Are Georgia's Cycling Laws Adequate Protection for Motorists and Cyclist?

The death of cyclists usually stirs up strong emotions, especially if no prosecution follows, but others say it is only fair for everyone 'sharing the road' be required to purchase registration, tags and insurance. What say you?


A recent story in Decatur-Avondale Estates Patch highlighted the problem with cycling safety on local streets. It noted that cyclist Dave Mathews, injured in a bad bike wreck 18 months ago, has made cycling safety an issue. His passion on the subject was fueled after a pickup struck and killed cyclist Paul Taylor and authorities announced last week nobody will be prosecuted. The reason the authorities gave was that they don't have the evidence to make a case.

"We're human beings, too," said Mathews, who started a Facebook page about bike safety in Atlanta. "We're not disposable creatures."

Atlanta bicyclists have long complained about motorists being inconsiderate, with many hogging the road and passing them too closely. Loganville went through much the same argument last year when cyclist Mark Jidov was killed by a car while cycling on Broadnax Mill Road. It was taken hard by his family and friends. Not only because they were saddened by the loss of someone very special to them, but also because they believed it was something that could have been avoided. Broadnax Mill Road now carries "Share the Road" signage. It is hoped this will draw attention to the cyclists and cut down on some of the road accidents and deaths. 

Matthews has created "Ghost bikes" at some of the accident sites that resulted in cyclist fatalities, hoping to draw attention to the issue. An Atlanta Journal-Constitution story quoted the Atlanta Bicycle Association as saying 28 people died in bike related accidents in Cobb, DeKalb, Fulton and Gwinnett counties between 2003 and 2008. 

But when this story was posted on the Dacula Patch and Buford Patch Facebook pages, it drew a strong response from motorists.

"Just maybe one day there will be a law making them get license insurance, and tag like we do to be on the highway. Its beyond me why they can't use the bike trails that were made for them to ride on. Make them pay some of that money back and then just maybe they will use them it would make it safer on us all," one commenter wrote.

"They frequently DOMINATE Auburn Ave/Old Auburn Rd. I wish they would spread the love around a bit," another wrote.

So do you think the Georgia laws are strong enough to protect both cyclists and motorists who share the road? Do you think that cyclists using the road should be required to register their bikes and purchase tags and insurance?

KCL September 24, 2012 at 02:42 AM
Come on, some of you can't be really as rude or ignorant as your comments here would lead one to believe. Roads are for travel - not cars/motorized vehicles. Interstates are for motorized vehicles only...and...ones that can go the minimum speed. It is illegal in GA, and most other states to ride a bike on a sidewalk. Sidewalks are for pedestrians and a bike is considered a vehicle in GA. If some of you weren’t so selfish and, well, maybe used some of the grey matter you are supposed to have, you realize that roads have been around long before cars and you don’t own them or have any greater right than anyone else to travel where you are going to and from on them than anyone else. Most people complaining about bikers being in the middle of the road are actually complaining because they are exercising their right to ride on the road at all and because they think the world revolves around them no one should interrupt their poorly planned travel as they might be late for their ….(pick it). Just because you are lazy, rude, late, overweight, smoke, uneducated, or just poorly informed doesn’t give you the right to endanger others’ lives who are exercising their rights within the law. And, speaking of the law, most people operating cars, minivans and SVR break some or many laws on a very regular basis so don’t get all holy about following the law when you clearly aren’t.
Brian Crawford September 24, 2012 at 03:33 AM
You're new around here aren't you.
R++ One of the Famous Dacula Crew September 24, 2012 at 03:49 AM
And there isn't a single thing preventing cyclists from obtaining and actually using rear view mirrors. The ones you look in to see what traffic looks like behind you as you use hand signals. There isn't anything that REQUIRES cyclists to ride 2 abreast with mixed traffic present. If you see cars with 3 ft feelers on the market, then you can "CLAIM" your space, otherwise figure to PULL off on occasion to let vehicles pass. Using bikes on campus as well as scooters fantastic, just don't get on the cell or use an MP3 player in traffic, unless you want to test the ACA to its fullest... It's been said that " the pen is mightier than the sword", but the sword carries more weight at any given moment in time. Cyclists may have "rights", but they are hard to claim in the back of an ambulance running code 3 folks.
j miller September 24, 2012 at 12:30 PM
I agree completely with the more bike lanes sentiment! I ride on a regular basis, and if the lanes were available I would ride in them. I think most drivers are aware of the 3ft. rule, but there is the occasional driver that won't move over. (and yes, they get the international sign of displeasure). Living in Snellville, I would have to ride on public roads over five miles to get to the closest bike lane...Sugarloaf Parkway. The bike lane on Sugarloaf is nice, but the county never sweeps it, and a flat tire is a regular event due to road debris in the lane. Bottomline: the county planners give little consideration to pedestrian or bicycle travel. Maybe if gas prices continue to climb some attitudes will change.
j miller September 24, 2012 at 12:32 PM
amen, KCL!
Rebecca McCarthy (Editor) September 24, 2012 at 01:08 PM
I don't understand the venom spewed on cyclists...but when gas goes to $5 a gallon or even higher, I imagine we will see more people walking and on bicycles. Whoever "R" is sounds downright aggressive. Sad.
Sarah Cook September 24, 2012 at 02:03 PM
I generally ride alone, on the country roads to the north, east, and south of Athens, and I have to say that I have had very few negative experiences with drivers. There are always a few that pass a little closer than I'm comfortable with, whether due to ignorance, lack of consideration, or inattention, and I'm always cautious at intersections and driveways to make sure drivers are seeing me, but 98% of the time drivers give me a wide berth when passing, pass at appropriate times, and treat me as a regular vehicle at intersections, etc. Maybe it's because I'm alone, or that I'm female, and maybe it makes drivers see me as just another human being rather than that faceless "other" that causes them problems. It wasn't until a week ago that I encountered a driver with a clear, bike-specific animosity toward me. On a lightly-traveled country road, an oncoming vehicle drifted out of his lane about a third of the way into my lane as we approached each other. Oops, right? Then he showily veered back into his own lane and laid on the horn as he passed me. Clearly there was no reason for that but to intimidate me. Big man. *Those* are the drivers that scare me. The rest of us are just out there trying to get along.
j miller September 24, 2012 at 02:07 PM
Steve, did you happen to notice what condition the right side of the road was in. Potholes, road debris, broken pavement, drainage areas, manhole covers determine where someone can ride on the street. I'm not saying the rider wasn't an idiot I'm just pointing out that the road is a "shared" area, and the bicycle is a legal vehicle in the state of Ga. One more point, I've noticed when I ride (regularly), that if I ride too far to the right, drivers don't move over to allow the three feet required by law. (I guess they don't consider me "on the road".) Hence I ride right on/or directly to left of the side stripe. It really isn't asking too much for a driver to give a comfortable 3 foot cushion as they speed past you. If drivers don't want cyclists on the road then change the law. Until that happens, just move over and move on!
Mark Ralston September 24, 2012 at 07:52 PM
My experience as an avid recreational cyclist is similar to Sarah's: 98-99 percent of drivers and cyclists behave like the decent people they are. I like to thank those who pass safely with a five-fingered wave, and the vast majority wave back. I cringe when I see my fellow cyclists running red lights, passing stopped cars on the right, and bottle-necking traffic when they could easily form a single line. I also want drivers to undersand that it's unbelievably dangerous to ride on a sidewalk: every single driveway and street cut is an opportunity to get run down because no motorist ever stops to check for bikes moving even 10 mph, much less 30 (a speed easily attained on hills). Bikes are vehicles for good reason: we're too fast to be pedestrians. I'd like to see cleaner road margins, stricter enforcement of existing laws, more bike lanes and paths, wider shoulders on all roads (which would improve safety for motorists, too), and more simple courtesy from everyone. I think bike insurance would be a racket because bikes are capable of causing comparatively little damage, but requiring adult road cyclists to have a license seems like common sense. Because most bikes have relatively low valuations, it would probably cost counties more to levy ad valorum taxes on bikes than the tax would bring in, but I wouldn't be opposed to it on principle.
Rebecca McCarthy (Editor) September 24, 2012 at 07:54 PM
Mark, do you think things are getting better or worse for cyclists in and around Athens?
Elizabeth September 24, 2012 at 09:46 PM
Bicycle riders, do indeed, have the same right to the roadway as a car or truck driver; however, many of them do not exercise due caution and/or responsibility. We were behind a cyclist who appeared to be waving us to come around him. My husband did not attempt to do so. The cyclist made a left turn!! The waving "signal" was his idea of an "I am going to turn left" signal. They should be required to learn and employ proper hand signals. While we are on the subject of cyclists, I am sure everyone has seen the bumper stickers that say, "Look twice, save a life. Motor cycles are everywhere". Yes them are - cutting in and out of traffic. Running up the emergency lanes and up the left side of the roadway. Motor cyclists: We cannot see you as you dart in and out of traffic!! Bicycle riders and motor cycle riders, please observe the rules of the road and the rules of common sense!!
NJ4America September 24, 2012 at 10:40 PM
If bike riders have the same right to use the road, they should be required to pay taxes for a tag and insurance and a license. Some of these morons act like they own the road and disregard typical courtesy. Why should some bonehead on a two wheel aluminum can hold me up on my way to work? When they act like an ass, I just lay on my horn until they move. I assume they surrender to prevent the headache. How many people commenting here for bicyclists rights even ride a bike in traffic? Require these morons to pay to register their bike, pay for a tag every year and pay for liability insurance and this argument is over.
Tammy Osier September 24, 2012 at 10:54 PM
Agreed Kristi. I have yet to share the road with a cyclist that doesn't put me at risk having to go into the other lane to avoid being too close. It does make sense to make the case about MPH.
Tammy Osier September 24, 2012 at 10:58 PM
Regulate them the same as any other vehicle on the road. Violate the laws of safety and get a big ticket.
j miller September 24, 2012 at 11:08 PM
So...one cyclist improperly signaling, or a "generic" motorcyclist weaving in and out of traffic, must mean that all two wheelers are lousy riders. Elizabeth, I'm going to guess you don't use your blinker when you turn, and you probably text and drive, because I've seen several "drivers" doing these dastardly deeds. If we are going to speak in generalities then lets at least be consistent. (I will point out the sarcasm of this post, just in case you don't catch it.)
j miller September 24, 2012 at 11:17 PM
Hey NJ4, check out the youtube video of the A$$ in Boulder, CO. harassing the cyclists out for a Sunday morning ride. The cyclists were riding responsibly and the A$$ following behind them in a truck harassed them for miles by blowing the horn. The cyclists were smart enough to record the harassment on a smartphone, turn it and the his tag number into the cops, and the A$$ driving the truck was ticketed for harassment. Funny how the cops backed the cyclists. The same laws exist in Colorado as they do in Ga. Ya think you might be...maybe wrong?. Again, just move over and move on. Isn't life really to short for this type of crap?
Brian Crawford September 24, 2012 at 11:32 PM
Did NJ4 just advocate for raising taxes and more government mandates? I'm pretty sure he did.
ptcornersgal September 25, 2012 at 12:49 AM
More often a motorist than a cyclist, but realizing there needs to be some accommodation for cyclists in our unfriendly bike zone, I tend to be much more obliging to a cyclist without the attitude.
Jimmy Wilbanks September 25, 2012 at 01:10 AM
Saw a (what I thought was) student on a bike on Dacula Road just at school release time. Crossed Winder Highway onto Harbins Road running a red light. I thought what would I say to the parents when I had to tell them their son had been killed running a red light at that location. How could you comfort the innocent motorist who expects people to stop for red lights and not to fatally encounter anyone much less a student bicycler. I've been the bearer of that kind of bad news twice in my public career. It ain't easy. Please be careful and obey our traffic laws they are for your protection.
Hal Schneider September 25, 2012 at 03:47 AM
Funny. When I was a kid, only kids rode bicycles, and we knew to get out of the way when cars came by. My how times have changed.
spokes October 01, 2012 at 01:42 AM
Cyclists DO pay taxes!! I just use a different mode of transportation. I pay property tax, I pay for SPLOST that says they will construct bike lanes..but never do. Now you demand I pay more? They throw up a couple "Share the Road" signs, and the rest of the money goes toward building more and more roadways for single occupancy vehicles to commute 10-20 miles. Gas prices are already high. They are going to get even higher. And when they do all the anti-cyclist types will be the ones marching on their local commissions demanding answers to why there is no infrastructure so they can get to work for less than $200.00 a week. We are not the enemy here. That being said, I'm all for tough enforcement for cyclists who break the law.
NJ4America October 01, 2012 at 01:59 AM
"I'm all for tough enforcement for cyclists who break the law" I am too. They should be run over.
spokes October 01, 2012 at 03:06 AM
"I am too. They should be run over." Wow. that's really profound. I must say, you're off to a good start then. That seems to be a system that's working good for you out there. What's really frightening is that you are completely serious.
Ryan Smith (Editor) October 01, 2012 at 01:12 PM
Sharon, Lisa's right. I haven't seen a lot of bike paths in the area. It's too bad, really, because many parts of Savannah and the surrounding areas would be good for cycling.
Elizabeth October 01, 2012 at 07:11 PM
J, what I had hoped to convey was concern for the safety of bicycle riders, as well as motorcycle riders, as their modes of transportation offer less protection than cars and trucks. Apparently, I sorely missed the mark. The bicycler I mentioned was leading a pack of riders (in uniforms and wearing helmets) who frequently use Harbins Road for their races. I did get your sarcasm; but yes, I do use my signal when turning; no, I do not text, nor do I talk on my cellphone when I am driving. I am totally in favor of the "no texting while driving law". You are correct, many, many car and truck drivers use their cellphones to text and talk while driving, and many times, it causes them to drive in a dangerous manner. If there were any way to enforce it, I would be in favor of an "in case of emergency only" law for talking on cellphones. I am sorry I offended you. p.s. I also come to a complete stop at all stop signs.
j miller October 01, 2012 at 08:30 PM
Elizabeth, I appreciate your clarification, and apologize for my sarcasm. I've been told it (sarcasm) isn't one of my more endearing traits. I also appreciate your concern for two wheel safety. You are absolutely correct about the reduced margin of error riding a motorcycle or a bicycle. I've found that consistency with abiding by the rules of the road increases the safety of cyclists and motorist alike. A bicycle is a legal vehicle on the roads of Ga., and we should stop at signs, signal for all turns, and don't text and ride. (sorry couldn't help a little joke), and abide by the same laws as drivers. Thanks for your patience with the cyclists on Harbins. Hope they read this and adjust their behavior.
spokes October 02, 2012 at 12:25 PM
My apologies to the other posters here. I don't mean to come off as a cyclist with an attitude. I commute to work every day on my bike, most of the time of which is rather pleasant. Until you come up against people like NJ4 there. I'm just a husband, father, taxpayer...just trying to get to work. I go out of my way to yield to cars, I do not block traffic, and I try to take less traveled roads so I do not run into the NJ4 types. These are the type of people that no matter what a cyclist does, they will buzz close to a cyclist as a means of intimidation. Then have the nerve to come onto a public forum like this and toss out mindless threats. NJ4, be careful. More and more of us are riding with cameras on our bikes now... I
NJ4America October 02, 2012 at 12:34 PM
Nobody threatened you. Go back in your hole.
spokes October 02, 2012 at 02:20 PM
I'm not saying you threatened me. What I am saying is you are foolish to complain about cyclists then make a foolish comment saying they should be run over. How dare someone get in YOUR way on YOUR roads that YOU pay for. You would certainly feel different if it was a friend or family member. Now I will gladly go into my hole.
Elizabeth October 02, 2012 at 02:31 PM
Spokes, regarding NJ4America's comments to you, as I told my children when someone was being ugly to them, Don't get bogged down in it. Just rise above it. Rise above it and move on.


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