Despite the recent good news about Georgia's Bicycle Friendly state ranking, it's all too clear we have a lot of work to do. Below is our response to a troubling editorial penned by Mr. Glenn Harbison, publisher of Blue Ridge's News Observer.
Dear Mr. Harbison,
The May 21st News Observer editorial displays significant lack of knowledge of Georgia law and could be seen as tacit approval of motorists endangering cyclists. I will address your remarks in the order you made them:
1) You describe a bicyclist·traveling on "the traffic side of the white line. He was in the way." In Georgia, as in all states, a bicycle is legally defined as a vehicle and has all the same rights and responsibilities as other vehicles, unless the roadway in question is restricted access.·As a vehicle, a bicycle is not blocking traffic - it IS traffic.
2) With respect to your observation that··the cyclist was wearing "a green shirt which blended perfectly with the trees on the side of the road," I will concede that you are correct. Cyclists should always wear very bright and visible clothing, especially when traveling on roads with high-speed motor vehicle traffic.
3) You then make the comment, “Could this be one of the city folks who think they deserve part of the highway?”No, sir, it's just a fellow Georgia citizen exercising his right to drive a vehicle on the public roadways that all of us, including that cyclist, pay to build and maintain. No roadway in the nation is paid for entirely by fuel or motor vehicle taxes. Nearly half of all roadway construction and maintenance is subsidized by other taxes, paid by people who may not even drive a car.
The truth of the matter is that Georgia's roads are paid for by everyone, regardless of whether or how much they drive a motor vehicle. Furthermore, that cyclist, and almost all cyclists, also drive cars and pay to pave and maintain Georgia's roads. That highway is as much the cyclist's as it is yours, mine, and every other Georgian's. That's what "public road" means.
4) You claim·that the cyclist "selfishly put himself and others in danger." This is a classic case of blaming the victim. You already stated that he was traveling in the same direction as traffic, so he was operating his vehicle lawfully and appropriately. The fact is that it is motorists, who hold the belief that they "own" the road, who actually put others in danger. Between the 30 lb bicycle going 20 mph and the 1 ton truck traveling at 50+ mph, who is really putting who at risk here? Motorists have the·privilege- not the right - to use public roadways. It is always a motorist's responsibility to operate his inherently dangerous vehicle safely and cautiously around other road users. Likewise, cyclists must obey the rules of the road, ride defensively and make sure they are·visible to faster moving traffic.
5) You conclude that·"Highways were built to carry motorists at high rates of speed." In one sense, you are correct. However, your failure to understand that bicycles are lawful road users keeps you from reaching an obvious conclusion. ·Our roads need to be better designed, with all users in mind. Georgia Bikes is working with GDOT to develop a "Complete Streets" policy that will·achieve·exactly that. In the meantime, it is the responsibility of motor vehicle drivers to operate safely and to be especially cautious when driving near more vulnerable users. Too many tragic cyclist fatalities are the result of motorist inattention or even open aggression.
Publications like yours can and do influence Georgia drivers. You appear to have publicly advocated for hostile indifference to fellow Georgians' rights and lives. Georgia Bikes calls on you to recognize cyclists' right to life and to the public roads, to apologize for your misinformed editorial, and to urge other motor vehicle drivers to courteously and respectfully share the road.
Finally, it seems you would want to·welcome bicycle tourists to your part of the state. Recreational cyclists bring money to spend and, if made to feel welcome, they will encourage their friends and other cyclists to visit your community. If the community is welcoming, they may opt to stay in your hotels, eat at your restaurants and support your local businesses. They might even buy your paper.
Brent A. Buice