Another Case of Brutality Against a Bicyclist in West Town

Brian Bauer, after the attack.
Brian Bauer, after the attack.

Note: The videos in this post contain graphic violence and strong language.

Two weeks ago a motorcyclist randomly groped a female bicyclist at Augusta and Milwaukee, and then knocked her husband unconscious. Yesterday there was another horrific attack on a cyclist in West Town, just a mile southeast at Hubbard and Kinzie.

The latest victim was Brian Bauer, 31, who works as an old-school downtown bike messenger by day and a food delivery courier at night. At about 4:45 p.m. Thursday, he was cycling from the Loop to his home in Humboldt Park to switch bags for his evening gig. As he approached Canal Street while cycling west in the Kinzie protected bike lane, drivers were lined up waiting to make a southbound left turn. That’s when a man in a green Honda station wagon swerved into the bike lane while passing the stopped vehicles on the right, missing the cyclist by inches.

“I screamed something at him,” Bauer recalled. “What I normally scream is ‘Heads up!’ or, more likely, “Bike lane, jackass!’” However, he said this kind of thing happens to him all the time as someone who spends much of his day riding around the city, so he didn’t give it much thought and continued west on Kinzie.

The attacker's vehicle.
The attacker’s vehicle.

Bauer competes in road and cyclocross races in his spare time, and he said his usual commuting pace is a car-like 22-24 mph. As he climbed the hill by the Blommer Chocolate factory, he felt something rubbing against his back wheel, almost like another bike rider drafting him too close and rubbing tires.

That’s when Bauer realized that it was the station wagon driver tailing him. He said he’s convinced the man was trying to run him over. “He bumped me from behind and tried to steer me right, into the curb,” the cyclist recalled. “I went left and sprinted ahead.”

Bauer said he next instinct was to turn on his GoPro mini video cameras. He keeps one on his front handlebars pointing forward, and another under his seat pointing backward. “I’ve been doing that a very long time because I’ve seen quite a bit,” he explained. “Drivers treat you way different when they see a camera. It’s amazing how people will buzz me and as I catch up to them they’re like, ‘Oh s—, there’s a camera,’ and that usually defuses the situation.”

In an effort to hold the driver accountable for trying to run him off the road, Bauer turned around in the travel lane at the top of the hill, grabbed his front GoPro to show the man the camera, and began filming. At the end of the clip below Bauer dodges right to avoid being rammed.

 

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A post shared by Brian B! (@thisisbrianb) on

Bauer then slipped between the station wagon and a line of motorists waiting to turn left. “I think it quickly became apparent to him that as long as I was on the bike he’d have a hard time catching me,” he said. “I think that’s when he said ‘F— it,’ and ran the [Kinzie/Desplaines/Milwaukee] intersection.”

Since his cameras don’t have video screens, Bauer wasn’t sure he’d gotten the man’s plate number, so he sped west after the station wagon to get more footage. At Green Street the driver turned north, and then at Hubbard the motorist headed east again. “He realized I was right on top of him, screaming,” the cyclist said. “He got to Halsted and tried to turn south, but there too much traffic, so he realized that he couldn’t get away. I rode up right alongside him trying to get a good photo of his face. In my head, I guess I believed he would stick around and wait for the police to file a report.”

In the the second segment of the video below, shot with the GoPro mounted on Bauer’s handlebars, you can hear the cyclist yell, “The f— was that? The f— was that? I’m calling the cops. I got you.” At that point the driver got out of the car. The cyclist headed toward the intersection, but the man sprinted after him and grabbed his rear wheel, flipping him over the handlebars. The camera kept filming, capturing part of the assault. (To view the second segment, click the small arrow at the right of the frame once.)

 

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“He picked me up and started hitting me and hitting me and hitting me, and then threw me back on the ground,” Bauer recalled. He’s five-foot-eight and 150 pounds, so he decided it made no sense to try to the fight the man, who he said was perhaps six inches taller and more than 50 pounds heavier. “I did the turtle thing,” he said, crouching face down on the ground in a fetal-like position, while the man punched him in the back of his helmet 10-15 times, and also administered a few blows to the side of his face. “I found blood on the back of my helmet that wasn’t mine. He was screaming expletives at me the entire time.”

In the video you can hear dozens of other drivers blasting their horns in response to the beat-down and see people coming to Bauer’s aid, including cyclists, pedestrians, and motorists. “Enough people started rushing over that he realized he needed to escape,” the cyclist said. In the third segment of the video  (click the small arrow at the right of the frame twice to view it) you can see the man, still cursing, get back in his car and take advantage of the stalled traffic to flee south on Halsted.

 

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A post shared by Brian B! (@thisisbrianb) on

Bauer said multiple witnesses gave him their phone numbers and stuck around to give testimony to the police, and he got the man’s plate number. But he said the responding officers seemed pessimistic that the driver would ever be apprehended. “I asked if they were going to issue an all-points bulletin on him and they said, ‘We don’t really do that.’”

Officer Laura Amezaga from Police News Affairs provided the basic information from the police report, which shows that the account Bauer gave to the officers matches the story he told me.

Bauer said he’s certain that he suffered at least a mild concussion, and his knees and elbows were swollen and bloodied, but he doesn’t have health insurance, so he hasn’t sought medical attention. He’s also taking some time off from work, which means lost income. And even if the police track down his assailant, he’s convinced that the man, who was driving a beat-up, decades-old vehicle, doesn’t have car insurance so he won’t get compensation.

“Statements have been made, reports filed, literally nothing has happened, and I’ll be amazing if anything does,” Bauer posted on Instagram in the wake of the beating. “In retrospect I probably shouldn’t have followed, but it’s hard to just ride away from s— like that. I’m going to be fine in a few days but, boy, am I sad at how violent and terrible this city is sometimes.”

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  • Guest

    This is the same cyclist that apparently had a similar violent encounter with another motorist, 8 months ago:

    https://chi.streetsblog.org/2018/02/28/park-district-security-guards-to-use-their-suv-to-intimidate-a-bicyclist-on-the-606/

  • Roadster

    Here is the biker’s instagram post from the earlier incident:

    https://www.instagram.com/p/Bfub83XnlZo/?taken-by=thisisbrianb

    Somewhat ironic that this biker is now calling the police. After the earlier incident, the biker’s comment was “There was no way I wanted to hear a single word from a couple of power tripping pigs that tried to run me off a bike path.”

  • Alter

    For someone with a complaint about unsafe street behavior, this biker certainly has a selective view of what constitutes unsafe street behavior:

    https://www.instagram.com/p/BmO-or5BmAA/?taken-by=thisisbrianb

  • johnaustingreenfield

    Bauer and I discussed the February 2018 606 incident yesterday, but since this piece was already long I chose not to include a discussion of it, although a quick mention and link to the previous SBC story might have been warranted:
    https://chi.streetsblog.org/2018/02/28/park-district-security-guards-to-use-their-suv-to-intimidate-a-bicyclist-on-the-606/

    In that situation (Steven Vance did the original writeup), Bauer published a video of men in a park district SUV chasing him on the trail, passing bystanders at high speed, after he called them out for their driving. Bauer told me yesterday he’d been up on The 606 for a while that evening and had previously witnessed the men “messing with multiple people that night” as they drove up and down the the elevated path at high speed, even running another cyclist off the path so that he crashed. He said that since that incident he hasn’t seen anyone patrolling the path in SUVs, just ATVs (which are also problematic, but not as bad.)

    The park district said they were going to investigate the incident. I’ll ask for an update.

  • Deni

    Didn’t take long for the victim blaming to start in comments.

  • TRPCLRMNTCST

    i experience similar behavior from car drivers on a daily basis. stay safe out there people- you know they get jealous when they see we are a lot faster than them

  • lykorian

    We are all entitled to be critical of cops doing stupid shit AND still expect them to do their jobs and apprehend criminal motorists. There’s nothing “ironic” about it.

  • lykorian

    Please explain to us how this has any relevance whatsoever to this cyclist being brutally assaulted by a sociopathic motorist.

  • planetshwoop

    My goodness. Hope Brian gets and feels better.

    Many (most?) car insurance policies have coverage for when the other party is un or underinsured. So it can be an option to get coverage for this. I was involved in an accident with an uninsured motorist and was able to obtain a settlement.

  • Tim Adams

    That driver is an absolute menace. With his plate # and video of him pummelling the cyclist, hopefully that’s enough to convict him with.

  • TCNA

    what a fucking psycho. how are people like this allowed to drive?

  • Logan Square Dad

    Hopefully the police apprehend this driver and some type of appropriate action is taken (perhaps a loss of his driver license?). But, more importantly, there’s enough evidence here to file a civil suit and bring this driver into court for damages. I certainly hope this cyclist considers this option.

  • Guest

    Pssh, please. I’m a fellow Bike Messenger who rides day in and day out just like Bauer. As bike messengers, we can get into “hairy” situations multiple times a day, often at no fault of our own. But a major key of being successful in this field is knowing when to turn away from situations like this, instead of escalating them. At the end of the day, we all want to get home in 1 piece. This gentleman is getting covered on here every 2 months for situations he’s practically instigating. He was looking for a fight and got one – he’s lucky he’s not 6 feet under the ground, this is Chicago after all! It would be rad if Streetsblog could actually put some shine on hard working career Messengers, instead of just entitled crybaby northside kids who get themselves beat up. Happy 10-9, international bike messenger appreciation day everybody!

  • johnaustingreenfield

    “A major key of being successful in this field is knowing when to turn away from situations like this, instead of escalating them.” Please reread paragraph three — Bauer let the first encounter slide. It was only after the driver later attempted to run him off the road that Bauer attempted to get his plate number — a reasonable response when a motorist makes an intentional, potentially deadly move against a cyclist. While it’s important to know when to cut your losses in a conflict, as Bauer acknowledged, if this driver winds up losing his license for a while, that’s a win for all of us.

    Likewise, Bauer documenting dangerous behavior on The 606 by security guards in an SUV, and Streetsblog reporting on it, helped end the misguided, potentially dangerous practice of patrolling the elevated trail with SUVs.

    “It would be rad if Streetsblog could actually put some shine on hard working career messengers.” As someone who messengered for a total of six years myself, I’ve given plenty of ink to all kinds of couriers over the past couple of decades — Google it.

  • TRPCLRMNTCST

    john kass? is that you?

  • I live in Austin, ride a bike in the city and would absolutely fight someone taller than me by 6 inches. When on a bike tour, I most often carry a handgun too. I would have killed that criminal assailant.

  • johnaustingreenfield

    “Bike friendly, the Texas way!”

  • johnaustingreenfield

    Here’s the update from the park district. Unfortunately they’re still patrolling the trail with SUVs. “The safety of our park patrons is paramount. The Chicago Park District continues to utilize sport utility vehicles to patrol our facilities, including The 606. All security officers operating patrol vehicles are instructed to use caution and drive slow to observe any person in distress or to observe any criminal activity on the path.”

  • Brian Malarski

    To be honest, as a cyclist and driver, I see the cyclist riding dangerously in the videos. First, he travels the wrong direct at oncoming traffic. Then he runs 2 stop signs at high speed, with other vehicles at the intersection and pedestrians in the crosswalk, putting everyone in danger. I see the car he’s chasing, making complete stops and turn signals. I understand if the car did something they shouldn’t you get angry, but that does not mean you should begin to ride in such a manner. I also watched the video with the park security…judging by the speed at which he was traveling, he was speeding on the 606, as I’m pretty sure I remember there being a speed limit on that trail. Unfortunately, all I see is the cyclist racking up countless moving violations!

  • Brian Malarski

    The only thing we see, is the cyclist breaking the law, on multiple occasions, after which, we hear him battering the driver’s car, before the driver got out of the car. The video is cut and not continuous, for some reason. We also cannot see what transpired prior to the two of them moving in front of the camera, for all we know, the cyclist threw the first punch…

  • Andrew

    I’m confused. You have the assault captured on video footage. You have witnesses. You have the plate number and a clear picture of the vehicle. You have injuries to prove the assault. You have clear, identifying footage of the assailant’s face.

    I absolutely understand that police departments are usually wayyyyy too apathetic when it comes to motorist crimes (particularly when the victim is a pedestrian or cyclist), but this one seems really cut-and-dried. Why on earth would CPD just let this one go???

  • neroden

    Yeah, in civil court you can enter the driver’s plate number and get the records which say who the car is registered to.

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