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Bike Commuters See Increased Risk of Being Struck and Injured on GA Roads

The number of bicycle miles traveled every year by riders who are older than 450  has increased from 1.9 trillion miles in 2001 to 3.6 trillion miles in 2009. In 1997, 26 percent of medical costs were due to riders 45 and older; by 2013, that had grown to 54 percent. Men continued to comprise the bulk of the injured, with 77 percent of costs in 2013 due to male riders.

What’s behind this increase and what does it tell us about how the circumstances surrounding bicycle rider injuries are changing. Well, as bicycle commuting to work rises in Georgia, so do the number of riders who are hit and injured on the roads of Atlanta and the surrounding areas. Year ago, it was not unusual to watch a movie and see scenes from urban areas in China and other parts of Asia and be struck by the number of people who were riding bikes, not for recreation and enjoyment, but rather to commute to and from work or to get around while working. Now, bikes have certainly become mainstream in Atlanta and it is not unusual to see someone commuting to and from work or making deliveries on their bike instead of their car. Many roads in Atlanta have been repainted or re-paved to add bike lanes and commuters have taken advantage of this increased access to the roads and have decided to ride their bikes instead of drive their cars. This results in better health, increased community awareness and cost savings in the form of less gas usage, decreased car maintenance and repair costs, and in some cases when an automobile is completely replaced by a bicycle, elimination of car insurance payments.

However, as is the case with most things in life, with the good comes the bad. And the bad in this case is that Atlanta bicycle riders are being hit and injured by Georgia drivers at an alarming rate. The medical costs associated with adult car on bike crashes was almost $25 billion in 2013 and, with increased bicycle usage by adult commuters, continuing to rise.

According the Georgia Governor’s Office on Highway Safety, The Following Subsections Of The Georgia Traffic Law (Or Rules of the Road) Deal With Bicycle Operation:

OCGA § 40-6-290.

The provisions of this part applicable to bicycles shall apply whenever a bicycle is operated upon a highway or upon any path set aside for the exclusive use of bicycles, subject to those exceptions stated in this part.

OCGA § 40-6-291.

The provisions of this chapter that apply to vehicles, but not exclusively to motor vehicles, shall apply to bicycles, except that the penalties prescribed in subsection (b) of Code Section 40-6-390,subsection (c) of Code Section 40-6-391, and subsection (a) of Code Section 40-6-393 shall not apply to persons riding bicycles.

OCGA § 40-6-292.

(a) A person propelling a bicycle shall not ride other than upon or astride a permanent and regular seat attached thereto and shall allow no person to ride upon the handlebars.
(b) No bicycle shall be used to carry more persons at one time than the number for which it is designed and equipped.
(c) No person shall transport a child under the age of one year as a passenger on a bicycle on a highway, roadway, bicycle path, bicycle lane, or sidewalk; provided, however, that a child under the age of one year may be transported on a bicycle trailer or in an infant sling so long as such child is seated in the bicycle trailer or carried in an infant sling according to the bicycle trailer’s or infant sling’s manufacturer’s instructions, and the bicycle trailer is properly affixed to the bicycle according to the bicycle trailer’s manufacturer’s instructions or the infant sling is properly worn by the rider of the bicycle according to the infant sling’s manufacturer’s instructions.

OCGA § 40-6-294.

(a) Every person operating a bicycle upon a roadway shall ride as near to the right side of the roadway as practicable, except when turning left or avoiding hazards to safe cycling, when the lane is too narrow to share safely with a motor vehicle, when traveling at the same speed as traffic, or while exercising due care when passing a standing vehicle or one proceeding in the same direction; 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.
(e) Electric assisted bicycles as defined in Code Section 40-1-1 may be operated on bicycle paths.

OCGA § 40-6-295.

No person operating a bicycle shall carry any package, bundle, or other article which prevents him from keeping at least one hand upon the handlebars.

OCGA § 40-6-296.

(a) Every bicycle when in use at nighttime shall be equipped with a light on the front which shall emit a white light visible from a distance of 300 feet to the front and with a light on the back which shall emit a red light visible from a distance of 300 feet to the rear. Any bicycle equipped with a red reflector on the rear that is approved by the Department of Public Safety shall not be required to have a light on the rear of the bicycle.
(b) Every bicycle sold or operated shall be equipped with a brake which will enable the operator to make the braked wheels skid on dry, level pavement.
(c) No bicycle shall be equipped or operated while equipped with a set of handlebars so raised that the operator must elevate his or her hands above his the operator’s shoulders in order to grasp the normal steering grip area.
(e)(1) No person under the age of 16 years shall operate or be a passenger on a bicycle on a highway, bicycle path, bicycle lane, or sidewalk under the jurisdiction or control of this state or any local political subdivision thereof without wearing a bicycle helmet.
(2) For the purposes of this subsection, the term ‘bicycle helmet’ means a piece of protective headgear which meets or exceeds the impact standards for bicycle helmets set by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) or the Snell Memorial Foundation.
(3) For the purposes of this subsection, a person shall be deemed to wear a bicycle helmet only if a bicycle helmet of good fit is fastened securely upon the such person’s head with the straps of the such bicycle helmet.
(4) No bicycle without an accompanying protective bicycle helmet shall be rented or leased to or for the use of any person under the age of 16 years unless that person is in possession of a bicycle helmet at the time of the rental or lease.
(5) Violation of any provision of this subsection shall not constitute negligence per se nor contributory negligence per se or be considered evidence of negligence or liability.
(6) No person under the age of 16 failing to comply with any provision of this subsection may shall be fined or imprisoned.

OCGA § 40-6-298.

(a) It is a misdemeanor for any person to do any act forbidden or fail to perform any act required in this part.
(b) The parent of any child and the guardian of any ward shall not authorize or knowingly permit such child or ward to violate any of the provisions of this part.

OCGA § 40-6-299.

The Board of Public Safety is authorized to promulgate rules and regulations to carry this part into effect and is authorized to establish regulations for any additional safety equipment or standards it shall require for bicycles.

The most interesting take away from this list compiled by the State of Georgia is the emphasis on what bicyclists must do to comply with the law, rather than what motorists must do to comply with the law and ensure that they do not negligently put bicyclists at risk of serious injury or even death. However, it should be noted that in addition to many Rules of the Road in the Georgia Code that apply to motorists, every motorist is charged with driving in a reasonably safe manner and failing to do this attaches liability to the at-fault driver when a bicyclist is injured by a car on Georgia roads.

Attorney Robert J. Fleming has been handling wrongful death cases, automobile accident cases, personal injury cases, bicycle accidents and medical malpractice lawsuits for individuals and families who have been harmed, injured or died as a result of the carelessness or negligence of another for more than 20 years in and around Atlanta, Georgia and its surrounding areas, including Alpharetta, Austell, Avondale Estates, Chamblee, College Park, Conyers, Duluth, Decatur, Doraville, Hapeville, Johns Creek, Jonesboro, Lawrenceville, Norcross, Peachtree City, Riverdale, Roswell, Sandy Springs, Stone Mountain, and Smyrna. If you have been seriously injured and would like quality legal representation, contact Robert J. Fleming directly on (404) 525-5150 or contact us online.