Georgia Bikes, the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition and other advocacy groups for bicyclists are rallying for safer routes for bicycle riders throughout the state. Several Georgia communities are becoming more aware of the need for separate lanes for cyclists. The City of Dunwoody has an ordinance that requires developers to include bike lanes in their plans. Atlanta recently converted a traffic lane to a bike lane as part of an overall effort to double the number of miles of bicycle lanes and shared travel paths in the metro area over the next three years. These actions reflect both the reality that cycling is increasing in popularity among Americans and that the number of bicycle accidents in the state rose in 2012.
Bicycle Accident Injuries And Deaths Up In 2012
Despite the fact that traffic accidents declined in Georgia last year, fatal accidents to cyclists increased by 28 percent. According to the Newnan Times-Herald, there were 18 traffic-related bicyclist deaths in the state in 2012. Although this number accounts for less than two percent of all traffic accident fatalities, the fact that the number increased from the 14 bicycle deaths in 2011 is sobering to both bicyclists and state highway officials. The legislature passed a comprehensive law in 2011, seeking to make state roads safer for bike riders. The law included a provision requiring motorists to leave three feet of space between their cars and any bikes they pass.
Many nonfatal accidents involving bicycles and motor vehicles occurred on Georgia roads last year. There were just over 680 bicycle crashes in 2012, resulting in 545 injuries. There were also several hit-and-run accidents involving bicycle riders; none of these, however, resulted in the death of a cyclist.
Whether 2013 will see a continued increase in fatalities remains to be seen. Two cyclists have died in Marietta in 2013, one in March and one in April. A Henry County teen also died in April, after he was struck by a police vehicle.
Bicyclists face more danger on the road because they are more exposed than motorists. Despite a law requiring riders under the age of 16 to wear helmets, there are no mandatory helmet laws for older cyclists. Studies have shown that helmets prevent fatal head injuries. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that 70 percent of deadly bike wrecks involve head injuries, but that only a quarter of cyclists use them.
As set out in the NHTSA’s guide for planning a bicycle safety skills event for children, these are the basic safety rules for bicyclists:
- Do not horse around; your bicycle is not a toy; it is a vehicle.
- One rider per seat.
- Ride with at least one hand on the handlebars at all times.
Similarly, the guide warns bicyclists to know and obey traffic laws, signs and signals:
- Ride in the same direction as traffic in single file.
- Stop and look left, right, and then left again before entering traffic.
- Use hand signals so others know what you intend to do.
- Watch for cars pulling out of driveways or alleys and for doors opening on parked cars.
- Walk, don’t ride, your bicycle across busy intersections or intersections with multiple lanes.
Even when a cyclist is following the law and riding carefully, accidents happen. If you have been injured while riding a bicycle and a motor vehicle driver is at fault, a personal injury lawyer can answer questions you may have about recovering compensation for medical bills and other damages.