In Georgia, bikes are treated the same way as bicycles insofar as the law is concerned, and that means there are a number of laws that are respected in order to keep both riders and drivers (and pedestrians!) safe. The classification of a vehicle means that most of the vehicle codes and regulations apply to all vehicles, including bikes, though there are a few things that are of course specific to two wheels rather than four. What should you know about cycling legally in Georgia?
Where to Ride on the Road?
Much like most other states, Georgia has some specifics about where cyclists are allowed to ride and where they cannot ride. In Georgia, cyclists have to ride as close to the right as possible, except when turning left, avoiding hazards, if the bike is traveling at the same speed as traffic, if the road is too narrow to safely share or when passing a standing vehicle. This is standard to most states and should come as no surprise.
There are a few other notes about riding on the road which are meant to prevent potential problems between cars and bikes:
- Cyclists can ride two abreast, but no more than that, unless on specific and exclusive bike paths.
- Electric bikes can be ridden on bike paths.
- While bikes can ride on the road, if there are appropriate bike paths running parallel to the road, the governing authority for that area may require cyclists to use the path and they are not allowed to use the road, unless the path is no longer able to be used. This means that even though you may be able to ride on the road, if you see a bike path instead, your best bet is to use it as it’s likely that local government will require it anyway. I find this interesting myself because many states have paths, but do not require their use, whereas Georgia leaves it up to the individual governing body for that area to decide, making it confusing, but definitely something to keep in mind. Ignorance of the law is no excuse after all!
Another thing to keep in mind? Since bikes are considered vehicles under law, riding on the sidewalk is illegal. But there is a bit of a twist in this too. Some local governments may allow riders under the age of thirteen to ride on the sidewalk. That too is left up to local government, so you’ll have to check for yourself to see if you’re covered from town to town.
A final note, less about where to ride than how: it is illegal to ride a bike and carry things in such a way that you cannot keep at least one hand on the handlebars at all times. This is the shortest part in the code governing bicycles as it stands alone. (40-6-295).
Georgia also has very few surprises when it comes to what sort of safety gear you and your bike should have while riding. Here are some things to keep in mind:
- Lights: A white light on the front that can be visible from three hundred feet and a red reflector on the bike that is visible from three hundred feet. You can also use a light visible from three hundred feet that is also red. Three hundred is a bit different than the usual five hundred, but five hundred feet of course would be fine too.
- Georgia is quite specific when it comes to how the bike looks: it has to have handlebars that will not force people to have their hands above their shoulders, and the pedal in its lowermost position has to twelve inches above the ground or less. If your pedals are too high, it’s illegal to ride.
- The brakes have to be able to make the wheels skid on dry, level pavement.
- All riders under the age of sixteen must wear a helmet.
These are all very fine and well and we completely agree you should follow them for your safety. But if you don’t, it not doing it may not count as negligence or contributory negligence and riders under the age of sixteen who fail to comply will not be fined or imprisoned. But it will count as a misdemeanor. If you’re over the age of sixteen, you could be fined.
Georgia also has laws around pedals. The pedals must have reflectors on them that were approved by the Department of Public Safety and have to be visible in the dark from a distance of 200 feet. If the bike was purchased before July 1, 1972, you don’t have to worry about the pedals.
Georgia and Electric Bikes
Georgia does actually have some laws governing the use of electric bikes enshrined in the code. In Georgia, an electric bike is a device with two or three wheels, a seat, and pedals for human propulsion as well as an electric motor. Electric bikes fall under the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards in order to be considered an electric bike. The motor must have an output of no more than 1,000 watts, doesn’t go more than 20 miles per hour and cannot be used to make the bike go faster than twenty miles per hour when under human propulsion. They too, count as vehicles as far as duties and obligations go.
Biking Under the Influence
Bikes are considered to be vehicles and in Georgia, the laws governing driving under the influence also covers bikes. Therefore, bike riding under the influence is illegal. Georgia carries this a step further with codes identifying reckless driving, terrorism, and obstruction of the roadway without good and legal cause. All of these things are covered by vehicle law and therefore, extends to cyclists as well. It’s not something we generally think about, but Georgia lawmakers certainly have!
It’s important to understand the bike laws in Georgia because while in many cases, they are similar across the United States, there are a few things that make them different, such as electric bikes, and the case for reckless driving/riding and other things that are covered by vehicle law and therefore cover bikes. The big thing to keep in mind when cycling in Georgia is to check your local law because there may be some things which are different from town to town or county to county and you don’t want to get into trouble for not checking! Overall though, as long as you understand how to drive safely, you should be covered for riding your bike. Enjoy!