Monday morning shortly before 9 a.m., riding to work on the Greenway, I found the road partly blocked at 14th Avenue by half a dozen kids – some teens, some probably younger – standing in the middle of the road. I said something like, “hey, you can’t block the road” as I went around them, and then one kid threw a rock at me, hitting me in the upper body.
I stopped a few yards ahead, not sure what to do. Just then, another biker coming from the opposite direction was hit by a rock. He dismounted and started to confront the group. One of the bigger boys started throwing punches. The biker at first stood his ground, but when he got hit hard in the face, and more kids started to surround him, he retreated. He ran to me, and asked me to call 911, which I did. He said one of the kids had stolen his iPod.
As more bikers arrived on the scene, the kids ran back up the ramp to 13th Ave. One biker said he had been attacked a few minutes earlier. The first biker who was attacked stayed to wait for the police, and I left to go to work.
Later in the day, I posted a short status update on Facebook.
“Wow. Terrible!,” wrote David Lawrence Grant. “The Greenway is such a great resource… but people can’t use it if they can’t feel safe.”
Another Facebook friend commented that I “Should of stayed and kicked there butts. Please do not let anyone get away with that”
That didn’t really occur to me at the time.
Barb Teed, a regular contributor to the Daily Planet, attached links to several other reports of Greenway attacks, including a January WCCO report about a violent attack on a woman cyclist on the Greenway, and a link to the Midtown Greenway Coalition‘s list of incidents in the past six months here: There are currently nine incidents on the list, all after dark.
The Midtown Greenway Coalition posted a reply within minutes:
Thanks, Jeremy. We strongly encourage Greenway users to call the police when they see groups of youth loitering on the Greenway. The MO is always 2-3 youth or more, and frequently they are near a bridge with stair or ramp access. Best to stop well ahead of them. Also, turn around and bike away the other direction. The more calls to the police, the more they pay attention to the Greenway. They want us to call, and if everyone does, it will really help.
And Olivarez posted a reply yesterday as well:
Jeremy, that was the same group I encountered. Several of us calling the police must have helped, because today there was a patrol car prominently parked near the 10th Avenue entrance to the Greenway. I was unfortunately upon them before I knew what was happening but will be extra vigilant from now on and will not hesitate to call police as soon as I can.
On my Facebook thread, Andrew Paule offered this suggestion: “Anyone interested in helping contact the coalition – they can use all they can get. We have had a couple of years with ZERO incidents, now we are starting to see it pick up again.”
The Midtown Coalition also offers some advice for riders on the Greenway after dark:
For your safety, seek other trail users to buddy up with after dark and call 911 to report anything suspicious. If you must bike alone at night, behave as you would anywhere in the city and avoid loitering/stationary pedestrians because sometimes they have accomplices hiding nearby.
On Tuesday morning, when I rode to work on the same route, I didn’t see any sign of the kids. But I did encounter a couple of Minneapolis police officers on bikes. I stopped one of them and started a conversation – I assumed that they were patrolling the Greenway in response to the multiple police reports from the day before.
No, the officer told me, he hadn’t heard about those incidents. They patrol the Greenway regularly, and this was just a routine ride.
Do you have Greenway experiences or advice to share? Post them as comments on this story, and we’ll update the story with your input, as appropriate.