hit. All of the debris on his bike, his water bottle, his computer and all that stuff gets thrown on to the road. Of course, the response from the driver was “I never saw you.” And, when the police investigated the case, there was witness, a teenager that was on the opposite corner who believed that my client was riding from the opposite direction on the sidewalk. And, so the police bought his story. Typically, when you are involved in a cycling accident investigation, so many times the police roll up to the scene, they know there is a bike involved and they believe it was the cyclist who was at fault and now how do we look for evidence to support our conclusion that the cyclist did something wrong. And, this is what happened in this case. The officer wrote up on the police report that my client was on the sidewalk and rode off the sidewalk into the path of the car. This is a totally different case now. When I started talking to the adjuster their position was that our driver did nothing wrong the cyclist came out in front of the car. Because I’m a cyclist this sidewalk on this road wasn’t the typical curb where you would bump down and nor was it a smooth transition into the road. It’s one of those where it comes to an end that comes down to a forty-five degree angle and then comes back up on the other side. So, I’m saying to the adjuster, "wait a minute, this is a cyclist riding a carbon framed bike, he’s going 18 mph, he’s got a computer, and he’s got a helmet on. No cyclist is going to ride on a side walk and go bumpity bump up every curb in a neighborhood. It just won’t happen." I was a prosecutor for many years and I really got used to putting together cases based on circumstantial evidence. Circumstantial evidence in many cases is the best of kind of evidence because it doesn’t depend on someone’s memory or observation. So when we laid out all the pattern of where the debris was and in this case there was blood on the road, it was just apparent. There was also the impact on the car. It wasn’t on the left side where it would have been, had my client ridden into their path, it was on the right side which was consistent to what my client was saying. So we put all of this stuff together and they went from the driver did nothing wrong to paying us their policy limit which was pretty substantial.

Jennifer Q: Wow! Wow for sure. So I can see how because you understand the pattern of riding and what a cyclist would and would’t do how that would impact the case with just how you can present the facts. Right?

Jim Dodson: Correct, right.

Jennifer Q: That’s very powerful. I love that. And so, what is the most unexpected outcome of case that you’ve handled?

Jim Dodson: Over the last few years I’ve devoted a lot of energy to the cycling community and to building our cycling practice but it is not all that we do. We still represent people who are involved in car crashes, falls and other types of injury cases. Quite frankly, the people in the cycling community are more likely to have a car accident or have a family member get injured than they are to have a cycling crash. So, I’d like people to bear that in mind as they think about who they need to turn to if they get involved in a car accident or some type of other personal injury. So, some of the most unique cases have occurred kind of outside of the cycling world. We had a lady who parked her car at a bank, went inside and was standing at the teller window when another lady who walked out of the bank, sat in her car, put it in drive instead of reverse, drove all the way over the sidewalk, through the front of building and pinned my client against the teller counter. Obviously, she had substantial injuries. That was very unusual. We had a nice lady who was a nail tech sitting at her desk doing her work and someone driving their car who also ran into the building. We had a cyclist who was riding on a trail and he got to the intersection where the trail crossed the road. The cyclist went across the road and got hit by a car. He had no memory of the accident because he had a concussion and he was really knocked unconscious. So, he wasn’t able to describe what happened but witnesses described that he went across against the light, meaning that traffic had the right of way and the police report was written up that way. Our investigator was able to locate a witness that was in traffic that the police never found that said “the car that caused the crash passed me on the left, drove into the far right lane and just before the intersection went from the far right lane to the far left lane and hit the cyclist before he could reach the curb.” So, suddenly we have liability on the driver who was initially denying that they had done anything wrong. And, that was a pretty substantial case too because our client had devastating injuries with a lot of big medical bills. You know this work is interesting from the lawyer standpoint meaning someone has been injured and they need help.

Jennifer Q: You know one of the things that’s consistent with the cycling cases that you’ve been talking about this morning so far is the driver always denies responsibility. Have you ever had a case come to you where the driver is like “yes, it’s all me, I totally messed up?”

Jim Dodson: It can happen but it’s not the norm. I tell people all the time the first thing a driver says in a pedestrian case or a cycling case is “I never saw them.” And, I think they tend to look past us. They are thinking about other cars and the natural thing for drivers is that they are looking for things that are harmful to them. What’s harmful to them is a another car not someone riding a bicycle or walking on foot. One of the big basics of what I do in educating cyclists is how to be seen. That is a big thing about our safety awareness advocacy.

Jennifer Q: Well that’s perfect. That’s a perfect segue into my very next question. I love it! I was just going to ask you to that point if cyclists aren’t being seen what can they do? What would be your top three tips? Like, here’s what you have to do to make sure you’re seen.

Jim Dodson: Daylight running lights would be number one. You need a very bright light on the front. The data seems to indicate that a pulsing light is more visible than a solid beam. You need a very solid bright light in the rear of the bike. My pet peeve for cycling is when someone comes up next to me with a light on the back of their bike and I can’t even tell if it’s blinking when I’m next to them. We need to be seen. We need lights that can actually be seen. And, I’ve done a Facebook Livestream on that and I have a free report on six really good lights that I tested which is a great resource for people if they are getting ready to purchase a new tail light for their bike.

Jennifer Q: And, that’s on your Facebook page, right? People can go find that right? It’s on your Facebook page?

Jim Dodson: Right. And, the other thing is when I started cycling I was instinctively wearing fluorescent colors on the upper body. I was thinking this is what I need to do to be seen. Well, the data shows that that is a help but it isn’t enough. Apparently, we need about 15 by 10 inch piece of fabric that’s a very bright color on the top, typically a neon green, yellow or orange. But what’s really coming out in the research is that we need it on our feet. We need it on our knees, on our lower leg, basically our socks and shoes. Because it’s the movement of cyclists cranking through with their pedals which identifies with the drivers to realize that this is a human on a bicycle. So, the research is showing that you are better off with brighter colors on the bottom than on the top but all cyclists should be doing both. I try to wear it from head to toe because I want every advantage of being seen.

Jennifer Q: So, you mentioned like a square, right. Is there something to be said of having a contrast of a bright versus a dark color? Or would it be better to be head to toe in just bright neon?

Jim Dodson: I haven’t seen any dat on it. And, I don’t know if there is any data on one color over another. Most of the articles I’ve read talk about personal preference and I tend to be a bright yellow guy. But other cyclists think that bright orange and bright green are just as good. So, I just rely on my instincts about that.

Jennifer Q: Ok, and I want to clarify. You said the lighting needs to be there during the day and during the night and to always have the lighting with the flashing.

Jim Dodson: Correct. I’m not a night rider. Night riders tend to be more commuter riders. I know that if I were riding at night, I would have multiple lights in the front and rear just to have the greater ability of being seen. There are two arguments about that. Unfortunately, someone who is drunk, there is data that shows that type of driver is visually drawn to a blinking light. So, if you live in an urban area, you might consider a light that has a solid beam instead to avoid that problem. These are just considerations.

Jennifer Q: That’s good information to have. If you have to commute at night on a bike, make sure you are not attracting the impaired drivers.

Jim Dodson: Yes, I know.

Jennifer Q: I just want to give a shout out again to our live viewers. I see that you are watching live but I can’t give you a shout out unless you leave a comment. It doesn’t tell me who is watching. But if you have a question for Jim, we still have some time. So go ahead and post your question and we can get back to it. If you’re watching on the replay, leave your question and Jim will come back in and respond via comments. So Jim, I know you’re really involved in the community there in Florida and the cycling community as well as other aspects. Can you tell me a little bit more about why you do that and what the impact your law firm has with the cyclists?

Jim Dodson: I think I have a message for cyclists because I'm coming at it from my perspective as an injury lawyer and I’ve seen the devastating affects of injuries. My advocacy for cyclists is kind of to raise the awareness of the things that we can do to up the odds of being seen and avoided. There’s a randomness to all of these things that happen. I know someone who was injured and put in a wheelchair a block from her home. You just never know when the unexpected is going to occur. What we need to do as cyclists is to do everything we can to increase the odds that it won’t happen to us by visibility, choosing the time and place we ride perhaps, and what route we’re taking. Personally, I like to avoid roads that are greater than 45 mph speed limits. Sometimes when you are on a long ride you have to take those routes. The data is just so compelling that when something happens at higher speeds the consequences are so much worse. So, I talk to people about insuring their bike and insuring themselves personally about how to be protected against drivers who don’t have the right insurance. We talk about visibility, lighting and wearing a helmet. There’s a huge gap in understanding the importance not only about wearing a helmet but about the technology that’s available within the helmet to make it much more safe. The MIPS technology. There are so many people that don’t understand that, that have never heard of it and it’s just a message I try to get out everywhere I go. So, I take the opportunity to speak at bike clubs and we go to events where we give out information. I do a newsletter every month and I fill it with information that I write myself. I try to make it interesting, informative and helpful. I’m just trying to raise the awareness in the cycling community of all the things we can do to even the odds against cars because they always have the greater odds than we do.

Jennifer Q: Of course. Speaking of the cycling community, is there anything that surprises you about the demographic, or the ages or the cyclists that are out there riding everyday.

Jim Dodson: It’s interesting. Most of the clubs that I’ve been involved with the demographic is actually older. There’s obviously a lot of clubs with younger riders but the younger riders a lot of times are pick up clubs, there will be meet ups and they’ll be riding in groups that they established on their own through their mutual interests. The big bike clubs that we have around the state tend to be on the older end of the age spectrum. I think it’s fascinating to me when I first got into this to realize how long cyclists stay in the game. Ruth down in Sun City was riding when she was 90 or 91. I asked her one time “Ruth, how is it that you are still riding at 91” and she said “I just never quit.” At one point, in the last few months I had four clients in their 80s that had been injured in a bike crash. That’s amazing to me and very inspiring. Very inspiring because most of them had been riding for years and never had an incident of course and that’s just another part of the randomness that happens. I just love the people and I love the sport. Clients in the cycling world are different than our run of the mill injury client. They tend to think differently and their motivation is different. The first thing a cycling client asks is “how’s my bike” and the second question is “when can I start riding again.” They are very motivated to get well so they can get back out there and enjoy their friends and do all the things that they enjoy and that we all enjoy doing together.

Jennifer Q: I love that! You know I can see how especially beneficial for clients that you are a cyclist because you can totally talk the lingo. And, you get the motivation of “I’ve got to get well because I’ve got to get back on my bike.” If you weren’t a cyclist as well you might be like “hey, slow down and relax.” Right?

Jim Dodson: Well, it’s interesting. I remember I had a lady years ago who was a cyclist and she was riding 225 miles a week. She was injured in a crash and after the crash she was only able to ride 50 miles per week. The problem for us is to translate that to a claims adjuster who has probably never ridden, so they are thinking “why would you want to ride 225 miles a week and 50 miles seems fine to me.” So, sometimes it’s a challenge to try and convert these types of situations to a claims adjuster.

Jennifer Q: Right, without question. We have a comment that just came up from Paul. He said “we love you too Jim! thanks for all you do!” That’s so nice to hear. So, I’m wondering with all you do for the cycling community, how are most of your clients referred to you?

Jim Dodson: Well, we have a pretty strong Internet presence. But if you look back in the cycling world most of the clients come to us through other cyclists. People who are on our newsletter, people we have met at events or at bike club meetings. We’ve really begun to deeply penetrate the community of cycling. I’m always interested in meeting cyclists. If you’re a member of a bike club somewhere and we haven’t been introduced to you I'd be happy for you to reach out to us. We do presentations and we will help you in any way we can. So, we are always looking for opportunities to work with cycling clubs, cycling groups and events.

Jennifer Q: And to your point of your online presence, you have a huge library of useful informational downloads for different aspects of cycling and the law. And, people can find that by simply going to your website, right?

Jim Dodson: Yes. I want to make our website useful. I think the reputation we have as personal injury lawyers isn’t very good. We kind of have a bad name. It looks like we are really out for ourselves and the clients sometimes gets lost in the mix. I’m trying to reverse that whole dynamic and make sure people understand that this a client first environment. People know that I’m giving away information before they ever need my services. I want to be the place where they come for a free report on how to get the right light, what’s the best type of helmet, and the best insurance. I can’t even tell you all the things we have on our website anymore, there’s so much. We have a lot of downloads and these are things we just giveaway to just make it easier for people to get educated and understand what they are dealing with. We have a lot information about mistakes people make with their doctor after an injury and those mistakes are pretty common. We have a book on how to buy the best car insurance and what we think you should have so you are covered against most Florida drivers. It goes on and on and I welcome you to check it out and peruse it and download anything you need. If you find something we haven’t addressed, call me because we will provide it. If there is information we don’t offer that would be helpful to the cycling community, please let me know. We will do our best to make that happen.

Jennifer Q: Very cool and your website is?

Jim Dodson:

Jennifer Q: Pretty simple. There’s something else that you do. You are really passionate about helping people just live their best life. You’ve put together an eBook that you are offering for free on your website. I’m going to go ahead and put that up on the screen right now. But tell us a little bit about that.

Jim Dodson: I have a lot of interests and I’m in a mastermind group of lawyers around the country that I’ve been in for about 9 or 10 years. It introduces me to a lot of people and a lot of ways of thinking about things. The guy that runs this mastermind group sends out a book every month for us to read, so with that I have developed this whole mindset about success, living a successful life and I’m not talking financially, I’m talking about being an interesting person, being a curious person and someone who wants to do something to change the way they live their life. And, quite frankly, inspiring stories of people who have exactly that or who have overcome an amazing hurdle in their life have truly inspired me. So, I started putting together these stories in my newsletter the last two or three years and I saved them and I put it into this downloadable eBook called Thoughts On Living Your Best Life. It’s about thirty-five or so stories that I have written on a lot of different topics. I think most people find them interesting and inspiring.

Jennifer Q: Awesome. That’s so great. So, Jim if you could say three things that you would really want to make sure that the people watching this video get, what would those final thoughts be.

Jim Dodson: Well, the first thing would be if I could change one thing in the cycling world it would be that every cyclist has uninsured motorist coverage on their auto policy. Because if you’ve been around Jim Dodson at all you find out very quickly that I’m a preacher about uninsured motorists. It is the one part of your policy that protects you on your bicycle and I always tell people don’t leave home without a $100,000 in uninsured motorist, $250,000 is better and the most you can get is what I would recommend. I’m heartbroken by the number of people that come to me, they’ve been in a crash, the driver doesn’t have insurance and they didn’t understand their insurance policy and they didn’t have UM coverage. It happened again this week. So, that would be the number on thing I would suggest that every cyclist in Florida should have. The other thing is being proactive about taking responsibility in being seen and understanding that we have a responsibility on the road as well. We are all subject to the same rules and laws as cars are when we ride. The rules we want applied to them, apply to us as well. I’m very impressed with the clubs I’m involved with as they make all of this a strong component on their group rides, making sure we stop at a stop light and those kinds of things. That’s a big issue because when you go to the courthouse to pick a jury on a cycling case many of them have negative views about cyclists because many of them think that we violate the law or they have had to wait to go around us because we are taking up the entire lane. I’m trying to encourage people to bear that in mind when we are riding out there to be nice to people and to do what needs to be done to be a safe rider. Do what we expect drivers of cars to do to be safe.

Jennifer Q: Those are great tips. I’m not a cyclist but those are tips that I really wouldn’t have thought of. That’s really great. We have a couple more comments and I definitely want to give a shoutout to Raymond who said “I’m not a client but I have talked to Jim on the phone about an accident where a lady backed up out of her driveway and hit me.” Ouch. And then Tracy said “Jim did a story and video on me.” Very cool. So it’s clear that you’re involved in the community. That you are really helping people. How can people reach out to you directly if they have ideas on information they want or if they have question very specific to their situation?

Jim Dodson: You can always call the office but the easiest thing to do is to email me

Jennifer Q: So great Jim. It’s been such a joy to talk with you this morning. Thank you so much for sharing these tips. Remember Jim is your advocate so reach out to him. Everyone have a great day and be safe out there.

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Jim Dodson
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A Florida injury lawyer, family man and avid cyclist who clients have trusted for over 25 years.