02

Blog

We Need More Than Vulnerable Road User (VRU) Laws

On May 1, 2020, the City of Dunwoody’s new Vulnerable Road User (“VRU”) ordinance will take effect, the first such law to be enacted anywhere in the State of Georgia.  Hopefully neighboring municipalities like Sandy Springs, Roswell and Chamblee will follow suit, and more importantly, the State of Georgia.   VRU laws recognize and prioritize human life over cars, providing enhanced penalties against any car driver whose actions cause harm to someone that’s not in a car.   However, as recent tragedies remind us, laws alone will not save lives.   

On Friday, April 24, 57 year old Felix Mayer, a long time fixture on the Dunwoody bicycling scene, was killed in broad daylight by a driver who was allegedly distracted by his phone.  The driver fled the scene, leaving Felix on the side of the road to die.  Sandy Springs police have made an arrest and the driver has been charged with Felony Vehicular Homicide, among other charges.   Felix was a very experienced and cautious cyclist who knew how to ride safely and responsibly.   Sadly, that was not enough to protect him from the actions of a reckless driver.

Felix Mayer Cyclist

Less than a week  earlier, 11 year old Blake Mahoney was killed as he rode his bike in his Marietta neighborhood.   The driver, a 65 year old resident of the same neighborhood, was not charged, and police say that “the boy turned his bicycle into the car’s path”.   Supposedly the investigation is ongoing.   Was speed a factor?   Distraction?   We would certainly like to know.   11 year olds may lack experience, but turning directly into the path of a moving car is not something that you would expect, so maybe there’s another explanation entirely.

The point is, while strong laws help to protect us when we’re on a bike, they will not keep us alive unless they’re accompanied by much, much more.   Would young Blake Mahoney be alive today if he had been able to ride his bike safely on a multi-use path that separated bicycles and pedestrians from cars?   Would Felix Mayer still be alive today if cell phones were disabled from use while in a car, or if we had protected lanes for bicycle travel that were physically separated from motor vehicle traffic?  Or for that matter, if laws against distracted driving were actually enforced?  

Make no mistake, the efforts of City of Dunwoody in enacting a VRU law are very much appreciated and a solid step in the right direction.  But let’s not deceive ourselves and have a false sense of security just because the law in Dunwoody punishes drivers when they hurt or kill us.   Until we invest the money into safe infrastructure, and until we have a strong law enforcement presence to stop distracted driving, we are all at risk every time we get on a bicycle.   

Creating a world that’s safe for everyone requires the political will to make it happen.   It’s refreshing to see that the City of Atlanta recently announced the adoption of a Vision Zero policy.   But policy alone will not change anything, it takes commitment to enacting the policy.  As noted recently by transportation guru David Ederer, “Atlanta, while late to the Vision Zero movement, could lead by explicitly designating people walking or rolling as their design user. For too long, Atlanta has prioritized convenience over safety in its transportation system. By beginning with the principle that it will design a transportation system with the most vulnerable as its key users, Atlanta will start on a path to an effective Vision Zero program.”  

That’s why we at Bike Law keep fighting, not just on behalf of the injured bicyclists (aka “People Who Ride Bikes”)  we represent as bicycle accident lawyers, but on behalf of everyone who enjoys riding bikes.   We fight for a world when parents can let their kids out of the house on a bike, knowing that there are safe places for them to ride.  Where spouses can relax when their loved ones put on a kit and go out to ride for a few hours, comfortable that drivers will not be distracted from humans who are out on the same roads.  We fight for a world where it’s safe to ride a bike to work, to the grocery store, to school.  Where a bike is just seen as a functional tool like anything else, and is so commonplace that it’s almost taken for granted.  When we as a society decide to prioritize human life over the convenience of moving cars faster through our neighborhoods, that’s when our work will be done.   Not before.   

 

Comments

Bike Advocate
Peter Wilborn May 26, 2020

If you’ve ridden a bike anywhere in Atlanta, chances are you’ve met Atlanta bike advocate Angel Poventud.  If you’ve stopped for a post-ride beer, been to an important advocacy event, or to any major Atlanta gathering, chances are you have met Angel Poventud.   It may only seem that Angel is everywhere, but when you […]

Read More
Bicycle accident lawyer group riding in COVID
Kurt Holzer May 15, 2020

Idaho’s Governor Little has issued the State’s planned staged transition away from his Stay-at-Home health order.  Road cyclists continue to wonder how we should engage in group riding under COVID. As a bicycle accident lawyer who deals with the negative aspects of cycling, I have been thinking a lot about when and how to ride safely […]

Read More
Felix Mayer Cyclist killed by car. NO VRU law
Bruce Hagen Apr 30, 2020

On May 1, 2020, the City of Dunwoody’s new Vulnerable Road User (“VRU”) ordinance will take effect, the first such law to be enacted anywhere in the State of Georgia.  Hopefully neighboring municipalities like Sandy Springs, Roswell and Chamblee will follow suit, and more importantly, the State of Georgia.   VRU laws recognize and prioritize […]

Read More
Minnesota Cycling
Daniel Brazil Apr 23, 2020

On March 6, Minneapolis released a 252-page Transportation Action Plan. The plan’s ultimate goal is to expand transportation options for those walking, biking and taking public transit to get where they need to go.  Through this expansion, Minneapolis hopes to reduce the number of vehicles on the road, lowering greenhouse gas emissions. One of the […]

Read More
Bike to Work Corona
Daniel Brazil Apr 14, 2020

Not long ago, I published a post highlighting the great efforts being made by the co-chairs of the Saint Paul Bicycle Coalition. One of the co-chairs, Andy Singer, has garnered attention not just for his work for the Coalition but for his policy-based cartoons.  I asked Andy if he’d oblige to another interview to highlight […]

Read More
Peter's Bike Tools
Peter Wilborn Apr 13, 2020

I love bikes as much as I love cycling. To me, a bike is moving sculpture, perfected technology, and gorgeous industrial design. In these lock-down days, I am out in the garage fiddling with my bikes.  Tuning them up, and overhauling one or two. Which got me thinking of bike tools.  And the ones I […]

Read More
Load More