Cyclists getting attacked and robbed, once again. (Sept. 2013)

Cyclists are being clothes-lined and robbed in Riverside Park this week
(from New York Magazine)

Bicyclists: Watch Out for Riverside Park Tripwires

By Adam Martin (New York Magazine)

In a rather startling series of robberies in Riverside Park, thieves have apparently used a tripwire to knock down bicyclists and rob them. But the tripwire trap has a tell: A rope lying across the bike path that thieves pull taught in order to clothesline the rider. Police think the same gang also robbed a bicyclist by simply ambushing him from behind some bushes. So if you see any misplaced bits of rope, or suspicious shrubbery, probably best to avoid them.

Cyclists are one of the more vulnerable crime targets in the city.  In the city, one travels at speeds and distances similar to a car, so it’s tempting (and easy) to ride into shady neighborhoods at all times of the day and night where one might normally never walk but might normally drive or bike.  (A great example are the areas around the Brooklyn Navy Yard, including the area east of the Manhattan Bridge’s Bklyn anchorage where there’s a beautiful bike path on a road in the midst of projects.)  A cyclist is frequently carrying — riding — in one’s possession, and in plain sight, something of obviously high value — their bike.  And riders take predictable routes, which makes them predictable prey and an easy target to ambush: it’s a bike lane, it’s only a matter of time before a mark comes along; a pedestrian might simply stay away from the neighborhood, or change directions or the side of the street they’re on if they see bad guys up ahead, but a cyclist may be forced to stay on the road, or on a particular side of the road, or may not be able to turn around so quickly, or may have no other route besides “straight ahead.” In a car, you can just drive through, assuming the punks haven’t hidden an IED along the road.

Then there’s the demographic of cyclists: they’re soft, easy, unarmed targets.  They are usually hippies, or yuppies, hard-working ordinary people, practical, just trying to get to work, or the dentist, or home, or the whatever.  And they’re unlikely to be armed: what cyclist is going to carry the weight of a weapon, or a crow bar, or a big f*ing stick, or a knife and risk being poked (or shot) by it as you ride?  And what, you’re going to get off your bike, your best means of quickly running away, and try and use a weapon?  Drive-by shootings I’ve heard of; bicycling-by shootings sounds like something only Conan O’Brien could stage.

For decades, and probably centuries, there are stories of punks swinging bats and sticks at cyclists and knocking them off their bikes, throwing rocks (and food and water balloons and bottles and spit), spreading tacks on bike paths, jumping cyclists at red lights, etc.  This week, we have assholes laying down a “trip wire” that they pull up to neck level when the cyclist comes close, injuring the cyclist, and then robbing them, presumably of their bike, but maybe of their clothes as well.  How very 15th century.

So this is pretty fucked up and disheartening.  It’s just one more thing we deal with as city cyclists.  If it’s not pedestrians walking on bike paths or into the paths of bikes; or debris in bike lanes; or motorists driving distracted, drunk, drugged, disconcerted, half-dead or generally driving dangerously; and if it’s not other cyclists ignoring traffic laws and generally riding like idiots; then it’s street punks trying to fill the vacuum in their hearts by injuring people, why not a cyclist.  There are days I really get tired of this.  I’m just trying to get where I’m trying to go.

Look out for random ropes and strings along the ground.  Look out when riding by bushes near the side of the path.  Look out for people milling about or who seem like they may be the “look outs” for a gang.

What is city hall and law enforcement doing about this?  Are our city council members interested in or informed about crimes against cyclists and their seriousness?  Do the police have strategies for fighting these crimes?  And where’s Batman?  Generally, I’ve seen nothing to make me believe city government is on the case, but I’d like to be wrong about that.

And I’m rather disappointed that even the New York Mag article makes it sound softer than it really is.  They call it a trip wire.  It’s not a trip wire.  It’s a “clothes line,” a rope pulled up to body or neck level.  Even if it’s simply up to the level of the bike wheels, it will result in the cyclist being thrown in an endo, skull first over his/her handlebars.  This can cripple or kill a person, not merely trip them and cause a broken wrist.  What, if NY Mag publishes something alarmist about crimes against cyclists, people will stop looking at the ads on their web site?

(Did I swear here?  If so, I beg your pardon.  But I think swearing may be appropriate when an innocent person’s neck is on the line.)

What plans do the mayoral candidates have to decrease crimes against cyclists?  I haven’t heard a position on this — or on bicycling — from any of them.  No surprise.  As a voting block, we don’t have a check book, so, should they care what we think?  I think they should.

So, what can you do to help?  Don’t just sit there, don’t just ride.  Get involved in the political machinations of our society.  Tell your political representatives what you think.  Write your council members, write those who are running for city council in your district, write those who are running for mayor.  Apply to serve on your community board.  Join Transportation Alternatives and/or Times Up and donate some volunteer hours.  Run for City Council.

How to do it?  Your first step is to click here:

Stay safe and get involved in bicycling advocacy,
Robert Matson
New York City Recumbent Supply
The Innovation Works, Inc.
copyright 2013 Robert Matson

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