Big wins for people biking, walking, and rolling in Macon and statewide
As June draws to a close, advocates in Macon are celebrating the passage of a new ordinance that will make local streets safer and more accessible. And beginning in July, a new, more effective 3-foot passing law will go into effect statewide.
Macon-Bibb County adopts Complete Streets ordinance
On June 22, the Macon-BibbCounty Commission unanimously passed an ordinance, the purpose of which is to, “establish Macon-Bibb County as a livable community with enhanced mobility, equity, and vitality in all neighborhoods and for people of all ages and abilities, through the design, maintenance, and use of public rights of way. Macon-Bibb County aims to create a robust, efficiently operated, and well-connected transit network, a well-defined pedestrian and bicycle system, and to promote the improvement of public health, safety, economic growth, and quality of life.”
“Bike Walk Macon began working on the Macon-Bibb County Complete Streets Policy in 2016 with countless groups, advocates, and Macon-Bibb County agencies,” said Bike Walk Macon Executive Director Rachel Hollar Umana. “We’re thrilled to finally reach this important milestone that demonstrates that our leadership recognizes the importance of planning, designing, and installing safe infrastructure for all modes of transportation. We look forward to continuing to work with Macon-Bibb County to implement this policy and improve multi-modal options and connectivity across our city!”
The new Complete Streets ordinance identifies design standards that “maximize design flexibility and innovation,” including the National Association of City Transportation Officials Urban Street Design Guide and Urban Bikeway Design Guide, the Georgia Department of Transportation Complete Streets Policy, and other sources. It also establishes a Complete Streets Compliance Committee, with seats designated for Bike Walk Macon and U Create Macon board members.
Georgia Bikes Executive Director Elliott Caldwell said the organization supported Bike Walk Macon on the new policy and he thanks Caila Brown for her work on the policy during her time with Georgia Bikes, Voices for Healthy Kids (collaborative initiative of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the American Heart Association), and the National Complete Streets Coalition for their support early on in the policy development.
New 3-Foot Passing Law, passed in last legislative session, goes into effect July 1
When Georgia’s “3-foot passing law,” was passed by the Georgia General Assembly in 2011, it codified 3 feet as the minimum safe distance for overtaking or following a cyclist. In the intervening years Georgia Bikes has produced campaigns to educate the public about the law and its safety benefits. In addition, Georgia Bikes’ training programs have been updated to include information so that bicyclists, drivers, law enforcement, and others will better understand and apply the law.
Still, some parts of the law were difficult to convey to the public and proved problematic in court cases, especially the language that suggested drivers allow 3 feet or wait to pass only when doing so was “feasible.”
New language included in HB 353 — sponsored by Representative Todd Jones (R-South Forsyth, District 25), Representative Angelika Kausche (D-Johns Creek, District 50), Representative Charles Martin (R-Alpharetta, District 49), Representative Teri Anulewicz (D-Smyrna, District 42), Representative Scott Holcomb (D-Atlanta, District 81), Representative Marcus Wiedower (R-Watkinsville, District 119), and carried in the Senate by Sen. John Albers (R-Roswell, District 56) — removes the word “feasible” and specifically defines motorists’ ability to move into the adjacent lane to pass, a component of other “slower moving vehicle” laws, that was absent from the 3-foot passing law.
“After years of trying to get improvements to our 3-foot passing law, we are thrilled to finally see an update to the law that well improve safety for bicyclists while giving clearer instructions to drivers,” said Georgia Bikes Executive Director Elliott Caldwell. “A huge thanks to our bill sponsors, especially Rep. Jones who worked diligently on the bill and spoke for it eloquently and forcefully, Sen. Albers for carrying it through the Senate, and a special thanks to Rep. Anulewicz for stepping in to help in crucial moment during its journey.”
The improved law was Georgia Bikes’ top legislative priority for this year’s legislative session and the organization’s staff worked with Bike Law Georgia on the technical legal aspects of the new policy. The new law, which will become effective July 1, also specifies that a driver must reduce speed to 25 mph or 10 mph below the posted speed limit, whichever is greater, if they are passing a cyclist in a shared lane. It also specifies that, “Any violation of this Code section shall be a misdemeanor punished by a fine of not more than $250.00.”