A few weeks ago, I posted a humorous YouTube video as a “self-defense” tutorial for bicycle commuters.
Mere days later, a close friend of mine (coworker and occasional commuting partner) was “bike jacked” on the streets of Tampa. Details are a little hazy — my friend lost his bike and was forced to run for his life, and in the mad scramble to survive, many of the subtle details were lost. Basically, two assailants saw him coming, hiding behind a van parked on the street until he passed them. One assailant jumped out and tried to tackle him off his bike. My friend wobbled and recovered, but by then the second assailant arrived, pulling the victim off his bike and punching him in the face and neck. My friend remembered that initially he was fighting to get his bike back…or at least keeping it between him and the thugs. When he heard voices approaching (More assailants? Curious onlookers? Good Samaritans? Who knows?), he decided to cut his losses and run away. He figured that losing a $75.00 bike was better than getting beat up (or worse).
My friend managed to get away, and he was picked up by the Tampa City Police a few blocks away. The bike-jacking occured in a not-particularly-bad neighborhood and it happened just after nightfall…well before incidents like this generally take place.
All of this brings me back to the topic at hand — with night coming early now that Daylight Saving Time is over, how can we defend ourselves against scofflaws? I mean, we already have to deal with dangerous motorists, road debris, obstructions and myriad other safety concerns.
On other sites, when this topic comes up, folks often respond, “oh, just carry a gun!” This isn’t an ideal solution for many of us, though. While concealed carry permits are definitely a valid self-defense option, some folks don’t want a firearm with them and others fear an escalation if things come to a head. Fellow bicycle commuter and gun-rights advocate Xavier (Nurse With a Gun) has written extensively on this subject. For me, this isn’t an option — although I am a firearm owner and CCW permit holder, I work in a government building where firearms are strictly forbidden…what am I supposed to do, stash my pistol in the bushes outside until I get out of work? I don’t think so…
So, the question is: what are some of the other options do bike commuters have to defend themselves? We’d love to hear your thoughts. Obviously, there are some common-sense approaches to minimize risks, like choosing commuting routes carefully, being hyper-aware of the world around you, avoiding incidents altogether and being prepared to sprint like hell when the chips are down. Your concerns, defense techniques and any other tidbits will be greatly appreciated.