published Friday, July 1st, 2011

Tennessee, Georgia give cyclists room on the road


by Chris Carroll
Riders with the Chattanooga Bicycle Club ride through downtown Chickamaug, Ga.,a on Thursday afternoon. Club members rode a loop from the Chickamauga Battlefield through Rock Spring and back.
Riders with the Chattanooga Bicycle Club ride through downtown Chickamaug, Ga.,a on Thursday afternoon. Club members rode a loop from the Chickamauga Battlefield through Rock Spring and back.
Photo by Jake Daniels.

IF YOU GO


• What: Bike2Work Commuter breakfast and announcement of new Tennessee cycling law

• When: 8 a.m. today

• Where: South end of Walnut Street Bridge (intersection of First Street and pedestrian bridge)

Biking is a bit safer in Tennessee and Georgia as of this morning, assuming two new state laws keep motorists away from cyclists.

Legislation sponsored by Tennessee Sen. Andy Berke, D-Chattanooga, strengthens penalties against drivers who hit pedestrians or cyclists. Across the state line, Georgia drivers now must keep at least three feet between themselves and cyclists.

Both laws became official today as a new fiscal year begins for governments everywhere.

Since 2003, automobiles have killed four bicyclists in the Chattanooga region, according to Chattanooga Times Free Press archives.

New Tennessee cycling law
New Tennessee cycling law

“Everyone has a right to be safe on our streets, whether traveling by foot, by bicycle or by car,” Berke said Thursday from his Nashville office. “We’ve ensured that drivers know they have to use due care around bicyclists and increased the penalties when they don’t.”

The leap is substantial.

Penalties for failure to exercise due care — defined by Berke as “keeping your attention open to other people on the street” — include up to a $500 fine, 11 months and 29 days in jail and the loss of a driver’s license for causing death.

Prosecutors can still seek more stringent penalties such as manslaughter or vehicular homicide in cases of death, but the new law “may strengthen their hand” in lesser cases, Berke said.

Previously, violators received a Class C misdemeanor, which carried up to 30 days in jail and a $50 fine, according to a University of Tennessee academic document.

New Georgia cycling law
New Georgia cycling law

No Tennessee representatives or senators voted against the bill, signaling greater acceptance and protection for those without vehicles. Only Rep. Julia Hurley, R-Lenoir City, abstained from voting.

“I had a motorcycling accident,” Hurley said in a written statement.

The Georgia law says the three-foot distance is in effect until the motorist passes the cyclist ,and it bolsters potential liability against drivers, legal experts said.

Tom Ingledew, a former Los Angeles Police Department detective and current interim president of the Chattanooga Bicycle Club, praised both new laws but said there’s still room for improvement.

“You have people who see how close they can get to somebody on a bike. ... We’ve had some cyclists in our club shot at,” he said from his home in Ringgold, Ga. “We’ll advocate for more stringent laws and more of an understanding by the public that they have to share the road.”

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bpqd said...

About time.

July 1, 2011 at 9:11 a.m.
McRand said...

"The Georgia law says the three-foot distance is in effect until the motorist passes the cyclist..."

I suppose that would mean one would not be held to an infraction if one would have to cross the double yellow line in order to give respect to the three foot safety margin when passing the bicyclists?

July 1, 2011 at 1:54 p.m.
MPalevo said...

This legislation of Cycles on the road is moronic! 1. Cycles ought to be made to maintain a minimum speed and be licensed. 2. Tenn and Ga country road are hazardous and narrow. 3. If the cycle doesn't stay to the edge of the road, their gonna get bumped. 4. These cycles are mainly for pleasure, and shouldn't be allowed on the same roadway. It's just stupid legislation. I'm a cyclist, Biker, Motorist, etc. and the three foot law is just downright dumb. Some roads are less then 10', and my truck & trailer is 8'. So, guess who's gonna get the bad end of the stick. The Cyclist! Cyclists ought to be in designated paths such as the one on the river. Plenty of miles just for bikes. And that is just my opinion!

July 1, 2011 at 5:20 p.m.

Mr. Ingledew fails to mention how many motorcyclists 'cut' vehicle drivers off and drive like wild people. It all boils down to common sense and road courtesy...hate to see road rage result.

July 1, 2011 at 9:18 p.m.
bpqd said...

Having survived one of these accidents, I think fat, selfish people should have to get hit by a car in order to drive one. Then maybe you would understand how your personal inconvenience is not worth someone else's life. Share the road, it's the law.

July 2, 2011 at 2:59 a.m.
sangaree said...

@I suppose that would mean one would not be held to an infraction if one would have to cross the double yellow line in order to give respect to the three foot safety margin


It will probably depend on the mood of the officer. A driver might still be cited for driving "right of center."

I've witnessed cyclist take dangerous chances they shouldn't. Such as out of nowhere crossing traffic from right to left to enter a turning lane. This law seems far too vague and appears to place more of the responsibility on the driver of a car rather than the requiring the cyclist to use common sense and share in the responsibility.

A driver simply can't suddenly throw on his her breaks without causing a possible major pile-up or deadly accident when a cyclist enters their lane seemingly out of nowhere. Cyclists should be required to obey the rules of the road just like everyone else.

One of the few concerns I have with Democrats is they seem to want to place more and more laws on the books based on emotions rather than using common sense. On the short term they appear reasonable, but when the emotions die down and reality sets in that's where the boos boos are realized.

July 2, 2011 at 1:45 p.m.
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