Sporting signs (and children in bike seats) about 15 cyclists rode around downtown Asheville Friday to protest the alleged shooting of a local cyclist — and the dropping of an attempted murder charge against the accused gunman.
Charles Alexander Diez, an Asheville firefighter, currently faces charges of assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill for allegedly shooting at cyclist Alan Simons on July 26, after arguing with Simons about the safety of having his 3-year-old son on a child’s bike seat on Tunnel Road. According to police, as Simons was walking away from the argument, Diez fired a .38-caliber handgun. The shot blew through the lining of Simons’ helmet and came within less than an inch of striking him on the head.
Diez has been placed on paid leave from the fire department, and on Thursday, a grand jury decline to go forward with charges of attempted first-degree murder, instead opting for a felony assault charge that carries a much lighter potential sentence.
The cyclists gathered in front of the municipal building, which houses the police and fire departments, with signs on their back that read “We are traffic,” “No paid leave for attempted murderers,” “Safety doesn’t mean getting shot in the head.” Several children, in safety seats or “half-wheels” behind the cyclists, wore signs reading “Please don’t shoot my mom.”
Woodfin resident Utah Brandstatter told Xpress that the incident showed the need for better treatment of cyclists and the construction of bike lanes to better accommodate their traffic.
“I commute to work and I’m a recreational cyclist, and I’ve long felt we need more bike lanes in this town to make it safer and decrease these types of confrontations,” she said. “I think this is an extreme incident and I think, for the most part, motorists are becoming more aware of cyclists. I’m here to stand in solidarity with my fellow cyclists and make something positive out of a really unfortunate event.”
Cyclist Edward Moreadith said he came out to express his concerns that cyclists often don’t get the treatment from the law they deserve.
“I’m just a taxpayer, motorist and cyclist who feels like cyclists get a raw deal in their legal pursuit of riding on the roads,” he told Xpress. “There’s a huge lack of information regarding what the law is. They [motorists] don’t know you have to keep two feet of space, they don’t know you can ride two abreast. It’s without bounds what the ignorance is on bicycle transportation. People should be embracing it, as it is a to the region. Instead there’s outright hostility. Cyclists should absolutely follow the rules, but they should also be afforded protection. The scenario of a confrontation between the motorist and cyclist doesn’t go well for the cyclist.”
Moreadith said he encountered hostility “constantly. It’s limitless. Two weeks ago I had a motorcyclist come within a foot of me at 45 miles an hour and say, ‘Single file, a**hole.’ I see some state troopers two miles later and tell them I just got threatened. The trooper’s response is to tell me, ‘Oh that’s just people in a hurry.’ There’s complete apathy to these violations of the law.”
— David Forbes, staff writer
photo by Jonathan Welch