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‘The next thing I knew, I was on the ground’: Bay Area bike riders tell of attacks

A woman in a hospital smock and face mask sitting in a medical room has stitches above one eyebrow.
Eleanor Mead was one of several bicyclists to be struck by a car Feb. 10 in the East Bay. She suffered a gash on her forehead. She was treated at Kaiser Oakland.
(Katrina Palermo)
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On the evening of Feb. 10, Eleanor Mead was riding her bike in Oakland on the way to the East Bay Bike Party, a meet-up of dozens of bicyclists who then pedal through the San Francisco Bay Area streets.

“Ironically, one of my favorite parts of Bike Party is when I’m on my way there because you slowly start to see more and more cyclists,” Mead said in an interview with The Times.

“There’s a little magic in the air.”

As she was traveling, however, the spell was broken as Mead noticed that a car had been driving close on her left-hand side despite there being “plenty of space” for the gray sedan to pass her.

“Then it happened really, really fast,” she said.

The front passenger door of the sedan was opened into her path, just a few feet ahead.

“The next thing I knew, I was on the ground, falling off my bike,” she said. “The car sped away, and as it did, I heard them laughing.”

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Mead, who was wearing a helmet, suffered a gash on her forehead, and bruising and other lacerations on her body. She was taken to a local hospital by a friend and received stitches.

Mead worried about those riding in that night’s Bike Party, but it went by without incident.

In the following days, Mead and other cycling aficionados learned that she was not the only East Bay bicyclist who was “doored,” or hit, in incidents involving what may have been the same vehicle.

The attacks have made the neighborhood’s biking community uneasy as efforts to involve law enforcement have been frustrating.

“It’s a lot bigger than I think any of us kind of imagined,” Mead said, “and it’s just really weird.”

After her attack, a friend of Mead’s reached out to the East Bay Bike Party and asked if it would share information about the incident on its social media pages to potentially track down witnesses.

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“We posted that one story and almost immediately there was a flood of messages,” said Charlotte Hyrse, a Bike Party volunteer.

Multiple people reached out to say they had been targeted by what they believed was the same or a similar vehicle before and after the Feb. 10 event.

Some of them said they’d been hit on Feb. 9 or Feb. 11, with incidents reported in Oakland, Berkeley and Emeryville.

By the end of the weekend, volunteers with East Bay Bike Party had gathered information on at least six incidents of cyclists being attacked.

Watson Ladd of Berkeley was riding his bike when he noticed a car approaching him at high speed.

“It ended up passing me extremely closely,” Ladd said, “and as it passed, the passenger opened their door and smacked me on the shoulder with the door of the car.”

Ladd said he was able to stay on his bike, but the incident shook him.

“This was the most scared I’ve been on my bike in all my years of biking around Berkeley,” he said.

The streak of incidents confounded Hyrse and others in the cycling community.

“We definitely are concerned because, at Bike Party, we want to keep the bike love going, and all of this is pretty scary for a lot of people,” Hyrse said. “What do you do if someone’s just trying to, like, attack you?”

Mead attempted to report the incident to the Police Department in Oakland, where some city services have ground nearly to a halt because of a cyberattack that has prompted a local state of emergency.

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“As of [Friday], I still have not been able to file a police report,” Mead said, acknowledging the issues the department and city had been facing.

“I’ve called so many times, I went in person,” Mead said. “I even called 911, which I didn’t want to do because I was like, ‘It’s not an emergency and I don’t want to take resources away from emergencies.’”

At a meeting for the Bicyclist and Pedestrian Advisory Commission held Thursday night, Mead said she was told by an OPD officer that “this can’t really be a priority for us” and “Oakland is just a really violent place.”

The Oakland and Berkeley police departments could not be reached for comment.

The attacks have left Mead scared for other cyclists on the roadways, and she is unsure when she will be back on her bike.

“I’m really shook from all of this, very jumpy,” she said.

Still, despite the attacks and in support of riders like Mead, the East Bay Bike Party will not be crashed. On Sunday, it will participate in a solidarity ride hosted by Roll Out Crew, another bicycle-based organization in the Bay Area.

The riders plan to remain vigilant, and they’ll have a friend on four wheels: A pickup will ride alongside.

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