Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Man Attacked on Bike; Caught on Helmet Cam.

by Jim Freeman

The video below of a bicyclist being attacked is chilling.  The incident took place in Baltimore but attacks can and do happen in Chicago.  Attacks on cyclists in cities are not confined to any particular neighborhood.

I've had rocks thrown at me.  It actually doesn't hurt to get pegged with a small rock when you're biking.  I find it rather natural to protect my face with my shoulders when in a tuck.  You just kind of shrug in the direction of the incoming projectile and absorb the impact.  In the winter your layers will absorb an impact from most small rocks without so much as a welt.  Bigger rocks- not so much. 

People have thrown bottles at me.  Once a kid threw a bottle that was a little short and it exploded underneath me, flattening my rear tire.  I gave chase, but ultimately let the kid get away.  What am I going to do, beat up an eight year old kid?  Another person once threw a bottle from a moving car.  I followed him home (just a few stupid blocks away) and called the cops, but CPD didn't think he was throwing the bottle at me; he was just throwing it out the window.  I said, "Ok...  Then at least give him a ticket for littering."  They declined that request.  

I had a young girl act like she was going to kick me as I rode by.  The only thing harmed was my pride, but it was an irritating assault nonetheless.   

I once was riding home with a friend when we came upon the tail end of a cyclist being beaten down in the street by a bunch of kids.  As we rode up there were hearty laughs coming from the wolf pack.  The cyclist was in the process of escaping, so there wasn't much for me to do.  I called the cops, but no one was around by the time they responded. 

One time someone threw a pipe at a friend I was riding with; I remember seeing the pipe spiral seemingly slowly through the air as it gracefully arched toward my friend.  It struck the ground and bounced into his rear wheel, taking him down.

I once had a driver wave me through a small hole in traffic, only to hit the gas once I was in front of his car in an apparent attempt to run me down.  I'll never forget the sensation of the heat coming from his radiator.  It was a cold winter day, and he came that close to hitting me. 

I can't tell you how many times I've had a car pass me so close that I was sure I would be hit.  Once it actually happened, and I was struck by a passenger mirror.  Sometimes it is just an oblivious driver, other times the intention of threat is crystal clear.

Violence against bicyclists isn't an issue in just certain neighborhoods, or something that is perpetrated by a predictable subset of our population, rather it is a problem that comes from all aspects of society.  One time I had a frat boy run out into the street and punch me in the helmet.  How do I know he was a frat boy you ask?  It takes one to know one brother, and I'll take a punch to the helmet over almost any other offense.  That was the day I learned that when you spray someone with tear gas you need to aim for their center mass and move upwards to the face.  I shot straight for his face and missed off to one side.  He got the idea and backed off, but it was a disappointing miss nonetheless.  I vividly recall someone yelling from down the block, "You guys look like IDIOTS!"  I'm quite sure the onlooker was telling the truth.

I once had a soccer mom in a minivan do the "quick hit the gas when the biker gets in front of you" because she didn't like that I merged in front of her as she approached a red stoplight.  I circled back and rolled up to her window in an effort to dole out some accountability.  She declined to crack her window and instead pulled out her cellphone as if to call the police.  I asked through her closed window to be sure to tell them that she was willing to run me down.    

I have a friend who carries a nine ounce can of bear repellant at all times.  He has thwarted a couple attempted assaults and two attempted robberies with the judicious use of bear spray.  I actually don't suggest bear spray, but my friend likes it for it's 30 foot range.  Police have told me in the past that the bear spray isn't nearly as concentrated as self-defense pepper spray, and therefore not as effective.  My friend swears by it though, and admittedly, has used it to great effect.

I'm glad to see that this guy is using a helmet cam.  I'm a big advocate of helmet cams.  A few weeks ago I bought one for my paralegal, Bob, who commutes every day from Hammond, Indiana.  Once a week he has some new video of someone willing to risk Bob's life so they can get around just a little faster.

Any regular commuter is subject to offenses that most people would find shocking.  Stuff like this happens all the time, but to hear about it just doesn't quite convey the gravity of the situation.  Photographic evidence is a powerful thing, and this video really conveys the senseless nature of violence against bicyclists.  You can't argue with the video.  It shows what happened.  I'd like to see more cyclists using helmet cameras.  I wish I'd had one in years past.

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