Cycling Commuters Meanaced and Attacked

The best part about Mondays are all the hits I get to the blog.

People obviously are looking for other things to do in front of their computer screen as they ease back into the work week.


This came in on the wire today from a cycling commuter in Seattle:

not a typical commute home

I am sitting up in my hospital bed with my MacBook Pro. Harborview has the UW WiFi network. I have access by virtue of being an alumnus. Anita brought my laptop to me tonight to make feel “normal.”

Last night, I left Bellevue at 7pm on my bicycle under clear skies and crisp cold temperature. It was one of those wonderful commutes home. While it was dark, I had my usual compliment of front and rear lights.

It was cold, but I stayed warm under my long-sleeve wool t-shirt, bib shorts, tights, wool socks, wool glove liners, bicycle gloves and long-sleeve yellow jersey. Every pedal stroke/revolution of the crank brought warmth into my core. I was very happy.

I enjoy riding during autumn: the colors, the scents, the “rice crispy” crackle of orange and red maple leaves underneath my spinning wheels.

I am nearly home. A mile from home, I hit a pot-hole and puncture my front tire. I replace the tube, but have difficulty getting the tire bead to hold to the rim. On the third try, it holds. I mount my bicycle, ride another two blocks and a car passes to my left. I hear gun-like shots and immediately feel pain in my chest. I ride a short distance and stop. I hunch over my handlebars while I “absorb” the pain. Every inhalation brings a sharp pain to my left lung, as if I had a broken rib. I look at my “clean” yellow jersey. As there are no marks, I suppose that the assailants shot me with an air gun or some sort of blunt projectile.

I am angry at them. But, they are long gone.

I continue home. The damage doesn’t inhibit my pedaling, just causes extreme discomfort.

Once home, I store my bicycle and enter our home. I am in pain, but settle into my routine. I greet Anita and go upstairs to shower. I remove my yellow jersey and notice a blood stain and two small holes on the rear side of my left side. I remove my wool t-shirt and bib shorts and notice the same damage. I turn my body and look in the mirror to see two holes in my body.

Not wanting to alarm the children, I go to the stairway and ask Emma to send her mother upstairs. I explain and show the wound to her. I guess we are both in a bit of shock and respond in our normal ways. She has seen blood on my cycling clothing before from many falls. She rinses out the blood and takes them downstairs to start the laundry. I take my shower.

Anita applies two bandages and hands a slip of paper to me with the non-emergency phone number for the police. I call the number, go through a couple menu items to reach a live person. After explaining the nature of assault and injury, the lady dispatches the police and medics to our home.

I go downstairs to alert the children. Even the appearance of a relatively healthy parent does not calm the shock of having one’s family member violated by some form of gun shot.

The firemen arrive first. They ask lots of questions. I will tire of hearing and responding to the same questions over and over and over. The firemen feed information back to their central support team. They contemplate sending me to the hospital with the medics or with Anita. The medics arrive. Finding neither exit wounds nor the intruders near the surface, they are going to take me to Harborview.

Lying on a back board on top of a stretcher, with a neck brace and an oxygen mask, I cannot see much but for the heads of many caregivers. After a chest x-ray, we learn that I have two b-bs inside me; but, where exactly? After a CT scan, we understood.

Both entered my flesh, leaving near parallel debris fields. One penetrated my left lung, leaving a small hole that released some air into my chest cavity. I have a small pneumothorax. It remains in the bottom of my lung. The other touched my aorta and slid down to my diaphragm. The doctor tells Anita and I that I am very lucky. The damage could have been much worse. My left lung could have collapsed. The aorta or spinal cord could have been hit. The doctor tells me that if the b-bs posed any danger, they would operate to remove them. He recommends leaving them.

He most concerned with my pneumothorax. He has the hospital admit me. He wants me to spend the night for another chest x-ray in the morning.

My case attracts a lot attention from various, interns, nurses, students and other caregivers. They scroll the CT scan pictures to view the damage.

I have some pain, but nothing that I cannot deal with (without pain medication).

Our neighbors spoke with the police after I departed to the hospital. The police officer believes that the assailant used a 22 handgun loaded with b-bs. It is apparantly becoming more common. They also mentioned that usually that b-bs shot from a b-b gun remain near the surface.

* * *

Life is a journey of learnings.

I have “long” lungs. Apparently, cyclists and runners develop lungs that are longer than most people. This means that I need two chest x-rays as the first picture never capture all of my lungs.

I have a wonderful family and friends!!!

I still really love riding my bicycle.

Certain elements of the recent attacks along the Midtown Greenway and the event that took the life of Mark Loesch have come to light.

Although few facts on the cases are available, it seems that several attacks against cyclist recently have included evidence of obvious blunt force head trauma inflicted on the victims. There is now speculation that it is a group of local kids who attack cyclists and bash heads as a form of initiation.

They have taken on the moniker of “Beat Down Boys”.

Last week my friend Sergio was riding home with three other cyclists when they had an altercation with half a dozen boys along the Greenway  at the 16th Ave. bridge. The boys first threw full cans at them from the bridge then descended the slope and menaced the cyclists until they rode off. All this happened at the relatively early hour of 9pm.

If this is the same group of boys who were involved in previous attacks it would appear that they are getting braver, and sloppier.

I live in that general neighborhood. I know lots of kids that age who are becoming increasingly involved in hooliganism. A number of them I’ve know since they were relatively little, and although they keep their more malicious activities out of view, they know that I’ve got my eye on what’s happening in our neighborhood.

Last week, my son’s new mountain bike was stolen out of a friend’s front yard in broad daylight. I rounded up the older kids who I consider the kingpins of the block and told them that I wasn’t accusing them directly of taking the bike, but that I was willing to bet that they had a really good idea who did. I told them I wanted the bike returned, and if it was, there would be no questions asked.

The bike showed up at my front door the next day.

I don’t know for certain that these same kids are involved in the assaults against cyclists, but once again, I bet they have a good idea who may be.

I’m doing my best to be cool, channeling my inner detective to get some indirect facts about what is really going on.

Stay tuned…….


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