A new ordinance that adds protections for cyclists and pedestrians beyond what state law requires is now official in Dunwoody.

The City Council approved the “vulnerable road user” ordinance at its Nov. 18 meeting and is believed to be the first city in Georgia to have such a law.

“I’m proud that the City Council demonstrated leadership and we’re blazing a new trail in the state of Georgia,” said Councilmember Tom Lambert, who led the effort to pass the ordinance. The ordinance was first introduced in September. 

“I think this is big public safety issue,” he said. “We want to be a bicycle- and pedestrian-friendly city. That’s what citizens have been asking for all along, and I believe this it is important to take this step to improve the roads for everybody.”

The city’s ordinance mirrors much state law, such as ticketing a motorist for not stopping for pedestrians in a crosswalk. It prohibits motorists from throwing objects at cyclists, driving too close to try to intimidate them, and turning right in front of them.

The city’s version adds enhanced penalties for violators. They could be sentenced to up to six months in jail, made to pay up to a $1,000 fine and have their driver’s license suspended. The penalties could be waived if the motorist takes a court-mandated driver safety class. Tickets would be issued by officers witnessing the violations.

Besides cyclists and pedestrians, vulnerable road users include those on scooters; mopeds; skateboards; tractors or other vehicles used in agriculture; motorcycles; wheelchairs; and other electric personal mobility device.

Dunwoody’s ordinance says that motorists are to give cyclists at least 3 feet of space when passing them on a road. Motorists are to cross the center line into the opposite travel lane to give that 3 feet of space only if it is safe to do so. If it is not safe, motorists are to travel slowly behind the cyclist until they are able to safely pass the cyclist with the required 3 feet between them.

Lambert said the city’s ordinance makes it clear that using the opposite lane for safety is allowed, whereas the state law, he said, is open to interpretation.

“This is the core foundation of this ordinance,” he said.

Chief Billy Grogan said that any motorist who drives into an opposite travel lane and causes a crash is at fault and that the city’s ordinance does not change that.

The ordinance was approved 6-1 with Councilmember Terry Nall casting the sole “no” vote.

The ordinance will go into effect May 1, 2020. Between now and then, the city will undertake a public awareness and education campaign to make people aware of the new regulations.

Dyana Bagby

Dyana Bagby is a staff writer for Reporter Newspapers and Atlanta Intown.