Attacked on the Minneapolis Greenway

Have you been attacked while riding your bike on the Greenway, or anywhere else? 

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.

I also copied my status update to the Coalition's Facebook page, where I found that another cyclist, Jennifer Komar Olivarez, had already posted a similar experience

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.

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    Jeremy Iggers's picture
    Jeremy Iggers

    Jeremy Iggers (jeremy [at] tcmediaalliance [dot] org) is the executive director of the Twin Cities Media Alliance. Find Jeremy on Google

    Comments

    Re: avoid the greenway...safety in numbers.

    I've lived in NYC for 40 years and ride in every neighborhood any time of day or night. I lived in Minneapolis at Park Avenue and Franklin. BAD boys were everywhere. Gun fights in front of my building. Never had a confontation day or night: they're quite easy to avoid. If you feel unsafe on the Greenway after dark, the middle of the streets is safer even in rough neighborhoods; you can see something coming better, just keep watching and stay alert...that means no music or cell phone conversations or musing. The trick when a dog launches from nowhere to chase you down on a dark street...stop, get off the bike and yell, bark howl aggressively, keep the bike between you and attacker, ready to use it aggressively. Or on the greenway daytime, you see 3 kids waiting, stop at a safe distance, get off the bike, call police and wait till critical mass of other cyclists reach you on both sides...use foursquare alert people,  then start walking towards the kids. If they're outnumbered, they'll leave. If they start coming towards you, ride AWAY quickly.. Keep eyes open for movement in bushes...use peripheral vision...if you are prepared for anything you can avoid surprises...like a kid jumping out of nowhere with a brick...you can duck if you anticipate..you can dodge with a bike easily...you might even use your foot or your shoulder to knock him down.

    You need to be scared, a condition of life in the big city. If you don't like to be afraid, go live in  BUddhist monastary. Fear shouldn't stop you from doing what you're doing. Be prepared and be sure to cover all your options...riding a bike is dangerous always! Sorry those rookies who think that they're invulnerable. And killing someone else is a stupid alternative for someone who doesn't want to die. Everyone's choices effect every other human...ripple effect. (END ALL WARS!)

    What a bunch of PC bullshit

    What a bunch of PC bullshit about not reporting racial characteristics of suspects. We need to know whom to look out for, whatever race they may be. And if one race happens  to figure more than others in reports such as these, well, what a big fucking surprise! 

    Facebook comments?

    i saw a bunch of facebook comments attached to this story yesterday, but none today.  Were they removed?  Perhaps my adblocking / script blocking software is effecting the page, but if not it would be nice to hear about your policy for allowing / removing facebook comments.  It is a shame that folks put the effort into commenting, only to have their writing removed at some latter point.  I am not a Face Book user, so it does not directly effect me.  But I value seeing other's opinions-  especially when they are at odds with my own point of view. 

    Facebook comments

    No, the comments have not been removed. I'd know, because Jay and I are the only ones who moderate comments. 

    I don't know what happened to them. I can still see them in the moderation queue, and they appear as published comments. This is a complete mystery to me. 

    So - since I can't figure out what happened - here are the comments, cut and pasted from the Facebook moderation queue — not a perfect solution, but the best we can do with imperfect technology.

    x x x x 

    Nina Chenault · U. of Minnesota

    Wake up, look around, see it ahead of time and avoid if possible. Do not start a conversation or confrontation, call 911 if you see suspicious activity, including groups loitering. Unfortunately that's not 'against the law' now but it usually isn't a safe situation.

    Explanation

    The reason these comments stopped appearing is because of a fix we made to ensure that the same Facebook comments appear on stories that have multiple different URLs. This unfortunately had the side effect of causing previously existing Facebook comments to disappear. Sorry! That side effect was not intended.

    Sorry to hear this, Jeremy!

    I've only ridden the Greenway once, and it was a very pleasant experience.

    Better to avoid it all together

    Kids that will take on multiple adult men at 9am on a Monday are a pretty serious threat. No joke.

    Unfortunately, for anyone that actually has a carry permit, carrying in the Greenway is probably more risk than it's worth. Pulling a firearm on kids with rocks is not an action you want to have to defend. Especially post-Zimmerman.
    Also, you can be sure that any kids you scare off with your heater are bound to call the cops just as fast as you can, about, "the crazy man with a gun in the Greenway". And then you get to explain to the MPD, "exactly who was threatening who?".

    A better solution is to follow the '4 stupids' rule: "Do not go to stupid places with stupid people to do stupid things at stupid times"
    - the Greenway has qualified as at least 2 of the above for a long time. And after-dark on the Greenway solidly qualifies as a third. And for my perspective, folks that think the Greenway is safe probably account for the 4th one.

    I do get a kick out of folks that believe a firm stance, an unapproving stare and a phone call to 911 are all it takes to drive off enterprising hoods. :D They go there because it's an ideal low-risk environment for their line of work. And the incident numbers pretty clearly demonstrate it. For every incident that's reported, there are probably a series of unreported or near-misses. Not to mention they know that most folks down there are likely to be completely unarmed out of "principle".

    I'd prefer to steer completely clear of them and be prepared to defend myself appropriately if they decide to come to my neighborhood or home.

    It'd be more useful if they'd convert the Greenway back into useful rail lines, and put some solid sustainable mass transit on it.

    Get real

    Convert it back to mass transit? You're retarded, if you're so afraid of a couple incidents that you personally don't want to ride the greenway that's one thing, but to say it should be scrapped is just a troll. Stay in your car, the rest of us will take the greenway.

    Greenway and solo female bike riders

    I often pass by the Midtown Greenway as I travel on the Lightrail; I see the bike riders and often want to bike on the Greenway. However, I am a solo female bike rider. I have read reports on the unsafe conditions for bike riders/walkers on the Greenway almost since it opened. Many times I don't want to "ask someone to go with me" on a bike ride. I just want to go on a solo bike ride. It is sad that in the Twin Cities a solo female bike rider can not feel safe on the glorious Greenway. I believe the citizen reports that there aren't many police patrolling the Greenway; I mean, budget cuts and all.

    I used to work in the Law Enforcement field which makes me a little more cautious; there is a 6th sense I follow when incident after incident on the Greenway aren't just random acts. There is a pattern here that can't be ignored. Andrew Rothman gets it.

    When Jeremy posted on his personal Facebook page saying he was a recent victim of a rock assault on the Greenway, first I was alarmed; then, I remembered all the other incidents along the path.

    Isolated incidents are one thing; repeated occurrences with numerous, ongoing victims is a pattern. As a solo female bike rider, I feel too vulnerable to ride the Greenway. I just have to view it from the Lightrail window.

    I wouldn't worry about it

    I wouldn't let a couple gory incidents keep you from riding the greenway, especially if it's something you always wanted to do. Situational awareness is key, as it is anywhere in the city. Let's face it, the greenway goes through a couple crappy neighborhoods. If you walked through those hoods you'd be on high alert. Same applies to biking through them. The greenway is so nice, it's easy to forget that street level is a dump. Just be on alert.

    That's a pretty cavalier attitude

    Several reports of attacks after dark and you "wouldn't worry?" Maybe you're not a lone female rider; maybe you are.  Either way, I'll make my own mind up, and to me it's a risk not worth taking---at least not alone.

    Greenway Attack

    About 7 or 8 years ago my 25 yr old daughter was attacked on the Greenway.  She was hit in the head with a brick and had her bicycle stolen. Then she had to walk several blocks to Lunds (where she worked at the time), to find anyone to help her. It was around 4am and no one heard her crying for help. Someone at Lunds called me & when I got there my daughter was in an ambulance with her head completely covered in blood. She still has a scar, and NEVER took the Greenway after dark again. Very scary. I remember talking with a Star Tribune reporter who had written an article about how safe the Greenway was - I told him about my daughter's attack, but nothing came of it.

    Description?

    Any distinguishing features of the perps? If not, why not? It was worth mentioning their age, why not other information about how they looked?

    Yikes

    "More guns!" 

    So, we should just shoot everyone we perceive as a threat? Okay, George Zimmerman. By the time you're being attacked, will you really be able to reach for your gun? And what if you fire off a couple of rounds during the attack that go astray? Are you responsible if an innocent catches one of those bullets? The real solution is to carry pepper spray; specifically the kind designed for grizzly bears that has a range of 40+ feet. Just ask a student from UC Davis how effective it is.

    "What race?"

    Why do you care? Are kids of one race less threatening than kids of another race? "Oh, look Betty Lou, there's a group of ruffians, but they're white so we're safe." Sheesh! When you see a group of people loitering in an area that has no amenities, like along the Greenway, you should be concerned, regardless. 

    The bottom line is today as it has always been; if you suspect trouble, turn around and call the police.

    Can the bullshit, Richard.

    Can the bullshit, Richard. "Oh, let's not reveal race or identifying features of the suspects, for it could hurt their feelings and make them feel persecuted." Clearly, a criminal is a criminal regardless of race, but we need to know whom to look out for. It just happens that the majority of suspects for Greenway crimes are not white. Why the coverup? 

    carrying a gun while biking

    Please do not listen to people like Andrew Rothman that encourage you to carry a gun on the greenway while biking.  Carrying does not make you safer.  He is only trying to scare you with his stories because he is in the business as a gun trainer.  The more people he can frighten, the more money in his pocket.  Please be safe out there but carrying a gun will not solve the problem

    I disagree

    As a cyclist who exercises his 2nd amendment rights wherever I go, I disagree. I am highly trained, situationally aware (particularly on the greenway). Those who know anything about street crime know that the mugger is the most dangerous of criminal, regardless of age. The mugger, even before an encounter is initiated, has already decided he will use violence for personal gain, no matter how small that gain may be (iPod). They are the worst kind of crook. Make no mistake, when a mugger attacks, it is a fight for your life. A group of muggers even more so. You would be well justified in defending yourself with a firearm if confronted by several assailants, regardless of how many are throwing punches, rocks, etc. These aren't a bunch of honor students just coming back from the store with skittles. Mace and Kung Fu will get you killed. Arm yourself, get training. It's your life, act like it means something to you and do what you have to to protect it.

    Amen.

    Amen.

    Minneapolis Greenway: rich pickings for highway robbers

    The Greenway has long been a favorite location for muggers, and it's little wonder. The Greenway is a convenient conduit that brings innocent victims directly to criminal actors, in a straight-line tunnel with few or no avenues of escape, in the convenience of their own neighborhoods.

     If you are fortunate enough to be there on the rare occasions when the Minneapolis Police's bike cops are riding by, count yourself fortunate. The rest of the time, you're on your own. Sure, you can call 911 once the damage is done, but when seconds count, the police are only minutes away (that's no dig at the police; we wouldn't want to live in a place with a cop in sight at all times.

    I know some bicyclists who avoid the Greenway because of the vulnerability of being trapped. I know another, a Marine who shall remain nameless, who beat the tar out of his assailant (poor victim selection, that was).

    Again: you're on your own. If you happen to be a 6' Marine triathelete, and want to take your chances against running into a thug -- or five -- with weapons, just ride and take it as it comes.

    If you're not that adept in hand-to-hand, or otherwise don't like your chances, I'd avoid the Greenway, or take steps to make sure you have the tools and training to protect yourself.

     I'd love it if you got that training from me (next class is in two weeks -- see www.mngun.com), but make sure you get it. 

    RE: Avoid the Greenway

    I never respond in comments of articles, but I feel so strongly this time that I can't help myself. In response to Andrew Rothman's post about "if you're a marine, ride it...if you're not adept in hand-to-hand....avoid the Greenway." How absurd. I'm a 5'4" female who has never carried a weapon. Fear is a terrible solution. Don't AVOID the Greenway - RIDE the Greenway. The more good people that are out there using the areas that we want to keep safe, the safer they will become. There is strength is numbers. That's not to say incidents won't happen, obviously, but - as we can learn from the recent incident during the Powderhorn 24 - the more people who care that are out there using public spaces, the safer we will all be. We need to have each others' backs. The day we start avoiding a place and leaving it to the miscreants, is the day we forsake our fellow citizens, our tax money, and our city.

    I think you have a good point

    I think you have a good point for daylight hours, but I think it would be very hard to get sufficient traffic on the Greenway at night for that to be a solution for safety issues at night.  I'll continue to ride the Greenway during the day and avoid it at night, unless some better safety solution can be found! 

    Greenway Attacks

    Be careful riding!

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