Josh Zisson fights for your bike rights

Two-Wheeled Justice
By LIZ PELLY  |  May 10, 2012

RIDING BY THE BOOK Avid cyclist and attorney Josh Zisson started printing up his pocket-size "Bicyclist's Accident Report" this past fall, to inform and protect other two-wheelers on the road. The project has since spread to 18 cities. 

Bike lawyer Josh Zisson started printing up pocket-size "Bicyclist's Accident Report" cards last October in Cambridge. Each card contains a form where bikers can fill out necessary legal information in the event of an accident. On the flip side, the card contains a basic "Bicyclist's Bill of Rights." Zisson's goal for the cards initially was to "educate bikers on their rights and responsibilities under the law." The idea caught on in Boston, and now he's printing up cards for over 18 cities. He's recently partnered with a national bike-accessory retailer and advocacy group Planet Bike, who are helping him to expand his local "Bike Safe Boston" initiative into "Bike Safe Nation," with city-specific Web sites for learning about bike law nationwide.

What led you to start Bike Safe Boston? I'm an attorney. I was laid off from the law firm I was working at in November 2010, and I decided I wanted to do something with bike law — which is a thing that I made up. I love riding my bike, and I found out that Massachusetts has some of the best bike laws in the country. They've changed since 2009, it's a very recent thing, but the bike laws here are fantastic, and I realized I could build a practice on that.

What do you mean when you say the bike laws are "fantastic"? They're incredibly comprehensive. They protect cyclists in a number of ways. There aren't any antiquated laws, like other states that have laws that are holdovers from when cyclists weren't treated like cars.

Can you give me an example of an antiquated bike law? Laws about hand signals, for instance. There are some states where they're necessary. In Massachusetts, you don't legally have to use a hand signal if it would be unsafe. In some states, it's [legally mandated for] hand signals to be done with your left hand. If you're making a right turn, you use your left hand to make a right angle . . . States like Iowa, Minnesota, and New Jersey still have this on the books. If you get hit and aren't complying, you're held at fault.

What sorts of initiatives are you working on right now with Bike Safe Boston? Right now I'm working on getting the cards into other states. We just announced that we've partnered with Planet Bike, who makes pumps, lights, and fenders [and donate 25 percent of profits to cycling advocacy projects]. They've partnered with us to pay for the printing costs. So far we're in 18 different cities with the cards. I think over 80,000 of them have been printed. It is going pretty well. I first got them in October.

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