Georgia on Two Wheels
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iStock_000006752189XSmallIt is with a heavy heart that we post about a recent tragic bicycle crash in Hampton. We have written repeatedly about a growing trend across America. That trend is the apparent difficulty that motor vehicles are having sharing the road with pedestrians and cyclists. And now a beloved Henry County doctor has lost his life in a bicycle accident. He was riding his bicycle with a group of others and was struck by a vehicle. As the group was riding, a motor vehicle hit the doctor’s bike from the rear. No other bicyclist was hit or harmed. However, the doctor was taken to Grady Memorial Hospital and passed away from his injuries.

Although we do not normally name the victim of accidents in our blog posts, we believe the public should know about this wonderful man. Dr. John A. Harsch, the victim of this accident is said by all to have been a beloved physician and a popular and enthusiastic cyclist. His community and the wider Georgia cycling and medical communities mourn his loss. His devotion to medicine and the healing arts are only some of the important things for which he was known. He loved cycling and had a generous heart — going out of his way to help those in need.

The accident occurred in a location that involved a curve in the road. After the vehicle made a turn, for unknown reasons, the driver struck the cyclist. Authorities have said that the accident is under investigation. At the present time, it is not determined whether charges will be filed against the driver for the death of the cyclist. A grand jury will make the decision whether the driver will be charged.

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moto5We like to keep our riders apprised of bike recalls both for bikes they might own or that riders they know might own. We urge all riders to pay attention to recall notifications. Sometimes owners ignore recalls. They assume the recall might not apply to their bike. But when a recall is issued, owners should contact their dealer, manufacturer or the federal consumer authorities at SaferCar.gov. Sometimes recalls can protect against Georgia motorcycle injury. One recent recall occurred because two riders were injured while riding a competition motorcycle. A recall has been issued for the Husqvarna TC and FC and KTM SX and SX-F motocross competition motorcycles. These motorcycles are identifiable by their colors, logos and the model name and engines identifications. The company has recalled these bikes due to reports provided to them of wheel spoke failure. These reports were of specific injuries that had been sustained by the riders. In one case the rider broke his shoulder and in another accident, the rider broke ribs.

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BonniThe Georgia Dome was the scene of an “interesting” bike crash this past weekend. Raising money for charity, several NASCAR drivers had a straight away drag race. Winning the race against his fellow drivers, star driver Clint Bowyer had a tactical problem. Fast on the straight away meant that the experienced motocross driver also needed a place to land. Where to stop after beating his buddies for a good cause? He couldn’t make the turn after the straight away and ended up setting his course for a padded wall to stop. Thankfully, he was not injured and he drove NASCAR on Sunday. His twitter account says the bike is for sale … best offer. Hopefully, he will donate proceeds if the bike sells!!

The event at the Dome was a collaboration of Monster Energy AMA Supercross, FIM World Championship and NASCAR® creating what they deemed the “Monster Energy Supercross Holeshot Challenge.” Danica Patrick was on board for the evening, along with other stars of the riding and driving community. The athleticism of these racers is well known and even NASCAR drivers are in awe of their abilities. We expect this event to return next year, in case readers are interested in seeing this event as it happens live.

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Motorcycle rideWe recently came across an interesting piece in Motorcyclist magazine. We think Georgia motorcycle riders would be interested in the “how to ride a motorcycle forever” perspective. Our experience in representing Atlanta bike riders after injury or accident has led us to a keen interest in protecting riders from motorcycle crashes and injuries. Our clients include all age groups, but it stands to reason that the older we get the more challenging physical activity can get. And we all know that physical and mental sharpness is important in safe riding.

Amazingly, the stats show that American riders generally have about four decades behind them. And that means the horizon of both physical and mental challenges might be ahead as we age. The key to the lifelong safe riding and avoiding serious motorcycle injury, is staying mentally and physically fit. Having the wisdom that should ride along with the years can help us make better judgments in tight situations that we all find on the roads, especially these days with rude and distracted drivers. As an experienced rider, the hope is that you have gained sensory and muscle memory from years of riding that can help you anticipate trouble and respond well to it.

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iStock_000017380527XSmallA recent fatal motorcycle crash reminds us of the dangers of road debris for Georgia motorcycle riders. This past weekend, a Texas man lost his life after hitting a mattress that was in the road. Reports indicate that the rider saw the mattress, tried to avoid it, but wasn’t able to do so. He flew off his bike and landed on the pavement with a fatal head injury. At the time of this bike crash, the rider was not wearing a helmet.

Road debris is a hazard for all travelers. Road debris is particularly dangerous for cyclists and bike riders whose ability to scan the road ahead might well be blocked or hindered by other larger vehicles. Riding “defensively” can only do so much. Riders know they need to scan the road ahead and maintain calm when something unexpected appears on the roadway. It isn’t always possible to manage a way around debris, especially if it is large or it is positioned in a way that makes it difficult for the rider to move out of harm’s way. Cyclists often riding near the road shoulder and they know this is precisely where debris gathers. And it is also the most likely location a cyclist would use to avoid debris on a bike lane or roadway.

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helmet-on-bicycle-10045610Fulton County has been in mourning this holiday season. NBC Atlanta reports that an off-duty MARTA Department of Police Services officer and former Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets player died recently in a motorcycle crash. A tragic irony in this fatal bike crash is that the crash occurred while he was escorting a funeral procession on his own bike. The cause is not known, but the motorcycle crashed into an SUV and a witness said she began to pray when she saw the officer on the ground. Authorities investigated on the scene and said they do not intend to cite the SUV driver or others involved in the crash. The loss of a dedicated officer is a tragedy regardless of how it occurs. He leaves behind five children. The sadness of this situation is made more poignant with the knowledge that he passed away while doing something for his community.

In contrast to this sad story of a downed Georgia rider and fallen hero, is a heartwarming story of a would-be tragedy averted by an off-duty veteran officer who saved a rider after a motorcycle accident. This past summer a Florida man was riding his motorcycle and on his way home when a car cut him off and he went flying. He hit a bus bench which literally cut off his left leg. A Good Samaritan attempted to stop the profuse bleeding that would have killed the rider.

But the story does not end that way. A guardian angel came on the scene and knew what to do. A part time Sheriff’s Deputy and Vietnam vet was in the area and happened to come upon the man who was now bleeding to death. When he could not stop that with his belt he knew to take his fingers and pinch the artery that was bleeding out. A medical helicopter was able to get the rider to safety. The Deputy saved the rider’s life and was honored in a ceremony in Tamarac, Florida. The rider plans to make the most of his life, get back to walking and sports with a prosthetic leg and to thank the Deputy for saving his life.

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1214589454Q2B5aOThis past May, Georgia General Assemby passed the “Motorcycle Mobility Safety Act,” also known as Senate Bill 76. This legislation included language for both motorcyclists and bicyclists to allow them to carefully enter intersections and go through red lights under limited circumstances. The light weight of bikes and cycles can be an issue at some intersections. Given the small size and light weight of many bikes and almost all cycles, engineers have yet to alter many traffic lights in Georgia to ensure that lights will change to green. Under the SB 76, a rider would be responsible for determining whether or not it was safe to enter the intersection. If a Georgia bike crash resulted, the accident would be evidence that necessary caution was not used.

Known as the “dead red” bill, many cyclists and bike riders were involved in helping to get SB 76 through to law. Governor Deal vetoed the legislation. In his veto statement he expressed his “sympathetic concern” for riders in these circumstances, but also stated that allowing bicycles and motorcycles to pass through these intersections would present confusion to motorists. He also expressed safety concerns about a provision of the bill that would have eliminated the 15 inch height controls on motorcycle handlebars. He noted that increased height can make it more difficult to control and steer a motorcycle. Ultimately, he vetoed the bill because given that 13 percent of Georgia’s fatal accidents involve bicyclists and motorcyclists, the bill would not improve Georgia’s road safety.

Some states have enacted laws to deal with these “dead red” zones. These stops are also “Idaho Stops,” since Idaho is one state that has had such legislation on the books for several decades. There are a few states which have also enacted the type of law that the Georgia legislature passed, but by far most states do not have such provisions. The Governor’s veto of the legislation and the Georgia cycling community’s support of it, demonstrates the ongoing dialogue necessary for greater sharing of the road. Public right of ways allow use by trucks, cars, motorcycles and bikes. The question continues to be how all these vehicles can safely travel.

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iStock_000017380527XSmallA tragic motorcycle crash in Cobb County is currently under investigation. Marietta Police have the important task of determining precisely what happened when a biker was killed after his bike hit a Cobb Community Transit bus last week. The bus was not carrying any passengers at the time. We can only hope that when bike accidents like this happen, the outcome is greater safety for bikers. Although the facts about this fatal bike crash are not yet determined, there are some witness reports. Some witnesses reported that the motorcycle accelerated before the crash, but at this point police do not know which vehicle had the right of way. It also appears that the location of this accident is known to police to be dangerous. Enforcement has been recently increased due to the known problems with the road in this area. Apparently, speeding is an issue there as is jaywalking, both of which the police have been trying to manage.

This tragedy took place in the afternoon on which there was good visibility. The driver of the bus was apparently driving in the westerly direction and was making a left turn into the transit depo there. The bike struck the back area of the bus and tragically burst into flames, killing the rider. Georgia Good Samaritans heroically tried to put out the fire with their own jackets, but they were unable to do so. As noted previously, the rider may have accelerated before hitting the bus or the bus may have needed to wait before turning. The bus driver was able to get out of the bus after the crash and cried out for help. She was taken to the hospital, but her condition is unknown.

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iStock_000006752189XSmallMany of us can relate to losing concentration for a moment while driving or riding. This is a moment we have all had on the road in which our eyes move away from the road ahead, or something causes us to end up on the rumble strip for a second. In that second, so much can happen, including a devastating and fatal bike crash. Such motorcycle crashes have happened in and around Atlanta. On a stretch of road across the country in San Diego, a young Marine was riding when he overcorrected seeking to avoid an oncoming vehicle. This move turned fatal, and tragically he lost his life. Riding his Triumph bike, he drifted into the oncoming lane of traffic. Once he overcorrected, he ended up on the shoulder, hit a boulder and was thrown from his bike. He had two young kids and a wife who has lost him way too soon. His riding and military families are in mourning for this father of two and one on the way.

Riders know that overcorrection can be a major hazard for experienced and inexperienced drivers. This is a hazard that riders train for, but once it occurs, it is difficult to get out of the consequences, which in this case were terrible. In his piece in the New York Times several years ago, titled “Motorcycle School, Be Very Afraid,” one author shares the key take aways learned in his riding course. These included common sense advice like do not ride if you are in a hurry; do not ride if you are thinking about something else; never remove your focus from the road in front of you, and; NEVER become overconfident. In short, he concludes, its ok to be afraid, that can keep you safe. It is not easy in this complex world we live in to maintain concentration at all times when riding, but it is so important for rider safety.

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fallTime and time again, we have written about drivers of caged vehicles who cause serious accidents, injuries and fatalities to motorcycle riders. Over many years, patterns have emerged and worsened as drivers become more and more distracted and do not look carefully at the road or their surroundings. The visibility of a motorcycle and rider are key to rider safety. Riders can do all they can to be visible, but if a driver doesn’t pay attention and concentrate, a rider’s safety can be sacrificed.

We know that intersections are fraught with danger for motorcycle riders. Statistically, inattentive cagers who drive into an intersection to make a left turn can present a serious threat to riders. When a driver fails to yield the right of way to oncoming motorcycles or other vehicles and makes the turn, disastrous results can occur. Georgia riders have had their share of tragedy caused by failures to yield. Georgia law is clear in this regard. The Official Code of Georgia Annotated section 40-6-71 states that a driver attempting to make a turn in an intersection must yield to vehicles approaching. Drivers making a turn must quickly assess whether an oncoming vehicle is close enough so that turning would be hazardous. In my law practice, I have represented many motorcycle accident victims who have been struck by caged drivers because the drivers failed to see them.  Continue reading →

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