Riding This Week


Chainbuster MTB Racing Series - Georgia's friendliest MTB racing. 6 & 9 Hour Endurance racing for solo or teams.

Dirty Spokes - Duathlon and Trail running series. Love these guys. First class events.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Do Cyclists Belong?

People ask me all the time why I love cycling. It's either that or they ask me how many miles I ride each week. I tell them I enjoy the fitness of it. I enjoy fiddling with my bike to fix and maintain it. I enjoy following professional riders and watching them suffer in races like the Tour of California and the Tour de France. I like learning about the latest technology that makes the bikes lighter, faster and – cooler. I like the smooth, fast, powerful feeling I get from flying down a country road. But most of all I like riding with good friends.

Here in the United States cycling has been growing like crazy. And why not? We have the best roads and a beautiful country.  We like to go fast and we like a little adventure. Here in Georgia there’s been a real growth in the number of cyclists. The evidence can be found in the number of USA Cycling licensed road racers as compared to 10 years ago. There’s also the organized/charity ride participation numbers to go by.
The 6 GAP Century, a 100+ mile ride over every major mountain in North Georgia, brings 3,000 cyclists each year to Dahlonega. I just participated in a ride for Aplastic Anemia in Braselton that boasted 1,600 cyclists. But for all its increased popularity cycling isn’t embraced as something beautiful in Georgia like it is in other states. Its benefits aren’t heralded. The riders aren’t seen as fun loving ambassadors of fitness and adventure. This was brought home to me when I opened my local news site AccessNorthGa.com to see the question of the day: 

Of course my cycling friends were quick to grab the latest statistics from Healthy Americans.org:

From healthyamericans.org: "Fifteen years ago, Georgia had a combined obesity and overweight rate of 51.3 percent. Ten years ago, it was 57.2 percent. Now, the combined rate is 65.3 percent."

I’m not saying that every person on the planet should love and revere cyclists. Indeed it’s impossible to get 10 people to agree about anything.
I mean I don’t like the way some people enter the expressway at 45 mph when vehicles are moving at over 70 mph.  It’s dangerous. There should be a sign that says “Increase speed to match traffic”.  Isn’t that more dangerous than having to slow until you can safely pass a cyclist by the required 3 feet?

Of course arguments can be made by motorists that bicyclists are not obeying the law either by riding more than 2 abreast or not signaling their turns or failing to yield. If cyclists aren’t respecting the rules of the road then motorists aren’t going to respect the cyclists.

So my question to myself was “What can I do?” If we’re not careful, both sides will present inflexible, non-cooperative “solutions” that lack realism. We’ll sound like the way the U.S. Government squabbles without getting anything done. So I’ve decided on a few actions that center around one largely impressive idea; educate the people. After some research into what other cities and states are doing I've found that nothing works better than a big fat campaign of education. That and spending some of the massive amounts of government funds we normally waste, on things like bike lanes and biking paths. Nashville, TN has started a “Moving in Harmony” project which stresses more bike lanes and or shared lanes leading in and out of the city. And there are plenty of other examples that led me to suggest that the next question on AccessNorthGA.com should be "Would you support the use of roadway funds to create bike lanes and dedicated paths for bicycling?" I bet the answers would be different.

So who are the people? They fall into two categories: Motorists and Cyclists.

Motorists need to know what to do when approaching a cyclist. They also need to understand what each party’s responsibilities are while on the road. One big thing to understand is that a cyclist, by law, must act like a vehicle. He can’t ride where a vehicle wouldn’t go. He can’t take himself on and off the road erratically. A cyclist has to hold his position on the road or he can be cited.  So I’ve made up this short list of facts that every motorist should know about cycling on Georgia roads.

MOTORIST’S on Cyclists

  • When passing a cyclist you must allow 3 FEET of clearance.
  • Bicyclists may lawfully ride two abreast.
  • When a cyclist exists a driver may cross a solid yellow line and drive to the left of the center of the road but must also yield to oncoming vehicles in the process.  In other words a driver can cross a solid yellow line to pass a cyclist.
  • Bicycles are vehicles and have the same rights and responsibilities on public roads as motorists.
  • Bicycles must travel on the roadway, not the sidewalk. Sidewalk cycling is illegal for anyone over the age of 12 in GA.
  • Verbal & physical harassment of cyclists falls under the law on Aggressive driving and is considered a misdemeanor of high and aggravated nature in GA.
So there are some quick facts for motorists. Now I must confess that we cyclists have more work to do to educate our populous. One problem is simple, we’re not friendly. It only takes a second to put your hand up in thanks when a motorist passes you nicely. Wave to the people working in their yards. Be considerate of a motorist’s time and go out of your way to follow the rules of the road. You won’t win the battle or the war with a vehicle. Your actions today could be the best or worst thing for the next cyclist that driver encounters.

The next problem is people who are new to cycling. Because a cyclist doesn’t need a license…anyone can be a cyclist. All you need is a bike. The problem is that when a new cyclist does stupid things it makes us all look stupid. So here’s the list for new or otherwise ignorant cyclists:

CYCLIST’s Rules of the Road
  •      Bicycles are vehicles and have the same rights and responsibilities on public roads as motorists.
o   Signal your intentions
o   Always obey traffic control devices (Red Lights, Stop Signs)
o   Yield when changing lanes
o   Position yourself in the lane of travel based on destination. (Get in the turn lane if turning)
  •  Bicycles must travel in the same direction as motor vehicle traffic.
  • Bicyclists may only ride a maximum of 2 abreast.
  • When cycling at night you are required to have a white front light and a red rear-facing light (or reflector), visible from 300 feet. Additional lighting and reflective clothing is highly recommended.
  • Ride as near to the right side of the roadway as practicable except when
o   Turning left
o   Avoiding hazards to safe cycling
o   The lane is too narrow to share safely with a motor vehicle
  • A cyclist should maintain at least 18 to 24” of clearance from a curb or pavement edge.
Just to clarify something...cyclists have the right to take the entire lane if he deems it necessary to keep himself safe or to make a lane change or something. Otherwise the law says you must ride as far to the right of the lane as possible. If you ride in the middle of the lane for no reason you can be cited for impeding the flow of traffic.

Another interesting clarification I found in the law is on overtaking and passing other vehicles. I’ve witnessed riders do this at in-town intersections and thought they were disobeying the law. Turns out… they could be.

When Overtaking and Passing on the Right is Permitted
A cyclist traveling in a lane wide enough for motor vehicles and bicycles to share may pass motor vehicles on the right, but must still take care to avoid turning vehicles.

Wow. So here’s what all my research has taught me. I have the right to ride my bike on the road but doing so carries with it some profound responsibilities. I have responsibilities under the law and other ones that help promote acceptance of my hobby to those I share the road with.

Motorists need more education on how to deal with cyclists or any other slower moving vehicle they share the road with. Nobody likes to be slowed down, especially Americans, but it's going to happen no matter where you go in life. I don’t like it when people stand in line at the fast food restaurant for 10 minutes and then get to the cashier and haven’t made up their mind what they want. It inconveniences me. They should have to go to the back of the line and try again. In the grand scheme of things...I'll get my food (drivers will get there) and what if the guy turns and apologizes for not being prepared? (cyclist waves thank you). How would that change the whole experience?

Just a thought.

The last idea I have for you today is aimed directly at Ride Leaders and/or Ride Directors. Most shop rides have a designated leader who may give pre-ride announcements. Ride Directors will definitely do this because they need to thank the sponsors. I'd like to come up with a card they can read from that spells out some of the quick facts I've covered here and asks the group to remember their manners. Nothing long. No legalese. (I doubt that's a real word) Just info for new riders, a tune up for the veterans, and a reminder to the "leader" that he's the man for shepherding the cyclists behavior. I welcome your input on this.

That's it! That's all I've got. You can do your own research if you like at Georgia Bikes.org.
Here's a recent story in the AJC about proposed bike lane additions in Dunwoody.

Sorry there's not more super cool pictures in this story. How about this one?

Let’s declare our intentions to ride friendly before we shove off from the next group ride.

Chad Hayes

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