"Drivers need to yield to the cyclists [and] should slow down and if the driver can safely do so," Cartersville Police Public Information Officer Lt. Mark Camp said. "The driver is required to pass to the left of the cyclist by at least three feet according to a recent law that was passed. Obviously, the driver should not veer into oncoming traffic but should wait until they should move over safely."
House Bill 101, also known as "The Better Bicycling Bill," was signed into law in 2011 by Gov. Nathan Deal. The bill establishes certain rules for the safety of cyclists, including travel lanes and setting a "safe distance" at no less than three feet when motor vehicles are passing bicycles on the roadways.
The law also prohibits passengers riding on bicycle handlebars and only allows other people to ride as a part of the cycle if they are properly seated and strapped into a bicycle trailer. That last rule applies to children, too.
"The new legislation, a motorist must provide three feet between the vehicle and the cyclist, is a big step in the right direction," Bartow cyclist Scott Flynn, who lost his brother to a bicycle fatality, said. "It means there is actually an enforceable law in place instead of a 'guideline.' Motorists can now be cited with a misdemeanor instead of a simple verbal caution. Of course, the law's value lies in its enforcement. Unless law enforcement makes it a point to enforce, nothing will change. Additionally, community members need to be educated on the passing laws which address when to pass, how to safely pass, as well as safe passing distances."
Flynn and his family established a local Ride of Silence to honor fallen loved ones due to bicycles versus motor vehicle fatal accidents.
"Several members of my family enjoy cycling for recreational purposes and competition and have for several years. In 2009, my older brother Doug was struck by a motorist and killed, leaving behind his wife, two young girls and a 6-week-old boy," Flynn said. "In thinking about his accident, and his family's circumstances, our family wanted to do something to prevent that from happening to someone else. We found the Ride of Silence and it fit what we were looking for, a chance to honor cyclists who have been killed or injure and promote safety."
An international event that began in 2003, cyclists will take to the streets to honor all who have become victims following accidents. The event has been scheduled by the Ride of Silence organization for the third Wednesday in May at 7 p.m.
"The event was named because participants generally are asked to remain silent throughout the ride in respect for those injured or killed while cycling," Flynn said. "The motto, 'Let the Silence Roar,' is connected to the RoS in an effort to demonstrate the seriousness and importance of the need to create a mutual respect between motorists and cyclists."
Locally, in 2011, 40 participants ranging from riders to support vehicles attended the free event, which is to be hosted for the third year Wednesday with a slow, 8-mile loop that includes part of downtown Cartersville.
"For the event, coming out and joining in with the ride is a great way to show support," Flynn said. "Anyone can ride, independent of their bike or fitness level as we go as slow as the group needs. To register for the event, simply go to our Facebook event page, Cartersville Ride of Silence, and sign up. It's completely free. For the remaining 364 days of the year, we can all become more educated on the rights of motorists and cyclists, encourage enforcement of laws already in place to protect both and promote cycling as a form of transportation to our local leaders so roads become more bike-friendly."
While motor vehicle drivers should watch for cyclists, self-propelled riders must follow the rules of the road and remember safety tips as well.
"Cyclists should always wear as much bright, reflective clothing as possible including a helmet," Camp said. "As much as we may not like to admit it, many motorists do not like sharing the road with bicyclists. There is the ideal world where everyone shares the road and we all get along and cooperate, but there is the real world that we live in. Cyclists need to keep this in mind. A 10-pound bike is no match for a 3,000-pound car or 6,000-pound truck.
"It only makes sense for cyclists not to ride on busy roads and highways during peak traffic times. Groups of cyclists should ride single file and stay close to the right side of the traffic lane [and] cyclists must also follow the same traffic laws as motorists."
Last year, a group of 30 cyclists training for an event were written citations in the city of White after they failed to stop at a stop sign. Flynn agrees with Camp that fellow cyclists should obey traffic laws.
"Nearly half the cycling accidents are actually the cyclists' fault and in many of those cases it's due to a failure to obey traffic laws," Flynn said. "Avoid congested areas when possible [and] always ride on the defensive."
While riding, though, motorized vehicles are not the only hazards bicyclists should watch for.
"Road debris, pot holes and drainage grates can all be a potential hazard for cyclists. In many cases, this is why cyclists ride in the road where they do," Flynn said. "Many motorists perceive this to be an intentional way to make traffic slow down and can easily get frustrated. But, tires made for road bikes are generally about 23 cm wide and maybe a centimeter thick, if that. So, cyclists intentionally ride away from the white line because that's where the road debris accumulates, where pot holes usually develop and where drainage grates are installed. In congested areas, car doors and vehicles trying to back out all can be hazardous. Cyclists need to slow down in these areas and ride defensively while motorists simply need to look before they back out or open a car door. Parking or driving in bike lanes can also be a major hazard."
Set to be escorted by Cartersville Police officers, the ride will begin at PT Solutions off of Henderson Drive, proceed down Old Mill Road to Erwin Street, over to West Cherokee Street, out to Burnt Hickory Road, back to Old Mill Road and end at PT Solutions -- a total of between 7 to 8 miles with a pace of no more than 12 mph. All participants must wear a helmet and be 16 or older to ride. According to the event's Facebook page, all skill levels are welcome and post-ride food will be provided by the Flynn family for those who participate. It is recommended that attendance is confirmed through the page. Participants will meet at 6:30 p.m. with the ride to begin at 7.
"Internationally, the broad mission each year is to honor fallen or injured cyclists, promote the share the road initiative and create cycling awareness in each community where the ride takes place. Locally, we support the international mission but wanted to focus on one particular aspect of bike safety for this year's ride," Flynn said. "Most cyclists will agree, motorists passing cyclists needs to be addressed even with the current laws in place. Many motorists either don't care or don't know how to react to having cyclists riding on the road so they honk the horn, try to stay in the same lane as they blow by the cyclist or they don't even slow down. In order to help educate motorists, we have posted a few short videos on our facebook page to watch that address passing.
"In the end, I think cycling is great for the community in a number of ways. It is environmentally friendly, it promotes physical activity and is an efficient means of transportation. Roads are for transportation, not motorized transportation alone."