Bike Safe Boston pushes safety, law practice

By Patrick Kelleher-Calnan

Despite his recent arrival in Boston, you may have already come across one or more of Josh Zisson’s projects. He’s been busy promoting his law practice with accident report cards at local bike shops, posts about the state’s bike law on his blog, and reflective Bike Safe Boston t-shirts–the sale of which benefits local advocacy groups.

“What I’m trying to do is use my practice in bike law to pay for my activities as an advocate,” said Zisson a recent graduate from Suffolk Law School. Money from his first big case allowed him to pay for the T-shirts and cards.

Local lawyer Josh Zisson created the Bicyclist's Accident Report for cyclists to use in case of a crash., Zisson’s website, was an obvious next step for his law practice. Powered by Tumblr, Zisson takes advantage of that platform’s “Ask” function to solicit and answer questions from curious cyclists confused about how the law applies to them.

“This is stuff everyone should know, but there’s no driver’s ed for riding a bike,” he said.

Questions he has answered so far include his opinions on running red lights, wearing helmets, and whether or not mopeds can use bike lanes.

“I think a lot of it has to do with bike lanes,” said Zisson when asked what the most common misconception about bike law, “‘Do you have to ride in the bike lane?’ There’s no good source for this information. People get on the street and think, ‘Oh, I have this special lane — I guess I have to stay in it,’ but that’s totally not the case.”

As far as ideas for changes in the law, Zisson favors a look at the famed “Idaho stop” law. “I do like the Idaho stop law, but I don’t think we’re ready for it here,” he said. “Under the law that they have, a cyclist could be cited for not putting their foot down at a stop sign. So to change that they came up with this idea that, if the intersection is clear, and you slow down, and you look both ways, you can run a stop sign. I think it’s such a reasonable approach to that problem.

However, Zisson does not see law as the major front for bike advocacy. “Laws are great, but I’m really more excited about infrastructure. I think that’s the next step, and laws follow from infrastructure,” he said. “Education is more important than legislation.”

Zisson is, however, very interested in connecting accident victims to lawyers who really know and care about bikes–a mission that would benefit his own bottom line as well as victims in need.

“My goal is to set up a nationwide referral network for bike lawyers,” he said. “If you’re in an accident, you should be able to contact someone who works with bike law, rides bikes, and understand what it’s like to ride in traffic, which I think is very important.”


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