Bike Safety Tips for Motorists
Motorists and cyclists in Georgia must realize that all laws pertaining to “vehicles” include bicycles. In Georgia, the bicycle is within the definition of a vehicle. When a law specifically targets “motor vehicles,” then those laws do not apply to bicycles. This blog is for the safety of motorists and cyclists so both can enjoy their rides.
The safety tips and the laws provided in this blog are for cyclists to be aware of the laws that apply to them, and to prevent motorists from being the subject of a personal injury claim by a cyclist.
Can’t Cyclists Just Stay on the Sidewalk?
No, they cannot. In Georgia, cyclists must ride on the road and are prohibited from riding on sidewalks, like any vehicle. There is an exception to this rule in Atlanta where cyclists younger than 12 are permitted to ride their bikes on a sidewalk.
Further, all cyclists on the road can ride within a paved shoulder but are not required to do so. This applies when a road accommodates a paved shoulder of any width. If a cyclist is involved in an accident with a motor vehicle outside of the paved shoulder, the motorist would be at fault because the cyclist is lawfully riding in the traffic lane.
Should Cyclists Follow the Direction of Traffic?
The two responses to this question are: yes and always. Like any vehicle, cyclists should always ride on the road’s right side. All cyclists must follow the direction of the traffic.
Can a Cyclist Take Up the Entire Lane?
There will be times when a cyclist can take up the entire travel lane but can only do so on a temporary basis. In Georgia, cyclists are required to ride as far to the right side of a travel lane as practicable—generally. There are circumstances when a cyclist can ride in the center of the lane but, again, only on a temporary basis. These circumstances are when:
- the cyclist needs to avoid debris, a hazard or a parked car;
- the cyclist needs to make a left turn;
- the cyclist is traveling at the same speed as the motor vehicle;
- the travel lane is too narrow to share even when the cyclist remains at the far right;
- the cyclist cannot ride in a right-turn-only lane when riding through an intersection; or
- the cyclist is using due care to pass a motor vehicle.
Which Vehicle Yields?
The drivers of all motor vehicles must yield to cyclists traveling in a designated bike lane. When a driver wants to pass a cyclist on a road without a bike lane, all drivers are required to maintain at least 3 feet between their vehicle and the bicycle. However, the law does recognize that circumstances are different. Drivers need to know that all accidents involving cyclists are thoroughly investigated by way of witnesses and factual evidence as to this safe distance requirement.
Motorists and Cyclists
If a driver is found to intentionally obstruct or harass a cyclist, the driver can be charged with a misdemeanor for aggressive driving. The cyclist does not have to sustain any injury for this charge to hold. If a driver is found to have a reckless disregard for the safety of the cyclist, this charge could come with jail time. Typically, these charges occur when a motor vehicle passes a cyclist.
However, then the motorist has the right-of-way, it needs to be taken and not given up to the cyclist. This maneuver may cause an accident from behind. A cyclist should never assume that a right-of-way will be yielded to them.
Cyclists and Motorists
The laws apply to cyclists as they do to drivers of motor vehicles. The penalties are different, but the laws and the charges are the same.
It is the responsibility of all cyclists on the road to be alert and predictable. Cyclists need to be aware, and remain as such, to avoid road hazards, react to any sudden maneuvers by motor vehicles, and always use the proper hand signals.
This blog is targeted to both motorists and cyclists to remain safe on Georgia’s roads. To the motorists, know that cyclists have the right to ride on the road like any other vehicle. To the cyclists, know that you have the same responsibilities on the road as that a driver.
A cyclist is not a pedestrian where the right-of-way would be yielded when legally on the road.