(A Man Named) Mayor killed while riding bike (UPDATED)

Felix Mayor, 57, of the metro-Atlanta suburb-city of Dunwoody, Georgia, was killed by a motor vehicle driver as he was riding his bike in a bike lane in the neighboring city of Sandy Springs, Georgia last Friday, April 24, 2020.

The driver, Leonardo Angulo Banos, age 40, of Norcross, Georgia (who fled the scene) was arrested and charged the next day with first-degree felony vehicular homicide, felony hit and run, reckless driving, distracted driving and failure to maintain a lane. Other charges are expected (according to coverage).

These are strong charges not typically made when a motor vehicle driver acts illegally toward a driver, even when there is a loss of life. Sandy Springs is not known for being supportive of bike riders so perhaps the tide is starting to turn there. The League of American Bicyclists recommends that changes come in five areas, known as the five E’s: Engineering, Education, Encouragement, Enforcement, and Evaluation/Planning. They’ve since added a 6th E: Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion.

Just days later, an almost-full-page announcement in my local newspaper (pictured above) served to educate about enforcement of the first Vulnerable Road User Ordinance in a city in the southeastern United States, which was passed by the City of Dunwoody near the end of 2019 and goes into effect this Friday, May 1.

The VRU Ordinance (as it’s known) closes loopholes regarding the statewide 3-Feet-to-Pass Law; it makes clear that, in addition to close-passing and dangerous turns, intimidation and harassment are expressly forbidden; and it offers additional prosecutorial options for sentencing. (See A 2-Mile Ride That May Save Some Lives.)

The announcement includes one statement that requires additional information, and one incorrect statement. These may feel nitpicky to you, but there are actual lived-experience reasons why accuracy is important here.

Additional information: The part about riding as far to the right as “safe” includes these exceptions in the actual ordinance (and, by the way, most laws use the word “practicable” instead of safe as it makes more rubber-hits-the-road sense, but my guess is that local folks didn’t think people would understand the word “practicable”):

  1. (1)  Every person riding a bicycle upon a roadway at a rate of speed less than the normal flow of traffic at the particular time and place shall ride as near to the right side of the right through lane as is safe except:
    1. While preparing to make or while making turning movements at an intersection or into a private road or driveway;
    2. When approaching an intersection where right turns are permitted and there is a dedicated right turn lane, in which case a person may operate a bicycle in this lane even if the operator does not intend to turn right;
    3. While overtaking and passing another bicycle or vehicle proceeding in the same direction; and;
    4. When reasonably necessary to avoid unsafe conditions including, but not limited to, fixed or moving objects, parked or moving vehicles, bicyclists, pedestrians, animals, and surface hazards.

Please note that it is always the bike rider’s decision about what is or isn’t practicable and if “taking the lane” is their safest decision based on the current situation (rain, debris, need to social-distance, personal profile*, etc.) or dangerous-by-design road conditions. Note that different people will make different decisions based on the level of risk they are willing to assume (which is not always related to their bicycle-riding skill level and may not have anything to do with “confidence”). If you do want to stick to the right more often without getting squeezed into the gutter or “buzzed” by passing drivers, see Everyone Is Asking about BikeNoodle.

Incorrect Statement: The announcement says that Vulnerable Road Users must wear bright or reflective clothing at night when on the roadway. The inclusion of the word “clothing” is not correct. The actual ordinance says:

(3) Between dusk and dawn, all vulnerable road users shall take reasonable measures to make themselves visible to all other road users.

There are many ways to make yourself visible that don’t necessarily involve purchasing and wearing specific reflective clothing. Note that bike riders are already required by state law to use both front and back lights at night. Clarity is important here (especially in regards to issues of equity), and this point is communicated inaccurately in this announcement.

The City of Dunwoody does not yet have a ghost bike — those memorials to bike riders killed by motor vehicle drivers — and my hope is that the education and enforcement of this Vulnerable Road User Ordinance will help keep that from happening. I have been circulating the public service announcement below for years, and I am grateful for the action that my local government has taken. I have requested additional safe access in the form of temporary tactical urbanism, as other cities are doing during the coronavirus pandemic.

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More is needed, but the new Vulnerable Road User Ordinance is a good start. It is my sincere hope that this local action serves as an impetus for more cities and states to enact similar ordinances, especially considering the surge in bike riders recently (see Bikes Are the New Toilet Paper). Thank you to Mayor Lynn Deutsch, Dunwoody City Council (specifically Tom Lambert and Joe Seconder), and the Dunwoody Police Department. (Read Tom Lambert’s terrific speech about the Vulnerable Road User Ordinance here.) And condolences to the friends and family of Felix Mayor. May he rest in peace.

* Studies show women are passed more closely and harassed more often when riding bikes. There’s some explanation about this in my book, Traveling at the Speed of Bike, if you are interested. Please note that girls and women are significantly underrepresented in our public spaces known as streets. If you are a woman who wants to get back on bike, feel free to contact me if you have any questions or if I can help in any way. I have dedicated a significant amount of my education outreach efforts as a League of American Bicyclists Cycling Instructor to encouraging women.

UPDATE: Speaking of clarity! Seems the news clip I posted spelled the name of the man killed incorrectly both in its video and in its online article. It is is Mayer, not Mayor. (If so inclined, you can contribute to the GoFundMe campaign for Felix Mayer’s family here.)

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If interested, see follow-up post titled “Unsettling”