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Monday, October 7, 2013 - 12:56pm

Lawmakers Eye New Bicycle Rules

Three north Georgia lawmakers have already heard from cyclists across the state after filing legislation that would dramatically change the rules of the road for bicycles. State Representatives Carl Rogers, Lee Hawkins and Emory Dunahoo, all Republicans from Gainesville, planned to hear even more at a public hearing on the bill Monday evening.

The proposed law would require bicycle owners to pay a state registration fee and purchase a license plate for every bike they own and use on public roadways. The annual registration fee would be $15.

“To me it’s just another way to raise revenue,” said James Bell, director of Georgia Taxpayers Alliance. “I don’t think that we have a problem with bicycles. So why suddenly is there a need to license and to tag and to have people stand in line over a bicycle? It just doesn’t make sense to me and then where does it end? Do we license rollerblades and skateboards? There’s no end to where this could go.”

While the proposed tax is troublesome for some, others believe the possible restrictions on riders would be worse.

Nate Sibley works at Atlanta Cycling. A cyclist himself, Sibley said it was disappointing to hear about the bill because the cycling community has been working to promote awareness and safety.

“My first reaction as with everybody else, was outrage,” Sibley recalled.

Currently under Georgia law, cyclists can ride two by two on roads. The bike bill would change that, requiring cyclists to ride in single file and only in groups of four or less.

“When you put people together in a group especially novices, they feel safe. They feel comfortable,” said Sibley. “There are people that would not ride down Piedmont Avenue in front of our store by themselves. However, when we have a weekly group ride and there’s 15 or 20 of them, they’ll go for a ride. They feel safe and they feel comfortable and I feel that as a group, we are less vulnerable.”

Sibley said larger groups of cyclists are easier for motorists to see, comparing the difference to “a Toyota Prius and a tractor trailer.”

Bicycle shops would also be impacted by the law, Sibley explained.

“Part of what makes cycling appealing to people is the fact that they can buy a bicycle and they can ride out of the store here and go do a group ride or go do a ride on the streets. You don’t have to pay for green fees as in golf or a tennis court or a swimming pool or anything like that. You can simply ride your bike,” said Sibley. “I think that it will directly affect our shop and other bicycle shops within the state.”

The law would also allow local governments to restrict when and where bikes could use their roadways.

None of the sponsors of the bill responded to requests for comment.