Spring is here; there were lots of cyclists out this weekend taking advantage of the warmer weather--saw lots of them down by the Chattahoochee River while on our way to kid sporting events Saturday and Sunday. Atlanta has a very vibrant and active cycling community. There are lots of triathalon clubs. Also, many cyclists like to take advantage of the mild seasons here in Georgia and not only ride for pleasure but use their bikes to commute to work. Cycling's great exercise and just a fun sport; I used to ride when I was training for triathalons but I didn't feel very proficient at the sport on the hilly roads here in Atlanta and had a healthy fear of cars (so I stick to the running and swimming instead).
With the bicyclists, unfortunately come invitable car versus bicycle accidents, with the bicyclist usually being injured. I helped settle such a case for a client recently in which thedriver of the car was clearly at fault. What was a minor incident for the distracted motorist resulted in an injury to my client which may never fully resolve.
In a collision, cyclists will never be a match for even the smallest sedan. To avoid impatience, frustration and misunderstandings on the road, motorists really need to know the laws protecting cyclists and what their rights are. Some facts (and laws) that motorists who don't cycle should know:
- In all 50 states, bicycles (a "low speed vehicle") have a right to a full lane;
- No motor vehicle may deprive a bicyclist a full lane;
- Cyclists may ride two abreast on the roadway (but no more than two);
- Sidewalk cycling is statistically the most dangerous kind of cycling (especially crossing driveways);
- Cycling on the sidewalk is prohibited (if over the age of 12), except where the path is a designated bike path;
- Bicyclists must observe traffic signs and signals just like motor vehicles.
The newest Georgia law regarding cyclists (HB 101) was signed in May 2011. One of the most important additions was the clarification of a "safe distance" for motor vehicles to pass cyclists. Drivers must now allow
three feet between the cyclist and the vehicle when passing and overtaking the bicycle on the roadway, and
maintain that distance until safely past the overtaken bicycle. This change helps clarify the murky "safe distance" language in the previous law and is a
help to injured cyclists who are forced to pursue lawsuits arising out of bicycle-car collisions. Yes, this means the driver of a motor vehicle must cross the double yellow line (when clear) to pass cyclists safely under the new law. Violation of this law is a misdemeanor with potential fines and jail time.
If you're thinking about going more green, Bicycling Magazine has "5 Bike Commuting Safety Tips" which not only are helpful for the cyclist, but for a motorist as well. For the beginner or intermediate cyclist, there are
several cycling clubs that
offer clinics on biking safety, crash avoidance and cycling with motorists and on busy Atlanta roads.
And for some non legal fun facts....this extreme cyclist didn't have to worry about crazy motorists, hot weather or pedestrians: In January of 2013, Eric Larsen completed the longest bicycle journey ever in Antarctica. While he didn't make the South Pole by bicycle as intended, his 175 mile trip earned him a spot on the record charts.
And for the driest place on earth, how about cycling in the Atacama Desert in South America? Nothing lives there; it's one of the few places on earth that scientists say is most like the planet Mars. This guy and his friend managed to complete a cycling trip through the Atacama Desert in 2009; he has lots of great photos and interesting commentary.
Enjoy the ride, share the road.