On Tuesday, October 9, 2018, WSB-TV Atlanta released astonishing video footage
showing an alleged road rage incident in Cobb County where a driver pulled in front of a cyclist on the road and then abruptly “brake checked” him, causing the cyclist to forcibly crash into the back of the driver’s truck, breaking his neck and sustaining serious injuries. The driver then fled the scene, leaving the cyclist unconscious in the road.
Such incidents involving negligence and road rage committed by drivers against cyclists are all too common, though they are preventable. New concepts of urban planning involving the implementation of experimental infrastructure like roundabouts and partitioned bike lines have shown great promise in their ability to reduce traffic congestion and make travel safer for vehicles and pedestrians alike. In fact, many cities throughout Georgia have embraced the presence of bicycles as a means to solve such problems as well as to provide a boon to local businesses. However, there are still many places in the state which are not so accommodating to cyclists. While Georgia may not boast the infrastructure of a town like Copenhagen along all of its roads, bikers in Georgia still have been accorded clearly defined legal rights, and such rights must be acknowledged and respected by drivers on the road.
In Georgia, like in most states, a bicycle is legally considered a vehicle. This means that, except for persons ages 12 years or younger, bicycles are not allowed to be ridden on a sidewalk, and cyclists must share the roadway with automobiles. Georgia has laws in place which specifically address how cyclists and drivers are supposed to behave on the road together. For instance, when overtaking and passing a bicycle, drivers are to leave a “safe distance,” defined as not less than three feet, between them and the bicycle when feasible. (Footnote for drivers: if passing a bicycle while maintaining a safe distance is not feasible, it is likely best to be patient and maintain the cyclist’s pace until it becomes so.)
Moreover, the Georgia legislature has passed laws which address instances of road rage and criminalizes aggressive and/or reckless driving. In the case of the driver in the WSB video, his conduct could potentially subject him to liability for these offenses, and afford the cyclist with a cause of action against him for battery, pain and suffering, and a host of other counts.
It is important for both drivers and cyclists alike to know their rights, and to be cautious while out on the roads. Cyclists should wear a helmet on the road at all times, equip their bikes with proper lighting and reflective tape, and, if possible, keep a camera with you so that you can keep documentation of everything, like the cyclist in this case did. But most importantly, cyclists and drivers alike should remember to constantly be vigilant of their surroundings, be courteous to others, and share the road!