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Cyclists, pedestrians get lift from new Dunwoody law

Police crack down on drivers who refuse to yield proper space

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DUNWOODY, Ga . — In the three months since it began enforcing Georgia’s toughest pedestrian and bicyclist protection law, Dunwoody police have issued 31 citations to motorists for failing to yield space to other road users. 

Bike Lane

Vulnerable users are required to remain as far right as possible in a travel lane except when making a turn or passing another bicycle. 

One case cited a motorist for allegedly striking a cyclist on Tilly Mill Road.

The Dunwoody City Council passed its vulnerable road user (VRU) ordinance last November. The law became effective May 1.

It requires passing a protected user, such as construction workers, bicyclists, and skateboarders, with at least 3 feet clearance. Drivers are required to stop for vulnerable users at crosswalks and maintain a safe distance behind if conditions are not safe to pass. The ordinance permits a driver to cross an opposite-direction traffic lane when safe. Violations carry penalties of six months in jail or probation, up to a $1000 fine and suspension of the driver’s license.

“The number of citations issued so far demonstrates the need for this ordinance,” Dunwoody City Councilman Tom Lambert said. “I am thankful that our police department is using our ordinance as an enforcement tool to make our roads safer.”

Lambert called the VRU one piece of the safety puzzle, which includes other important elements like “sidewalks, trails, and bike lanes.” 

The law works both ways.

Vulnerable users are required to remain as far right as possible in a travel lane except when making a turn or passing another bicycle. They must also take reasonable measures to make themselves visible. The City Council amended the ordinance on July 13 to allow cyclists to ride on a sidewalk, given they make an audible signal before passing a pedestrian.

At the July 27 Dunwoody City Council meeting, City Manager Eric Linton said the Dunwoody Police Department recently issued 12 VRU citations while conducting a pedestrian crosswalk detail at Mount Vernon and Stratham Drive and at Peeler Road and Windwood Drive.

On July 13, a cyclist was hit on Tilly Mill Road near Dunwoody Glen by an SUV. The driver of the SUV was cited with hit and run, not passing at a safe distance, and violating the VRU ordinance. The motorist was identified by footage provided to police from a bike camera.

Police say when they went to the driver’s address, the SUV had scuff marks from a yellow pool noodle, and the passenger side mirror was folded back and hanging from its mount. The police report stated the driver did not stop because the cyclist appeared “to be fine and was still riding her bicycle.”

The cyclist, Pattie Baker, said she uses a “bike noodle,” crafted from a yellow pool noodle to help drivers visualize what passing with 3 feet looks like.

“[It was] a miracle to me I didn’t fall; It saved my life,” she said.

As a mom, voter and citizen, she said infrastructure change is needed and that she shouldn’t “have to rely on the actions of drivers to get home safely.”

Baker said she is proud the city adopted the VRU ordinance and Dunwoody is “uniquely positioned to be a leader in the metro area.”

National Highway Transportation Safety Administration data reported a 37.5 percent increase in cyclist deaths since 2010. In 2018 alone, 857 cyclists were killed.

Pedalcyclists killed in fatal crashes

Pedalcyclists killed in fatal crashes.

The Fatality Analysis Reporting System, another NHTSA dataset, reported that 29 cyclists died in Georgia in 2018.

From 2014 and 2018, 116 cyclists were killed in Georgia. Since 2014, there have been no known cyclist deaths in Dunwoody, but In April, Felix Mayer of Dunwoody, was killed while riding a bicycle in Sandy Springs.

Lambert said he hopes the VRU ordinance draws attention to the simple steps motorists need to take to make Dunwoody a bike- and pedestrian-friendly community. He said that it rarely takes more than a few seconds to wait for an opportunity to safely pass a pedestrian or cyclist.

“Those few seconds could literally save a life,” he said.

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