Riders hail new rules in Georgia

Law applies to rights on road

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Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal signed a watershed bicycle safety law this month that proponents are hailing as "state of the art."

Bicycling enthusiasts are hoping a new Georgia law will provide safer riding on the roads, but they are also aware that a similar law passed in South Carolina has not changed driver behavior.   File/Spotted
File/Spotted
Bicycling enthusiasts are hoping a new Georgia law will provide safer riding on the roads, but they are also aware that a similar law passed in South Carolina has not changed driver behavior.

Similar praise was given three years ago when South Carolina enacted its bicycle safety law, which offers legal recourse for cyclists who are harassed, "buzzed" by motorists or verbally abused.

Yet cyclists in the Beech Island area still report issues.

An Aiken County Sheriff's Office report shows that on April 13 a cyclist in a group of 20 other riders called authorities after a pickup truck came close to the rear of the line. Words were exchanged between the cyclist and the driver, but no arrest was made.

For Martin "Gator" Cochran, the cyclist who filed the report, it was a reminder that laws alone aren't enough for protection.

So what can be done at the outset with this new Georgia law to minimize issues three years down the road?

Cyclists and activists point to education.

Attorney Peter Wilborn, a safe cycling advocate, uses stop signs as an example. Enforcement is an important aspect of a law, but people don't brake at stop signs because there is an officer at every intersection.

They know from experience and education that coming to a complete stop is the safest way to drive, said Wilborn. He adds that there will always be lawbreakers, regardless of enforcement or education.

A key element to the new Georgia law is that it requires motorists to give cyclists 3 feet of space when passing. The South Carolina law gives the broader "safe passing distance."

The legal merits and drawbacks of a specific distance have been debated, but Wilborn prefers to see the positive aspects in just having some protection for cyclists.

Overall, Wilborn said the Georgia law is actually better than South Carolina's.

"Somebody spent a great deal of time doing it well," he said.

Cochran estimates he's ridden close to 80,000 miles as a long distance cyclist and he's seen the different ways that states support or ignore cyclists.

He noticed last weekend, for instance, during a 24-hour ride through North Carolina that there were signs that declared the road "bike route 4."

That gives motorists notice that cyclists are using the road and reinforces their legal right to be there, Cochran said.

"The law in South Carolina is definitely a positive thing," Cochran said. "But we need a large education campaign."

Cochran gives the public service announcements about drinking and driving as an example. The campaign should focus as much on cyclists learning safe road habits as motorists learning to keep their distance, he said.

Cochran points to a recent editorial in the North Augusta Star as an example of the misconceptions that need clarifying.

The column by Mary Cashon Jones relates how she had to stop for a cyclist on the Greeneway crossing Pisgah Road.

The cyclist was "crossing the road slowly, not looking out for cars," the piece states.

Jones sees that incident as proof that cyclists should be licensed and regulated and pay the same taxes as motorists.

"If I have to pay this amount to drive my car on the roads, then why should I have to dodge or stop for bicycles who pay nothing for these roads?" Jones writes.

On Friday, Jones said her column received a lot of support from the community.

Cochran offers the rebuttal that cyclists have a legal right to use the road, regardless of whether they pay taxes.

But the reality is that most recreational cyclists have paid to register their cars and pay property taxes too, Cochran said.

"We just need to work through our differences and find common ground," Cochran said.

Learn more

Learn about bicycle safety at safestreetssavelives.org

Comments (20) Add comment
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ConcernedTaxpayer
28
Points
ConcernedTaxpayer 05/23/11 - 04:48 am
0
0
While I don't condone

While I don't condone motorists buzzing and endangering cyclists, this law just gives some inconsiderate cyclists a license to ride two abreast and block traffic on purpose. It is very frustrating to get behind cyclists on a road with no passing zones or a busy road with much on coming traffic that prevents passing. Cyclists should be considerate enough to pull off the road and allow faster traffic to pass periodically. By the way, they don't pay road taxes, motorists do.

Linthead
8
Points
Linthead 05/23/11 - 07:27 am
0
0
It would be great to see all

It would be great to see all the laws discussed instead of picking and choosing.

http://www.dot.state.sc.us/getting/pdfs/bike_laws.pdf

http://www.gohs.state.ga.us/gabikelaws.html

Right on
221
Points
Right on 05/23/11 - 08:23 am
0
0
With rights to the road the

With rights to the road the riders pay tehir share of the cost of the road use. I see many riders who do not obey the rules as autos would have to. I think there should be regulations to go along with the use of the roads to include licenses, tags, taxes and such. If riders use the road, they should have to obey the rules as drivers do as well as pay for the road upkeep through tag fees. Autos also pay taxes at the gas pump. What is fair to some should be fair to all users.

stillamazed
1488
Points
stillamazed 05/23/11 - 11:50 am
0
0
The only problem I have with

The only problem I have with some bicyclist and motorcylist as well is that at red lights for instance alot of them instead of waiting in line will go on the side or in the center of the lane between cars, to me that is very dangerous. I am very courteous of bikes and mortorcyclist and as long as they do their part I agree that they have rights on the roads.

cruiser93
270
Points
cruiser93 05/23/11 - 12:07 pm
0
0
So, my last post was

So, my last post was flagged... I guess I made my point

cruiser93
270
Points
cruiser93 05/23/11 - 01:04 pm
0
0
Right on, Right on !

Right on, Right on !

abcxyz
0
Points
abcxyz 05/23/11 - 02:09 pm
0
0
Cyclists maintain that they

Cyclists maintain that they have every right to use the roads. If that is the case, they should be required to obey the same traffic laws that motor vehicles must obey - specifically, stopping at red lights. More than once, I have witnessed bike riders yielding at, then running the red light at Columbia Road and William Few. They can wait for green just like I can!

Med College guy 64
0
Points
Med College guy 64 05/23/11 - 02:20 pm
0
0
"We hate bikes, blah blah

"We hate bikes, blah blah blah". Man, I have never been in such a bike-hating town... very backwards compared to most of the rest of the country. But I guess certain people here like to hang onto backwardsness.

I pay my taxes because I have a car in addition to a bike. When I choose to ride my bike instead of my car to work, my taxes are not discounted even though I make less wear and tear on the road. So enough with the tax arguments please.

A couple weeks ago I was nearly killed (missed by several inches) as an SUV ran a red light. I have also been nearly killed as people sped past me only to turn right a moment later. I have had cars blow by me mere inches away as I hugged the curb.

Cars and cyclists both have rights to the road and they both ride dangerously at times. There is one big difference though... the cyclist is almost always the loser in an accident no matter who's fault it is.

Therefore, laws giving cyclists a safe space around them are a great idea. Which is the priority- you getting where you are going fast or me getting where I am going ALIVE? I am glad the state sided with bikes on this one.

bill.waters
18
Points
bill.waters 05/23/11 - 02:51 pm
0
0
Sales taxes pay for the bulk

Sales taxes pay for the bulk of road-paving projects in the Southeast. The exception is interstate paving projects, which cyclists cannot use. Cyclists pay sales tax along with everyone else. As to insurance, get a quote. My twenty-pound bicycle will really damage your 4000lb behemoth. In my experience, 97% of drivers are courteous.

Willow Bailey
20605
Points
Willow Bailey 05/23/11 - 03:16 pm
0
0
Laws are a good thing. The

Laws are a good thing. The purpose of them is to inform those who DESIRE to KEEP them of the expected standards. And to those who DESIRE to BREAK them of the consequences.

So therefore, as a cyclist, walker, horsewoman, and motorist, I must take the personal responsibility of protecting myself according to the rules and consequences of the Physical Gross Tonnage Law or I shall run the risk of being dead right.

Vito45
-2
Points
Vito45 05/23/11 - 03:38 pm
0
0
I second everything Med

I second everything Med College guy says. I am a three car family (1 company-two personal), so a heck of a lot of taxes are paid by me and for me for the use of the roads. There is a huge void in cyclist education in this area, both for motorists and cyclists as well. I trail ride 95% of the time because I am so afraid of the knucleheads on the road. At the same time, I see cyclists being knuckleheads too; doing the things some of the posters above complain about.
The solution is to 1) Educate, and 2) build bike lanes. There was a time that I argued against investing in bike paths in the suburban areas because I thought no one would use them to do any significant distances. How ignorant I was! I started riding some and quickly discovered that 25 miles on a road bike is nothing for someone in even marginal condition. I live in the William Few/Wash rd area and I wouldn't bat an eye at riding to Evans if there was a safe way to get there. Just think of the gasoline savings, pollution savings, and health benefits of more people rode for recreation and even commuting. Bike lanes would pay back in spades whereas more roads just invite more cars and congestion.

TheArmyWife
0
Points
TheArmyWife 05/23/11 - 07:58 pm
0
0
I don't ride a bike, but I do

I don't ride a bike, but I do drive a car on the roads around Augusta/Evans every day. It is bizarre to me that so many whine about cyclists not obeying rules, are you all implying that the majority of the auto drivers here do?? Let's all try being more considerate and patient, it will benefit each of us.

xrev
0
Points
xrev 05/23/11 - 11:32 pm
0
0
Having a "right" and being

Having a "right" and being wise are 2 different issues. You can have all of the "rights" you want but mix a bumper with a bicycle and the cyclist is USUALLY (better than 99%) going to physically lose. Your "right" to ride does not negate the laws of physics (or common sense). GO TO A GYM AND RIDE A STATIONARY BIKE OR TAKE THE RISK OF SHARING THE ROAD WITH VEHICLES THAT HAVE ENGINES, STEREOS, AIR BAGS, HORNS, HEADLIGHTS, BUMPERS, DOORS, ETC AND SOMETIMES, IDIOT DRIVERS. ONCE AGAIN IF THE HEADLINE READS: IDIOT CAR DRIVER HITS SWEET, SANE, AND ALWAYS RIGHT BICYCLIST." WHO IS USUALLY GOING TO LOSE? RIGHTS DO NOT PRECLUDE THE LAWS OF PHYSICS !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Asitisinaug
4
Points
Asitisinaug 05/24/11 - 02:05 am
0
0
These riders have a great

These riders have a great lobby behind them. But, in all reality, bicycles should NOT be on roads where the speed exceeds 25mph and all of the laws in the world will not keep them safe from the driver who is distracted for merely a second.

pautori
0
Points
pautori 05/24/11 - 06:53 am
0
0
This all sounds so crazy! Do

This all sounds so crazy! Do you know a man died. He paid taxes, He worked ,was highly educated. He went to Iraq to provided his surgical skills to our wounded soldiers. He went out on a bike ride. He enjoyed exercise, the open road, needing to decompress after a tough week. Are you all telling me he didn't deserve three feet of space! Please when you drive, care. Smile learn to enjoy life instead of ranting about your fellow man. And say a prayer because this type of mentality took a life!

Willow Bailey
20605
Points
Willow Bailey 05/24/11 - 07:58 am
0
0
pautori, yes, we all know

pautori, yes, we all know that Dr. Matthew Burke died in a senseless tragedy that could have easily been avoided. And, yes, he deserved all of the above and much more. And, yes, that "mentality" took a life.

I think what many of us are trying to say is that "mentality is a reality". Therefore, laws are wonderful, but the ultimate responsibility must always be within ourselves to keep safe, because we are the only ones that we have any control over. This is what I teach my children.

MJ-12
0
Points
MJ-12 05/24/11 - 12:09 pm
0
0
College guy, I recently moved

College guy,

I recently moved from the Beech Island area (after living there for almost 12 years), and one of the contributing factors were the bicycle riders. Like any other group of people with a common interest, most are respectful, and law abiding. But on many occasions, I and others like me, have been stuck behind bicyclists who are riding 4 an 5 abreast and will not move to single file so that auto traffic can SAFELY pass them. How would you like to be going to work and stuck behind someone traveling less than 10 mph that will not let you pass safely?!?!

If you were in a car, that would be "impeding traffic flow" and you could be ticketed for it by the local police.

If you really want your equal rights on the road with a bicycle, let's start legislation for it and REQUIRE full coverage insurance, license plates, and all required safety equipment; and let's not forget a state endorsed bicycle operator's safety course. I know this all sounds moronic, and it is; but so is riding a vehicle that will only go (on average) 10 mph and putting yourself in 35-45 mph traffic. It is not that I don't like bicycles, I do. When I moved here from Florida, I owned two cars, but rode my Raliegh almost 90% of the time. When I got to Georgia / South Carolina..I told myself NO-WAY !

I surely agree that the bicycle riders have the right and should have the freedom to also use the roads that all of our taxpayer dollars pay for. But, I think all of this garbage from both side is way out of hand. The bicycle side wants to "crucify" the auto driver, and some of those commenting from the driver's side, seem to think bicycling is a "child's thing" and shouldn't be tolerated. BOTH SIDES should get over it BOTH sides are wrong. BOTH sides show fault, and BOTH sides suffer.

wribbs
521
Points
wribbs 05/24/11 - 12:23 pm
0
0
The same laws that apply to

The same laws that apply to cars already apply to bikes. Unless the person riding the bike is 12 years old, they probably own a car and pay taxes. Most of the time the drivers that pass me to close do so because waiting an extra ten seconds would be too inconvenient for them OR they could care less if they hit me and just say the heck with him and pass whenever.

I hardly see how bikes can impede traffic to the point of making someone late for work. If it takes you five minutes to get around someone on a bike, which it never would, maybe you are cutting it too close in your commute and should start leaving the house a little earlier.

And by the way, this law will have absolutely no affect on a cyclist's safety.

JesusSavesAtCitiBank
2
Points
JesusSavesAtCitiBank 05/24/11 - 12:45 pm
0
0
Actually I see MJ's point.

Actually I see MJ's point. Also he(or she?) brings up a good thought:

"But on many occasions, I and others like me, have been stuck behind bicyclists who are riding 4 an 5 abreast and will not move to single file so that auto traffic can SAFELY pass them. How would you like to be going to work and stuck behind someone traveling less than 10 mph that will not let you pass safely?!?!

If you were in a car, that would be "impeding traffic flow" and you could be ticketed for it by the local police. "

If you or I went that slow in car we would be ticketed for it. So why do cyclists get to do essentially the same thing and it's not considered breaking the law???

trimmy
29
Points
trimmy 05/24/11 - 05:37 pm
0
0
All vehicles that use public
Unpublished

All vehicles that use public roads should be registered. Period.

Med College guy 64
0
Points
Med College guy 64 05/26/11 - 07:03 am
0
0
Ok, I commute with my bike.

Ok, I commute with my bike. Any talk of "go to the gym, it's the laws of physics"...."you're making me late for work, blah blah blah" is boloney. I don't bike just to stay fit- I bike because that's how I get to work, it's better for the air that we all breathe, and because it gives me exercise I don't get at work. I have a legal right to bike as much as you do to drive (and I drive to get around town as well). I have yet to encounter one of these 5 abreast groups you speak of myself, but I will tell you why people in a big group will do that on a two-lane road- they have all had bozos that have come two inches away from hitting them and if the lane is too narrow to permit a car and a bike it is legally permissable to take over the lane.

Once again, which is more important- five minutes of your time or my life? If you don't like how the roads are set up, petition your government to add more bike lanes.

Those of us that ride bikes aren't going away. As the price of gas continues to rise and the air quality continues to degrade, there are more and more people that are choosing to bike. All over the world people bike to work everyday. Try getting out a little.

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