Governor Deal Signs Law Giving Cyclist More Room

May 12,2011


Move over motorists: New law gives cyclists space

That's the message of bicycling legislation signed into law Wednesday by Gov. Nathan Deal.

The bill, which the governor inked at a 4:30 p.m. ceremony, requires drivers to scoot over at least three feet when passing cyclists.

Advocates expect it to generate frustration among motorists who don't like encountering slower-moving bikes, but say it will help the majority understand how to navigate safely when encountering riders.

"Some motorists believe that bikes shouldn't be on the road, but by law we're a vehicle just like any vehicle on the road," said Eric Broadwell, a Roswell cyclist and board member of Georgia Bikes!, a statewide advocacy group. The law will also help sympathetic drivers, he said. "Even my wife is nervous when she sees a rider. She doesn't know what to do, and I have to coach her along."

House Bill 101 will clarify things. Prior to its adoption, state law required only that drivers leave a "safe distance" between their vehicle and bikes. Broadwell said the new law basically means motorists must cross the yellow line -- when the oncoming lane is clear, of course -- to pass legally.

The legislation, sponsored by Rep. Doug McKillip, an Athens Republican, originally did not include the distance requirement. Instead, it focused on other cycling minutiae, such as a requirement for rear reflectors (cyclists can now substitute a red light) and the requirement that cyclists ride no more than two abreast (they can now exceed two at certain permitted events).

Then, at the end of the legislative session, Sen. John Albers, a Roswell Republican, tacked on the 3-foot requirement. The firefighter and recreational cyclist said he was inspired by testimony from Kathy Serrano, the widow of cyclist Tony Serrano who was killed in 2004 by a car in Gwinnett County.