In Georgia, bicycles are considered vehicles. Their operators have the same rights and responsibilities to follow traffic laws as the other passenger and commercial vehicles on the road.
OCGA §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.
As such, all drivers should be considerate to each other and share the road. This is especially true as Georgia’s roadways are getting more crowded, and bicycling has becoming a more popular mode of transportation. Drivers should always be alert for bicycle traffic. Most collisions happen during daylight hours, near intersections or driveways – due to drivers not seeing the bicyclists in enough time to react. Motorists are required by law to yield the right of way to bicyclists, and, if passing them, to maintain a “safe distance” of at least three feet.
OCGA § 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.
OCGA § 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.
Just as motorists must follow the rules of the road, Georgia bicyclists also have laws to follow. Cyclists are subject to the same penalties as the drivers of motorized vehicles, with the exception that the state will not issue penalty points against the cyclist’s driver’s license. In Georgia, bicyclists are expected to ride on the right side of the roadway, unless he or she is turning, avoiding a road hazard or standing vehicle, the bicyclist is traveling the same speed as traffic, or the lane is too narrow to share. Additionally, bicyclists must ride in the same direction as traffic, and cannot ride more than two side-by-side at a time.
OCGA § 40-6-294 (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.
In addition to the laws regarding motorized vehicles and bicycles, there are also some (non-legal) precautions to take when sharing the road with a two-wheeled vehicle:
- When passing a bicycle, drivers should slow down and make sure the bicyclist is aware of your presence.
- Do not honk your car horn at a bicyclist as this may scare them and cause them to lose balance.
- Cyclists do not always remember to use hand signals to indicate he or she is going to turn; drivers should be prepared for sudden turns or movements.
- Bicyclists may ride on paved shoulders, but they are not required by law to do so.
- Drivers should wait until a bicycle is completely out of an intersection before making a turn.
- Not all bicycles are equipped with lights or reflectors. Drivers should be aware of bikes in the road, and dim their headlights when passing the cyclist.
If you or someone you know has been injured in a collision involving a bicycle, call Atlanta Personal Injury Law Group at (404) 436-1529 to schedule a free personal injury consultation.