Series of Attacks on Cyclists on the South Lakefront Trail

The Lakefront Trail near 37th Street. Image: Google Maps
The Lakefront Trail near 37th Street. Image: Google Maps

Streetsblog Chicago doesn’t typically report on non-vehicular crime, but I thought it might make sense to give our readers a heads-up about a recent pattern of attacks on cyclists on in the early evening on the south Lakefront Trail.

Today the Sun-Times reported that several robberies were reported on the path in early April. Between 8 and 9 p.m. on April 3 and 4, assailants came up from behind cyclists on the trail near 47th in Kenwood, pulled them off their bikes, and robbed them. No weapons were used in the attacks. The mugger in one of the cases was described as a young teenage boy. The other assault involved three unknown people.

And earlier this week, a Streetsblog reader contacted me to say that on Tuesday night at around 8:30 she was biking home from the West Loop to Hyde Park when she was mugged on the trail near 37th Street in Oakland. “I’m ok, although sore, sad and shaken up,” wrote the woman, 32. “I have been thinking through how to share this in the effort to notify other cyclists to stay alert and to help the biking and trail-using community safe.”

The woman said she was biking south on the path when two people knocked her off her bike and punched her in the chest. “They hit me once and demanded my phone and cash,” she said. “They didn’t grab my bag or my bike — I was able to dig around in my saddle bag and give them my work phone and unlock it, then entered the Apple ID.”

She said the attackers seemed satisfied, so she put her chain back in place – it had fallen off during the attack – and pedaled off. One person chased after her and nearly caught up, but she was able to escape, and she alerted two other cyclists that she saw riding north.”

“It certainly could have been much worse,” she said. “I am bruised but didn’t break anything, my bike is a little beaten up but was rideable. I wasn’t threatened with a weapon. But, I and many others rely on the trail, so it’s certainly unsettling.”

Police News Affairs confirmed the basic information of the robbery. Police spokesman Howard Ludwig said the 2nd District has stepped up beat patrols of the area in response to the attacks. There is also a supplementary police detail along the lakefront trail from May through October. The police encourage anyone with information to call Area Central detectives at 312-747-8384.

The woman said her priority is to improve safety on the trail, rather than trying to press charges against her assailants. “I have also been thinking about how the city council just approved billions in TIF dollars for two massive developments, and how that connects to disinvestment in critical public services like mental health, schools, and affordable housing, and how that relates to incidents such as this one.”

Update 4/12/19: Fox News captured on video a daytime attack by three teens on an adult pedestrian that occurred Thursday on the Lakefront near 47th Street, close to the locations of the April 3 and 4 assaults on cyclists.

  • Henry Mason

    “I have also been thinking about how the city council just approved billions in TIF dollars for two massive developments, and how that connects to disinvestment in critical public services like mental health, schools, affordable housing, and how that relates to incidents such as this one.”

    A reader was assaulted, robbed, and beaten, and her primary concern was a real estate development you constantly post about?

  • johnaustingreenfield

    I wouldn’t say we “constantly post” about Lincoln Yards or The 78, since real estate isn’t our main beat. We’ve run one post about transportation issues related to Lincoln Parks in recent months. The victim brought up the subject without any prompting from me.

    This is pretty much the only time someone has contacted me about being robbed while biking. Like I said, which this topic isn’t quite in our wheelhouse, but it seemed be worthwhile to get the word out about this phenomenon.

  • Jeremy

    “also been thinking” are the words of someone who doesn’t consider this to be “her primary concern.”

  • Anne A

    Think about the big picture of how disinvestment in economically challenged neighborhoods has an effect on people in those neighborhoods.

  • Alonso

    It’s this kind of “talk about everything but the crime” attitude that explains why crimes go unsolved in Chicago

  • Farside

    So this person is not going to fully cooperate with the police, so she can make some tangential point about social justice. What happens when (when because of her non-cooperation) the next victim gets badly hurt or worse?

  • johnaustingreenfield

    Yes, I suppose you’re right that people discussing the downsides of the TIF program is a major factor in why the CPD has a 17.5 percent murder case clearance rate.

  • Alonso

    The notion that any violent crime should be excused or ignored or minimized — because of (insert the name of the activist cause du jour) is a big part of why victims and witness don’t come forward and crimes go unsolved.

    Streetsblog repeatedly (and correctly) called for aggressive prosecution of a motorcyclist who assaulted 2 bikers:

    Why should this violent assault on a biker be discounted or explained away as the product of social unrest?

  • johnaustingreenfield

    “Because of her non-cooperation…” Where on earth are you getting that from? She filled out a police report. She simply said that she’s more interested in helping prevent to future attacks than getting payback against her assailants. In the long run, better patrolling of the lakefront at night would be the best solution to achieve that goal, so she did the right thing by asking us to publicize the case, which encourages the CPD to take action.

  • johnaustingreenfield

    The major factors in why victims and witnesses don’t come forward in serious crime cases is fear of retribution and distrust of the police.

    We’ve never called for aggressive prosecution of the Milwaukee Avenue case, although we do want to see justice served. But the fact that the motorcyclist who assaulted the cyclists (it has not yet been determined that the defendant was that person) had no financial motive, and that it was a completely unprovoked sexual and physical assault, makes the crime that much more egregious.

  • Farside

    “The woman said her priority is to improve safety on the trail, rather than trying to press charges against her assailants.”

    Why would she be more concerned with TIF issues than helping the police apprehend these attackers before they go after another victim?

  • johnaustingreenfield

    You’re not making a lot of sense here, but please read the comment from Jeremy below.

  • Alonso

    What “financial motive” were these lakefront path attackers pursuing, when they continued to chase her after they had already robbed her of her phone?

  • johnaustingreenfield

    The lakefront muggers were obviously acting like jerks as well. But they were apparently hanging out by the path with the goal of financial gain. The victim’s comments indicate that she fees poverty may have been a contributing factor, although that certainly doesn’t excuse the crime.

    In contrast, the motorcyclist committed assault for no reason.

    Feel free to keep commenting, but that’s enough back-and-forth for me.

  • Frank Kotter

    … as well as accurately convey the interpretation of the event by the victim and bring up her rationale for not wanting to see immediate blood in the water.

    You did a great job at that, John.

  • Looper

    “I have also been thinking about how the city council just approved billions in TIF dollars for two massive developments, and how that connects to disinvestment in critical public services like mental health, schools, and affordable housing, and how that relates to incidents such as this one.”

    The idea that bad economic conditions excuse violence — the soft bigotry of low expectations.

  • Eric Pounder

    Well, at least they didn’t call her a “knucklehead” while passing her on an expensive bike. That would’ve been unexcusable.

  • hopeyglass

    What on God’s green earth is the matter with you? Shame on you for being unkind to an entire swath of people in one comment. Honestly, where do you commenters come from.

  • Eric Pounder

    The only one my comment is unkind to is Lynda Lopez; the author of an article bemoaning wealthy white guys on expensive bikes. I think she is smart enough and fully capable of taking my sarcasm as criticism of her opinion piece. For your edification, I’ll be more serious and wish these criminals the very worst. For the woman in this article, for the man in the video, and for all of Chicago I hope they are brought to justice. As for where I come from? I come from riding hundreds, if not thousands of miles south of McCormick Place along the lakefront.

  • Kelly Pierce

    While one aim of the criminal justice system is personal accountability,
    another goal is in public safety and preventing the victimization of other
    community members. I’m glad the victim filed a police report. I urge her to
    cooperate with any police investigation and testify in court against the
    savages. A meaningful sentence for a first time offender could include a mental
    health evaluation and treatment as well as probation and community service. The
    offenders can be rehabilitated while victimization of other bikers is
    prevented. People can also take personal defense measures when in combat with a
    criminal. Bikers can conceal carry on the lakefront trail as well as have police-grade
    pepper spray. Seconds count and these tools will drop the criminals or cause
    them to scatter.

  • johnaustingreenfield

    Kelly, you’ve contributed some useful comments in the past, but we’re not down with you calling people “savages,” for obvious historic reasons, or suggesting that cyclists carry guns to shoot apparently unarmed assailants. Further comments along these lines will be deleted.

  • johnaustingreenfield

    Lynda’s article was an op-ed critiqued the wealthy white guys on expensive bike *who act like jerks* on the Lakefront Trail. This a news story about people from a different demographic acting like jerks on the LFT. While this piece includes a reference to underlying issues that may have contributed to their behavior, those issues certainly don’t excuse the behavior. We can walk and chew gum at the same time by featuring both kinds of articles on the same website.

  • Kelly Pierce

    John, thanks for the guidance. I have edited my comment. I
    was thinking only about the victim and failed to inclusively consider how today’s
    offenders can and will be tomorrow’s neighbors and community members engaging
    in mutual aid and service. To be clear, I believe only in the proportionate use
    of force and advocate for the use of non-lethal methods of personal defense. I
    have removed any reference to the completely justifiable and legal use of a firearm
    to prevent any impression the incident described in your article would be a legally
    justifiable shoot.

  • Kelly Pierce

    The victim has taken the important step of forgiveness
    to her attackers and wishes reconciliation. It is an emotionally healthy and courageous
    step. I interpreted her sentiments about public subsidies for the 78 and Lincoln
    Yards developments as an expression of misplaced priorities of city leaders for
    Chicago residents. Her comments harken
    back to William Julius Wilson’s 1987 blockbuster book “The Truly Disadvantaged: The Inner City, the
    Underclass, and Public Policy.” More than 30 years ago he forecasted, while at
    the University of Chicago, a permanent economic underclass that had no future.
    Since then, as the victim surmised, city leaders have only made the situation
    worse not better.

  • johnaustingreenfield

    Cool. Well, if this made you rethink your POV, I guess this is an example of how pointing out how a comment is offensive can sometimes be more productive than simply deleting it.