Gov. Deal vetoes “Dead Red” law

Senate Bill 76, which was passed by the General Assembly, would have allowed motorcyclists and bicyclists to carefully proceed through an unresponsive traffic signal. Governor Nathan Deal vetoed the bill, which also included provisions altering the allowable height of motorcycle handle bars as well as clarification on when motorists should stop for pedestrians in crosswalks.

Dea’s official statement on the veto:

“While I am sympathetic to the concerns and causes of motorcyclists and bicyclists, this legislation does not provide an adequate solution and presents a confusing exception to motorists. Furthermore, Senate Bill 76 would eliminate the current 15-inch height restriction placed on motorcycle handlebars. Motorcycles equipped with handlebars more than 15 inches in height pose a safety hazard due to the increased difficulty in steering and decreased control. In 2014, crashes involving motorcycles and bicycles accounted for 13 percent of the fatalities on Georgia roads, and I do not see how this legislation will enhance roadway safety. Therefore, in the interest of providing the necessary roadway safety Georgians deserve, I hereby veto Senate Bill 76.”

Georgia lawmakers pass “dead red” law

Earlier this month, the Georgia General Assemby passed Senate Bill 76, the “Motorcycle Mobility Safety Act,” which details 

“the safe operation of a motorcycle or bicycle through an inoperative traffic-control signal.”

This legislation, often referred to as a “dead red” law, describes the conditions under which a person on a bicycle may carefully ride through a red traffic signal. The exact language from the bill is below in italics.

In layman’s terms, this law states that you may cautiously ride through a red light if you have waited a “reasonable” amount of time and have determined that the light will not change due to the small size of your vehicle (motorcycle or bicycle). The law goes on to state that if you are involved in a crash as result of riding through a red light, the crash is evidence in and of itself that you did not exercise the necessary caution.

Many traffic lights in Georgia are not calibrated to detect people on bikes (or motorcycles). Hopefully, as traffic engineers correct the settings, the need to ride through a red light will no longer be an issue. In the meantime, SB 76 is a common sense recognition that much of our transportation infrastructure only accomodates cars and trucks, though many additional types of users are acessing the same public right of way.

This “dead red” bill allows people to lawfully make a careful, sensible decision when they encounter a non-responsive traffic light.

For more about “dead red” laws, visit the League of American Bicyclists’ “Bike Law University.”

For additional context, we recommend this 2012 article from language from SB 76If a driver has stopped pursuant to the instructions of a traffic-control device and has a reasonable belief that the traffic-control device or signal is inoperative due to the lightweight design of his or her motorcycle or bicycle, the driver may disregard or disobey the instructions of the traffic-control device or signal and proceed through the intersection, provided that:(A) There is no other motor vehicle within 500 feet approaching or entering the same intersection from a different highway, or from the same highway approaching or entering the intersection from the opposite direction; and(B) The driver cautiously proceeds through the intersection with reasonable care and consideration for all other applicable rules of the road. Nothing in this paragraph shall restrict the permissibility of a driver to make a right turn as provided for in paragraph (3) of subsection (a) of Code Section 40-6-21.(3) A driver who acts or purports to act pursuant to paragraph (2) of this subsection shall maintain the burden of proving that he or she acted in accordance with paragraph (2) of this subsection. Such driver’s cause or proximate cause of an accident while acting or purporting to act pursuant to paragraph (2) of this subsection shall be prima-facie evidence that such driver did not exercise the requisite level of caution, care, or consideration required for compliance with the law.(4) As used in this subsection, the term ‘reasonable belief’ means the belief of a reasonable person in consideration of the conditions of his or her stop, including but not limited to the number of seconds he or she has been stopped or the number of signal changes he or she has observed of the traffic-control device or signal which did not include a change of instruction to him or her.”

GA ranks 25th for Bicycle Friendliness amidst string of fatal crashes across state

In the shadow of a recent string of crashes that killed bicyclists in Albany, Braselton, Milton, Molena and Savannah, the League of American Bicyclists (LAB) has released its latest ranking of Bicycle Friendly States. In the eighth annual assessment, Georgia achieved a 25th place ranking nationally, moving up one spot since 2014.

“It’s a bittersweet moment for bicycling in Georgia,” said Brent Buice, Executive Director of Georgia Bikes. “We are proud of our upward movement in the ranks, thanks to our advocacy efforts and some state policies that support safer bicycling. However, we are deeply saddened by the recent tragic crashes from across the state.”

Safety advocates recommend that Georgia adopt legislation, known as a Vulnerable Road User law, to increase penalties for motorists who injure or kill law enforcement, EMS workers, people on foot or on bicycles, and other road users who are at greater risk of injury. The Georgia General Assembly considered such a law in 2013, but the bill did not pass the state House after leaving the Senate. One of LAB’s key recommendations for Georgia is that it enact such a law.

Since late March, five Georgians have been killed by motorists while riding bicycles. In Brooks County, a man was hit and killed by a semi-truck driver on March 26. By all accounts, he was riding safely and obeying the law. April 26, a man in Savannah was struck by a motor vehicle, and ultimately succumbed to his injuries. On April 29, Jason Young, a 45-year-old father of three, was killed when struck head-on by a motorist in Milton. Two other men who were riding with Mr. Young were also seriously injured. Days later, a bicyclist was hit from behind and killed by a drunk driver in Braselton. May 7, a man was hit from behind and killed in Pike County.

Overall, traffic fatalities in Georgia are up 19% from 2014. Bicyclist fatalities are 67% higher than in 2014, while the state’s already alarmingly high pedestrian fatalities (67 in 2015 so far) have increased 10% from this time last year.

“Ultimately, most, if not all, crashes are preventable,” says Buice. “ Through better engineering of our streets we can safely accommodate all users, ages, and abilities. In addition, through more rigorous driver education and targeted enforcement campaigns, we can crack down on speeding, distracted driving and impaired driving.”

The idea that all traffic fatalities are preventable is known as “Vision Zero,” a policy adopted by several U.S. cities, including New York and Seattle.  In praise of the policy, Seattle Department of Transportation Director Scott Kubly observes that, “No one should accept a traffic fatality as a byproduct of [their] commute.”

Funding to proactively implement safe, family-friendly streets is an area where Georgia needs significant improvement, according to the League’s Bicycle Friendly State report card. Despite passage of a major transportation funding bill in the 2015 General Assembly session, no explicit provision was made for improving the safety of Georgia’s most vulnerable road users. Georgia also fails to fully leverage its apportioned federal transportation dollars for eligible walking and bicycling improvements. This lack of investment in safe streets and neighborhoods results in our relatively low ranking as a Bicycle Friendly State.

At the local level, several cities in Georgia have accepted USDOT Secretary Foxx’s Mayors’ Challenge for Safer People and Safer Streets. The cities of Atlanta, Columbus, Macon, and Stone Mountain have formally pledged to advance safety and accessibility for people who walk or bike. Major components of the Mayors’ Challenge include adoption and implementation of local Complete Streets policies and addressing barriers to safe walking and bicycling, such as high motor vehicle speeds. “City scale commitment to safer streets is essential,’ says Buice, “and those Georgia communities with high rates of bicycling – Athens, Decatur, and Savannah, for instance – need to accept the USDOT Challenge and proactively implement safer street designs and outreach programs.”

“There is so much that cities and mayors can do to address these needs,” notes Rebecca Serna, Executive Director of the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition. ” For instance, the City of Atlanta Mayor’s Office is establishing a Safer Streets committee that will focus on Complete Streets implementation and better data collection on bike crashes.”

The Bicycle Friendly States ranking is based on a number of key indicators, including infrastructure and funding that provide on-the-ground bicycle facilities; education and encouragement programs that promote cycling; and passage and enforcement of bicycle-friendly laws that make it safe and comfortable for people of all ages to ride.