Cycling in the United States is growing in popularity – not just as a form of recreation and exercise, but also as a way to get to work and as a means to get around town. Unfortunately, more bikes on the road increases the chances of more accidents and more injuries. Many motorists don’t understand the law pertaining to bicycles, and therefore think that cyclists are always at fault in an accident. Thankfully, this is not the case. If you’ve been in an accident with a motor vehicle, the driver may have negligently failed to obey the law, and therefore be liable for your injuries.
Bicycles Have a Right to Use the Road
Under Georgia law, a bicycle is considered a “vehicle,” and is therefore subject to many of the laws concerning motor vehicles. With an exception by local ordinance for children 12 or younger, Georgia law actually prohibits you from riding on the sidewalk. As a result, you have a right to ride your bike on the road, despite what that angry motorist may have told you.
You May Use the Shoulder…But Are Not Required To
Bicycles are exempted from prohibitions against riding on the shoulder but are also allowed to ride on the roadway itself. That said, Georgia law requires that cyclists ride “as near to the right side of the roadway as practicable” with the following exceptions:
- When turning left;
- When avoiding “hazards to safe cycling,” which specifically includes “surface debris, rough pavement, drain grates…parked or stopped vehicles, potentially opening car doors or any other objects which threaten the safety” of the cyclist;
- When the lane is too narrow to safely share with a motor vehicle;
- When traveling at the same speed as traffic; or
- When passing a stopped vehicle or one proceeding in the same direction.
Taking the Lane
One of the more controversial subjects is whether cyclists can “take the lane,” meaning that he or she rides in the middle of the travel lane. As noted above, cyclists are permitted by Georgia law to ride in the middle of the travel lane if keeping to the right is unsafe. This applies even if you are riding more slowly than the flow of traffic.
The Georgia “Three Foot” Law
Georgia law requires that motorists leave a “safe distance” when passing cyclists, which is defined to be at least three feet.
What About Bike Lanes and Bike Paths?
If you are using a designated bike lane, Georgia law requires that motorists yield to cyclists. Bike paths that are separate from but adjacent to the roadway are a little more complicated. Georgia law (see subsection (d)) specifies that cyclists may be required to use them instead of the road when designated by local authorities. As a result, pay careful attention to signage that may be directing you off the road and onto a bike path.
Contact a Georgia Bicycle Accident Attorney Today
If you’re a cyclist and have been injured in an accident as a result of someone’s negligence, you should contact an attorney right away. The lawyers at Slappey & Sadd have been helping cyclists in the Atlanta area and across Georgia since 1992. We can help you get the compensation you may be entitled to. If you’d like a free consultation, just call us at 404-255-6677 or send us an email via our online contact form.