By Diane Loupe
Decatur Avondale Estates Patch
April 17, 2011
Decatur cyclists are ecstatic that the Georgia Legislature Thursday passed a law requiring motorists to leave at least three feet when passing cyclists, legalizes the use of recumbent bicycles, further defines bike lanes and updated bike equipment requirements.
Decatur Mayor Bill Floyd, Decatur Commissioner Fred Boykin, other city officials and thousands of cyclists rode to the Georgia Capitol in March to lobby for the law, House Bill 101, which must be signed by the governor to go into effect.
Henry Slack of the Bike Decatur group sent an email around urging fellow cyclists to write to the governor, using a link provided by the League of American Bicyclists.
Kenneth Rosskopf of Decatur said “bicycles are road users, but they’re more exposed.” Rosskopf, an attorney, often represents bicyclists who have been injured when a motorist strikes them with a side mirror.
“This law, if it is signed, gives cyclists a little more teeth to get compensation for their injuries,” said Rosskopf, who hopes provisions of the new law will be included in motorist’s handbooks.
Brent Buice, executive director of Georgia Bikes, a cycling advocacy group, says the new law requiring motorists to yield at least three feet to cyclists when passing them “is tremendous news” for the state’s cyclists.
“Three feet is important for educational purposes, for law enforcement to define what a safe passing distance is,” explained Buice. “Previously, it wasn’t defined. “A yardstick is easily referenced.”
The new law also means that if a motorist hits a cyclist, the motorist may be charged with a misdemeanor, instead of a fine, Buice said.
The law reiterates that bicyclists are obligated to obey all traffic laws relating to vehicles, but specifies some things for bicyclists. The law makes it legal for a bicycle to travel on a paved shoulder, while not requiring a cyclist to ride on a shoulder. Cyclists can signal a right turn “with his or her right arm and hand extended horizontally or with his or her left hand and arm extended upward.”