By Jody Steinberg
Ashford Park resident Jim Eyre likes to ride.
The recreational bicyclist clocks up to 150 miles a week on his weekend and evening rides around Atlanta, touring neighborhoods and parks in Buckhead, Brookhaven, Peachtree Battle and Dunwoody and other parts of metro Atlanta. But it was on the last mile home last week that Eyre faced the wrath of a motorist who didn’t care to share the road with a bike.
Monday, July 5 was a holiday, and the roads were nearly empty, Eyre recalls – a great day for a long ride. As he headed home, southbound on a quiet Peachtree Industrial Boulevard between Johnson Ferry and Redding roads, a Black Honda Accord – the only car on the road in either direction, Eyre recalls – drove past, brushing Eyre with the side view mirror. Eyre said he yelled out and gestured, trying to make the driver aware of how dangerously close he had come.
“People often drive too close,” Eyre says. “But this time, I felt it. It didn’t push me. It just scared the heck out of me. I gave him the one-finger salute and told him to move over.”
The enraged driver stopped his car, got out and ran towards Eyre. When Eyre saw him coming, he biked towards the turn lane to escape. However, according to the Chamblee police report, “the motorist ran up to him and swung an overhead punch at James, striking him down the right side of his body” before returning to his car and fleeing the scene.
“I’ve had my fair share of people yelling at me or getting too close, but this is the first time in 20 years that I’ve had anyone get out and accost me like this guy did,” says Eyre.
Eyre said his ribs were so bruised he thought they were broken. Eyre is asking anyone who saw a black Accord heading south on Peachtree Industrial about 11:15 a.m. July 5 or has information about the incident to please call the Chamblee police.
“This was pure and simple road rage, and there’s no excuse for that,” said Rebecca Serna, executive director of the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition. “Georgia law currently requires drivers to give safe passing distance when passing other vehicles, and bikes are vehicles. It’s very simple. Just give three feet to cyclists.”
Many Atlanta drivers never learned how to interact safely with cyclists. While some motorists are too rushed or distracted to slow down and pass safely, Serna says that’s what saves lives and prevents more serious injuries.
“It’s really important that people follow the speed limit and slow to pass. Slowing down for 10-15 seconds should not be a big deal,” she said. “Treat it like any other vehicle that is going slowly: Slow down, make sure it’s safe, and then pass. You’re must less likely to hit a cyclist.”
The coalition, which promotes safer and more accessible biking across metro Atlanta, says that if a motorist is passing a bicyclist, the minimum distance from the outside of the car and the rider is three feet.
“Give us a chance when we are riding,” Eyre said. “We are considered vehicles and need to be passed accordingly.”