We all welcome a beautiful, sunny day, and one of the best ways to enjoy it is to hop on a bike and feel the breeze against your face. Whether riding to reach a destination, as a form of exercise, or just for recreation, there's a feeling of joy and nostalgia that goes along with riding a bicycle.
May is National Bike Month, so for all the cyclists gearing up for summer, it's a good time to review some bike safety tips and the laws in your state.
Bicycle Laws in Georgia
Many people ride their bike without even thinking about the state's cycling laws. Did you know that in Georgia bicycles are legally classified as vehicles? This means that general vehicular traffic laws, like traffic lights and road signs, apply to the operation of a bicycle, and that failure to follow these rules of the road may result in punishment. It's important to note, however, that even though they're considered vehicles, bicycles in Georgia are typically prohibited from using controlled-access roadways such as interstate highways.
Below is a simplified reference to some of the biking laws in Georgia. Click here if you would like to read all of the laws, as well as more detail about each one listed below.
Safe Passing – When passing a cyclist, motor vehicles are supposed to leave a 3-foot distance between their car and the biker. This applies if the cyclist is traveling in the same direction as traffic, and if it is feasible to do so. (GA Code Section 40-6-56)
Helmets – Anyone under the age of 16 must wear a helmet. (40-6-296(e))
Lights – Anyone riding a bike after sunset must have a front light and a rear reflector. According to the Georgia DOT, about 46% of fatal bicycle crashes occur during non-daylight hours. (40-6-296)
Passengers on a Bike –There may not be more persons on the bike than what the bike is designed to carry. (40-6-292)
Bike Lanes - When available, bicyclists must use designated bike lanes. If not available, cyclists must ride as close to the right side of the road as possible, except when turning left, avoiding hazards, traveling the same speed as traffic, if a lane is too narrow, or when passing a standing vehicle or one traveling the same direction (40-6-294)
Sidewalks – Only children 12 years old and younger are allowed to ride on sidewalks.
Biking Under the Influence – Again, you are in control of a vehicle, and therefore, you may not bike while under the influence of alcohol or other controlled substances. (40-6-391)
Safety Tips for Bicyclists
Every time you ride a bike you should first look it over and make sure it's safe to ride. Below is an ABC Quick Check list provided by The League of American Bicyclists. It's an easy way for you to remember what to check before beginning your ride:
ABC Quick Check List:
A – Check Air in the tires
B – Ensure Brakes are working properly
C – Check Cranks and Chain
Quick - Make sure quick release levers are closed
Check - Check everything over
Remember also to:
- Wear a helmet
- Wear the proper clothing for the type of weather
- Have identification with you (like an ID bracelet or necklace)
- Make sure people can see you clearly
- Don't swerve while riding
- Be aware of your surroundings – anticipate what cars will do and watch for debris and holes in the road, rough pavement, etc.
Click here to review a more in-depth safety tip sheet.
Please get out there and enjoy biking during the summer months. It's a fun, easy form of exercise. But please use safety and caution, especially when biking around motorized vehicles.
Be sure to read my next article, where I'll talk about what to do if you're involved in a bicycle related accident.