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Business & Developmentby Fern Shen11:33 amApr 12, 20130

Rash of assaults raises concern among city bike riders

“I lost the boys and escaped physically unharmed. Emotionally, the danger in my psyche persists,” says one victim.

Above: A bike rider watches aftermath of recent car crash outside Baltimore City Hall in which a pedestrian was killed.

Baltimore bike riders are reporting an apparent recent spike in assaults against cyclists, including one incident yesterday in which a group of teens threw the rider off his bike and punched him.

It happened at about 6:30 p.m. at the intersection of Lanvale Street and Guilford Avenue, the Baltimore “bike boulevard” designated as the city’s favored north-south route for cyclists.

“They did manage to land a few punches and throw me down as I was trying to escape, but some residents of the 1700 block of Guilford stepped in during the scene and helped chase them off before things got bad,” wrote Mark Brown, of the blog Car Free Baltimore.

His post on the incident was widely circulated yesterday, and  linked to on the Facebook page for Bikemore, a city cyclists’ advocacy group.

“Aside from a few scrapes and black eye, I’m fine,” Brown wrote. “The police tried to chase the teens down in Greenmount West, but they escaped through an alley.”

Bikemore founder Chris Merriam was unharmed after a brush earlier this week (teens on the Fallsway threatened and chased him, yelling “Gimme that bike!”) but he is clearly concerned about what’s going on right now.

“Bikemore is meeting with Garnell Green of the Baltimore Police Department next week,” Merriam wrote. “Our main concerns are police treatment of bike-involved crashes, and the recurring rash of real or threatened violence against cyclists.”

Some Attacks Seemingly Organized?

City cyclists have become fairly sanguine about occasional verbal, possibly joking taunts from people they pass. But the recent incidents appear to be more serious.

“I thought I’d just outrun the attackers. Wrong,” wrote Brown, who said his escape route was cut off. “Unless you’re going down hill or already have some major speed, they will block your escape routes and grab any part of your bike or clothing to try to bring you down.”

He said he also thought the attackers would just grab the bike and run, but they apparently “wanted to inflict some pain.”

Another city bicycle blogger, Seth Lueck, of Baltimore Velo, had a bad experience yesterday on his way home from work:

As I passed Mt. Royal and headed north approaching the Copycat building, I saw a group of boys aged 13-15 ahead. Nearer to me was one of their peers.

I passed the first male and approached the rest. Suddenly, the first boy yelled out, “Bike!”

Suddenly, the entire group of 4-5 teens charged full speed at me simultaneously.

It’s funny how the body can operate on adrenaline on a dime. I accelerated as fast as I could away from the group. I was nearly knocked to the ground. Ahead in the distance were 2 cars in the on-coming traffic lane. I headed towards them to try to intimidate my pursuers before swerving out of the way.

I lost the boys and escaped physically unharmed. Emotionally, the danger in my psyche persists.

How to stay safe?

So, what should bike riders do, aside from calling 911, to protect themselves?

Opinions vary. To start the conversation, here’s a post with suggested safety tips by cyclist Liam Quigley that ran in The Brew and generated 64 comments. We published it after a similar problem arose in 2010.

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