The Chainlink

I read that resurrected thread about the Humboldt Park attacks for the first time only yesterday and, since I live in HP and it seems like you have to go through a violent neighborhood to get anywhere in Chicago by bike, resolved to buy some pepper spray.  I spent much of yesterday wondering what I'd do in that situation, so my immediate reaction to the guy running onto Adams, holding what looked like a chair like a baseball bat, was you have got to be kidding.

I could see five or six others rushing the street beyond him, but couldn't spare much attention from the guy with the chair, staring me right in the eyes and grinning as I shouted "Don't even think about it, you... [insert language to embarrass a sailor wherever you can make it fit syntactically, and then insert some more]."  His swing missed thanks to a tight swerve and when he threw the chair, it went wild over and behind me.  Turning up Damen, I saw another guy running toward me.  There was no way I'd get past him, so I cocked my leg for a kick and gave him my best.  I don't know if I connected.  His elbow went right into my chest and stopped the bike hard.  A couple other guys came up from behind and waled on my back until I hit the ground, my head bouncing off the pavement.

As any cornered animal will tell you, adrenaline's a hell of a thing.  While a few guys kicked me in the chest and back, two other guys tried to steal the bike, and I wasn't letting go.  The conversation was of the "from hell's heart, I stab at thee" style, and when one fumbled with the rear pannier ("what the f.ck is this?!" he cried in frustration.  Fair play to Ortlieb: the mounts shifted, but the bag remained fastened securely to the rack), I kicked with my free leg, hissing "You can't have it!  You can't have it!"

Since we were in the middle of the southbound lanes on Damen, cars eventually came, and the men ran west empty-handed.  I got on my bike to pursue, but the chain had slipped and I fell to the ground again.  At this, I called them every emasculating name in the book to taunt at least one of them back to me.  One guy in particular seemed outraged at what I'd just called him, but he kept running.  Cars whizzed up and down Damen, and a few rubberneckers pulled to the side and watched.  One man had stepped out of his car, asking if I was alright.  "Do you want to call the police?" he asked.  I looked west down Adams' empty street and shrugged.  "You're bleeding," he said.  "Probably," I replied. "Nothing I can do about it now."  I stumbled over to the northbound side of Damen, rechained the bike and rode home, unsure whether it was sweat or blood pouring down my face and neck, annoyed to distraction by the new rubbing and scraping from my front fender.

My friend suggested that I file a police report when I got home, and so I did.  Where crime is reckoned in documents and numbers, it seemed smarter to be a statistic than nothing at all.

Beyond nausea, headache and feeling like I went ten rounds with Tyson, I'm doing alright.  The wounds are bloody but not deep.  Here are my observations:

1. It wasn't even nine pm, so cars were bound to come by within a couple of minutes.  If this had happened at three or four in the morning, when I often ride past Adams and Damen, it may have been a more protracted and painful experience.  I probably would have lost my bike, too.

2. By putting up a fight, I think I confused and slowed them down long enough to get through it.  If they had all focused on kicking the hell out of me and then taking the bike, or the reverse, then they surely would have left me senseless and bikeless.

3. These guys knew what they were doing.  They had every possible route covered in the event I'd gotten past the guy with the chair, which suggests that they've done this before, and perhaps will again.

4. Next time I'm riding, if I see a group of men standing on all corners, I'll turn around and GTFO.  If, like last night, I don't have the distance or time, then I'll lock the brakes, screech to a halt and wait for them to approach.  A few shots of pepper spray would, with hope, buy me some time to get out of there.

5. I believe in the efficacy of helmets.

6. Most importantly, that thread about the HP attacks saved my skin.  If I didn't recognize what was coming as quickly as I did, then I'd have been knocked off my bike by that chair, and it would have been game over.  The Chainlink's earned my Paypal donation several times over, I reckon.




Some people have asked why my first impulse wasn't to call the cops.  If they'd taken my bike, I'd have considered it, but given the time it would have taken for the police to arrive, six guys with nothing to show for their efforts in that neighborhood wouldn't have been found, IMHO.  There's also the same impulse I felt the first time I got right-hooked by a car: just get out of there.  It's not always the best response, but it's often the hardest one to deny.

Edit: crap, I'm down two water bottles.

Happy cycling.

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We need conceal and carry. 6 dead pieces of shit.

Glad you are ok. I understand your urge to not call the police however if you call attention to the area the police may actually catch someone. You were likely in shock as well.

My closest police officer friend is a tactical officer in the 12th district where you were. I'm lettin him know about it now so they have an idea what to look for.

The police have a saying "no victim, no crime". there are plenty of anti-police peeps on here that doesn't mean you shouldn't report a crime.
Niall, i sent you a message with my number if you could call me. My buddy in 12 said he'd like to talk to you as well. :-)
Paul O. - That's the Adams/Paulina/Ogden intersection? What time of day was that? That's my usual route home, for some reason I can't get enough of riding through United Center traffic (I usually get a high five from at least one parking lot guy). I am very interested in avoiding being attacked, though, in general.

Niall - Glad you are mostly OK, sounds like you handled it about as well as you could've. I also have to say that your post is well-crafted and nicely written.

My roommate was recently knocked off of his bike around Washburn/Damen - luckily he got away with his bike, and after he called the cops he was able to recover his backpack as well as most of his stuff. But for this evening's commute home, there don't seem to be a huge amount of muggings-on-bicycle that happen in the pouring rain. I could be wrong, maybe they just don't get reported to the internet.

It is very disconcerting to know that if I'm riding home from Pilsen or Chinatown to Logan Square, my usual route would take me by just about every intersection that I've seen listed as a place where someone has been hit with a 2x4/chair/fist/elbow while riding their bike.



Paul O said:
I'm glad you're okay.

I was attacked on Adams and Paulina, and I did call the cops. They told me I was crazy for biking in that neighborhood said they would search high and low for the guys who attacked me.

I'm sure they looked all night.

Some good tips here, don't be afraid to turn around and run, and carry pepper in easy reach.

Personally I wouldn't carry anything that can be easily taken from me and used against me or people I care about.
I am a new rider...and fairly new to the city. I have been getting a lot of flack from family about riding home after working the United Center (heading to River North area). Reading this is making me think they are right, that I should just take the bus (buses really). The times I have taken the bus, I have not enjoyed the wait to catch the 22 on Dearborn since no one is around at that time. Oh, what to do, what to do.
Either way pepper or bear spray is your friend.
In order for either to be effective, you need to first be off a moving bicycle, and then aware of the wind direction, and then have less than 6 people on you-- no?



Gabe said:
Either way pepper or bear spray is your friend.
Let's not dismiss whole parts of the city as unsafe, but rather share and collect information on where specifically these attacks are happening.
Most of the time you can avoid a "bad" place by diverting not more than a block or two.



Michelle Gregorek said:
I am a new rider...and fairly new to the city. I have been getting a lot of flack from family about riding home after working the United Center (heading to River North area). Reading this is making me think they are right, that I should just take the bus (buses really). The times I have taken the bus, I have not enjoyed the wait to catch the 22 on Dearborn since no one is around at that time. Oh, what to do, what to do.
These posts have got me thinking I should order some of that bear spray, but I was wondering about the following:
- how likely is it that I would get sprayed if the wind was wrong or I was still moving towards my attacker
- could I grab the spray, unlock(?) and aim it in time (or while still moving)
- if its a gang attack, am I likely to get one or two and then have the spray taken and turned on me

Opinions?
Weird that I posted so close to yours

H3N3 said:
In order for either to be effective, you need to first be off a moving bicycle, and then aware of the wind direction, and then have less than 6 people on you-- no?



Gabe said:
Either way pepper or bear spray is your friend.
Glad you are OK. And I am glad that you fought back. The predatory creatures who prowl our streets and prey on cyclists are a waste of skin. The bastards that smashed my collarbone last year were never caught. Hopefully you will have better luck.
Based on the idea that the person is standing at a bus stop or riding a bike. Pepper spray usually has a good stream so as long as you are holding it at arms length you should be fine. (the complaints are made when idiots shoot it off inside a closed environment. I've never fired bear repellent but i'm assuming it's the same. A gun is unaffected by wind at close range.



H3N3 said:
In order for either to be effective, you need to first be off a moving bicycle, and then aware of the wind direction, and then have less than 6 people on you-- no?



Gabe said:
Either way pepper or bear spray is your friend.
Is there anyone else who works with you that can ride with you or drive behind you unti you are in a more populated area? Also perhaps we should start a cycling "buddy" group for certain areas? If there's someone else who rides in the same area regularly and works similar hours maybe the two of you can ride together. I agree that waiting at a desolate bus stop may not be any more safe. You can also use a combination of bus and bike, so wait in your office (use bus tracker) until just before the bus approaches, then ride the bus with your bike on the front, and then ride your bike the rest of the way home (avoiding a wait in deserted downtown for the 2nd bus).



Michelle Gregorek said:
I am a new rider...and fairly new to the city. I have been getting a lot of flack from family about riding home after working the United Center (heading to River North area). Reading this is making me think they are right, that I should just take the bus (buses really). The times I have taken the bus, I have not enjoyed the wait to catch the 22 on Dearborn since no one is around at that time. Oh, what to do, what to do.

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