Commuter Self-Defense…For Real This Time

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.

Upcoming Web Event on

Darren Alff of wrote to let our readers know about an upcoming Web-based event going on at their site. Here’s a little bit about it from the site:

The event, titled, “Bicycle Travel As A Modern Lifestyle Choice,� will take place on the weekend of November 22nd and 23rd and will feature a jam-packed schedule of articles, interviews, videos, and live Q&A sessions having to do with bicycle travel, commuting, and lifestyle design. The event is aimed at anyone interested in learning how to use a bicycle to change the way they live, work and travel.

Event participants include:
– The Adventure Cycling Association
– Author, Joe Kurmaskie (The Metal Cowboy)
– Bike Friday
– Canadian Best Selling Author, Ted Schredd (The Cycling Adventures of Coconut Head)
– CycleAware
– Entrepreneur, Yaro Starak
– Gene Bisbee
– Momentum Magazine
– Road ID
– Writer and World traveler, Chris Guillebeau

The goal of the event is to introduce people to bicycle travel (whether it be short trips around their home… or long distance tours across the country). The information will be totally free and open to anyone… anywhere! All that’s needed to participate is an Internet connection.

As a bonus, cycling products donated by the Adventure Cycling Association,, CycleAware, and Yakkay will be also be raffled off to event participants.

As you can see, it will be a star-studded event. The crew from put together a quick and dirty “crash course” in bicycle commuting (aimed at first-time and novice commuters) for this event…nice to rub shoulders with Internet bicycling “big guns”! Check it out, and if you register with your email address, you’ll be eligible for some great prizes.

Russ Roca: TV Celebrity

Talk about getting scooped — our “blinkie-lighted siblings” (to borrow a phrase from Bike Snob NYC) over at Commute By Bike posted a YouTube video of our own Russ Roca. Russ was featured on the Planet Green TV show “G Word”, and the show did a pretty good job of showcasing the day to day activities of Russ as he pedals around southern California for his photography business. I had caught the show when it broadcast (my wife and I are big fans of the show), but until CbB posted it, I was unaware that there was a Web-based version available.

Check it out:

A special tip of the ol’ “foam chapeau” to Fritz for turning us onto the YouTubed segment from the show.

Tampa Bay’s Commuter Choices Week 2008

Today I attended the kickoff party for the Bay Area Commuter Services “Commuter Choices Week”, where folks pledge to try a different form of commuting transportation than their usual mode for the month of October.

I didn’t attend in an official capacity…rather, I went along to help my friend Alan Snel get the word out on the upcoming Bicycle Bash by the Bay.

me and Alan
(photo courtesy of SWFBUD)

The crowd at Poe Plaza was smaller compared to last year…but there were a variety of transportation agencies (TBARTA and the Hillsborough Metropolitan Planning Organization), community organizations (Tampa Downtown Partnership, among others) and bicycle-friendly folks (Carrollwood Bicycle Emporium and Southwest Florida Bicycle United Dealers, the organizing arm behind the Bicycle Bash).


Here, Manny Sierra of Carrollwood Bicycle Emporium offers free commuter tuneups for anyone who brought a bicycle…he’s rockin’ the official American League sweethearts Tampa Bay Rays haircut.


Of course, one of the big crowd draws is the free pizza and soda offered by one of the event sponsors:


A shot of the crowd:


And, of course, I had to represent by bringing my Xtracycle along…obnoxiously parked so that everyone had to pass right by it. This rig may have attracted more attention than a lot of the display tables…I got a lot of questions about it and handed out a few “Eleven Answers” cards provided to me by Xtracycle. I wasn’t in the mood to offer free passenger rides around downtown Tampa, though…maybe I’ll do that at the Bash.


We had a good time…talked to a few bike-friendly people and gave some of the local transportation planners some good-natured grief about their lack of support for more bicycle infrastructure in our area. Somehow, this year I missed the official speeches, but that’s ok…we still had fun!

Traveling Cyclist Amenities — New Zealand Style

Our friends Nick and Lynn Tucker sent the following photo to share:

bicycle assembly station

Clicky for big

What on Earth is this, you ask? It is the bicycle assembly station in the international terminal at Auckland, New Zealand’s airport…how cool is that?!?

New Zealand is widely regarded as one of (if not THE) ultimate destinations for bicycle tourists — good climate, friendly people, stunning vistas. If the airport there (and it is reported that the airport in Christchurch also has one of these stations) made the effort to secure a special spot for traveling bicyclists to reassemble their bikes, you can be sure the rest of the trip will be a smashing success.

Both airports list these assembly points as an offered service on their respective websites:
Christchurch(complete with a photo of their facility).

Anyone seen ANYTHING like this in a U.S. airport? I sure haven’t. If anyone has run across a similar facility in their world travels, let us know.