Columbus Police will be cracking down on cyclists who do not follow the state and local laws, Maj. J.D. Hawk said on Tuesday.
The primary issues are caused by cyclists who either ride on roads and don’t follow the laws or who illegally ride on sidewalks, Hawk said.
It is against the law for a cyclist older than 12 years old to ride a bicycle on a sidewalk in Georgia. City ordinance prohibits the riding of all bicycles on sidewalks in the “central business district,” which covers most of downtown.
Hawk is encouraging those who ride bicycles on the sidewalks illegally to stop.
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“There is nothing that says you can’t walk your bike on the sidewalk,” Hawk said. “We are concerned that they will run over somebody on the sidewalk.”
Columbus police, especially the bike patrol, has been issuing warning tickets to cyclists caught riding on the downtown sidewalks. That will change to citations in the next two weeks, Hawk said.
The fine can range from probation to $1,000, according to the discretion of the Recorder’s Court judge hearing the case, City Attorney Clifton Fay said.
In addition to enforcing the law against cyclists riding on sidewalks, Hawk said police would also be watching for cyclists who fail to obey the rules of the road.
“We are getting complaints from other cyclists,” Hawk said.
He pointed to an area on Miller Road near large holding tanks for gasoline.
“The cyclists are blowing through the crosswalks and motorists are having to slam on brakes,” Hawk said. “Once that bicycle hits the road it is a vehicle and is subject to the same laws as other vehicles.”
Hawk said he recently issued a warning ticket to a cyclist he witnessed running a red light and riding the wrong way on a one-way street.
According to Georgia Code, “basically all traffic laws and rules of the road that apply to cars apply to bicycles.” Cyclists are required to go with the flow of traffic, according to state law.
“When you read the code sections specific to bicycles such as 40-6-291, they reinforce that they are considered vehicles and are required to obey traffic laws as well as the laws that are bicycle specific,” Fay said.
Columbus has several paths, such the Chattahoochee Riverwalk and Fall Line Trace, where bicycles are permitted. The Fall Line Trace crosses a number of city streets as it winds from downtown to the Muscogee County panhandle on an old rail bed. When cyclists cross those roads, they are considered a vehicle.
“They have to stop at the stop sign before going across the road,” Hawk said.