Friday, August 20, 2010

Baltimore Bike Attacks



This morning I received an email from my dad with a link to the Baltimore Sun article "Police probe attacks on bicyclists in Charles Village."

Here's an excerpt:

[The city's pedestrian planner Nate Evans] said in an interview that he has picked up on "a pattern of attacks on cyclists" in recent weeks in blocks bordered by North and Guilford avenues and Charles and 25th streets. He's heard many of the stories at meetings as he plans a bike route on Guilford.

"It sounds like in a couple of the attacks, the victims were overcome by a number of assailants," he said. Most occurred on the evening commute, between 5:30 p.m. and 11:30 p.m.


Great. I haven't talked about it much here on BaltimoreDIY, but I will be moving from the north side of town to the east side. Basically the bike attack area would be part of my daily commute.

I have told my dad that I will drive more from now on.

What can you do? I like to imagine all sorts of ways to respond to crime, but when actually faced with imminent danger, I'm not sure what I would do.

Yesterday a group of kids were throwing rocks at bikers on Old Falls Road. One of them walked out into the middle of the road directly into my bike path, trying to mess with me. I made the mistake of actually engaging with the kids and trying to talk to them, and quickly learned that was a bad idea. They lapped up the attention and loved the drama. As I continued home, I watched as they threw another rock at a passing cyclist.

A few bikers had stopped up the road and were talking to each other about the situation. One of them said he had called 911. I didn't say anything to him, but personally I wasn't a big fan of that solution. It's not exactly a great use of tax dollars, and it made me feel weak.

The kids would benefit from an authority figure that's NOT the police keeping them in check, but that's really an argument larger than the situation at hand.

Calling the police can help in some situations, but bike attacks are not the top priority in a city with so much deadly violence. It's a drain on the police force, and there should be ways that people can deal with their own safety.

But how?

I'd love to hear your thoughts on the issue.

UPDATE:

Interestingly enough, I just found out that Dan Rodricks wrote about a pretty much identical situation happening on Tuesday this week.

The top photo appeared on a Google Image search of the words "Baltimore Bike Crime." It was taken by photographer Patrick Smith. Smith grew up in Baltimore but now lives and works in Utah. I am now a huge fan! You can see his work on his website and Flickr page.

6 comments:

cg said...

I really appreciate what you say about calling the cops...that would in no way help the situation! That kind of "us vs. them" thinking has led to things like this.

jenijones100 said...

I also am stuck not knowing what to do about these kids lately. I've seen them twice throwing stuff, and my husband saw them while he was in his car and one of them appeared to have a long stick and was trying to mess with passing cars - it's quite dangerous for everyone involved. I called the police, but I doubt it did any good, but I don't know what other options to have. It seems not right to ride fast, bear the hits, and they get away with it. Also hoping someone has a solution on how to deal while its happening. . .

Sycla said...

I've also been attacked while on a bike, a couple years ago (I only came away with a bruised shoulder, bike still in my possession). I've only been threatened since then, so at least this recent upswing in attacks hasn't personally affected me. It's incredibly frustrating to be someone who dislikes violence, wants to lessen one's ecological footprint, and at the same time wants to ride safely through town.

Since that time, I've done my best to not look like a target. I always wear a helmet. My U-lock is within easy reach. I have pepper spray with me on any longer-distance ride away from the house. While it's upsetting to acknowledge it, I've realized I may need to use these items to defend myself.

It's very upsetting to realize that while riding a bicycle you not only have to keep a lookout for automobiles, but pedestrians as well. Calling the cops isn't a solution I prefer; not only is it ineffectual (note the response time...) but escalation of violence isn't something I want to support.

One last thing...PRACTICE with your pepper spray. It can be debilitating if you've never used it or have never been exposed to it.

stephen said...

Forgive me BaltimoreDIY, but your reasons for not calling the cops is selfish. As much as I appreciate your pacifism, another cyclist may not. By not reporting this assualt, which is what it is, it is as though it never happened. Others in the area may be unaware that this is going on and not be as lucky as you with the outcome. A kid throwing rocks today, may be a kid shooting a cyclists tomorrow. The city needs to make informed decisions about where to put its resources. You won't help other cyclists by hiding the problems.

************* said...

Wow, thanks for all of your comments everyone! I know we are still a long way from figuring out how to solve this problem, but I am really happy that citizens are talking about it.

Dialogue and community engagement are great first steps.

Stephen, I can appreciate what you say about the city needing to make informed decisions. Bicyclists who want to report this issue can contact Nate Evans from the DoT bike program.

http://www.baltimorecity.gov/Government/AgenciesDepartments/Transportation/Planning/BikeBaltimore.aspx

Mr. Drew said...

I was jumped by kids two years ago that fit a similar description as this. They got me off my bike and an older (ripped) kid started to punch me. I struggled, but got back on my bike and rode away. I ended up falling off my bike in the panic and ended up scraping my shoulder and my side. It sucked. My friend was riding his bike and had an object thrown at him by a very similar group of kids, he had to get a bunch of stitches in his head (and he didn't have any insurance). This past year I witnessed these kids riding around looking for something to get into. They didn't notice me because I am a much smarter rider now. A friend told me he saw them in his neighborhood eyeing up bikes, and harassing people. When driving through the Chillage or Remington I always keep an eye out for these kids. Sadly, I am threatened on my bike all of the time. The line, "Yo, let me hold that bike" is something I hear far too often. I have been threatened in almost every single part of the city. Luckily, I was only attacked that one time.

As far as the cops go, here's what happened in my case. A passerby administered first aid on me and called the cops. The cop came rather swiftly and asked me if the kids were n-words, or white, he was white. He told me that if they found them that he'd call me and I could come down to where they were with my work boots on. He explained that in Baltimore these kids wouldn't get the penalties they deserved, so I should just get my own justice. I was shocked, and luckily he never called me, so I could forget about it. This story brought it all back.

I have been riding for the past four years 15 miles a day, every day. I would say that my biggest concern is running into kids like this, not getting hit by a car.

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