Georgia Bicycle Law Requiring Cyclists to Stay on Right Side of Roadways and the Requirements for Bike Paths in Georgia (O.C.G.A. § 40-6-294)

Legal Commentary. This Georgia bicycle statute ostensibly protects Georgia riders by requiring them to “know their place” on Georgia roadways. This can have serious implications if a Georgia bicycle rider is a victim of a cycling accident or a child suffers serious injury or wrongful death from a bicycle accident.

Under this law, Georgia bicycle riders are required to stay as far to the right as is practicable, except under certain circumstances, such as turning left or to avoid hazards. Because cyclists are allowed to ride on paved shoulders, there is always the argument that an injured rider could have been more to the right if they were on the roadway at all. Not only can a bicycle rider be cited by law enforcement for violation of this statute, but such a statue can be used to deny an injured rider compensation from the operator of a motor vehicle who causes an accident. This is because the negligent motorist can use any violation of this statute to claim that the cyclist was negligent themselves. Under Georgia law, if such a driver can show that the cyclist’s negligence was equal to his own, he can win a civil case.

The statute also includes a provision that bicycle riders cannot ride more than two together, side by side. See the full text below:

Section 40-6-294 Bicycle riders to ride on right side of roadway and not more than two abreast; requirement to use bike path if available; requirements for bike paths

(a) As used in this Code section, the term "hazards to safe cycling" includes, but shall not be limited to, surface debris, rough pavement, drain grates which are parallel to the side of the roadway, parked or stopped vehicles, potentially opening car doors, or any other objects which threaten the safety of a person operating a bicycle.

(b) Every person operating a bicycle upon a roadway shall ride as near to the right side of the roadway as practicable, except when:

(1) Turning left;

(2) Avoiding hazards to safe cycling;

(3) The lane is too narrow to share safely with a motor vehicle;

(4) Traveling at the same speed as traffic;

(5) Exercising due care when passing a standing vehicle or one proceeding in the same direction; or

(6) There is a right turn only lane and the person operating the bicycle is not turning right;

provided, however, that every person operating a bicycle away from the right side of the roadway shall exercise reasonable care and shall give due consideration to the other applicable rules of the road.

(c) Persons riding bicycles upon a roadway shall not ride more than two abreast except on bicycle paths, bicycle lanes, parts of roadways set aside for the exclusive use of bicycles, or when a special event permit issued by a local governing authority permits riding more than two abreast.

(d) Whenever a usable bicycle path has been provided adjacent to a roadway and designated for the exclusive use of bicycle riders, then the appropriate governing authority may require that bicycle riders use such bicycle path and not use those sections of the roadway so specified by such local governing authority. The governing authority may be petitioned to remove restrictions upon demonstration that the bicycle path has become inadequate due to capacity, maintenance, or other causes.

(e) Bicycle paths subject to the provisions of subsection (d) of this Code section shall at a minimum be required to meet accepted guidelines, recommendations, and criteria with respect to planning, design, operation, and maintenance as set forth by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, and such bicycle paths shall provide accessibility to destinations equivalent to the use of the roadway.

(f) Any person operating a bicycle in a bicycle lane shall ride in the same direction as traffic on the roadway.

(g) Electric assisted bicycles may be operated on bicycle paths.

HISTORY: Ga. L. 1973, p. 471, § 6; Code 1933, § 68A-1205, enacted by Ga. L. 1974, p. 633, § 1; Ga. L. 1990, p. 2048, § 5; Ga. L. 1992, p. 1546, §§ 1, 2; Ga. L. 1995, p. 271, § 1; Ga. L. 1996, p. 236, § 2; Ga. L. 2011, p. 426, § 3/HB 101.