Jim Durrett
Jim Durrett

Jim Durrett had what could only be described as a bad day on Sept. 11, 2012.

Durrett, executive director of the Buckhead Community Improvement District and a bicycling advocate, fell off his bike.

But with a new year just around the corner and weeks of healing behind him, Durrett says he’s more committed than ever to helping cyclists in Atlanta enjoy their ride. As luck would have it, he’s in charge of an organization that can help. The CID, a self-taxing group of local businesses, uses its money to fix up roads when local governments won’t.

“Our local governments have been woefully under-investing in the state of good repair of the transportation systems they’ve built,” Durrett said.

He’s a go-go person, that Durrett. He’s a wiry man with a spring in his step. He rides his bike to work and keeps it in his office. Durrett talks about transportation with the same enthusiasm that in the South is usually reserved for college football. His name is on the roster of several boards around town. It’s possible that he has the secret superpower of being in two places at once.

Durrett is not, however, indestructible.

He remembers the accident well. In a post on the CID blog, Durrett gave a blow-by-blow account of events.

It was a Tuesday morning and he was up at 6 a.m., going on his regular 18-mile ride with his friends who he describes as “a group of 40- and 50-something ‘Type-A’ guys who are rather passionate about road-biking for exercise and recreation.”

He was days away from a vacation to Wyoming. It had been more than a month since voters soundly thumped a measure that would’ve imposed a 1-cent sales tax to pay for billions in transportation improvements around metro Atlanta. Durrett had been a dutiful pitch man for the plan, known as the Transportation Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax. He frequented community meetings and smiled as tax opponents ripped the idea apart.

On July 31, the voters said “No thanks” to TSPLOST Durrett went back to work and continued pushing for better roads and transit.

On Sept. 11, Durrett and the cyclists of a certain age rode the loop from Shallowford Road through Mercer University in Atlanta, passing through the Oak Grove neighborhood and eventually taking riders back to Shallowford.

Durrett was on Aldebrook Road, headed toward Briarcliff. It was 6:50 a.m. and still dark. He saw a truck coming in the opposite direction. He hit a pothole he’d ridden past 100 times and never noticed.

“The next thing I knew I was completely out of control and heading for the curb,” Durrett said. “Not knowing what had happened to me, I tried to correct and steer back and I couldn’t.”

Durrett’s tire hit the curb, catapulting him into the air. He landed on the sidewalk, sliding along it and into someone’s driveway.

Luck was on Durrett’s side. A couple of DeKalb County EMTs witnessed the CID director’s nasty spill.

All told, Durrett suffered three broken bones – including his collarbone – and a painful case of road rash. So what did Durrett take away from the experience, aside from the scrapes and bruises?

When a pothole throws you off your bike, find a way to fix it. When voters won’t support measures to pay for transportation improvements, remind them why they should. Durrett won’t pass up an opportunity to make his case.

Of course, he never does.

“I think it’s so important for us to invest more in the state of good repair for the transportation infrastructure,” he said.

Dan Whisenhunt

Dan Whisenhunt wrote for Reporter Newspapers from 2011 - 2014. He is the founder and editor of Decaturish.com