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Proposed bike law upsets cyclists
Legislation requires all bicycles to be registered, riders to maintain single-file line
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Bike store owner Joe Elam is opposed to the proposed state law restricting how and where cyclists can ride. - photo by NAT GURLEY

Public hearing

What: House Bill 689, which would make changes to how bicycles are regulated and how cyclists must ride on roadways
When: 6-8 p.m. Monday
Where: Hall County Government Center, 2875 Browns Bridge Road, Gainesville

Some bike riders’ pulses are racing, and it’s not from exercise.

They’re upset about a proposed state law regulating bicycles. Motorists and cyclists are set to face off for control of the road in a public hearing on the bill set for Monday.

The legislation would require all bicycles to be registered and have a license plate. Bike owners would pay a $15 annual fee or a $48 one-time fee for permanent registration.

The meeting is scheduled for 6-8 p.m. Monday at the Hall County Government Building, 2875 Browns Bridge Road, Gainesville.

The bill was authored by Rep. Carl Rogers and supported by Reps. Lee Hawkins and Emory Dunahoo, all Hall County Republicans.

The bill would also require cyclists to ride in a single-line with no more than four riders to a line. The bikes must stay 4 feet apart and the lines must stay 50 feet apart from each other.

“Diplomatically speaking, I think it’s trash,” bike shop owner Joe Elam said of the bill. “So we have a few individuals in one very small part of the state that want to generate a statewide law.”

Elam, himself a cyclist, said he’s concerned the proposal would drive him out of business because bike riding is a social activity as well as a way to exercise. Because the legislation limits group riding, it could reduce the number of people taking part, he said.

One of the biggest supporters of the bill is Gainesville business owner Jim Syfan. He said his priority is safety and getting dangerous and rude riders off the roads. He said he likes the cyclists, but admitted to getting annoyed and tapping his horn when stuck behind one on a narrow road.

He said in his trucking business he has to have tags and Department of Transportation numbers for his trucks. He also has to have a tag for the personal motorcycle he owns, and the fees help pay for road maintenance.

“When I see the same bicycle riding down the road with no identification on it, paying no taxes for the upkeep of the road, it concerns me,” Syfan said. “I think it’s not safe and I don’t think it’s fair to the rest of the rolling stock community.”

Kevin Mooney, store manager of Bike Town USA in Gainesville, said cycling has been a large part of his life for nearly 30 years as a way to decompress and exercise. He said his group rides can average 20 to 25 people at a time, and that limiting the social part will make it less enjoyable.

“A lot of people think ‘This is just going to affect the serious cycling in the community and those guys are usually in the way anyway,’” Mooney said. “This is going to go down all the way and affect moms and dads riding around in the neighborhood or go on vacation with their kids, having to have a tag, having to register their bike. So it’s something that’s going to go further down than just the normal guys you see on the road.”

Mooney said competition for the road with cars can be scary when drivers curse him and throw lighters at his head. Distracted drivers can veer over to the side of the road where the cyclist is riding. A 2011 law allows cyclists 3 feet of space on roads.

Lawmakers who helped draft the proposal say it’s about safety, but the regulations likely will add to law enforcement duties.

Rogers said the Monday meeting is only a hearing, and he echoed the idea that safety is the bill’s primary purpose.

“It’s a listening session to hear all sides,” Rogers said of the meeting. “Maybe they can come to some common-sense agreement or gentleman’s agreement to impose best management practices and work on their own clubs.”

State Sen. Butch Miller said he will only support the bill if the money from the fee is used to build bike lanes.

Cyclists’ biggest support may come from Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, who recently participated in a Dahlonega race and will ride in a charity race later this month in Gainesville.

“As an avid cyclist myself, I don’t support the idea of annual tag fee for bicycles,” Cagle said in a statement to The Times.

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