Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Being Assaulted On The Road

Downtown Streets

I was preparing a happy and chipper post to usher in the New Year and talk about what I've been up to during this little break, like tandem riding with my girl and my first time at the velodrome. I thought it would be a nice way to break the ice after my short hiatus from the blogosphere. As the title of this post suggests however, the nice things are put on hold for a bit.

Anyone who has really spent time cycling in this city has either been subject to some form of harassment or knows some one who has. Usually this takes non physical forms, like aggressive honking, buzzing or passing with little room, or shouting obscenities. Less often is the occasional thrown garbage usually with poor aim and thus not physical. Sometimes it's with no real provocation or reason other then being a cyclist on the road.

Well in a rather frightening fashion I encountered some sickening individuals in a car who felt they would get physical with me last night. I had heard stories of cyclists being attacked, usually at dead hours in shady parts of town, but my encounter was at about 10:30 pm on the busy road of Santa Monica Blvd. while going through West Hollywood. Traveling through there is something I do often as I live in Santa Monica and my girlfriend Meghan lives in Hollywood and she gets off work at 11.

I was traveling east bound and went through the intersection of Santa Monica & Fairfax as the light turned green, hustling along as I always do, when a car pulled up beside me scarily close. I thought this was a driver trying to buzz me for a scare, since they surely saw at least one of the 4 (yes 4) tail lights I had on. Then it happened, I saw hands reach out of the rear passenger window and grab my messenger bag. The assailant tugged on the bag hard and I tugged back and amazingly shook him off without losing my balance. I noticed it looked like it was a fully loaded car 4 or 5 people, white or silver 4 door sedan, all males either white or light colored Hispanic.

I screamed fuck at them at the top of my lungs when it sunk in what just happened, and started pedaling at sprinting speed to try and catch the license plate. When I really push it I can get going over 30 mph, but apparently the scream was intense enough they felt compelled to floor it and started weaving between vehicles probably close to the 45-50 mph range. With a series of synchronized greens and light traffic to their advantage all my strength wasn't enough to catch up.

After burning out and giving up the chase, I pondered if they were seriously trying to steal the bag right off my back or just trying to fuck with me because they could. When I got to Meghan's place I discovered yellow sticky gunk, presumably egg, was on the side of my bag. This made it pretty clear to me their intent was to fuck with someone, and I just happened to be the convenient target.

What really had me burning with anger though was that had I not been such a strong cyclist, I easily could have been knocked off balance and fallen in the middle of the road way, which could have led to more serious injury, potentially even death if the following car could not avoid collision. These are people with no qualms about jeopardizing the lives of others because they fucking can, and can get away with it.

I filed a report with the police of West Hollywood, but without a license plate number there is little I can really do. I'm a pretty easy going guy who rarely wishes ill will on others, but I'd be lying if I didn't start envisioning some U-lock justice on their vehicle. I don't know what else to say other then it was really fucking scary and I hope karma catches up with them one of these days.


Mihai said...

I swear the dumbest/most intoxicated of all drivers somehow end up on Santa Monica Blvd at night. I've run into some real assholes on that road, some even dared to step out of their vehicle once I confronted them at a light about how close they came to grazing me.

Sometimes during that quiet time at the end of a yoga session when you're supposed to relax, my mind drifts to a happy place where I beat the shit out of ignorant drivers like that.

Anonymous said...

Glad you came out of it in one piece, anyway. Having been in similar situations, I more than understand the frustration and anger. All you can do is take comfort in knowing that you were stronger than their best efforts to fuck with you.

Situations like this are exactly why I've been looking for a camera like Will's, but small enough to mount on a helmet so it records anything I look at. Then the jerks can try to argue with -- and the cops try to ignore -- photographic evidence.

Rev. Joe H. Borfo said...

I dont ride on or near new years as a rule. glad you are ok.

Anonymous said...

You know, I was kind of bummed I didn't go out for a ride last night. Reading your story makes me think twice - glad to hear you made it through without serious injury.

Gary said...

I thought it would be fine since it wasn't new years eve, but the night before or new years eve eve. After this I've also been giving some thought to a camera mount like Will's when I am doing lone commuting across town. I want an accurate vehicle description and license plate of every car that passes me now.

Anonymous said...

Wow Gary, that sucks.

I added your tale to my newly developing page over at Rearview Rider - "Collected Tales of Insanity"

It's too bad you didn't get those plate numbers...reminds me of my own experience in Ass-Slap Alley...

Glad you didn't fall down!!

ephemerae said...

ugh, fuckers.

glad you are ok man.

Enci said...

Gary, I'm glad you didn't catch up with them! It could have gotten ugly.

A few months ago I was riding west on Hollywood Blvd. and on the junction of Vermont some people in a car threw something big and heavy at me, which hit my leg. I almost fell off, the bag was heavy, but I somehow kept my balance, and I heard them laugh their asses off as they swerved and sped off. I heard a woman's drunk laughter the loudest.

I was so pissed off, I chased after them. I ran red lights blindly, I was in a furious rage. After about a mile I stopped to catch my breath and I realized that I just put myself in danger because of them. I should have just stopped and picked up the bag which could have had some evidence, if nothing else some store receipt or something.

Anyhow, I'm glad you didn't catch them. They could have had a gun. 4 guys against 1 wouldn't have been a good sight.

ubrayj02 said...

Don't let this stupidity get you down. The next few weeks you'll likely feel hyper sensitive to car noises, but in time that will fade.

Keep riding, and I'm happy that you're okay.

We're in this fight for our rights together.

Will Campbell... said...

Holy shit. I'm late to this, but no less sorry or outraged to read of your encounter. And VERY relieved to hear you're physically OK.

Every time I go to Home Depot of late I linger a little while longer at the stack of 2-foot long/1=inch thick PVC pipe pieces thinking what an excellent carry-along weapon it would make in the event of such a confrontation -- or worse -- that you suffered.

So far my rationale for not making such a purchase is that I don't want to give in to the fear. It helps that it's been about 18 months since my last potentially violent encounter.

I like to think that streak is helped by the fact that that for as affable a guy as I like to imagine I am, I put off a vibe of someone in the saddle who shouldn't be fucked with... or at least someone who might leave a mark if such warnings are ignored.

As to the cam I have rigged to my bike, it serves a record-keeping purpose up to a point, but since I record in timelapse mode there's much reoom for blurred images, or just outright not capturing something like a license plate.

Bikinginla has the right idea in wanting a less obtrusive helmet-mountable one. Something like the lipstick-sized cams I've seen extreme athletes wear.

Gary said...

I think most of those helmet cams have fairly limited memory except at low resolutions (which makes spotting little details difficult)and I spend a lot of time riding.

With the right camera, a high iso setting and the ability to control shutter settings (prevent the blurry) and keep the time lapse duration fairly tight I think I could get a setup that could pretty reliably get license plate numbers for every vehicle that passes in front of me. I'm planning to get a fairly good point and shoot as a back up and lighter alternative to my heavy and large SLR, and I'd like to do a test run of license plate recording.

Will, how do you have your camera mounted, was it a setup you bought or did you build it?

If I do this and it's a success I'll post details on my setup and camera settings.

Will Campbell... said...

Gary, My cam mount is a total homebrew DIY that utilized an old headlight handlebar clamp mount. Basically, what I did was drill a hole in it, run a tripod-mount-sized screw through it and then tighten the camera down with the aid of a washer to get a snug fit. I actually mount the cam upside down on my bars, so it's a little more out of the way and a bit more protected if I spill.

Here's a pic: