Thursday, March 12, 2009

Under Seige

After the recent report of a mugging in Sam Smith Park near the I-90 tunnel, I decided to take no chances on my return trip home from the eastside last Tuesday. As I rolled into the tunnel westbound, I noticed four rather tall and heavy (or was it just the baggy clothes) characters about half way into the tunnel. Two cyclists were approaching from the other direction, and were just entering the tunnel.

Even with the recent reports of cyclists being attacked in the area, with the two cyclists as “backup”, I didn’t expect I would encounter any trouble. As I approached the gang of four, I saw the two bicyclists at the other end of the tunnel come to a stop.

When I got to within about 100' of the foursome, I saw the two on the left gradually spread out, taking ownership of almost the whole tunnel. After I saw the other two cyclists stop, I was already strongly leaning towards turning around, but now there were no doubts in my mind.

I did a U-Turn mid-tunnel, and wound up diverting up and over the tunnel, requiring me to climb a 21% grade...on cobblestones! I then came home via Jackson, which at 4pm on a weekday afternoon throws every single conceivable hazard your way.

Exactly what is going on here? As I ride through the park, I see single joggers, many of them women, running happily through the park and tunnel. I see a woman pushing a baby stroller, and I see casual walkers by themselves, and a guy shooting baskets by himself. Wouldn’t it be easier to target a walker than timing your lunge at a cyclist to knock him off of his bike?

Most (all?) of the attacks have been directed toward cycling commuters. Apparently they are focusing on people with some type of baggage, and likely are hoping to score a laptop that can be easily pawned.

So imagine the assailants hiding in the bushes. They spy a cyclist clad in bright team kit and let him go, not caring or perhaps not realizing that he is riding an $8000 bicycle. Next up is a cyclist wearing a backpack riding a 1970’s hand me down beater bike. The assailants charge and attack, having no idea as to whether there is anything more than dirty laundry in the pack.

Maybe they don’t like the way the commuters run the light at MLK Blvd? Perhaps it is a “task force” commissioned by an organization of motorists who resent cyclists who commute? Exactly what is the motivation for profiling and attacking one type of cyclist, and ignoring other targets that are even more vulnerable?

I am still riding through the park and tunnel. If possible, I try and pair up with someone and double team potential assailants. Otherwise, I just keep my eyes and ears open and remain alert in the big ring. There are only so many bushes these idiots can hide behind, and I don’t intend to start carrying a laptop around anytime soon.