North Bay Cyclist

Cyclists as good samaritans

We ride in Marin partly because of the beautiful, quiet, country roads.img_0226


Sometimes this means that we can be the first ones to respond to traffic accidents.

This happened to a group I was with as we were coming down Highway 1 from Mill Valley to Muir Beach. We were the first to come upon a gentleman who had driven off the inside of the road as he headed towards Mill Valley from Muir Beach.

Automobile crash on Highway 1

Highway 1 crash early











We stopped and helped the driver while waiting for Fire and Paramedics to arrive.



Since I am an attorney, this situation got me thinking about what kind of liability cyclists could incur by acting as good samaritans.

It turns out that prior to 2009, cyclists rendering aid could be liable for any injuries they caused. In the case of Van Horn v. Watson, the California Supreme Court ruled that state law protected only those rendering emergency medical care at the scene of an accident and did not protect those rendering non-medical care. In Van Horn, one woman pulled another out of crashed car and in doing so caused the injured woman to become paralyzed. The Court, in a narrow ruling, found that the good samaritan was not immune from liability because she did not render medical care.

Following that ruling, the California Legislature acted quickly to amend State law in order to protect good samaritans who render medical or non-medical aid to accident victims. So now, cyclists who render aid are protected from liability for any injuries they cause as long as their actions do not constitute gross negligence or willful or wanton misconduct. In other words, as long as you act as the average reasonable person would, you cannot be sued for any injuries you cause rendering aid to an injured party you encounter.

Fortunately, it’s not always the cyclist that is the good guy. Here’s a story of a cyclist saved from cardiac arrest by his friends and a good samaritan passing by.


Safety tactics from bikinginla

Here is a great post from bikinginla about safety tactics for cyclists. The points of greatest interest to me are tactics for falling and how to turn using body weight.

Go to 1:50 of this video where a motorcyclist shows off his hands free turns. Obviously must faster and more stable than a quick turn with the handlebars. Worth practicing.

Practicing falling off the bike sounds like a good idea too. I wonder if Jens practiced anything that helped him in this one.

He finished the leg too, on a borrowed kids bike.

Interview with Chad Nordwall, Above Category Cycling

Chad Nordwall

Chad Nordwall

Chad Nordwall owns Above Category Cycling in Sausalito. He believes in excellence. Chad sells custom bikes built of components that he has tested over a lifetime of riding. AC is a bike shop but it feels more like a museum. Everything you see is the finest of its type made. Baum, Mosaic and Pinarello frames, Assos gear, all the best stuff – even the magazines.

AC logoThe other day I talked to Chad for a bit while he tuned up my bike. He passed on some good info that can help all of us ride safer.


1. Keep track of your bike

Chad used to race. He said before some races they would not let you start if your bike wasn’t clean. A dirty bike was a bike that had not been looked over and a neglected bike was one that could fail in a tight pack of riders. So Chad says, check your bike frequently. Wash it, wipe it down and while you’re doing that – look it over.

2. Regular maintenance

Along the same lines, get your bike worked on regularly. Chad is not trying to drum up business here. He ‘s not likely to tune your bike up unless you bought it from him. Assuming you are riding regularly, the idea is to overhaul your bike four times a year. Look to change your chain every 2500 miles or so, all the cables once a year and the rest as needed. Your bike should be operating at its best. There is no glory in riding a bike that is falling apart, especially when it breaks descending off of Tam.

3. Tires

The tires are where you and your bike meet the road. It makes sense that you want your tires to be at their best. Don’t ride tires that are worn, cracked from heat or damaged in any way. Spend the money and get a new set. Check them before every ride. Chad looks for slits in the tires where debris can work its way down to the tube inside. This is a way flats happen. Get a sharp pointed tool to remove bits of debris from those slits or anywhere else in the tire. I got this oneSharp tool at Jacksons Hardware in San Rafael. Staying on top of your tires can prevent more than flats: blowing out your front tire while descending can lead to facial reconstruction.

4. Stay aware

The general rule in cycling is to stay aware of everything around you. Watch the road, listen for cars, know where your fellow cyclists are.

5. Be cognizant of the danger other cyclists present

Chad says even many strong cyclists lack good bike technique. He says its a good idea to warn others somehow as you approach them. Somehow, let them know you are coming so that you can go around them safely.

6. Get a bike light

Chad recommends a bright light as the best way to make yourself known to others on the road.  A light is more effective than clothing. I like my Serfas Thunderbolt. Others do too.

Go check  out Chad’s new shop in Sausalito. He’s a good guy and he sells good stuff.

Mt. Tam reclamation project

A new organization is devoted to cleaning up a huge mess the military left on Mt. Tam after the cold war. A Marin Independent Journal article details the project. The Tamalpais Land Collaborative has produced a 22 minute film that shows the current state of the mountain. See it here.

Mt. Tam is the focal point of Marin cycling. We should all consider donating to this project aimed at restoring its natural beauty.

The Golden Gate Bridge accounts for 30% of all bike collisions reported by the CHP

Officer Andrew Barclay of the CHP passed on more information about bicycle collisions that the CHP responds to:

Officer Andrew Barclay, California Highway Patrol

Officer Andrew Barclay

  1. 1. 60-70% of those accidents are in West Marin.
  2. 2. 30% of the collisions are on the Golden Gate Bridge.
  3. The remaining 10% are scattered throughout Marin.

What does this tell us?

Remember that the CHP has jurisdiction over the freeways and unincorporated areas of the county. That is why we see them on West Marin roads out in the middle of nowhere.

It is no surprise that 60-70% of CHP accidents are in West Marin. The roads are dangerous enough to those that are familiar with them. Potholes, other cyclists, cars, animals. The cyclists that come from all over the world are less familiar with these dangers. Officer Barclay told me previously that this unfamiliarity is an accident factor that the CHP has recognized.

While it is not surprising that the Golden Gate Bridge is dangerous, the large percentage of accidents is more than I would expect in relation to the large area patrolled by the CHP.Cyclists on Golden Gate Bridge 1

On the bridge you are riding with a variety of cyclists in tight quarters. There are tourists who are not wearing helmets and don’t know how to ride a bike. They are focused on the scenery, not the roadway. You also have serious bike commuters that are trying to beat their best time home and the casual cyclist just out to enjoy the day. I’ve been in a group of riders that moved along at 25 mph, passing tourists and slower moving bikes constantly. Not a normal situation.

I find that just reminding myself of the extra danger causes me to slow down a bit and use extra caution when passing slower riders.

Marin County Bicycle accident statistics 2001-2013

Troy Peterson, EMS Specialist for the Marin County Emergency Medical Services Agency

Troy Peterson

Troy Peterson, EMS Specialist for the Marin County Emergency Medical Services Agency provided me with chart below which gives the number of cycling accidents in Marin County between 2001 and 2013. The 2013 data is brand new. Mr. Peterson wrote that “this data comes from the electronic medical records that our EMS system prehospital providers fill out on all patients.”


The number for 2013 confirms the data I received from Mike Giannini in my first post. What is new here is the indication of a dramatic rise in cycling accidents in the County over the last four years. My experience tells me the increase is probably due to the increased number of cyclists on the road. What remains striking is the overall number of accidents which equates to more a one accident per day.


 Marin County Bicycle Accidents 2001-2013
Marin County Cycling Accidents 2001-2013

The cost of a helicopter extraction

More great information from Mike Giannini, EMS Battalion Chief for Marin County Fire. I asked him about the cost of a helicopter extraction that we saw in my first post. Chief Giannini reported that “there are five public ambulance providers in the County. All are fire based. That means they are run by the various fire departments. Each of the five has a slightly different approach to billing for care. Some bill just for transport. Others bill for the care provided at the scene even if there is no transport. Most waive the charge to residents. It is a real mixed bag. Most insurance companies cover at least a part of the cost. Individual coverages also play a part. Helicopter transport is usually covered to some extent by insurance. Again, many factors are involved in determining what, if any, cost is passed to the patient.”

An interesting article on this subject from the Monterey County Herald reports that a ride on a Calstar helicopter, like the one used in the Mt. Tam extraction, can cost the injured party up to $10,000. 

Calstar, to their credit, offers a program where an individual can buy coverage for one year for $45.  However, when you look at the details, it seems that this coverage may be useless in many cases. First responders make the determination whether air transport is necessary, not the injured cyclist. If air transport is necessary, county protocol determines which provider is used.

This recent article about a non-cyclist injury at China Camp mentions Calstar interaction with the Coast Guard. Obviously private ambulance services are being used in the County; it is perplexing that the costs of those services are not clear.

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