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Hempfield bicyclist’s roadway run-ins recounted in courtroom | TribLIVE.com
Westmoreland

Hempfield bicyclist’s roadway run-ins recounted in courtroom

Tribune-Review
| Tuesday, August 8, 2017 1:48 p.m

David Smith is the only person who knows the law regarding how bicyclists can safely ride on roadways, his defense lawyer told a Westmoreland County jury Tuesday.

In his opening statement to the jury during the first day of the trial for the Hempfield bicyclist accused of creating a hazard on local roads since 2012, defense lawyer Larry Burns insisted Smith was within his rights to ride down the center of the road.

“The safe passing law was passed in 2012, and the only person who really read it was Mr. Smith,” Burns said.

Smith, 58, is accused in eight separate cases of obstructing highways and disorderly conduct in connection with his bicycling.

He has been jailed for more than a year as he awaits trial on 12 charges, including several misdemeanor offenses. The prosecution contends he intentionally and recklessly acted as a menace on the road, threatened motorists and wouldn’t allow traffic to pass.

Burns told jurors that Smith is an avid bicyclist who followed traffic rules and it was the police and motorists who were at fault for the numerous traffic tie-ups and unsafe conditions because they don’t understand the law.

That law, according to Burns, says bicycles are allowed in the middle of the road and that motorists are permitted to cross over into oncoming traffic to pass them.

Quoting from the movie “Cool Hand Luke,” Burns said, “What we have here is a failure to communicate” as he compared Smith’s adversarial position with motorists to open warfare among cattle and sheep herders on the open range.

“The law says you can pass a bike even in a no-passing zone,” Burns said.

But Assistant District Attorney Anthony Iannamorelli said the charges are more involved and based on allegations that Smith intended to be disruptive on the road.

“Mr. Smith’s intent was to intimidate, control and dominate. He has a bicycle on the road, and this was about him controlling and intimidating drivers,” Iannamorelli said.

North Huntingdon police Officer Kari Bauer testified she was off duty on July 9, 2012, when she lined up behind two vehicles on Route 130 in Penn Township as Smith and another person bicycled up the hilly roadway.

As Smith pedaled along the center of the road, traffic backed up as the first car in line attempted to pass, Bauer told jurors.

Bauer testified that Smith steadily steered his bike to the left and appeared to become angry as she passed him after they crested a hill.

Watching in her rearview mirror, Bauer said, Smith appeared to move even farther to his left, onto the double yellow line, and forced a truck to move over to the berm as it attempted to pass him.

“It appeared (Smith) was very angry, and Mr. Smith yelled and gave him the middle finger,” Bauer testified.

The prosecution is expected to introduce evidence from five more incidents when the trial reconvenes Wednesday morning.

Rich Cholodofsky is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-830-6293 or rcholodofsky@tribweb.com.

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