As the weather is warming up here in Georgia, cyclists are hitting the road for sport, recreation, and transportation. Many see motorists and cyclists as parties with different interests struggling to coexist, but with a little education about local bike laws, rights, and regulations, the two can safely share the road.
A recent study** found that around 63% of Georgians ride bicycles for recreation, 28% ride for exercise, and 3.4% ride to commute to work. In another study*, in 2019, 21 bicyclists were fatally injured in motor vehicle traffic crashes and 805 bicyclists were involved in crashes in the state of Georgia. These numbers remind us how important it is to take to the roads with caution this spring and summer!
Who has the right to the road?
Because bicycles are defined as vehicles, bicyclists generally have the same rights and responsibilities as drivers of motorized vehicles. There are certain exceptions to these rights and responsibilities which will be discussed below.
Where can bicycles ride?
There are several types of bicycle lanes on or adjacent to roads in Georgia:
A shared lane
Usually, a bicycle symbol on the roadway denotes that cars are to share the road with bicycles.
A designated bicycle lane
Sometimes there is a specially designated lane for bicycles denoted by a white solid or dotted line. This gives cyclists their own space and lane for riding.
A protected bicycle lane
These are also designated lanes protected by barriers, trees, parking spots, or large permanent cones. This kind of lane is the safest for cyclists and motorists.
Bicyclists are required to ride on the far right side of the road whenever possible. When turning, overtaking vehicles, or avoiding hazards, bicyclists are permitted to share the main part of the road with motor vehicles.
Bicyclists over the age of 12 are not legally permitted to ride on sidewalks unless allowed by a local ordinance.
Bicyclists must also ride in the same direction as the flow of traffic, even in bike lanes.
How can bicyclists ride?
There are a few laws that govern how bicyclists must behave on the road.
- signal when turning or stopping, using hand motions
- slow down or come to a complete stop when approaching a stop sign or red traffic signal
Bikes overtaking cars
Bicyclists may pass cars on the right if conditions allow for safe passing. Otherwise passing should be done on the left.
Cars overtaking bikes
Motorized vehicles are required to safely pass bicyclists on the left allowing 3 or more feet of clearance while passing.
There are a few laws that govern bicycle equipment:
- In the state of Georgia, bicyclists under the age of 16 are required to wear a helmet that is properly fastened.
- Bicycles are required to have a working brake to stop the vehicle when necessary.
- For night rides, bicycles must also be equipped with a front headlight (visible from 300 ft away) and red rear reflectors.
When are bicyclists responsible for an accident?
It is important to remember that bicyclists share the same rights and responsibilities as motorists. Cyclists must yield to pedestrians, avoid making unsafe turns or lane changes, follow traffic signals and signs, and stay off the sidewalk. While bicycles are unique vehicles on the road, they can be responsible for traffic accidents.
The legal concept of negligence:
If cyclists break any traffic laws that result in an accident, they can be held responsible for accidents, but in many cases legal “negligence” helps us understand who is responsible in a car versus bike accident.
This concept means that anyone operating any vehicle is required to act with “reasonable care” towards their fellow motorists (or bicyclists). If someone does not operate their vehicle with reasonable care and demonstrates “negligence” (like running a red light), that person can be held responsible for an accident.
Preventing an accident
Bicyclists are also legally responsible for preventing accidents to the best of their ability. This means that bicyclists must avoid irresponsible riding. One of the most important precautions to take is not drinking and riding.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in 2013, 20% of cyclists killed in accidents had a blood alcohol concentration of .08% or higher. Not drinking and riding is a critical way to avoid unnecessary risks on the road.
While helmets are not required in the state of Georgia for riders over age 16, it can be a helpful precaution to take. Not only do helmets protect your physical safety, but they can also protect you in a personal injury lawsuit. When an accident has occurred, sometimes a court might find a cyclist responsible for their injuries when having not taken reasonable precautions, such as wearing a helmet.
If you have been the victim of a bicycle-related accident, please call Lamar Law Office at 877-CARE-404. We are a law firm experienced in personal injury lawsuits and ready to fight for the needs of our clients.