Don’t die: Advice on biking safely

I’m a student who has to go from the Center for Collaborative Journalism to the Engineering Building between back-to-back classes. With great difficulty (and much running), I may get to class on time. I’m consistently late if you add the weight of books, laptop and camera gear. Others may be able pull it off, but I can’t, at least not on foot.
Ask any of my friends and they will tell you that I am meant to be on a bicycle, and my off-campus house is the perfect distance for riding. Not to mention everywhere downtown is accessible via bicycle. Before my bike was stolen (again), I was never late to class, and I easily rode five miles a day without spending a cent on gas.
So, if you want to circumvent high prices, get to class on time and get good exercise while you’re at it, invest in a bicycle, but it’s important to know a few rules first.
To ease the fear that I might die while riding, for the sake of my friends and my mother I looked over Georgia law regarding bicycles. Believe it or not, bicycles are considered vehicles in Georgia.
According to Section 40-6-144 of the Georgia Code, “No person shall drive any vehicle upon a sidewalk or sidewalk area except upon a permanent or duly authorized driveway.” Since the law uses the word “vehicle” (as apposed to motor-vehicle), this law applies to bicycles as well.
However, sidewalks on campus are on private property, and the law does not necessarily extend to them. But it is important to know that when you ride on public roads adjacent to campus, you should be aware that your bike is considered a vehicle in the eye of the law, and should therefore not be ridden on the sidewalk.
We’ve all experienced a bicyclist passing our car at stop light in order to cross the street or make a right turn. It’s not just annoying and dangerous; it’s also illegal. The reason for bicycles being considered vehicles is a sound one. Bicycles enter intersections so quickly that cars literally have no time to react. Bicycles can go fast–must faster than jaywalkers.
The average pedestrian walks at three to four mph. The average bike travels at around 20 mph. Cars who technically have right of way can yield it to a pedestrian in time to stop. Not so for bicycles; collision avoidance is almost null.
In general, bicyclists should slow down on campus. Even though there are no cars, there are a lot of pedestrians to worry about. Bicyclists should treat intersections of sidewalks the same as if they were a four-way yield on a public street.
Bicyclists should also signal every turn; they are required to by law. People simply don’t expect bicycles to blast around corners. A collision between a bicycle and a pedestrian could lead to broken bones, concussions and internal hemorrhaging to both parties. Not pretty. Slow down, signal, and check both directions so you don’t you hit a pedestrian at 20 mph.
You really should wear a helmet. Unfortunately, the Georgia law requiring bicyclists to wear helmets only applies to persons under age of 16.
Georgia law specifically requires bicyclists to have a front light for night riding. If the police actually cared, you could be ticketed for not having a front light.
I’ve been pulled over by a police officer in a patrol car while riding my bicycle. While it does give you an adrenaline rush, I do not recommend it. To avoid being pulled over yourself, just use common sense. If you use common sense, you are less likely to kill people while riding around campus.