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New cycling law takes effect on roads
Legislation requires 3 feet clearance when passing a cyclist
Chicken City Cyclists members Lloyd Unnold, front, Tim Evans, Ray Lectre and Erik Pardue are passed by a truck along Cedar Creek Road during a Wednesday evening ride. A new state law mandates that drivers leave a 3-foot buffer when passing cyclists. - photo by Tom Reed

Georgia legislators are trying to teach drivers how to share nicely — the road that is.

A new law took effect this month, requiring cars to stay at least 3 feet away when passing bicyclists.

"The point is to raise awareness that we are all sharing the road," said bill sponsor Doug McKillip, R-Athens.

"If you're operating a car and you're overtaking a bicycle, if practicable, you need to give the bicyclist 3 feet of clearance."

Joey Brown, long-time cyclist and Georgia State Patrol lieutenant said this law is long overdue.

"In a collision between a cyclist and a motor vehicle, it's not going to be pretty for the cyclist," he said. "The good thing about this for law enforcement, it gives them a defined measurement to know. Before it was just up to each individual. Basically now, if cyclists are doing what they're supposed to be doing next to the white line, you're going to have to wait and go into the other lane to safely give them 3 feet."

This may require cars to slow down and even wait to pass, but Kelly Parham, who holds several cycling world records and has been hit by two cars, said he
welcomes the change.

"I heard the roar of these big tires," he said describing the time he was hit by a Ford Bronco during a 24-hour race in Alabama.

"I didn't look back because every time you look back you swerve. His big side-view mirror caught me and catapulted me. I would say he was going at least 30 or 40 (mph)."

Parham said he sustained minor injuries and a damaged bike, but that doesn't slow him down today.

"People always say, ‘you got hit and you didn't think about it when you went back out riding?' But if you had a wreck in your car, that doesn't mean you're not going to be back in your car," he said.
"As long as we've been riding, you don't really think about it."

But even if he's not always worried about being hit, Parham said he makes a point to stay close to the curb to avoid giving drivers an excuse to be angry.

But former pro cyclist Nathan O'Neill said even if they do everything they're supposed to, there are always going to be some drivers who like to brush past.

"For some reason, they will not cross that double yellow line even if there's no one coming," he said.

"It's just a lack of education. People don't understand we have a legal right to be on the road."

According to O'Neill, riders are allowed to ride side by side in Georgia. He said this is a safer formation because it makes them more visible and encourages cars to use more caution when passing.

Unfortunately, this is also one reason drivers get frustrated.

"The bottom line is, it's legal to ride two abreast in Georgia. I think a lot of people don't know that. They think it's single file," O'Neill said.

"I want people to realize, as cyclists, we're fathers, we're husbands, we're brothers, we're sisters or whatever. We're not just things on the road that you can hit, or throw at or scream at and think it's funny."