It was a bittersweet holiday weekend for bicycle riders in Georgia.
On Friday, July 1, a new state law went into effect, requiring car and truck drivers to keep at least 3 feet of distance from bicycles when passing them on the road. Biking clubs across the state are holding group rides over the Fourth of July weekend to raise awareness among motorists.
But on Monday, July 4, in Sandy Springs, a man was riding his bike along with another bicyclist on Roswell Road near Hightower Trail when he was hit from behind.
This sad coincidence caught my attention for several reasons:
- My daughter and her boyfriend are training this summer on roads around Rochester, NY, for the Syracuse Triathlon in September, so bike safety is a subject near and dear to my heart. (I just bought her a new bike computer this weekend.)
- When I recently tried a case in LaGrange, a member of the jury pool was president of the local bike club. She and her husband had been struck by the protruding mirror of a truck while on a group bike ride, very seriously injuring him.
- Bike clubs frequently take a route for group rides that comes right by our subdivision, so I encounter them at least 2 or 3 times a week.
- Every morning upon arrival at my office building I see bicyle commuters arriving, and going into the gym to shower and change. They all ride from neighborhoods east of my Midtown office, where streets are more bicycle friendly. Thinking that could be a good fitness routine, and maybe even respond to my daughter’s challenge to train for a geezer triathlon someday, I have studied the routes that one could take on a bicyclefrom Sandy Springs to Midtown. Sadly, since crossings of Peachtree Creek are very limited, and there are no bicycle lanes on Peachtree Road, it appears there is no safe and practical bicycle route. The new state law would provide cold comfort to my family if a commuter on a cell phone did not see me even with a flashing strobe light on my back. (If someone has found a safe bicycle commuting route from Sandy Springs to Midtown, please tell me!)
There is a body of research on conspicuity (visibility) in bike accidents, dealing probably more with motorcycles than bicycles but applicable to both. Frequently, motorists can look right at a bike and not see it, while bike riders tend to assume that if they can see a car the driver can see them. That can be a fatal mistake.
I hope that bicycle clubs and the Path Foundation can someday succeed in securing safe bike lanes and off-road bicycle trails to make Atlanta more amenable to bicycle commuters, but we don’t have that yet. A right of way statute is no substitute for nonexistent bicycle lanes and trails.