Atlanta cyclist still critical, Georgia bikers less safe than most

While the driver that rammed his bicycle June 9 and dragged him 50 feet remains at large, Greg Germani remains in a hospital bed, sedated.

Visitation is restricted to the family. Well, family and one other. Amidst the windowsill overflowing with get well cards and letters, next to a peculiar painting of a clown that Germani bought at a flea market a long time ago, sits an album cover.

Germani is a music lover, collector, even promoter at times. The vinylologist, one friend dubbed him.

So as trauma doctors and neurologists hover over the vinylologist, one stoic face keeps watch – The Cherokee Cowboy, Ray Price.

June 16, after six days in the ICU, Germani was allowed to receive stimulation to gradually elicit physical responses. His girlfriend, Beth Anne Harrill, knew exactly what to do.

“I played the song ‘Wasted Words’ by Ray Price,” she said. “It was the only Ray Price song I had on my phone.”

As far as the album cover watching over her boyfriend?

“I’m calling him the patron saint,” Harrill said.

Germani’s brother, John, who has been at his side throughout the recovery process, believes this case is just an extreme example of a problem that has been persistently plaguing Atlanta – a lack of bicycle safety resources and awareness, and an overabundance of reckless drivers.

More people need more awareness

“As big as this town has gotten, it still is not a very bike friendly town,” John Germani said.

According to a study by the National Highway Transit Safety Administration, Georgia’s 17 cyclist deaths in 2012 were the 11th most in the country.

However, Georgia’s 1.71 cyclist deaths per million people that year was down from 2.39 in 2001, according to the NHTSA.

Angel Poventud, who volunteers with the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition, agrees that bike safety in Atlanta has been steadily improving.

“I’ve been biking here for 16 years and it’s gotten remarkably better in those 16 years,” he said. “There’s a lot more awareness about bikes now.”

Protected bike lanes have been popping up throughout the city, for instance, but Poventud believe more needs to be done.

In the meantime, he implores all cyclists can do one simple thing to stay safer.

“I have a helmet,” he said. “I’ve been in bike accidents that have been my fault and my helmet saved my life and I’ve been in bike accidents that were not my fault and my helmet saved my life.”

Germani was wearing a helmet when he was hit.

Of the 184 collisions involving cyclists reported in Fulton and DeKalb counties last year, 129 resulted in injuries, according to Georgia’s Department of Transportation. One resulted in a fatality. That cyclist was not wearing a helmet.

Rage with the machine

Sometimes, though, nothing can protect from road rage.

Cycling is a staple of Greg Germani’s life. The 50-year-old has ridden to work at Turner Broadcasting every day for more than 20 years, his brother, John, said.

Witnesses said Greg Germani was riding his bike down Montgomery Ferry Road at around 6 p.m. when he was almost struck by a red Dodge Nitro turning onto the street from Flagler Avenue. Germani and the driver got into an argument and moments later, Germani sped off down Flagler while the SUV pulled a U-turn and ran down the cyclist.

Germani was always a cautious cyclist and never one to look for trouble, his brother said, but couldn’t stand reckless driving, especially through residential neighborhoods. Though John Germani admits his brother may have uncharacteristically lost his cool, nobody expected what would happen.

“I’ve always worried about a careless driver, an inattentive driver, people on cell phones – that’s what scares me. But no one ever could have predicted that this would happen.

“Greg is a peaceful, non-confrontational person,” Harrill said. “But at the same time he stands up for himself.”

But now, when he can’t do it himself, others are standing up for him.

A Crime Stoppers reward fund was started for information on the case. The goal? To raise $5,000.

As of Friday, 163 supporters had amassed more than $17,000.

Harrill was inspired by the outpouring of backers, but not shocked. Germani has accumulated a mob of friends and followers not only from his involvement in the cycling community, his neighborhood and work, but from his creation and constant upkeep of the website Atlanta Time Machine, which showcases Atlanta locales and what they looked like long in the past.

For now, though, Harrill only cares about the present. Police have not been able to talk to Germani, they are reliant on the public’s help.

Harrill appeals to anyone who might have information to help, regardless of whether it is morals or money that are the motivating factor, and regardless of what might have already happened.

“Even if you helped the person up to this point, it does not matter to me,” Harrill said. “Just do the right thing and know that there is a reward out there… Just bring us the person who did it and that’s the only thing that we’re concerned about.”

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Anyone with information on the case can anonymously call Crime Stoppers at 404-577-8477.