DUNWOODY — Dunwoody’s Vulnerable Road Users Ordinance, which provides protections for bicyclists and pedestrians, went into effect May 1.
The City Council passed the ordinance, the first of its kind for the state, last November, but agreed on a six-month waiting period to educate the public on the policy.
The code defines “vulnerable road users,” as walkers, bikers, skateboarders, scooter users and utility workers. It establishes rules for all travelers to safely share the road; prohibits intimidation by drivers against VRUs and protects drivers from liability if bikers or pedestrians act recklessly or unlawfully.
City Councilman Tom Lambert introduced the measure, inspired by similar policies in Houston and other areas of the country.
“The intent of this law is to protect our VRUs, which are our pedestrians, our bike riders, essentially anyone using the streets who is not protected by the steel cage of a car,” Lambert said in the most recent council meeting. “Because this is a new law and the first of its kinds in the state of Georgia, I want to make sure everyone familiarizes themselves with the requirements of it.”
The ordinance is stricter than current state law. The policy requires drivers to leave a 3-foot distance when passing other road users. If the driver must cross into the opposite-direction traffic lane to create the 3-foot distance, they must travel behind the biker or pedestrian until it is safe to move over.
Drivers must always stop for other road users traveling in a crosswalk. The ordinance also prohibits unsafe turns in front of VRUs and any actions that intimate or harass these travelers.
“Because of social distancing, we’re seeing more of our residents riding bikes, running and walking,” Dunwoody Police Chief Billy Grogan said. “We want to make sure everyone knows about this new ordinance and understands the importance of watching out for one another.”
Penalties include up to six months in jail or probation and up to a $1,000 fine. Penalties may be reduced or waived if the driver completes a driver safety and pedestrian awareness class.
The ordinance also lays out defenses for drivers in the event of an incident. Those defenses make pedestrians and bikers responsible for wearing bright or reflective clothing when on the roadway at night.
“One of the positives [of COVID-19] that I’ve enjoyed seeing is how many people are out there enjoying the outdoors — walking, running, riding their bikes on our local streets,” Lambert said. “It’s been great to see families out there enjoying those types of activities, and it is my hope that those activities will continue once we get out of this crisis.”