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Westmoreland bicyclist testifies about his road behavior

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Sean Stipp | Tribune-Review
David Smith of Hempfield is led away from the Westmoreland County Courthouse on Sept. 9, 2016. (Trib photo)

The Hempfield bicyclist charged with obstruction of county roadways told a Westmoreland County jury Thursday that he is an experienced rider who tried to navigate dangerous streets and uninformed motorists.

David Smith, 58, took the witnesses stand and in painstaking detail attempted to describe each of the eight incidents in which he was charged with crimes associated with his bike riding dating to 2012.

Jurors are expected to begin deliberations Friday after attorneys make closing arguments.

Smith faces 11 charges, including misdemeanors that he obstructed traffic on the highways and disorderly conduct. Common Pleas Judge Meagan Bilik-DeFazio on Thursday dismissed a count of reckless endangerment in connection with a 2015 incident on Donohoe Road in Unity.

Smith was the lone witness to testify Thursday. He told jurors he rode his bike down the center of traffic lanes to avoid debris and prevent drivers from illegally passing him when lanes narrowed.

“Riding on the right only encourages vehicles to illegally pass,” Smith testified.

Defense attorney Larry Burns asked just a few questions of Smith, allowing his client to testify in a narrative fashion in which he described the events of all eight incidents.

In each case Smith denied being at fault, blaming road conditions, drivers who didn’t know the law and, in one case, said a woman who testified on Wednesday that Smith hit her car as she approached a Hempfield intersection was the aggressor and damaged her own vehicle.

Smith described himself as a celebrity of sorts and testified that he was constantly under scrutiny from drivers who would record his actions and post videos on social media of him riding his bicycle.

The prosecution has contended at trial this week that Smith violated the law by causing traffic to back up behind him as he pedaled on roads in South Greensburg, Hempfield, Unity, North Huntingdon and Penn townships.

Smith has been in jail for more than a year as he awaited trial after refusing to adhere to court orders that barred him from riding his bicycle on county roads while he was free on bail.

Under cross-examination from Assistant District Attorney Anthony Iannamorelli, Smith insisted he correctly interpreted the state’s bike regulations as he read directly from the law.

Iannamorelli had Smith read to jurors a section of the law he passed over during his initial attempt to explain his actions. The section includes a passage that requires bicyclists to be courteous to motorists and to pull over to the side when traffic starts to back up.

“That’s wrong,” Smith said.

Earlier during his testimony Smith boasted about his bicycle riding skills.

“I rode with a 20-pound weight on my back to slow me down so I can ride with people who are less capable. That’s just a handicap I give myself,” Smith testified.

Rich Cholodofsky is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-830-6293 or [email protected].

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