Protecting the rights of bicyclists in Athens-Clarke County, Georgia

Athens-Clarke County, Georgia is a great place to ride bikes. In fact, Athens was one of only nine Georgia communities to receive a Bronze Award from The League of American Bicyclists for being a bicycle friendly community: Community Awards

Unfortunately, however, the Report Card issued with the Award indicates that Athens ranks rather poorly in safety, scoring only 2 out of 10 in promoting safety and protecting bicyclists’ rights. One of the key outcomes used by LAB to measure safety noted over 330 crashes per 10,000 bicycle commuters in the Athens community. This statistic can be improved by holding inattentive drivers responsible and enforcing safe biking laws.

Bikes Have Rights!

Bicycles often have the right of way when lawfully operating on Georgia roadways. (See OCGA § 40-6-294) And, yes, that means that vehicles must often yield to bikes. Too often, however, drivers of automobiles fail to abide by the law, and assume bikes must always yield. When they do and injuries result, the drivers can be held accountable.

When the operator of a motor vehicle in Georgia commits a right of way violation which results in a collision with a bicyclist that causes serious bodily injury, the driver is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable under the law. And, the punishment escalates dramatically for a second or third offense. (See OCGA § 40-6-77)

A negligent driver can also be held liable in civil court for all economic and non-economic injuries and damages suffered by the cyclist as a result of the car driver’s negligence. Therefore, if you have been injured while riding a bicycle you should consult an experienced bicycle injury attorney to determine if you have the right to recover from the at-fault driver or his insurance carrier for all of your pain, suffering, medical expenses, lost wages and other losses you have suffered.

Who has the Right of Way?

Many bicycle accidents occur when a vehicle turns into the path of an oncoming bike. For example, a car passes a bicycle and then almost immediately turns right, directly into the bike’s path. Determining who is at fault for such a collision requires an analysis of the accident scene, the traffic patterns and the laws governing the right of way for that particular situation. If you have been injured in such an accident, you may have a right to recover. Please contact one of our attorneys by phone or online to discuss your potential case.

Share the Road!

Many bicycle accidents occur when automobile drivers get frustrated and pass a bicycle in an unsafe or reckless manner. When they do, they are breaking Georgia law. A vehicle driver who decides to pass a bicycle which is lawfully operating on a Georgia roadway must do so at a “safe distance.” What does that mean? In Georgia it means not less than three (3) feet away from the bike. And, the driver must maintain that distance until they have safely passed the overtaken bicycle. (See OCGA § 40-6-56) When automobiles fail to pass at a safe distance, accidents can happen. If this has happened to you and you suffered injuries as a result, you may have a legal right to recover. Please call one of our attorneys to discuss your bicycle injury case.

Laws for Safe Cycling

In order to ride safely, it is important for bicycle operators to know the law. This means learning what you can and cannot lawfully do on your bike as you travel Georgia’s roadways. For example, any person operating a bicycle in a bicycle lane shall ride in the same direction as traffic on the roadway. (See OCGA § 40-6-294(f)) And, it is against the law in Georgia to allow a person to ride upon the handlebars. (See OCGA § 40-6-292(a))

There are many online resources available where you can educate yourself about these and other bike safety laws. The bicycle right-of-way laws in Georgia are generally set forth in OCGA § 40-6-294. In addition, the Georgia Governor’s Office on Highway Safety has some great resources which can be found at Bicycle Safety in Georgia. It is important to educate yourself before you ride so you can stay safe.

Make the Roads Safe

Even the community where you live may have an obligation to make biking safer by keeping the roads safe. Since bikes are required to ride near the right side of the roadway where most sewer grates are located, the legislature passed a law which requires each county and municipal corporation to install all newly located grates on public roadways so as to accommodate bicycle traffic. This law is designed to prevent the addition of sewer grates with parallel bars where a bike tire might easily slide through, causing a crash. (See OCGA § 36-60-5) If this has happened to you, we might be able to help.

Bicycle accidents often cause serious injuries

The weight of an average car or light truck in the United States exceeds 4,000 pounds. Consequently, motor vehicle versus bicycle accidents often result in serious injuries to the bike rider. And along with the physical injuries come medical expenses, lost wages and other life-altering consequences. Often your only source of financial recovery is to bring a negligence claim against the at-fault driver or their insurance company. Doing so effectively requires the assistance of experienced legal counsel.

If you or someone you know has been struck by a vehicle while riding a bicycle and suffered injuries as a result, please give us a call or contact us online for a free evaluation of your potential bicycle injury case.