Another Case of Brutality Against a Bicyclist in West Town
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.
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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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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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.”