ATLANTA – Motorcycle riders won a long-sought victory Thursday when the General Assembly passed a bill allowing them to ease through red lights when their bikes don’t weigh enough to trigger automatic signals.
The bill also included other amendments related to traffic safety, so many hung on it like ornaments for a holiday decoration.
“It’s not quite the Christmas tree we’d like to see, but it’s Christmas tree enough to take care of some of the traffic issues facing this state,” said Rep. Alan Powell, chairman of the Public Safety & Homeland Security Committee.
Among the amendments is one to require motorists to yield to pedestrians in crosswalks signaled by flashing lights like the city of Athens has installed. Another amendment removes height restrictions on motorcycle handlebars.
“We call that the Easy Rider language because of the 1960s when there was a lot of prejudice against a lot of motorcycles,” said Powell, R-Hartwell.
But Rep. Don Parsons, R-Marietta, disagreed that the iconic rebel-biker movie “Easy Rider” had anything to do with the provision.
“It is not about the prejudice against motorcycles but about being in control,” he said.
The main issue about motorcycles and traffic lights has been something biker groups have pushed for in the legislature ever since the sensors began to be embedded in pavement. But permitting bikers to treat the lights like a stop sign could wind up boosting insurance rates for all motorcycles in the state, according to witnesses testifying before Powell’s committee.
“You were sort of durned if you do and durned if you don’t,” he said.
The last-minute solution lawmakers added was to put the burden of proof on the biker if there is a crash.
Now, it’s up to the governor to sign the bill into law if he agrees.