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March Madness of a Different Kind


March Madness has definitely hit—in the form of bizarre weather—with temperatures swinging from the 70s to the 30s, and precipitation coming in the form of thunderstorms and snowstorms in the same week. Today is the first day of spring, yet many parts of the country are still digging out from the big nor’easter that dumped record snowfalls just last week. Most colleges have already had their spring breaks, sending students away for fun and sun, only to have them return to cold, dark skies spitting out freezing rain and snow (except possibly for students at very southern schools).

What does all this mean for the bicycling enthusiasts that are usually filling the trails and roads by this time of year? It means being very careful on a number of levels.


When snow or slush is packed against parked cars, and pedestrians walk in the street to avoid snow-packed sidewalks, the little room that previously existed for bicycles is reduced even more. As a result, cyclists and cars compete for the same lane of traffic with often disastrous results. Using a mirror on a bicycle much like a rear-view mirror on a car can help a cyclist determine what is happening with traffic to the rear of the bicycle, allowing the cyclist to move into the traffic lane when there is room.


Frozen slush is problematic. It is lumpy, and ice, after all. Do not swerve or brake hard. Try to approach frozen slush straight on, since front wheel traction is critical. If conditions are very severe, try to travel in vehicle tire tracks. Take turns wider when roads are bad, and do not hesitate to put a foot down or get off the bike all together if necessary. Periodically squeeze the brakes lightly to clean off any snow or ice that may have accumulated.


Atlanta is a cycling city; It went from a .3% bike commute share in 2000 to a 1.5% share in 2011, which is a 368% increase, and the numbers are still increasing. Unfortunately, with the greater number of bicycle commuters has come a greater number of bicycle-related fatality crashes; the rate in Georgia increased by 28% in 2012. This increase in fatal bicycle-related traffic accidents has prompted some highway safety experts to call for a more stringent enforcement of the Georgia state law requiring that drivers maintain at least three feet of distance when passing bicyclists.

One of the biggest factors in bicycle-related fatality crashes, no matter what the weather, is what is commonly referred to as the “left cross.” The left cross describes a car making a left turn in front of a bicyclist going straight. Many times, the driver of the car may in fact “see” the cyclist but not register his/her presence; i.e. the driver sees with his eyes and not with his brain. This phenomenon has deadly consequences.

Anything that helps to draw more attention to the bicyclist can help a driver register the presence of the bicyclist. Wearing bright and reflective clothing, using a front flashing headlight, and even waving to the driver are all ways to ensure that drivers not only see cyclists, but truly register their presence and drive accordingly.


If you or someone you know has been involved in an accident between a bicycle and a motor vehicle, contact Dave Thomas at The Thomas Law Firm for a free consultation.

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Thomas Law Firm
Located at 945 East Paces Ferry Road, Resurgens Plaza, GA 30326.

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