Spinning our Wheels

Spinning our Wheels is a commuting blog about the challenges of getting around Atlanta by car, bus, MARTA, bicycles and on foot written by transportation reporter David Wickert

Leaving space between cyclists and cars

Four years ago, Georgia enacted a law which requires cars and trucks to stay 3 feet away from bicyclists when passing.

That's all well and good. But who can eyeball such a precise distance?

Chattanooga, Tenn., may have the solution. It recently became the first city in the nation to adopt a technology to prevent drivers from encroaching on cyclists and hitting them. It's called Bicyclist and Safe Monitoring Applied Radar Technology (BSMART), made by Austin, Texas-based Codaxus, LLC.

The BSMART device mounts on a bike handlebar and uses an ultrasonic sensor to determine if motorists are violating the three-foot law. It can be used by police in public education enforcement campaigns, in much the same way that cops conduct crosswalk stings to ticket aggressive drivers with the aim of protecting pedestrians.

Following the launch of Chattanooga's program, police did not issue tickets, but warnings. At the same time, they passed out pamphlets to raise awareness about safely sharing the road.

As more and more cities become bike friendly, these efforts are being made in response to growing concerns about motorists and cyclists traveling the same streets.

More than 20 bicyclists have been killed on Georgia roads so far this year.

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