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New law protecting pedestrians goes into effect this week in Dunwoody

A pedestrian crosses the Mt. Vernon and Chamblee Dunwoody Road intersection in Dunwoody. (Photo: Bob Andres / robert.andres@ajc.com)
A pedestrian crosses the Mt. Vernon and Chamblee Dunwoody Road intersection in Dunwoody. (Photo: Bob Andres / robert.andres@ajc.com)

Heads up, drivers. A new law protecting pedestrians — believed to be the first of its kind in Georgia — is set to go into effect this week in Dunwoody.

The “vulnerable road users” ordinance goes further than state law in giving additional protections to walkers, runners, bicyclists, road workers and others. It also stiffens the fine against drivers who threaten their safety: Penalties for violating the law include up to six months in jail or probation, and up to a $1,000 fine.

The ordinance — which goes into effect Friday, May 1 — mandates that vehicles must be at least 3 feet away from a bicycle when passing one. It also bans drivers from throwing things at vulnerable road users, making an unsafe turn in front of them or maneuvering a car in a way that could cause “intimidation or harassment.”

Dunwoody’s ordinance only allows a car to go into an opposite-direction travel lane to pass a cyclist if it is safe to do so. Otherwise, they must stay behind the bike.

“Because of social distancing, we’re seeing more of our residents riding bikes, running and walking,” Dunwoody Police Chief Billy Grogan said in a statement. “We want to make sure everyone knows about this new ordinance and understands the importance of watching out for one another.”

The “vulnerable road users” protected by the law includes skateboarders, motorcyclists and scooter riders.

A cyclist crosses the Mt. Vernon and Chamblee Dunwoody Road intersection in Dunwoody. (Bob Andres / robert.andres@ajc.com)
A cyclist crosses the Mt. Vernon and Chamblee Dunwoody Road intersection in Dunwoody. (Bob Andres / robert.andres@ajc.com)

Credit: Bob Andres / robert.andres@ajc.com

Credit: Bob Andres / robert.andres@ajc.com

The law provides several defenses for drivers, including if a bicyclist is not wearing bright or reflective clothing at night, or if a pedestrian isn’t on the sidewalk or in a crosswalk. Penalties could be reduced or waived if the driver completes a safety and pedestrian awareness class.

Dunwoody’s City Council passed the new ordinance in November.

Several other states and large cities around the country, including Connecticut, Utah, Washington and Houston, have their own vulnerable road users laws. Bike advocates around Georgia have pushed for the state to pass a law that goes further than the current safeguards for cyclists.

Dunwoody wanted the ordinance to be “more than a traffic violation,” Councilman Tom Lambert previously told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “We want there to be some serious consequences.”

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