Atlanta bicyclists demand change after tense encounter with police during ride

Atlanta bicyclists are asking for change after a tense encounter with police on Monday. 

Reid Davis said he was in a group of about 30-40 other cyclists on Jackson St. in Old Fourth Ward when a BMW flew past them, into the on-coming lane of traffic, and through an intersection.  

An Atlanta police officer was right nearby, he said.  

"I was thinking, wow that’s great, they’re going to be going after the person who just legally and dangerously passed us," Davis said.  

But instead, it was the group of bicyclists that police pulled over.  

"They get on the loudspeaker and ask all 30 to 40 of us to pull over and I was dumbfounded," he said. "I thought, you’ve got to be kidding me. 

Davis says the officer claimed they’d be liable if they got hurt too. 

But Bruce Hagen, a personal injury attorney based in Decatur who specialized in bicyclist safety, said that's not true.  

"It’s not the officer's place to lecture the cyclist's fault for a personal injury case. The officer's responsibility is to keep the road safe for all users. 

Hagen said the officer got the law all wrong: bikes aren't confined to bike lanes and drivers are required to move over, slow down, and pass with caution, similar to first responders on the side of the road. He pointed out that the group was wrong for not being in rows of two, but ultimately the aggressive driver was liable for not behaving safely and the officer should have known the law.  

As city leaders push for Atlanta to become less dependent on cars, Davis feels like this was a slap in the face. 

"It’s a wonderful thing that should be promoted and instead of law enforcement looking out for us as vulnerable road users, law enforcement decided for some reason to harass us." 

The cops didn’t issue any tickets to the group, but since Davis tweeted about it, two council members have taken action. 

Councilmember Matt Westmoreland said he reached out to Chief Darin Schierbaum about the issue, who replied that he'd look into it. 

Councilmember Amir Farokhi said he contacted the zone major who would address the confusion with officers during roll call. 

"We have the same right to the street, but we don’t have the same level of protection. Anybody behind the wheel has 2 tons of glass and steel protecting them. 

APD did not respond to a request for comment.