Atlanta Bicyclists & Motor Vehicle Laws

Its that time of the year again when more and more people are riding bicycles for health reasons and also due to ecological and economical reasons. Regardless of the reasons bicycles must share the road with cars and trucks.

There are 2 views about bicyclist usage of the roadway.  There are those who understand that the bicyclist has the right to be on the roadway, and there are others who resent the bicyclist and think they are in the way and slowing them down.  There are also different opinions between those using a bicycle for necessary transportation and those using the bicycle with a group of people for exercise.

Unfortunately, when a bicyclist is hit by a car, there are usually significant injuries involved, if not fatalities.  There was an article in the Atlanta Journal Constitution back in Oct. 2010 about a crash involving an SUV and a group of cyclists near Augusta.  This crash led to the opinions of people who use the road for exercise and others who use their bikes as a means of transportation.  Some people liken those who ride their bicycles for exercise to a “motorcycle gang.”

In the above accident, Daniel Johnson, 41, was driving his SUV when he ran into a group of recreational cyclists.  This accident injured 5 of the bicyclist, and sent one of them to the hospital with a brain injury, (Dr. Matthew Burke).  Dr. Burke, the cyclist with the most severe injury had survived a tour of duty in Iraq in 2009 and was an orthopedic surgeon.  He was tossed 40 feet ahead after being struck by the SUV, Dr. Burke was pronounced dead on February 6, 2011, after 128 days in a coma under life support.  Mr. Scott Moore was among the injured cyclists in this incident, and he stated that the group was riding 2 abreast at the roads edge, on a straight section of the two lane road when the accident occurred.  The driver of the vehicle pled guilty to felony manslaughter on October 12, 2011.

Due to the many accidents between motor vehicles and bicycles, on May 11, 2011, Governor Deal signed the 3-foot safe passing bill into law, also known as HB101, “The Better Bicycling Bill.”

HB101 makes lawful the sale and use of clipless pedals and recumbent-style bicycles, which are technically illegal under the old code.  Other changes include recognition of bicycles right-of-way in dedicated bike lanes, establishing minimum design guidelines for bicycle lanes and clarifying circumstances under which a cyclist may take the full travel lane due to unsafe conditions or obstructions.

Most significantly, however, a Senate amendment of the bill defines three feet as the minimum safe passing distance for motor vehicles overtaking cyclists.  With the adoption of this law, Georgia joins a growing number of states with safe passing distance laws.  Motor vehicles passing a cyclist too closely, known as “buzzing,” are a serious factor in causing bicycle crashes.

Bicycle accidents usually happen when a vehicle fails to yield the right of way to a bicyclist at an intersection, or sideswiping the bicyclist.  Often vehicles with turn directly in front of cyclist while pulling into or out of private driveways or parking lots. Sometimes these accidents are caused because the driver of the vehicle is looking for another vehicle and not a bicycle, pedestrian or even a motorcycle- so they don’t “see” them.  There are also the “usual” reasons for automobile accidents, such as the driver running a red light or stop sign, or driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, as well as inattention.

Many bicycle accidents are solo accidents involving a defect or some other hazard on the road or trail, or a defect in the manufacture of the bicycle, itself.  Because legal and accident forensics issues can be complex if you are involved in a bicycle accident and suffered more than very minor injuries, you should contact a competent attorney.

If you are injured in an accident between a bicycle and a motor vehicle, you should always wait for the police to respond to the scene, they can begin the preliminary investigation of the accident scene, which will help if a reconstructionist is needed at a later time.  You also need to obtain all contact information about the other driver and their insurance information, as well as the contact information for all witnesses.  Always seek medical attention to document your personal injuries.

Do you know the rules of the road?  Do you know what your case is worth?  Please contact the Angell Law Firm at (770) 217-4954 before making any statements or making any decisions.  We will be happy to assist you with a FREE consultation