Home > Bicycling > Gunshots and a bike crash- Just another day biking in the hood

Gunshots and a bike crash- Just another day biking in the hood

After getting a new set of brake pads at a bike shop in Seattle, I headed home via Hiawatha Place and the I-90 trail.  As I was biking up from Rainier Ave to meet the I-90 trail, I heard what I assumed were firecrackers.  As I rounded the corner and started heading uphill, I came across a group of 10-20 young black males dressed in hoodies, do-rags, baggy pants and shorts who were faced off against each other in two distinctive groups.  It dawned on me that these weren’t simply “good kids” just playing with firecrackers – those were  gunshots and I had just cycled into the middle of a gang battle.

Now, I know what you’re thinking.  Gang battle?  Gunshots?   HOLY CRAP!  At the time, however, I never felt threatened.  The gangs were already starting to scatter when I arrived on the scene and nobody even acknowledged my presence, let alone threatened me.  Aside from the very real possibility of being hit by an errant bullet, I never felt any fear.  Ok, that’s not totally true.  After all of the “yewts” had scattered and were no longer visible the thought crossed my mind that there might still be somebody around willing to take a couple of pot shots at a passing cyclist.  Thankfully, the rest ride up to the trail and 23rd Ave S was very quiet with no more shots fired.

But the story isn’t over.  After I reached the main trail and crossed 23rd Ave S, I came across two stopped cyclists with particularly alarmed looks on their faces.  As I pass them, I overhear one of them talking on his phone about gunshots.  I then realize that I’m a witness and should probably stop in case responding police want to speak with me.  As I’m pulling over, I hear brakes squealing and then WHAM!  Another cyclist slams into me at full speed.  I go down to the pavement, along with my bike, and the other cyclist.  As I’m laying on the ground, she stands up and frantically asks, “Are you all right!?”  Lying there with hopefully only minor bruises and scrapes the only response I could come up with was, “May I suggest you get a bell and use it when passing?”.  I believe I’m at least partially responsible for the crash as I must have moved left without warning – all the damage to my bike is on the right side.  That said, I’m relatively sure that she was going well in excess of 15 mph and was “in the zone” so to speak.  Her front wheel was tacoed and she ended up walking her bike to a location where a friend was going to pick her up.

Ok, so lessons learned?

  1. ALWAYS look behind me before slowing on a trail or especially moving left
  2. ALWAYS use a bell or my voice when passing other trail users
  3. And finally, Kevlar – It’s not just for flat-resistant tires

(Irony on #1 and #2 – I just attended a cycling safety course last week – Oh yeah, *that’s* what they mean by scanning and looking behind you.  I get it now!  As for #3, well, I don’t expect Kevlar lined bike clothes to appear on the market any time soon)

Categories: Bicycling
  1. Andreas
    August 19, 2010 at 7:33 am

    Hey, if they’ve got Kevlar-lined hoodies to protect against knife attacks in London, bulletproof bike jerseys might not be as far off as you think.

  2. August 19, 2010 at 7:55 pm

    Well, you can buy Kevlar helmets anyway.

  3. August 20, 2010 at 3:40 pm

    Goodness, were you and your bike OK? Did you end up talking to the police or acting as a witness? I’ve ridden through there so many times — I admit I wouldn’t have imagined encountering a pitched gang war during a commute.

  4. August 20, 2010 at 4:44 pm

    The fight was mostly over when I arrived. If I had been about 30 seconds earlier though, I would have *KNOWN* those were gunshots.

    The bike is remarkably Ok, considering the other cyclists tacoed wheel – a few scuffs is all that I’ve found so far. I rode it home with no problems but haven’t ridden since – I’m a little sore but the road rash on my shoulder is the worst of it – frankly, pulling the bandage off is worse than anything. If you’ve seen the waxing scene in the 40-year old Virgin, you get a sense of what it’s like 🙂

  1. August 20, 2010 at 3:01 pm
  2. August 20, 2010 at 9:07 pm
  3. August 21, 2010 at 7:27 am

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