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Why are the rules of the road different for cyclists and pedestrians?

Pedestrians walk against traffic while, by law, cyclists ride with the flow of traffic.

ATLANTA — ATLANTA – The streets of metro Atlanta can be a tough place for pedestrians, especially in areas without sidewalks where cars, bikes, and people on foot share the asphalt.

In those places, the rules for cyclists and pedestrians are different. Cyclists are supposed to ride in the same direction as vehicle traffic, while pedestrians walk facing traffic.


“You need to see what’s coming and get out of the way,” pedestrian advocate Sally Flocks says.

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If you walk with the flow of traffic, it means cars are coming up behind you. Traffic safety experts say that can be dangerous.

While that’s also true with cyclists, the relationship between bikes and cars is different. According to Georgia law, bikes are just like any other vehicle on the road. Cyclists have the same rights as the driver of a car. By law, they’re supposed to share the road and follow the same rules. So, legally cyclists have to ride with traffic.

A bike traveling against traffic could face a dangerous situation if they encounter, for example, a car entering a roadway from a parking lot. Typically, the driver will look to the left to see oncoming traffic. They wouldn’t see the cyclist approaching from the other direction.

“They’re going to send you sailing,” Flocks says.

A slow-moving pedestrian can stop and avoid that situation. A fast-moving cyclist can’t.

A 1994 study concluded cyclists are three times more likely to get into an accident if they travel against traffic.

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