Cycling in Georgia – The Rules of the Road

There are numerous laws affecting cyclists in the state of Georgia. Whether you are driving a car, or cycling on public roadways, it is vital to know the “Rules of the Road.” The following laws were excerpted from the 2019 edition of the Official Code of Georgia. Note that many communities have adopted local ordinances which may differ from these state laws in those jurisdictions. Before you bike on public roads in a community, be sure to investigate the local codes regarding cyclists.

Excerpted from Chapter 40, Section 1 of the Official Code of Georgia, 2019

40-1-1 Definitions

(6) “Bicycle” means every device propelled by human power upon which any person may ride, having only two wheels which are in tandem and either of which is more than 13 inches in diameter.

(6.1) “Bicycle lane” means a portion of the roadway that has been designated by striping, pavement markings, or signage for the exclusive or preferential use of persons operating bicycles and electric assisted bicycles. Bicycle lanes shall at a minimum, unless impracticable, be required to meet accepted guidelines, recommendations, and criteria with respect to planning, design, operation, and maintenance as set forth by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.

“(6.2) ‘Bicycle path’ means a right of way under the jurisdiction and control of this state or a local political subdivision thereof designated for use by bicycle and electric assisted bicycle riders.” GA. Code 40-1-1 Definitions (Georgia Code (2019 Edition))

“(6.3) ‘Bicycle trailer’ means every device pulled by a bicycle and designed by the manufacturer of such device to carry human passengers.” GA. Code 40-1-1 Definitions (Georgia Code (2019 Edition))

(10) “Crosswalk” means:

(A) That part of a roadway at an intersection included within the connections of the lateral lines of the sidewalks on opposite sides of the highway measured from the curbs or in the absence of curbs, from the edges of the traversable roadway; or

(B) Any portion of a roadway at an intersection or elsewhere distinctly indicated for pedestrian crossing by lines or other markings on the surface.

  1. Code 40-1-1 Definitions (Georgia Code (2019 Edition))

(75) “Vehicle” means every device in, upon, or by which any person or property is or may be transported or drawn upon a highway, excepting devices used exclusively upon stationary rails or tracks.

“(14) ‘Driver’ means every person who drives or is in actual physical control of a vehicle.” GA. Code 40-1-1 Definitions (Georgia Code (2019 Edition))

“(15.3) ‘Electric assisted bicycle’ means a device with two or three wheels which has a saddle and fully operative pedals for human propulsion and also has an electric motor having a power output of not more than 750 watts.” GA. Code 40-1-1 Definitions (Georgia Code (2019 Edition))

“(33) ‘Motor vehicle’ means every vehicle which is self-propelled other than an electric assisted bicycle or an electric personal assistive mobility device (EPAMD).” GA. Code 40-1-1 Definitions (Georgia Code (2019 Edition))

“(52) ‘Right of way’ means the right of one vehicle or pedestrian to proceed in a lawful manner in preference to another vehicle or pedestrian approaching under such circumstances of direction, speed, and proximity as to give rise to danger of collision unless one grants precedence to the other.” GA. Code 40-1-1 Definitions (Georgia Code (2019 Edition))

“(54) ‘Safety zone’ means the area or space officially set apart within a roadway for the exclusive use of pedestrians and which is protected or is so marked or indicated by adequate signs as to be plainly visible at all times while set apart as a safety zone.” GA. Code 40-1-1 Definitions (Georgia Code (2019 Edition))

(15.4) “Electric personal assistive mobility device” or “EPAMD” means a self-balancing, two nontandem wheeled device designed to transport only one person and having an electric propulsion system with average power of 750 watts (1 horsepower) and a maximum speed of less than 20 miles per hour on a paved level surface when powered solely by such propulsion system and ridden by an operator who weighs 170 pounds.

  1. Code 40-1-1 Definitions (Georgia Code (2019 Edition))

(75) “Vehicle” means every device in, upon, or by which any person or property is or may be transported or drawn upon a highway, excepting devices used exclusively upon stationary rails or tracks.

(56.1) “Shared use path” means a pathway physically separated from motorized vehicular traffic by an open space or barrier and either within the highway right of way or within an independent right of way and used by bicycles, pedestrians, manual and motorized wheelchairs, and other authorized motorized and nonmotorized users.

  1. Code 40-1-1 Definitions (Georgia Code (2019 Edition))

“(57) ‘Sidewalk’ means that portion of a street between the curb lines, or the lateral lines of a railway, and the adjacent property lines, intended for use by pedestrians.” GA. Code 40-1-1 Definitions (Georgia Code (2019 Edition))

(75) “Vehicle” means every device in, upon, or by which any person or property is or may be transported or drawn upon a highway, excepting devices used exclusively upon stationary rails or tracks.

The Code Section Specific to Bicycles

40-6-290 “The provisions of this part applicable to bicycles shall apply whenever a bicycle is operated upon a highway, upon a bicycle lane, or upon any bicycle path set aside for the exclusive use of bicycles, subject to those exceptions stated in this part.” GA. Code 40-6-290 Application of part regarding bicycles (Georgia Code (2019 Edition))

  • 40-6-291. Traffic laws applicable to bicycles; operation upon paved shoulder; signaling of right hand turns

(a) The provisions of this chapter that apply to vehicles, but not exclusively to motor vehicles, shall apply to bicycles, except as provided in this Code section and except that the penalties prescribed in subsection (b) of Code Section 40-6-390, subsection (c) of Code Section 40-6-391, and subsection (a) of Code Section 40-6-393 shall not apply to persons riding bicycles.

(b) Notwithstanding the provisions of Code Section 40-6-50, any person operating a bicycle may ride upon a paved shoulder; provided, however, that such person shall not be required to ride upon a paved shoulder.

(c) Any person operating a bicycle may signal a right turn with his or her right arm and hand extended horizontally or with his or her left hand and arm extended upward.

  1. Code 40-6-291 Traffic laws applicable to bicycles; operation upon paved shoulder; signaling of right hand turns (Georgia Code (2019 Edition))
  • 40-6-292. Manner of riding bicycle; passengers

(a) A person propelling a bicycle shall not ride other than upon or astride a permanent and regular seat attached thereto and shall allow no person to ride upon the handlebars.

(b) No bicycle shall be used to carry more persons at one time than the number for which it is designed and equipped.

(c) No person shall transport a child under the age of one year as a passenger on a bicycle on a highway, roadway, bicycle path, bicycle lane, or sidewalk; provided, however, that a child under the age of one year may be transported on a bicycle trailer or in an infant sling so long as such child is seated in the bicycle trailer or carried in an infant sling according to the bicycle trailer’s or infant sling’s manufacturer’s instructions, and the bicycle trailer is properly affixed to the bicycle according to the bicycle trailer’s manufacturer’s instructions or the infant sling is properly worn by the rider of the bicycle according to the infant sling’s manufacturer’s instructions.

(d) No child between the ages of one year and four years shall ride as a passenger on a bicycle or bicycle trailer or be transported in an infant sling unless the child is securely seated in a child passenger bicycle seat, bicycle trailer, or infant sling according to the child passenger bicycle seat’s, bicycle trailer’s, or infant sling’s manufacturer’s instructions and the child passenger seat or bicycle trailer is properly affixed to the bicycle according to the child passenger bicycle seat’s or bicycle trailer’s manufacturer’s instructions or the infant sling is worn according to the infant sling’s manufacturer’s instructions.

(e) Violation of subsections (c) and (d) of this Code section shall not constitute negligence per se nor contributory negligence per se or be considered evidence of negligence or liability.

(f) No person under the age of 16 years failing to comply with subsections (c) and (d) of this Code section shall be fined or imprisoned.

  1. Code 40-6-292 Manner of riding bicycle; passengers (Georgia Code (2019 Edition))
  • 40-6-293. Clinging to vehicles

No person riding upon any bicycle, coaster, roller skates, sled, or toy vehicle shall attach the same or himself or herself to any vehicle upon a roadway.

  • 40-6-294. Riding on roadways and bicycle paths

(a) As used in this Code section, the term “hazards to safe cycling” includes, but shall not be limited to, surface debris, rough pavement, drain grates which are parallel to the side of the roadway, parked or stopped vehicles, potentially opening car doors, or any other objects which threaten the safety of a person operating a bicycle.

(b) Every person operating a bicycle upon a roadway shall ride as near to the right side of the roadway as practicable, except when:

(1) Turning left;

(2) Avoiding hazards to safe cycling;

(3) The lane is too narrow to share safely with a motor vehicle;

(4) Traveling at the same speed as traffic;

(5) Exercising due care when passing a standing vehicle or one proceeding in the same direction; or

(6) There is a right turn only lane and the person operating the bicycle is not turning right;

provided, however, that every person operating a bicycle away from the right side of the roadway shall exercise reasonable care and shall give due consideration to the other applicable rules of the road.

(c) Persons riding bicycles upon a roadway shall not ride more than two abreast except on bicycle paths, bicycle lanes, parts of roadways set aside for the exclusive use of bicycles, or when a special event permit issued by a local governing authority permits riding more than two abreast.

(d) Whenever a usable bicycle path has been provided adjacent to a roadway and designated for the exclusive use of bicycle riders, then the appropriate governing authority may require that bicycle riders use such bicycle path and not use those sections of the roadway so specified by such local governing authority. The governing authority may be petitioned to remove restrictions upon demonstration that the bicycle path has become inadequate due to capacity, maintenance, or other causes.

(e) Bicycle paths subject to the provisions of subsection (d) of this Code section shall at a minimum be required to meet accepted guidelines, recommendations, and criteria with respect to planning, design, operation, and maintenance as set forth by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, and such bicycle paths shall provide accessibility to destinations equivalent to the use of the roadway.

(f) Any person operating a bicycle in a bicycle lane shall ride in the same direction as traffic on the roadway.

  1. Code 40-6-294 Riding on roadways and bicycle paths (Georgia Code (2019 Edition))
  • 40-6-295. Carrying articles

No person operating a bicycle shall carry any package, bundle, or other article which prevents him or her from keeping at least one hand upon the handlebars.” GA. Code 40-6-295 Carrying articles (Georgia Code (2019 Edition))

  • 40-6-296. Lights and other equipment on bicycles

(a) Every bicycle when in use at nighttime shall be equipped with a light on the front which shall emit a white light visible from a distance of 300 feet to the front and with a light on the back which shall emit a red light visible from a distance of 300 feet to the rear. Any bicycle equipped with a red reflector on the rear that is approved by the Department of Public Safety shall not be required to have a light on the rear of the bicycle.

(b) Every bicycle sold or operated shall be equipped with a brake which will enable the operator to make the braked wheels skid on dry, level pavement.

(c) No bicycle shall be equipped or operated while equipped with a set of handlebars so raised that the operator must elevate his or her hands above the operator’s shoulders in order to grasp the normal steering grip area.

(d) (1) No person under the age of 16 years shall operate or be a passenger on a bicycle on a highway, bicycle path, bicycle lane, or sidewalk under the jurisdiction or control of this state or any local political subdivision thereof without wearing a bicycle helmet.

(2) For the purposes of this subsection, the term “bicycle helmet” means a piece of protective headgear which meets or exceeds the impact standards for bicycle helmets set by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) or the Snell Memorial Foundation.

(3) For the purposes of this subsection, a person shall be deemed to wear a bicycle helmet only if a bicycle helmet of good fit is fastened securely upon such person’s head with the straps of such bicycle helmet.

(4) No bicycle without an accompanying protective bicycle helmet shall be rented or leased to or for the use of any person under the age of 16 years unless that person is in possession of a bicycle helmet at the time of the rental or lease.

(5) Violation of any provision of this subsection shall not constitute negligence per se nor contributory negligence per se or be considered evidence of negligence or liability.

(6) No person under the age of 16 failing to comply with any provision of this subsection shall be fined or imprisoned.

  1. Code 40-6-296 Lights and other equipment on bicycles (Georgia Code (2019 Edition))
  • 40-6-297. Violation of part a misdemeanor; duty of parents and guardians

(a) It shall be a misdemeanor for any person to do any act forbidden or fail to perform any act required in this part.

(b) The parent of any child and the guardian of any ward shall not authorize or knowingly permit such child or ward to violate any of the provisions of this part.

  1. Code 40-6-297 Violation of part A misdemeanor; duty of parents and guardians (Georgia Code (2019 Edition))
  • 40-6-298. Rules and regulations

The Board of Public Safety is authorized to promulgate rules and regulations to carry this part into effect and is authorized to establish regulations for any additional safety equipment or standards it shall require for bicycles…” GA. Code 40-6-298 Rules and regulations (Georgia Code (2019 Edition))

  • 40-6-144. Emerging from alley, driveway, or building; driving upon a sidewalk prohibited

The driver of a vehicle emerging from an alley, building, private road, or driveway within a business or residential district shall stop such vehicle immediately prior to driving onto a sidewalk or onto the sidewalk area extending across such alley, building entrance, road, or driveway or, in the event there is no sidewalk area, shall stop at the point nearest the street to be entered where the driver has a view of approaching traffic thereon. The driver of a vehicle shall yield the right of way to any pedestrian on a sidewalk. Except as provided by resolution or ordinance of a local government for sidewalks within the jurisdiction of such local government authorizing the operation of bicycles on sidewalks by persons 12 years of age or younger, no person shall drive any vehicle upon a sidewalk or sidewalk area except upon a permanent or duly authorized driveway.

  1. Code 40-6-144 Emerging from alley, driveway, or building; driving upon a sidewalk prohibited (Georgia Code (2019 Edition))
  • 40-6-56. Safe passing distance when overtaking a bicyclist

(a) As used in this Code section, the term “safe distance” means not less than three feet.

(b) Notwithstanding any provision of this article to the contrary, when feasible, the operator of a motor vehicle, when overtaking and passing a bicycle that is proceeding in the same direction on the roadway, shall leave a safe distance between such vehicle and the bicycle and shall maintain such clearance until safely past the overtaken bicycle.

  1. Code 40-6-56 Safe passing distance when overtaking a bicyclist (Georgia Code (2019 Edition))
  • 40-6-43. When overtaking and passing on the right permitted

(a) The driver of a vehicle may overtake and pass upon the right of another vehicle only under the following conditions:

(1) When the vehicle overtaken is making or about to make a left turn; or

(2) Upon a street or highway with unobstructed pavement of sufficient width for two or more lanes of moving vehicles in the direction being traveled by the overtaking vehicle.

(b) If otherwise authorized, the driver of a vehicle may overtake and pass another vehicle upon the right only under conditions permitting such movement in safety. Such movement shall not be made by driving off the roadway.

  1. Code 40-6-43 When overtaking and passing on the right permitted (Georgia Code (2019 Edition))
  • 40-6-77. Penalties for collision which causes serious injury to motorcyclist, pedestrian, bicyclist, or farmer transporting certain items

(a) For purposes of this Code section, “serious injury” shall include, but shall not be limited to, causing bodily harm to another by depriving him or her of a member of his or her body, by rendering a member of his or her body useless, by seriously disfiguring his or her head or body or a member thereof, or by causing organic brain damage which renders the body or any member thereof useless.

(b) Any person who causes a serious injury to another person as a result of a collision with a motorcyclist, bicyclist, pedestrian, or farmer operating any vehicle used to transport agricultural products, livestock, farm machinery, or farm supplies by committing any right of way violation under this chapter when such motorcyclist, bicyclist, pedestrian, or farmer operating any vehicle used to transport agricultural products, livestock, farm machinery, or farm supplies is abiding by the provisions of this title shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and shall be punished:

(1) For a first offense, by a fine of not less than $250.00 in addition to any other penalties stipulated by law and the court shall report such conviction to the Department of Driver Services; and

(2) For a second or subsequent offense within a five-year period of time, as measured from the dates of previous arrests for which convictions were obtained or pleas of nolo contendere were accepted to the date of the current arrest for which a conviction is obtained or a plea of nolo contendere is accepted, by a fine of not less than $500.00 nor more than $1,000.00 and imprisonment for not less than ten days nor more than 12 months. Any fine imposed under this paragraph shall be mandatory and shall not be suspended or waived or conditioned upon the completion of any course or sentence. The court imposing punishment under this subsection shall forward a record of the disposition of the case to the Department of Driver Services.

  1. Code 40-6-77 Penalties for collision which causes serious injury to motorcyclist, pedestrian, bicyclist, or farmer transporting certain items (Georgia Code (2019 Edition))
  • 40-6-390. Reckless driving

(a) Any person who drives any vehicle in reckless disregard for the safety of persons or property commits the offense of reckless driving.

(b) Every person convicted of reckless driving shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and, upon conviction thereof, shall be punished by a fine not to exceed $1,000.00 or imprisonment not to exceed 12 months, or by both such fine and imprisonment, provided that no provision of this Code section shall be construed so as to deprive the court imposing the sentence of the power given by law to stay or suspend the execution of such sentence or to place the defendant on probation.

  1. Code 40-6-390 Reckless driving (Georgia Code (2019 Edition))
  • 40-6-391. Driving under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or other intoxicating substances; penalties; publication of notice of conviction for persons convicted for second time; endangering a child

(a) A person shall not drive or be in actual physical control of any moving vehicle while:

(1) Under the influence of alcohol to the extent that it is less safe for the person to drive;

(2) Under the influence of any drug to the extent that it is less safe for the person to drive;

(3) Under the intentional influence of any glue, aerosol, or other toxic vapor to the extent that it is less safe for the person to drive;

(4) Under the combined influence of any two or more of the substances specified in paragraphs (1) through (3) of this subsection to the extent that it is less safe for the person to drive;

(5) The person’s alcohol concentration is 0.08 grams or more at any time within three hours after such driving or being in actual physical control from alcohol consumed before such driving or being in actual physical control ended; or

(6) Subject to the provisions of subsection (b) of this Code section, there is any amount of marijuana or a controlled substance, as defined in Code Section 16-13-21, present in the person’s blood or urine, or both, including the metabolites and derivatives of each or both without regard to whether or not any alcohol is present in the person’s breath or blood.

(b) The fact that any person charged with violating this Code section is or has been legally entitled to use a drug shall not constitute a defense against any charge of violating this Code section; provided, however, that such person shall not be in violation of this Code section unless such person is rendered incapable of driving safely as a result of using a drug other than alcohol which such person is legally entitled to use.

  1. Code 40-6-391 Driving under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or other intoxicating substances; penalties; publication of notice of conviction for persons convicted for second time; endangering a child (Georgia Code (2019 Edition))
  • 16-11-43. Obstructing highways, streets, sidewalks, or other public passages

A person who, without authority of law, purposely or recklessly obstructs any highway, street, sidewalk, or other public passage in such a way as to render it impassable without unreasonable inconvenience or hazard and fails or refuses to remove the obstruction after receiving a reasonable official request or the order of a peace officer that he do so, is guilty of a misdemeanor.

  1. Code 16-11-43 Obstructing highways, streets, sidewalks, or other public passages (Georgia Code (2019 Edition))
  • 40-6-270. Hit and run; duty of driver to stop at or return to scene of accident

(a) The driver of any vehicle involved in an accident resulting in injury to or the death of any person or in damage to a vehicle which is driven or attended by any person shall immediately stop such vehicle at the scene of the accident or shall stop as close thereto as possible and forthwith return to the scene of the accident and shall:

(1) Give his or her name and address and the registration number of the vehicle he or she is driving;

(2) Upon request and if it is available, exhibit his or her operator’s license to the person struck or the driver or occupant of or person attending any vehicle collided with;

(3) Render to any person injured in such accident reasonable assistance, including the transporting, or the making of arrangements for the transporting, of such person to a physician, surgeon, or hospital for medical or surgical treatment if it is apparent that such treatment is necessary or if such transporting is requested by the injured person; and

(4) Where a person injured in such accident is unconscious, appears deceased, or is otherwise unable to communicate, make every reasonable effort to ensure that emergency medical services and local law enforcement are contacted for the purpose of reporting the accident and making a request for assistance.

The driver shall in every event remain at the scene of the accident until fulfilling the requirements of this subsection. Every such stop shall be made without obstructing traffic more than is necessary.

(b) If such accident is the proximate cause of death or a serious injury, any person knowingly failing to stop and comply with the requirements of subsection (a) of this Code section shall be guilty of a felony and, upon conviction thereof, shall be punished by imprisonment for not less than one nor more than five years.

(c) (1) If such accident is the proximate cause of an injury other than a serious injury or if such accident resulted in damage to a vehicle which is driven or attended by any person, any person knowingly failing to stop or comply with the requirements of this Code section shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and:

(A) Upon conviction shall be fined not less than $300.00 nor more than $1,000.00, which fine shall not be subject to suspension, stay, or probation, or imprisoned for up to 12 months, or both;

(B) Upon the second conviction within a five-year period of time, as measured from the dates of previous arrests for which convictions were obtained to the date of the current arrest for which a conviction is obtained, shall be fined not less than $600.00 nor more than $1,000.00, which fine shall not be subject to suspension, stay, or probation, or imprisoned for up to 12 months, or both; and for purposes of this subparagraph, previous pleas of nolo contendere accepted within such five-year period shall constitute convictions; and

(C) Upon the third or subsequent conviction within a five-year period of time, as measured from the dates of previous arrests for which convictions were obtained to the date of the current arrest for which a conviction is obtained, shall be fined $1,000.00, which fine shall not be subject to suspension, stay, or probation, or imprisoned for up to 12 months, or both; and for purposes of this subparagraph, previous pleas of nolo contendere accepted within such five-year period shall constitute convictions.

(2) For the purpose of imposing a sentence under this subsection, a plea of nolo contendere shall constitute a conviction.

(3) If the payment of the fine required under this subsection will impose an economic hardship on the defendant, the judge, at his sole discretion, may order the defendant to pay such fine in installments and such order may be enforced through a contempt proceeding or a revocation of any probation otherwise authorized by this Code section.

(d) Notwithstanding the limits set forth in any municipal charter, any municipal court of any municipality shall be authorized to impose the punishments provided for in this Code section upon a conviction of violating this Code section or upon conviction of violating any ordinance adopting the provisions of this Code section.

  1. GA. Code 40-6-270 Hit and run; duty of driver to stop at or return to scene of accident (Georgia Code (2019 Edition)

 

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