Author Archives: Dru Satori

Pedestrians Have The Right of Way

… or do they?

I often have discussions with people regarding road use, and who has the right of way. Not always in the context of bikes though, as I and many OGRE’s are also runners, walkers, and generally like to get out of the car from time to time. One of the common themes in these conversations is the concept that a pedestrian ALWAYS has the right of way.

What if I told you that in Georgia, this is not only not true, but arguably, based upon the law as written, the pedestrian on Georgia roads almost never has the right of way?

I must be crazy right? Well, let us take a look at Georgia’s Pedestrian Law, 40-6-96.

2020 Georgia Code Title 40 – Motor Vehicles and Traffic Chapter 6 – Uniform Rules of the Road Article 5 – Rights and Duties of Pedestrians

§ 40-6-96. Pedestrians on or Along Roadway

The original version of this law dates back to 1953, and while it has been altered in small ways over the years, it really has not materially changed in that time.

So, with that in mind, let us dive right into the content.

a. As used in this Code section, the term "pedestrian" means any person afoot and shall include, without limitation, persons standing, walking, jogging, running, or otherwise on foot.

So, a pedestrian is someone on foot, and does not include bikes, electric scooters or other ‘personal mobility devices’. Those items find themselves in other categories, and are not covered by this law.

b. Where a sidewalk is provided, it shall be unlawful for any pedestrian to stand or stride along and upon an adjacent roadway unless there is no motor vehicle traveling within 1,000 feet of such pedestrian on such roadway or the available sidewalk presents an imminent threat of bodily injury to such pedestrian.

Well, this seems pretty clear and straightforward. If there is a sidewalk, a pedestrian must use it, unless it is in such poor condition that using can be established to have an immediate risk of injury, with the exception that there is no motor vehicle within 1000 feet, you can move off the sidewalk, but must return if a motor vehicle enters that space.

In short, if there is a car nearby and a sidewalk, you have to be on the sidewalk.

c. Where a sidewalk is not provided but a shoulder is available, any pedestrian standing or striding along and upon a highway shall stand or stride only on the shoulder, as far as practicable from the edge of the roadway.

And, if there isn’t a sidewalk, but there is a shoulder, you can use that, but not the roadway, and you have to stay as far from the road as you reasonably can.

Or, in more direct wording: There is no sidewalk, but still stay out of the way of a motor vehicle.

d. Where neither a sidewalk nor a shoulder is available, any pedestrian standing or striding along and upon a highway shall stand or stride as near as practicable to an outside edge of the roadway, and, if on a two-lane roadway, shall stand or stride only on the left side of the roadway.

Also, absent a shoulder, you need to travel facing traffic ( on the left ), as far to the edge as reasonable.

Or, yeah, you have no facilities, but still, stay out of the way.

e. Except as otherwise provided in this chapter, any pedestrian upon a roadway shall yield the right of way to all vehicles upon the roadway.

But, no, seriously, you do not have the right of way, and since this passage use the generic vehicles instead of the specific motor vehicles, that means even a bicycle has the right of way over a pedestrian on the roadway.

f. No pedestrian shall enter or remain upon any bridge or approach thereto beyond the bridge signal, gate, or barrier after a bridge operation signal indication has been given.

Well, this seems reasonable right? Wouldn’t want to be walking on a bridge that is closed for a reason..

g. No pedestrian shall pass through, around, over, or under any crossing gate or barrier at a railroad grade crossing or bridge while such gate or barrier is closed or is being opened or closed

Again, seems reasonable, pedestrians and trains rarely mix well.

So, when DOES a pedestrian have the right of way in Georgia?

Well, 40-6-91 tells us that when in a crosswalk they have the right of way, unless of course they enter the crosswalk at a point when it is “is impractical for the driver to yield.” Which is pretty subjective, and witnessing driver behavior on the roads, the wording impractical is applied in a rather generous manner.

Then of course, there is 40-6-92, which tells us that if a pedestrian is crossing the road without a crosswalk do not have the right of way, and if they are crossing a road where there are crosswalks provided outside the crosswalk, they do not have the right to cross the road at all outside of those crosswalks.

It seems that, NO, Pedestrians do not have the right of way in Georgia

No, they certainly do not, nor are there any real protections for them on Georgia’s roads. However, a couple of cities have taken the first steps in addressing that. Dunwoody being there first to enact a Vulnerable Road User Ordinance. Brookhaven being the second. Hopefully more cities will get these passed soon, and apply pressure upon the state to address its broken pedestrian laws as well as adopt a strong Vulnerable Road User Law itself.

This is not enough though

While these laws being addressed are a great step, they do not address the core problem. They create punishments for those that fail to be safe around other road users, but, the core issue remains the complacency of drivers and the assumption that they have the right to travel at high speeds without due regard for other road users, not just the vulnerable ones.

This is a cultural problem that has to be addressed as well, and no amount of VRU law is going to fix that. That has to be fixed by people like us, every time we see people driving irresponsibly, we have to call it out, point it out and help get it corrected. Only then will our roads begin to be safe for all users.

A Car is Necessary, or is it?

For years I have heard that “You cannot live here without a car” any time the subject of bike and pedestrian infrastructure is discussed, including the concept that a road is in fact bike and pedestrian infrastructure, much to the typical drivers consternation. With “here” being a dynamic thing that generally applies to wherever the discussion is taking place, be it urban, suburban, rural, or no mans land. It is an idea that I as someone that believes in non-car infrastructure usually reject out of hand, but, is my objection really supportable?

In order to understand my objection, we really need to understand the reasons that support the idea that a car is necessary.

  • Every place we need to go is too far away
  • This is not Europe where everything is close
  • We need to carry passengers
  • There is no public transportation
  • It would take too long without a car
  • The weather makes it impractical

While there are many other reasons that get thrown out there, these are the core arguments that we hear used most often. Reading through that list, it seems to be reasonable right? but do they hold up to scrutiny? Before going point by point, let us take a moment to look at some hard data numbers that are relevant.

Commuting

Arguably the easiest metric to evaluate is the commute time and distances that exist today. These distances and times represent what the average person has deemed acceptable, and as such would seem to offer a good reference point.

Time

The United States on average accepts a 26 minute 36 second commute time, each direction. Dedicating nearly an hour a day to the process of getting to and from a job. Since much of my personal advocacy is in the state of Georgia where that number is 28 minutes 24 seconds, the evidence is that here, an even longer number is acceptable.

Distance

While the time is probably more relevant, the distance has some value as well. In the United States, the average commute distance is 16 miles each way. Interestingly, one of the common argument, about how things are more spread apart than Europe, where bike and pedestrian commuting is more widely accepted would lead you to expect shorter commute distances, and yet the average in Europe is 28.5 km, or 17.7 miles in Imperial measurement.

Going Other Places

But what about other important places, like a grocery store? According the the national association of grocers, the average distance to a grocery store is just 4 miles. Schools tend to vary by age group, but even at the high school level the national average trip is just over 6 miles. In fact, the average distance of all combined trips, like errands, meals, entertainment, et cetera is just 9.4 miles.

Occupancy

In theory, the biggest advantage to a car is that it can carry more than a single passenger, and yet 85% of the cars on the roads are single occupancy. That said, this statistic is a little skewed, because what it fails to account for are trips that have more than one occupant for part of a trip. However, these partial trips of multiple occupancy could be offset by non-car transportation, or public transportation if it was offered.

Public Transportation

Sadly, yes, public transportation is severely limited in availability and coverage in the US. So much so that it currently accounts for about 5% of all commuting. To put that into perspective, the bicycle accounts for 6% of all commuting in the United States. This lack absolutely factors into the perception that a car is required.

Speed

Speeds are really where the differences start to show up. While a car is capable of much higher speeds than almost any alternative, the realities of traffic, and the start and stop nature of most of our trips, the real average speed is about 32 mph. Compared to that of an e-bike at 20 mph, or a casual bike at 12 mph, or walking at just 3 mph, the speed certainly does make it easy to think of a car as a requirement.

But is it a requirement?

This is the crux of the issue though. There is nothing in the above data that conclusively supports the car as a requirement. The data presents a case that no, a car is NOT a requirement. We accept a nearly 30 minute transit time. Meaning that for anything less than 6 miles, a bike is acceptable in terms of speed. We do not need to carry passengers 85% of the time, so the car is not needed for those trips. So, really, where is the need? why is it a requirement? The answer is: it is not a requirement.

Convenience

This is the real answer, and this is completely supportable. A car is not a requirement, but it is a convenience. A car makes it easier to go places quickly, and easier to go places further away. Less planning is required, and of course, it removes many concerns about the weather conditions. But these things are all about convenience, and not about requirement.

Exceptions

As per almost any discussion, there are exceptions, outliers that change the equation. There are people for whom the alternatives are simply physically prohibitive. Be it walking or cycling, or even public transportation, there are simply some people that have enough physical challenges that these simply are not options. There also people who would benefit from getting out of the car and engaging alternatives, but who simply cannot consider it due to the fears implicit in the idea that roads are for cars, and that a car is a requirement to live here.

Conclusions

So yes, my objection is fully supportable, and arguably, for the vast majority of the population, the assertion that a car is a requirement really is not supportable from a data perspective. This does not mean that I think we should take away cars, or even restrict them. What it means is that we need to reassess how we as a culture view alternatives, and our infrastructure, and do away with the entire presumption that a car is a requirement, or that a car has a primary right of use to our roadways. We need to return the idea that our roads are pedestrians first, bikes and other lightweight, low speed vehicles second with motor vehicles a distant third in terms of right of way, and right of use.

A Bike Lane is not a response to bike transportation issues

Bike Lane proposals are not about making bicyle throughput better on a road. Bike Lane proposals are about creating space outside of the travel lanes for bikes. It is not a request by cyclists, for cyclists.

Depending upon perception, a Bike Lane is a request to create a safe space for bikes away from motor vehicless, or it is a way to push bikes out of motor vehicle lanes. Either way, it is entirely about making it easier for motor vehicles to operate on a road, and has nothing to do with improving bike transportation and everything about to do with motor vehicles.

If we are honest about this, a bike lane is a placebo to placate drivers, and riders who fear drivers. The real solution to our transportation issues remains, fewer cars, not more, nor automation of them. However, we still need bike lanes. Why? because in order to achieve, fewer cars to make the travel lanes safe and sane to share, we need more bikes, and to get more bikes, we need the placebo that is bike lanes.

So, when the question of bike lanes comes up, everyone needs to get on board because they benefit every road user in some manner or form.

Things People Say

I swear. Whoever changed the law to where bikes are to be on streets were crazy and still crazy as hell. They are asking to be hit everyday. Stay on sidewalks. Or do not ride bikes on city streets at all.

In a recent online conversation regarding the use of bikes and how Georgia law applies to bikes on the sidewalks.

Now, there is a lot to unpack in these 5 short sentences, but it is probably worth it, because based upon the rest of the thread, quite a few people actually believe this stuff.

Whoever changed the law…

Well, this is fairly easy. No one changed the law. Bikes on the roads predates the advent of cars on the roads, and the law reflects that simple fact. Bikes were there first, and they retain the rights of use. In fact, paved roads actually came to be because of bikes and their riders, not because of cars and their drivers. Sadly, this tidbit is very lost on many drivers today, who firmly believe that, “Roads are for cars”.

They are asking to be hit…

No, they are using the roads they help pay for, as is their right. They are asking drivers to honor the laws and not hit them. This argument is like saying that the pretty young lady “asked to be raped by dressing too ‘sexy'”.

Stay on the sidewalks…

The sidewalks that are for pedestrians ( who were exiled there by the automotive lobbies that had to do something to prevent being exiled from cities in the 1910’s and 1920’s because too many non-car users were being killed by cars ). The sidewalks that are illegal in Georgia for cyclists over the age of 12 to use. This would seem to be a non-starter under current laws. For what it is worth, in the states where riding on the sidewalks is legal? they have not been any safer than riding on the roads. Florida for example is both sidewalk legal, and amongst the most deadly states to ride a bike in the US.

Or do not ride bikes on city streets at all.

“Get off of my lawn”. Thank you for your thoughts, but I will exercise my right to use the roads. I pay for them through property, income and sales taxes ( as well as owning a car, and a motorcycle ). Oh yeah, and with rising gas prices, I suspect I will not be alone.

All For One 100 – Please, register or donate

For this I am stepping out of character, and posting this not as OGRE Dru, rabid bike advocate, but instead as Dru, cyclist, spouse, parent, neighbor and friend.

Every big charity ride we do has a benefactor. Many of race for charities as well. Most of us also give in some manner through other venues. Sometimes we choose events based upon a charity organization, but as often as not, our choices are made based upon the course, the sag stops, or just convenience. Because of this, I generally choose NOT to promote most of the big events personally. All of us will find causes that are near and dear to us individually. I encourage everyone to support their cause.

My cause is us. This community of cyclists. You are all dear to me, and that means that I wish to donate and promote a cause that is directly supportive of us, and this community. This is the why of what I choose to do as OGRE Dru, rabid bike advocate, but also how I wish to donate and promote, as Dru, cyclist, spouse, parent, neighbor, and friend.

Which brings my to the All For One 100 and specifically the Van Purser Foundaton. A non-profit ( 501(c)3 ) that exists solely to provide assistance to other cyclists in times of need. In other words, it is a cause that is entirely about us, one supported by us. The All For One 100 is the primary fund raising opportunity the foundation has.

So…

Please register or donate to this event

The ride is October 2, 2021 which is typically a good time to ride in Atlanta. The route(s) are all enjoyable, and since this is an event for us, and by us, they are local, often on roads we ride frequently.

The announcement from the Van Purser Foundation is below, and I just want to reiterate just how important I think this event is to me. Sign up, show up, donate, ride bikes, and enjoy the day. Know that in so doing you are helping all of us in your community of cyclists.

The board of the Van Purser Foundation is delighted to announce that its application for the ALL FOR ONE 100 charity ride has been approved by the city of Alpharetta and North Point Community Church. Starting at 7:30 A.M. on Saturday, October 2, 2021, from North Point Community Church, it will be a fully organized and supported event, drawing on the approach from its inaugural year of 2019.
Your participation in this worthy event and your generosity in supporting the Van Purser Foundation are greatly appreciated.

Register Now

Should Bicycles be Tagged and Taxed

Also filed under “They don’t pay fuel taxes”

Since the subject of bicycles is in the public eye again due to upcoming law changes, many of the old anti-bike arguments are also raising their heads again. To the point that there are at least two concerned citizens that have decided to push the bicycle tag and tax issue with the state legislature. While it is unlikely that those minds of the people behind those efforts will be changed, it is probably still worth discussing the realities of this idea and proposal.

Why Do People Think This Matters

There are two very different and divergent reasons that are presented in this context. Both are arguably suspect and despite the logical foundations in both, they both struggle to hold up under analysis.

Tags Would Allow For Reporting and Enforcement

As any person that has ever filed a non-contact/non-crash related motor vehicle moving violation other than speed police report can tell you, even with a completely clear license plate, there are several additional issues that prevent prosecution in most cases. Any report also needs to include video of the vehicle operator at the time of the incident.

Even with these bits of information, it is a low percentage of incidents that are pursued by law enforcement, and most of those result in little more than a verbal warning. Making this a very low value in terms of enforcement or altering behaviors.

Tag and Tag Taxes (ad valorem fees) Would Fund Bike Infrastructure

Or, would it? In Georgia for example, new cars no longer pay traditional annual ad valorem taxes. They pay sales tax. So, really, this is about the annual tag fees, and perhaps include the licensing fees., since bikes are also taxed at the point of sale ( at least new, there might be some value to second hand bike sales, but there is no infrastructure to track this ).

Either way, a bit of math can give an idea of just how much this idea might mean. Auto tags are $20 / year. Licenses are $32 every 8 years. That works out to $24 per year, per bicycle and licensed operator. Most estimates of the number of active bicycle users pegs the number at about 34% total. However, for adults, that number is typically 29%, and this type of approach is generally targeted at adult cyclists.

Georgia’s adult population is roughly 8.2 million. 29% of that is 2.4 million. At $24 per year, that would be just $57 million per year in revenue. For perspective, the state budget for transportation ( including non-car transportation ), and bear in mind, this is state roads only. It has low impact upon either federal highways, and cite/county transportation budgets, is just 7.27% of a $28.1 billion budget. Meaning 2 billion in state level transportation projects.

Needless to say, the revenue would not even cover the administrative costs of collection and enforcement, all while being an unfair usury tax upon the people that use a bike because they cannot afford a car, a number consistently demonstrated to be about 66% of bicycle users. A group of users that are also disproportionately at risk from car/bike crashes.

Neither Reason Is Justifiable

Then we get to the Fuel Tax complaint. This one holds up marginally better, right up until the discussion embraces the idea of wear and tear, and paying proportional the wear and tear created. Once this is factored in, it quickly becomes evident that there are entire classes of road users that are dramatically underpaying and being subsidized by all tax payers, and these users are not bicycles.

Roads require maintenance because of mother nature and road use. Moisture and temperature fluctuations are primary factors in the side of mother nature. Vehicular use compounds these factors, with weight and speed have direct impacts upon accelerating the break down of the roadways. The heavier, and faster the vehicles, the more damage they cause.

If you consider the ‘Average’ motor vehicle weight to by ~4000 lbs, and use that as a base line for a predicted wear value as the normal, then looking at vehicle weights and how the weight impacts wear and tear, the heaviest rider on the heaviest bike would have a wear factor of 0.00006. Meanwhile a Tesla Model S would be about a 1.3. What about a Chevy Tahoe at 3.6, or a BMW X5 at a factor of 17, or an Amazon Prime Mercedes Sprinter at a factor 21 when empty?

What this means is that every road user in a vehicle over 4000 lbs is underpaying compared to the damage they are causing, no matter how much gas they buy, and the electric vehicles are not even paying fuel taxes.

In fact, when you look more closely at all of this, it quickly becomes evident that the bicycle riders cannot produce enough wear and tear on a paved roadway to cause it to need repairs before mother nature does the work without them. Or more to the point, they are more than covering their fair share through other taxes.

Conclusion

So while, it all sounds good as a sound bite, and an emotional response, the idea of tag and taxes on bicycles boils down to little more than creating an artificial barrier to using bikes on the roads, and one that would be unable to fund adding bike specific infrastructure. But, making matters worse is the reality of the sport and recreational cyclists that these ideas are really trying to target.

Between the income levels of those riders, and the culture within those communities, if there was any plausible reason to believe that these tags and taxes would alter driver behaviors when there are bike/car encounters, then most would pay it, happily. Of course, it would not change drivers behaviors. This is known, because it has been tried, and failed.

Can Bicycles Pass Cars on the Right?

This is a surprisingly common question from drivers any time the discussion of bicycles on the roads comes up. Unfortunately, while the law is fairly clear on this, it seems to confuse a lot of drivers (and cyclists too). So, let us delve into this in detail and evaluate just what the law means and intends. There are several parts to this discussion, and a couple of different laws that come into play here, so we will need to deal with a few different situations to illustrate the issues.

There are really 3 scenarios that exist and raise this question.

Road with a Bike Lane

When there is a bike lane, there should be no doubt here. If a bike is using a bike lane, it is no different than a car in a seperate lane. It should move as far forward as the traffic in that lane allows.

That said, just because there is a bike lane present, a cyclist is NOT required to use it.

Road with a Shoulder

This is where the confusion begins. If there is not a bike lane, does that change things? Well, looking to the law we get a clear answer from 40-6-291.

40-6-291

(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.

Meaning that where there is a shoulder a bicycle may use it, but they may not be required to use it in the same way as they are given the option regarding the use of a bike lane when it is present. Given that, yes, they absolutely can pass on the right using a shoulder as if it is a bike lane.

Road without a Shoulder

This case is the one where things become a little less clear. Part of the confusion stems, oddly enough, from the very same 3′ law designed to protect cyclists on the roads. For the purpose of this discussion we are going to use the version of the the 3′ law that becomes effective July 1st.

40-6-56. Safe distance defined; application to bicyclist.

(a) The operator of a motor vehicle approaching a bicycle shall approach the bicycle with due caution and shall proceed as follows:

(1) Make a lane change into a lane not adjacent to the bicycle if possible in the existing road and traffic conditions; or

(2) If a lane change under paragraph (1) of this subsection would be impossible, prohibited by law, or unsafe, reduce the speed of the motor vehicle to a reasonable and proper speed for the existing road and traffic conditions, which speed shall be at least ten miles per hour less than the posted speed limit or 25 miles per hour, whichever is more, and proceed around the bicycle with at least three feet between such vehicle and the bicycle at all times.

(b) Any violation of this Code section shall be a misdemeanor punished by a fine of not more than $250.00.

When people hear and relate to the 3′ law, the common perception is that it applies to cyclists as well, and that a bicycle must also give a car ot truck that same 3′. The wording of the law however is quite clear. The explicit use of the “motor vehicle” designation as well as specifically addressing as a motor vehicle passing a bicycle and never in the reverse context.

So, no a bike does not have to give a car 3′ feet, and as there is an expectation of shared space, there is no prohibiton from a bike passing a car in the shared lane, any more than there is for a car to pass a bike, given that it can be done safely, and without leaving the roadway or paved portion of the shoulder, something that is a common occurence with cars going around left turning cars, which is, I might add, also illegal.

Things a Bike Cannot Do

All of that said, there are things that a bicycle cannot do to pass traffic at a stop control.

  • A cyclist cannot leave the road and ride down the grass/dirt area next to the roadway.
  • A cyclist (over the age of 12) cannot use a parallel sidewalk ( unless it is a designated multi-use path ).
  • A cyclist may not hold onto a vehicle in the roadway for stability or to be pulled along.
  • A cyclist may not create an impact with a vehicle ( ‘flip the miror’ ) in order to get past.
  • A cyclist may not use a right hand turn lane to filter forward.

Things a Car Cannot Do

There are a couple of common behaviors that are also not legal to be aware of.

  • A driver cannot move over to block a bike lane to prevent filtering.
  • A driver cannot move over to block a shoulder to prevent filtering.
  • A driver cannot allow a passenger to ‘door’ a filtering cyclist.
  • A driver cannot through things out the window at a filtering cyclist.

Conclusion

The reality is, there are few situations where a cyclist cannot legally filter forward, and in truth, statistically speaking filtering forward is the safest and least disruptive model for cyclists to follow. However, there are caveats to this. Large groups generally do not filter. Many cyclists will elect not to filter when they know that the far side of an intersection presents a pinch point that places them at an elevated risk for a crash.

House Bill 353 and Changes Effective July 1

While House Bill 353 may not seem like a big deal, it really is for both cyclists and drivers. Unfortunately, it does not include a large education budget, so getting the word out about these changes is going to fall heavily upon the cyclists in the state of Georgia. So, let us discuss what it means, how it affects drivers and cyclists, and how we can get the word out.

What is HB 353

In short, it is a bill that alters the wording of 40-6-56, the “Three Foot Law” as adopted in 2011 for clarity and detail. In order to understand the changes, we need to first look at the original wording.

40-6-56. Safe distance defined; application to bicyclist. as of 2011

(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.

What this means is really pretty simple. When passing a bike, on a roadway ( note roadway, not lane, so even in a bike lane, the safe passing space is 3 feet ). This seems clear cut and in need of no clarification, and yet, it does.

Why?

Because sadly, there remains confusion regarding the legality of crossing a double yellow lane marking in order to accommodate the required 3 feet of safe passing space.

That is where HB 353 matters.

40-6-56. Safe distance defined; application to bicyclist. as of July 1, 2021

(a) The operator of a motor vehicle approaching a bicycle shall approach the bicycle with due caution and shall proceed as follows:

(1) Make a lane change into a lane not adjacent to the bicycle if possible in the existing road and traffic conditions; or

(2) If a lane change under paragraph (1) of this subsection would be impossible, prohibited by law, or unsafe, reduce the speed of the motor vehicle to a reasonable and proper speed for the existing road and traffic conditions, which speed shall be at least ten miles per hour less than the posted speed limit or 25 miles per hour, whichever is more, and proceed around the bicycle with at least three feet between such vehicle and the bicycle at all times.

(b) Any violation of this Code section shall be a misdemeanor punished by a fine of not more than $250.00.

There are some big changes here, and they will need to be spelled out to drivers, and to a lesser degree, law enforcement. The expansion of (a) for clarity and detail is much needed, instead of just codifying 3 feet, it details exactly HOW to apply the concept of safe passing. Starting with a requirement for a lane change if possible, which includes crossing the double yellow line ( under the existing obstruction laws that already apply for mail carriers, garbage trucks and similar ). It then continues to clarify how to safely pass when a lane change is not possible. Adopting language aligned with the successfully implemented in the Spencer Pass Law ( 40-6-16 ) regarding the passing of emergency vehicles on the roadways from 2017, when changing lanes and giving the required 3 feet of space, it codifies a speed reduction, 25 mph or speed limit – 10 mph, whichever is greater.

Finally, it also codifies, at a state level the maximum penalty for violating the statute, making this a far easier statue to enforce.

Conclusion and What Comes Next

What this means for cyclists is that the burden is now on us to educate, and get the word out to drivers, to law enforcement, to family and friends. As things stand, the 3 foot law is poorly understood, and this new law is going into effect with relatively little awareness of the upcoming change. To actively educate and promote this new law should reside with all road cyclists.

For convenience, linked is a publicly available post regarding the details of the law for sharing to non-cycling communities, one we need to disseminate as widely as possible:

The Time Change is Nigh…

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.

Lane Usage

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.

Bike Lanes

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.

Passing

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.

Sidewalks

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.

Shoulders

Bicycles may ride on the shoulders of a road, but are not required to, at the discretion of the operator.

40-6-291
(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.

Closing Thoughts

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.

Bicycle Safety, Really What Would It Take?

Bikes and the safe operation of them on our roads is something that is incredibly important to me personally, but also to our world. The brutal truth is that while a car is not a requirement to live in most areas of the world, some form of distance transportation is. When it comes down to it, the bicycle is the most equitable and highest return on investment form of transportation available to us, regardless of where in the world we live. Most of the world grasps this, but in the highly ‘developed’ countries, where the car has supplanted the bicycle, the bicycle has been pushed off the roads, and into a cultural niche that becomes all about ‘sport’ or ‘fitness’ and no longer transportation, despite the statistical reality that the leading use of bicycles even in those countries is in fact transportation.

Yes, even in the United States, where a bicycle is seen as the domain of the lycra clad ‘Lance Armstrong Wannabe’ ‘taking up the road for sport’, the majority of bicycles and bike trips are still transportation. Our infrastructure, and cultural biases do not reflect that reality. So skewed is our perception that in the eyes of American Culture, the Full Size Truck with an average cost of more than $40,000 new is the symbol of the Working Class Man, but at $2,000 bicycle is the symbol of Bourgeois Excess, and the $500 bicycle is a Walmart Toy.

Because of this, our infrastructure has been shaped to our perception. Cars are given a greater right of access, if not legally, it is true in use and enforcement. It is so subtle and pervasive in perception that even in advocacy there is a tendency to push for ideas that defer to the car primacy at the sake of real road safety. Things like bike paths and bike lanes are wonderful, and just because they defer to cars does not mean we should not implement them. However, the implementation of them should not come at the cost of the bicycles right of use and more importantly right of way on the roads themselves, regardless of the additional infrastructure.

Why?

Well, there is a lot of meat in this, but rather then delve into that right away, let us take a step back and consider context. This morning a friend posted to a local cycling group a discussion of how cyclists can increase safety around cars on the road? Just the context of the question demonstrates the subtelty in how pervasive the cars primacy is. The presumption is that cars operate on the roads in such a dangerous manner, and with so little respect for cyclists on the roads that the onus shifts to the cyclists to protect themselves. Then you get into the discussion responses, and it becomes even clearer.

No Earbuds. Use lights, day and night. Use a mirror for rearview. Garmin Varia radar ( rearview, but technology ). Act like you are invisible. Ride in groups. Avoid busy roads. Ride at low traffic hours. Flashing Lights. High Vis Colors and Clothing. The common theme? Roads are for cars, cars are presumed to have the right of way, cars do not respect the right of way of bicycles.

That is the second class of comments in these discussions of course, those comments that directly address this. Ride defensively, be aware at all times. Take the lane. Do not ride on the white line. Ride in groups to force cars to respect the space. All are strategies to force a class of vehicle to honor the law, not the cultural perception of the law.

With a bit of context from within the cycling world, it is easy to see the appeal of bike lanes and paths, because they are effective at making people feel safer and creating seperation. Of course, out of sight, out of mind also applies. When you live in advocacy, you learn about the idea of conflict points, and the sheer volume of crashes that occur when cars do not have to think about bikes, and then turn across their paths, through these lanes and paths because they never even consider that a bike might be in them. There are other factors, like on street bike lanes creating a perception of a wider travel lane which translates to higher ambient travel speeds ( regardless of posted limits ), high costs of implementation, poor maintenance, etc.

What Has to Change?

For the most part, the laws are on the books in many states. Georgia’s bicycle laws really do not need massive revisions, as they already grant the majority of what is needed. Perhaps higher penalties for failure to honor them and perhaps remove the entire Far Right As Practicable, since it creates more confusion than it provides in clarity. What does not exist today is, consistant enforcement, driver awareness, and a culture that accepts and respects bikes on the roads. These things are intricately tied together.

The common answer to this is ‘education’, which, while accurate, is also borderline useless. Generally, education is an easy answer. Slap it in drivers training manuals, add it to drivers education curriculum, ask a few questions about it in the drivers exams and call it a day. This only impacts new drivers, and without reenforcement and enforcement, the cultural perceptions will override that education within years, often, just months. Just consider the number of people that struggle with the use of a round about. So, that answer is simply not enough.

What has to change is engagement. Cyclists have to come out of the closet and assert themselves. We need to be reactive when things go wrong. We need to be proactive before they do. We have to engage that family member that we normally avoid the discussion with because they are convinced that roads are for cars. We have to pester our civic leaders, city, county, state, federal to change the habits of enforcement. We have to push those leaders to get the law enforcement agencies on the same page as the law, and to enforce the law consistently. We have unify behind a single message that we belong on the roads, we have a right to the roads, and we expect that right to be enforced.

And when we get pushback, we have to back our fellow riders in the public forum.

In Summary

If there is to be change, it has to start with the cyclists. It has to be all of the cyclists, and even though the typical sport cyclist may not grasp the nuances of the transportation cyclist, the sport cyclists have the money, time, contacts and influences to spark and push real change to the betterment of ALL cyclists.

As someone who has spent 20 years advocating for bikes, the messaging has been too fragmented, and spread too thin across not enough engaged people. I ride in an area where we have over 2000 active, recreational cyclists that ride in groups rides within a 40 mile radius. Out of those, less than 20 are consistently engaged with thier communities, civic leaders and even in public non-cycling forums regarding cyclists rights. Less than 1%.

If you read to here, then did you notice the game played? Consistantly is inconsistently spelled throughout, just because I can, oh, and that I cannot spell 🙂