Brookhaven may be following Dunwoody’s lead as the city considers a vulnerable road user ordinance that aims to help pedestrian and cyclist safety.

The ordinance would increase penalties for drivers who cause an injury to “a vulnerable road user,” which is anyone using the roads who are not in cars, such as walkers, cyclists, skateboarders and others. The penalties include fines, jail time or having their license suspended. The penalties could be removed if the driver agreed to take a driver education class.

The City Council had planned to vote on the ordinance at its Sept. 22 meeting, but Councilmember Madeleine Simmons postponed the vote to make more edits to the ordinance, said city spokesperson Burke Brennan.

The proposed ordinance in the Sept. 22 agenda packet states that drivers should yield to pedestrians and other “vulnerable road users” when making a turn and allow at least 3 feet when passing them. Cyclists are required to ride “as near to the right side of the lane as is safe,” and pedestrians and cyclists should wear reflective clothing or vests at night to enhance their visibility.

The ordinance emphasizes state laws and increases penalties for violating them. For the first offense, a driver may be fined up to $500. For a second offense, a driver may be fined up to $1,000 or face six months in jail, according to the city’s proposed ordinance. Those penalties would be waived if the driver takes a driver safety and pedestrian awareness class.

Dunwoody was the first municipality in the state that enacted a VRU law in November 2019, said Bruce Hagen, an attorney with Bike Law, a nonprofit that promotes cyclist safety.

Hagen told the council during a Sept. 8 work session that Dunwoody’s ordinance “could be improved” because it puts too much emphasis on the behavior of the vulnerable road user.

Hagen said Dunwoody’s ordinance also requires people walking at night to be wearing reflective or bright clothing or the VRU ordinance cannot be applied to a possible crash. State law does not require people to wear reflective clothing at night, Hagen said, so it shouldn’t be a stipulation of the VRU ordinance.

“It puts the victim’s conduct on trial even more so than the conduct of the driver,” Hagen said.

Part of the goal of VRU ordinances is to increase awareness for driving safety around pedestrians and cyclists, Hagen said.

“The impact will hopefully get folks to slow down, think twice and be more careful and patient while driving,” Hagen said.