As per normal, this time of year I like to make a reminder to everyone that with the time change, there will be many more non car road users out on the roads in the evenings, runners, walkers and bicycles. All of the area group bike rides will be back, and the numbers have increased with so many people having rediscovered bicycling during the time at home over the last year of COVID-19. In addition, because of the changes that COVID has brought to how these rides exist ( smaller groups, spread out start times, more distance between riders, no big ‘pre-ride’ meetings ), the coexistence of bikes and cars on the roads is going to be strained even more than it already is. So, let us take a moment to review and understand the laws in Georgia.
A bicycle is a Vehicle
…but not a Motor Vehicle. Georgia creates a distinction between the two, and when the law addresses a Motor Vehicle, it does not apply to a bicycle on the roads.
40-1-1 (75) “Vehicle” means every device in, upon, or by which any person or property is or may be transported or drawn upon a highway, excepting devices used exclusively upon stationary rails or tracks.
Bikes may ride two abreast, and they may use the lane. Though it does encourage keeping right, the exceptions apply to almost every road someone might encounter a bicycle on ( of note, “The lane is too narrow to share safely with a motor vehicle;” ).
40-6-294. (a) As used in this Code section, the term ‘hazards to safe cycling’ includes, but shall not be limited to, surface debris, rough pavement, drain grates which are parallel to the side of the roadway, parked or stopped vehicles, potentially opening car doors, or any other objects which threaten the safety of a person operating a bicycle.
(b) Every person operating a bicycle upon a roadway shall ride as near to the right side of the roadway as practicable, except when:
(1) Turning left;
(2) Avoiding hazards to safe cycling;
(3) The lane is too narrow to share safely with a motor vehicle;
(4) Traveling at the same speed as traffic;
(5) Exercising due care when passing a standing vehicle or one proceeding in the same direction; or
(6) There is a right turn only lane and the person operating the bicycle is not turning right; provided, however, that every person operating a bicycle away from the right side of the roadway shall exercise reasonable care and shall give due consideration to the other applicable rules of the road.
(c) Persons riding bicycles upon a roadway shall not ride more than two abreast except on bicycle paths, bicycle lanes, or parts of roadways set aside for the exclusive use of bicycles, or when a special event permit issued by a local governing authority permits riding more than two abreast.
(f) Any person operating a bicycle in a bicycle lane shall ride in the same direction as traffic on the roadway.
(g) Electric assisted bicycles may be operated on bicycle paths.
If there is a bicycle lane provided, and a bicycle is operating in it, a driver must yield the right of way to the bicycle.
40-6-55 Notwithstanding other provisions of this chapter relating to operating a vehicle on a roadway, where a bicycle lane is provided on the roadway, the operator of a motor vehicle shall yield to a person operating a bicycle in a bicycle lane.
When passing a bicycle, a motor vehicle must provide at minimum of 3 feet between the vehicle and the bicycle. > 40-6-56.
(a) As used in this Code section, the term ‘safe distance’ means not less than three feet.
(b) Notwithstanding any provision of this article to the contrary, when feasible, the operator of a motor vehicle, when overtaking and passing a bicycle that is proceeding in the same direction on the roadway, shall leave a safe distance between such vehicle and the bicycle and shall maintain such clearance until safely past the overtaken bicycle.
Bicycles are not allowed on sidewalks if the operator is older than the age of 12.
40-6-144 Except as provided by resolution or ordinance of a local government for sidewalks within the jurisdiction of such local government authorizing the operation of bicycles on sidewalks by persons 12 years of age or younger, no person shall drive any vehicle upon a sidewalk or sidewalk area except upon a permanent or duly authorized driveway.
Bicycles may ride on the shoulders of a road, but are not required to, at the discretion of the operator.
(b) Notwithstanding the provisions of Code Section 40-6-50, any person operating a bicycle may ride upon a paved shoulder; provided, however, that such person shall not be required to ride upon a paved shoulder.
(c) Any person operating a bicycle may signal a right turn with his or her right arm and hand extended horizontally or with his or her left hand and arm extended upward.
Impeding / Slow Poke Law
The impeding statute / Slow Poke Law does not apply to bicycles, as they are not Motor Vehicles.
40-6-184. Impeding traffic flow; minimum speed in left-hand lanes
(a) (1) No person shall drive a motor vehicle at such a slow speed as to impede the normal and reasonable movement of traffic, except when reduced speed is necessary for safe operation.
(2) On roads, streets, or highways with two or more lanes allowing for movement in the same direction, no person shall continue to operate a motor vehicle in the most left-hand lane at less than the maximum lawful speed limit once such person knows or should reasonably know that he is being overtaken in such lane from the rear by a motor vehicle traveling at a higher rate of speed, except when such motor vehicle is preparing for a left turn.
(b) Whenever the commissioner of public safety or the commissioner of transportation or local authorities determine on the basis of any engineering and traffic investigation that slow speeds on any part of a road under their respective jurisdictions impede the normal and reasonable movement of traffic, such commissioners jointly, or such local authorities, may determine and declare a minimum speed limit below which no person shall drive a vehicle except when necessary for safe operation, and that limit shall be effective when posted upon fixed or variable signs.
You do not ‘have’ to pass them, you ‘choose’ to pass them.
I would also add, that this year, particularly early, I would expect to find the bikes further into the lanes than normal. As we all know it has been obscenely wet this winter and our roads have paid a heavy price for it. The number of potholes and road edges that are cracked and crumbling is exceptionally high.
Please be aware, and expect bikes on our roads. Be courteous, the vast majority of us are making an effort to extend you courtesy. We are avoding main roads, we are riding to the right, we are riding 2 abreast to short the amount of road we take up making a pass shorter. We are trying to avoid big groups between 4:30 – 6:00 PM ( 6:30 as soon as we have enough light ). Yes many of these riders are doing it for fitness. Others are doing it to get comfortable enough with the distance and experience to commute by bike.
The law makes it clear that bikes have a right to the road, regardless of how you may feel about it personally.