STATE LAWS OF INTEREST TO BICYCLISTS
Legal Status of Bicycles
In Georgia, as in most states, a bicycle is legally a “vehicle.” This classification means that general vehicular traffic law applies to the operation of a bicycle. However, the vehicular code and various regulations include many qualifications for specific classes of vehicles. Wherever the code or regulation uses the phrase “vehicle,” that section applies to all vehicles, including bicycles. When the term “motor vehicle” is used, the code does not apply to bicycles.
§ 40-1-1. (6) “Bicycle” means every device propelled by human power upon which any person may ride, having only two wheels which are in tandem and either of which is more than 13 inches in diameter.
(6.1) “Bicycle lane” means a portion of the roadway that has been designated by striping, pavement markings, or signage for the exclusive or preferential use of persons operating bicycles. Bicycle lanes shall at a minimum, unless impracticable, be required to meet accepted guidelines, recommendations, and criteria with respect to planning, design, operation, and maintenance as set forth by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.
(6.2) “Bicycle path” means a right of way under the jurisdiction and control of this state or a local political subdivision thereof designated for use by bicycle riders.
(6.3) “Bicycle trailer” means every device pulled by a bicycle and designed by the manufacturer of such device to carry human passengers.
(14) “Driver” means every person who drives or is in actual physical control of a vehicle.
(15.5) “Electric assisted bicycle” means a device with two or three wheels which has a saddle and fully operative pedals for human propulsion and also has an electric motor. For such a device to be considered an electric assisted bicycle, it shall meet the requirements of the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards, as set forth in 49 C.F.R. Section 571, et seq., and shall operate in such a manner that the electric motor disengages or ceases to function when the brakes are applied. The electric motor in an electric assisted bicycle shall:
(A) Have a power output of not more than 1,000 watts;
(B) Be incapable of propelling the device at a speed of more than 20 miles per hour on level ground; and
(C) Be incapable of further increasing the speed of the device when human power alone is used to propel the device at or more than 20 miles per hour.
(75) “Vehicle” means every device in, upon, or by which any person or property is or may be transported or drawn upon a highway, excepting devices used exclusively upon stationary rails or tracks.
§ 40-6-55 Notwithstanding other provisions of this chapter relating to operating a vehicle on a roadway, where a bicycle lane is provided on the roadway, the operator of a motor vehicle shall yield to a person operating a bicycle in a bicycle lane.
Three Foot Passing Law
(a) As used in this Code section, the term ‘safe distance’ means not less than three feet.
(b) Notwithstanding any provision of this article to the contrary, when feasible, the operator of a motor vehicle, when overtaking and passing a bicycle that is proceeding in the same direction on the roadway, shall leave a safe distance between such vehicle and the bicycle and shall maintain such clearance until safely past the overtaken bicycle.
Riding on Sidewalks
§ 40-6-144 Except as provided by resolution or ordinance of a local government for sidewalks within the jurisdiction of such local government authorizing the operation of bicycles on sidewalks by persons 12 years of age or younger, no person shall drive any vehicle upon a sidewalk or sidewalk area except upon a permanent or duly authorized driveway.
§ 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.
§ 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.
Riding on Shoulders
§ 40-6-291 (b) Notwithstanding the provisions of Code Section 40-6-50, any person operating a bicycle may ride upon a paved shoulder; provided, however, that such person shall not be required to ride upon a paved shoulder. (c) Any person operating a bicycle may 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.
§ 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.
§ 40-6-293. No person riding upon any bicycle, coaster, roller skates, sled, or toy vehicle shall attach the same or himself to any vehicle upon a roadway.
Position of Bicycles in Traffic Lanes
§ 40-6-294. (a) As used in this Code section, the term ‘hazards to safe cycling’ includes, but shall not be limited to, surface debris, rough pavement, drain grates which are parallel to the side of the roadway, parked or stopped vehicles, potentially opening car doors, or any other objects which threaten the safety of a person operating a bicycle.
(b) Every person operating a bicycle upon a roadway shall ride as near to the right side of the roadway as practicable, except when:
(1) Turning left;
(2) Avoiding hazards to safe cycling;
(3) The lane is too narrow to share safely with a motor vehicle;
(4) Traveling at the same speed as traffic;
(5) Exercising due care when passing a standing vehicle or one proceeding in the same direction; or
(6) There is a right turn only lane and the person operating the bicycle is not turning right; 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.
(f) Any person operating a bicycle in a bicycle lane shall ride in the same direction as traffic on the roadway.
(g) Electric assisted bicycles may be operated on bicycle paths.
§ 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.
§ 40-6-296. Lights and other equipment on bicycles
(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 the operator’s shoulders in order to grasp the normal steering grip area.
(d) (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 such person’s head with the straps of 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 shall be fined or imprisoned.
§ 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.
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.
Restrictions on use of controlled-access roadways*
(a) The Department of Transportation by order and local authorities by ordinance may regulate or prohibit the use of any controlled-access roadway within their respective jurisdictions by any class or kind of traffic which is found to be incompatible with the normal and safe movement of traffic. (b) The Department of Transportation or the local authority adopting any such prohibition shall erect and maintain official traffic-control devices on the controlled-access highway on which such prohibitions are applicable, and when such devices are in place no person shall disobey the restrictions stated thereon. (c) For purposes of this Code section, roadways within the jurisdiction of the Department of Transportation and roadways within the jurisdiction of local authorities shall be as set forth in Code Section 32-4-1.
* In Georgia, bicycles are typically prohibited from using controlled-access roadways such as interstate highways.
Additional Laws Relevant to Cyclists
§ 40-6-397. Aggressive driving (a) A person commits the offense of aggressive driving when he or she operates any motor vehicle with the intent to annoy, harass, molest, intimidate, injure, or obstruct another person, including without limitation violating Code Section 40-6-42, 40-6-48, 40-6-49, 40-6-123, 40-6-184, 40-6-312, or 40-6-390 with such intent. (b) Any person convicted of aggressive driving shall be guilty of a misdemeanor of a high and aggravated nature.
‘§ 40-6-390. Reckless driving (a) Any person who drives any vehicle in reckless disregard for the safety of persons or property commits the offense of reckless driving. (b) Every person convicted of reckless driving shall be guilty of a misdemeanor
§ 16-11-37. Terroristic threats and acts (a) A person commits the offense of a terroristic threat when he or she threatens to commit any crime of violence, to release any hazardous substance, as such term is defined in Code Section 12-8-92, or to burn or damage property with the purpose of terrorizing another or of causing the evacuation of a building, place of assembly, or facility of public transportation or otherwise causing serious public inconvenience or in reckless disregard of the risk of causing such terror or inconvenience. No person shall be convicted under this subsection on the uncorroborated testimony of the party to whom the threat is communicated. (b) A person commits the offense of a terroristic act when: (1) He or she uses a burning or flaming cross or other burning or flaming symbol or flambeau with the intent to terrorize another or another’s household; (2) While not in the commission of a lawful act, he or she shoots at or throws an object at a conveyance which is being operated or which is occupied by passengers; or (3) He or she releases any hazardous substance or any simulated hazardous substance under the guise of a hazardous substance for the purpose of terrorizing another or of causing the evacuation of a building, place of assembly, or facility of public transportation or otherwise causing serious public inconvenience or in reckless disregard of the risk of causing such terror or inconvenience. (c) A person convicted of the offense of a terroristic threat shall be punished by a fine of not more than $1,000.00 or by imprisonment for not less than one nor more than five years, or both. A person convicted of the offense of a terroristic act shall be punished by a fine of not more than $5,000.00 or by imprisonment for not less than one nor more than ten years, or both; provided, however, that if any person suffers a serious physical injury as a direct result of an act giving rise to a conviction under this Code section, the person so convicted shall be punished by a fine of not more than $250,000.00 or imprisonment for not less than five nor more than 40 years, or both.
§ 16-11-43. Obstructing highways, streets, sidewalks, or other public passages A person who, without authority of law, purposely or recklessly obstructs any highway, street, sidewalk, or other public passage in such a way as to render it impassable without unreasonable inconvenience or hazard and fails or refuses to remove the obstruction after receiving a reasonable official request or the order of a peace officer that he do so, is guilty of a misdemeanor.
§ 40-6-77. Penalties for causing serious injury due to right of way violation resulting in collision with motorcyclist, pedestrian, bicyclist, or farmer transporting vehicles hauling agricultural products, livestock, farm machinery, or farm products (a) For purposes of this Code section, “serious injury” shall include, but shall not be limited to, causing bodily harm to another by depriving him or her of a member of his or her body, by rendering a member of his or her body useless, by seriously disfiguring his or her head or body or a member thereof, or by causing organic brain damage which renders the body or any member thereof useless. (b) Any person who causes a serious injury to another person as a result of a collision with a motorcyclist, bicyclist, pedestrian, or farmer operating any vehicle used to transport agricultural products, livestock, farm machinery, or farm supplies by committing any right of way violation under this chapter when such motorcyclist, bicyclist, pedestrian, or farmer operating any vehicle used to transport agricultural products, livestock, farm machinery, or farm supplies is abiding by the provisions of this title shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and shall be punished: (1) For a first offense, by a fine of not less than $250.00 in addition to any other penalties stipulated by law and the court shall report such conviction to the Department of Driver Services; and ( 2) For a second or subsequent offense within a five-year period of time, as measured from the dates of previous arrests for which convictions were obtained or pleas of nolo contendere were accepted to the date of the current arrest for which a conviction is obtained or a plea of nolo contendere is accepted, by a fine of not less than $500.00 nor more than $1,000.00 and imprisonment for not less than ten days nor more than 12 months. Any fine imposed under this paragraph shall be mandatory and shall not be suspended or waived or conditioned upon the completion of any course or sentence. The court imposing punishment under this subsection shall forward a record of the disposition of the case to the Department of Driver Services.
§ 40-6-270. Hit and run; duty of driver to stop at or return to scene of accident (a) The driver of any vehicle involved in an accident resulting in injury to or the death of any person or in damage to a vehicle which is driven or attended by any person shall immediately stop such vehicle at the scene of the accident or shall stop as close thereto as possible and forthwith return to the scene of the accident and shall: (1) Give his or her name and address and the registration number of the vehicle he or she is driving; (2) Upon request and if it is available, exhibit his or her operator’s license to the person struck or the driver or occupant of or person attending any vehicle collided with; (3) Render to any person injured in such accident reasonable assistance, including the transporting, or the making of arrangements for the transporting, of such person to a physician, surgeon, or hospital for medical or surgical treatment if it is apparent that such treatment is necessary or if such transporting is requested by the injured person; and (4) Where a person injured in such accident is unconscious, appears deceased, or is otherwise unable to communicate, make every reasonable effort to ensure that emergency medical services and local law enforcement are contacted for the purpose of reporting the accident and making a request for assistance. The driver shall in every event remain at the scene of the accident until fulfilling the requirements of this subsection. Every such stop shall be made without obstructing traffic more than is necessary. (b) If such accident is the proximate cause of death or a serious injury, any person knowingly failing to stop and comply with the requirements of subsection (a) of this Code section shall be guilty of a felony and, upon conviction thereof, shall be punished by imprisonment for not less than one nor more than five years. ,(c)(1) If such accident is the proximate cause of an injury other than a serious injury or if such accident resulted in damage to a vehicle which is driven or attended by any person, any person knowingly failing to stop or comply with the requirements of this Code section shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and: (A) Upon conviction shall be fined not less than $300.00 nor more than $1,000.00, which fine shall not be subject to suspension, stay, or probation, or imprisoned for up to 12 months, or both; (B) Upon the second conviction within a five-year period of time, as measured from the dates of previous arrests for which convictions were obtained to the date of the current arrest for which a conviction is obtained, shall be fined not less than $600.00 nor more than $1,000.00, which fine shall not be subject to suspension, stay, or probation, or imprisoned for up to 12 months, or both; and for purposes of this subparagraph, previous pleas of nolo contendere accepted within such five-year period shall constitute convictions; and (C) Upon the third or subsequent conviction within a five-year period of time, as measured from the dates of previous arrests for which convictions were obtained to the date of the current arrest for which a conviction is obtained, shall be fined $1,000.00, which fine shall not be subject to suspension, stay, or probation, or imprisoned for up to 12 months, or both; and for purposes of this subparagraph, previous pleas of nolo contendere accepted within such five-year period shall constitute convictions. (2) For the purpose of imposing a sentence under this subsection, a plea of nolo contendere shall constitute a conviction. (3) If the payment of the fine required under this subsection will impose an economic hardship on the defendant, the judge, at his sole discretion, may order the defendant to pay such fine in installments and such order may be enforced through a contempt proceeding or a revocation of any probation otherwise authorized by this Code section. (d) Notwithstanding the limits set forth in any municipal charter, any municipal court of any municipality shall be authorized to impose the punishments provided for in this Code section upon a conviction of violating this Code section or upon conviction of violating any ordinance adopting the provisions of this Code section.