The Hits Keep Coming

Another day. Another person riding a bike hit by a motor vehicle driver somewhere in our country (this time right down the block from me). Another email to city hall (with slight edits to improve readability) (see the most-recent prior one here).

Hi, all. I hear a motor vehicle driver hit a person riding a bike on Mt. Vernon Road yesterday, while I was riding on bike infrastructure in Decatur and Clarkson. (I missed you joining me*). 

I pray for the person-on-bike’s positive outcome and quick recovery (although as the first Vulnerable Road User Ordinance violation in the Southeastern USA, I can tell you that experiences such as being hit by a motor vehicle while riding your bike can permanently change you even if you recover physically — here is a popular post of mine, unfortunately, that includes 11 tips following an assault while riding a bike that many fellow survivors of road violence have found helpful).

I don’t know the circumstances of yesterday’s crash (but I did pass BikeLaw’s office directly across from the cycletrack in front of Decatur High School, which you can see near the end of the TikTok, and I hope BikeLaw lawyer Bruce Hagen was called). I do know, however, that you have been made aware for many years now that the paint on the road masquerading as bike lanes does not meet safe-access-for-all standards, plus none of our city’s intersections prioritize the safe movement of people on bikes through them (may I remind you of Pointy the Bike Lane?).

As many people are riding bikes in this nice weather, the city’s ongoing failure to act to provide immediate safe access to go actual places continues to be of deep concern. I have additionally cc:ed BikeLaw’s Bruce Hagen, our new Safe Streets Program Manager Jonathan DiGioia, and our terrific Parks Director Brent Walker (see traffic gardens comment in paragraph 3, Brent). 

I expect at some point our wonderful city communications team (compliment sincere — Jennifer and Kathy are the best of pros) will put out a message saying “Look out for bike riders. And everybody follow laws.” Additional details are needed. Many motor vehicle drivers do not know that people on bikes are legally allowed to “take the lane’ on all our roads if they deem it necessary to do so (such as if there is not enough room for a motor vehicle driver to pass them safely; if there is debris, parked trucks or other obstacles in their way; and if they are setting themselves up to make a left).

This decision is at the SOLE discretion of the person riding the bike as each individual will judge the risks they are willing to assume differently (this does not only have to do with experience — as an “avid cyclist” I make risk-assessment decisions every single day, which result in me often riding beneath my level of expertise in Dunwoody including accessing our 65 miles of our created-overnight de-facto multi-use path, at a time cost to me of 40% due to multiple factors stated in that post). Let me be clear. NO amount of experience makes a difference against a motor vehicle driver who is distracted, impaired or intends harm, which are all growing realities. 

A current comment on the Facebook Community Forum from a woman named Betty says that there was a bike rider in the middle of the road yesterday and she asked if that was normal. She said “I almost hit him.” This is deeply concerning for a licensed driver in our city to say, with clear lack of knowledge of the law in our shared public space. In fact, this comment alone should keep you up at night, especially knowing that you are in a position to make a difference that will save lives.

Many people feel a life will need to be lost before actual rubber-hits-the-road change happens. Four ghost bikes (memorials to people on bikes killed by motor vehicle drivers) currently around Metro Atlanta have resulted in zero observable changes, in case you are wondering how much your life is worth by our current Metro Atlanta municipalities. The place where my ghost bike would have been on Tilly Mill Road is unchanged almost three years later, although I noticed a wild daisy growing there recently. Perhaps I have planted a seed of change?

Regarding “taking the lane” — usually in Dunwoody, people on bikes do it for just for a short stretch of unavoidable road (as our cul-de-sacked neighborhoods do not connect), and yet the barrage of hate and harassment we get is bone-chilling (studies show women and people of color get more of this, for numerous documented reasons).

You may enjoy (?) what a citizen of Dunwoody said about me when I “took the lane” on Mt. Vernon Road (with the truck drivers’ considerate support behind me) for 1 minute and 8 seconds (per my body camera). I used his widely-circulated disgusting Facebook quote to kick off the epilogue of my book, Traveling at the Speed of Bike. There is more about riding a bike specifically in Dunwoody in chapters 3 and 6 (including about BikeNoodle — people keep asking about that so I wrote this blog post with everything they need to know).

Additional legally-allowed actions for a person on a bike include riding side-by-side (referred to legally as “two abreast”). Common reasons could include:

  • To create safer passage by “taking the lane” while riding with a friend, just as you would sit and chat with a friend while driving;
  • To create a neat and orderly peloton while riding with a group (which, by the way, is faster to pass in a motor vehicle when arranged as such);
  • To prepare as a duo to make a left;
  • To provide a buffer for a child or person with a disability who is riding with you.

There has been little-to-no communication of the statewide enhanced 3-feet-to-pass law, by the way. Our own Dunwoody-resident prior-state-representative (a personal injury lawyer) did not know it. I am not a lawyer, but my understanding of it is that:

  • Drivers are required to give 3 feet to pass. It’s no longer an “if possible” thing;
  • They are required to slow down 10 mph from the posted speed limit to a maximum of 25 mph when passing a person on a bike;
  • They are required to change lanes if there is a second lane going in the same direction, and allowed to cross a double yellow line to pass if clear from oncoming traffic to do so (or they must wait until it is safe to do so).

Did you know this? Are you slowing down 10 miles below the posted speed limit to a maximum of 25 mph to pass a person on a bike? Are you giving a minimum of three feet to pass even when a person on a bike is riding in our “bike lanes”? Are you changing lanes completely to pass a person on a bike when there are two lanes going in the same direction?

Look, I get it — when many of us got our licenses, some of these laws did not explicitly exist. It is very important that anyone operating a vehicle (motor vehicle, bike, or any of the wide range of cycles and light mobility devices) understand current state law —  so please, no tired tropes about “well, I saw a bike rider run a red light one day!”

Georgia Bikes has a great brochure about it. They also have a chart that lists the most common ways that crashes happen, including both motor vehicle and bike rider errors. As a League of Bicyclists Cycling Instructor, we teach basic bike maintenance, current law, bike handling skills, and hazard avoidance techniques to directly address these crash propensities. We can reduce or eliminate something like 99% of them. And yet we are still at high risk to be killed each and every day we take this health-enhancing, climate-smart, money-saving, community-building action in places such as Dunwoody. 

In addition to the most important (engineering solutions that represent best practices for safe-access-for-all), another key component of the Bicycle Friendly Community certification (for which the City of Dunwoody applied and was rejected) is education. In addition to online information and Smart Cycling courses (I offer two different proprietary Pedal Power with Pattie classes in-person and virtually which condense the Smart Cycling curriculum and include my additional lived and learned expertise; they have been taken by thousands globally), here are other techniques many cities utilize:

* Offer classes open to the public (including specific to seniors, such as what the City of Decatur hired me to teach — I created this PDF, which has been downloaded globally more than a thousand times, to help guide cities wanting to set up their own programs based on my year refining and teaching the Decatur Silver Spokes program — three Metro Atlanta cities offer seniors on trikes programs right now, by the way); 

* Work with schools to incorporate bike education into the curriculum (here’s a profile I wrote of a school employee doing that in the City of Atlanta at the Tuskegee Airmen Global Academy); 

* Provide driving-around-cyclists education (which I believe the City of Dunwoody has done for its employees, as that was the class for which I had just filmed a video at an off-road location, per Councilor Seconder’s request, prior to surviving the hit-and-run on Tilly Mill Road — my final words my family would have heard from me on my phone were the final words in that video: “We are all just trying to get home”); 

* Even create what’s called “traffic gardens,” such as miniature Safety Towns (which I attended with my class numerous times while in elementary school — that’s in the first chapter of my book, as it has had a life-long impact on me) or even just a painted course and tips in a park.

We also probably want to seriously consider a return to offering drivers education for free in our public schools for our youth.  

Note: I gave a copy of my book to Councilor Lambert at Lemonade Days when I was featured in the Authors Tent. Perhaps he can share it with you. If you choose to purchase it, please know that 100% of proceeds are used to help more women and girls (currently underrepresented in our public spaces for known and fixable reasons) ride bikes.

Additional fun fact: Kathy Florence designed the layout of the book, using a a cover photo provided by me that was taken by my 89-year-old father. My final question to you: My father is still capable of riding a bike or some sort of adaptive cycle like a three-wheeled e-trike (as are 78% of people with disabilities, by the way), but could not do so safely in the City of Dunwoody. Shouldn’t he be able to do so in a “family-friendly” city?

Trust the journey,


*See 56-second TikTok here. Note you can see me measuring one part of the PATH — it is 8 feet in some spots where that is contextually appropriate. You don’t need to keep fighting over 12 feet everywhere. This section of the PATH works to achieve the desired objectives. You can also see the first protected bike lane OTP in that video — it’s in Clarkson, and it is gorgeous. However, you can see how it does not prioritize people on bikes at the little intersection. There are other issues on the PATH that I would have flagged for you as well yesterday as things to avoid in our own PATH partnership, plus I am still puzzled by the brand-new extremely-uneven stone raised crosswalks in Clarkston that would be impossible for my mom to use (she was permanently disabled when a person driving a motor vehicle ran a red light and must have an even, impediment-free surface for walking). They are also definitely going to cause flat bike tires. 

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