Sunday, September 18, 2011

More Assaults On Bicyclists Along The Pinellas Trail In St. Petersburg

Several people have informed me about ambush muggings and assaults against bicyclists on the Pinellas Trail in St. Petersburg. They're usually along the stretch of Pinellas Trail between Tropicana Field and the high school -- in the area between 31st and 34st Streets.

A few months agao, Rick Fidanzato, owner of ABC Bicycles and the Trek Store of St. Petersburg, sent me an email from a customer who was assulted while cycling about three months ago.

There have been media reports of more attacks recently. And one bicycle friend passed along information about a cyclist named Brian who reported he was assaulted as well.

Be on guard while cycling that section of Pinellas Trail!

Here is a recent account from bicyclist Brian:

At 7:30 PM I was biking west on the Pinellas Trail between 31st and 34th St S in St Pete. About midway between the two streets is an "island", with railroad track remnants and a bench, where the paved path divides and goes around it on both sides. As I approached the island, I saw a man partially blocking the path to the right (north), and another man sitting on the bench on the left side of the island. I thought maybe I saw signs of one or more other people there as well (and I've since been told there were in fact four guys), but my attention was focused on the two guys I saw clearly. Because the path to the right was partially blocked, I rode around the island to the left.

When I got within about 100 ft of the man on the bench, he got up, walked to the left of center of the trail, then just sorta stood there casually. Suspecting nothing, I rode to his right, between him and the bench. As I passed him, he suddenly moved closer, raised his elbow, and walloped me in the mouth -- I never saw it coming. Somehow, I don't know how, I managed to stay upright and keep moving. I also retained enough presence of mind to shout a few obscenities at him. When I got about 100 ft away, I stopped, looked back to see what was happening (nothing -- the guy was just standing there, looking at me -- I like to think he was saying, "damn, this is harder than I thought!"), pulled out my cellphone, and dialed 911. At that point the guys took off in the opposite direction. (I tried dialing 911 twice, and the call failed both times. In the end I called Linda, who gave me the non-emergency police number to call.)

I'm fine -- a deep laceration inside my mouth and a headache for a day, but it could have been much worse, as proved to be the case for poor Michael Hall, who rode by the same spot an hour later (after dark) and got badly pounded. By then I guess the muggers had perfected their ambush technique enough to be successful. Fortunately for them and unfortunately for Michael, their second assault yielded a much better haul than their first one could have: Michael lost a $1500 bike, whereas all they could have got from me was a 10-year-old cellphone and a 25-year-old bike worth maybe $100.

And another Pinellas Trail bicyclist added: "I rode by that area last Sunday morning @ about 9:30am. When I rode by that same bench there was a woman's purse sitting open on the bench. I saw no woman around.

It seemed odd. I got to the top of the bridge over 34th and stopped and called 911. They put me over as a non-emergency call to St Pete police. They said they would check on it and I chose to leave the area.

I am thankful I did not stop. It seems any time of day is not safe in that area until the police take things a bit more seriously."

Here is the St. Pete Times story:


Nick said...

Thanks for posting Alan. Perhaps we need to take things in our own hands since the police seem to be lax in doing something about this.

deemo said...

About one year ago in the same general area, I had a scare too. I wasn't assaulted, but it's an experience thats kept me off that trail at night. I was riding home ( to seminole) after attending the St. pete power and sailboat show. It was around 7 or 8 pm, and I was sluggish from the days activities.
I see a bright light on the trail, but as I get closer, what I thought was an orange bike light was actually a fire set right in the middle of the trail. Small, logs, sticks and palms. My first reaction was too dismount my bike, kick the debree into smaller piles, and empty my water bottle. Here's where it gets interesting. I hear a bicycle chain in the distance, and my first thought is 'good, someone to help and witness this". But as the chain noise grew louder, I started to get concerned because there were no bike lights. Then I heard it, two or three voices yelling and spitting out profanities. They were the fire starters, and they were mad that I ruined there little project. I flee, but they follow on my tail for about a mile. I must have been riding at least 18 mph, but it seemed like they were pounding away too.

When I was out of the way, I stopped into a convenience store off the trail, and asked them to get the law to check out the trail. I didn't see the culprits, only heard there mean taunting, and noisey derailleurs. My best guess is teenagers.

On a positive note, I did have just enough time to get that fire completely stomped out.

rainbe said...

My brother was on the Pinellas trail on October 5th and we haven't seen him since. He had went to the Stars/Strives job training office and was talking to my son about 5pm when his phone went dead and we haven't heard from him since. We filed a missing persons report and would appreciate any help we can get to find him. Thank you, Paula(sister) this is the missing persons poster

sbo said...

CoPilot Live can help make a planned getaway even more enjoyable. With millions of Points of Interest including restaurants, parks to grill, and a variety of attractions, CoPilot Live can help you find and navigate to your ideal destinatisbobeton this weekend. Whether it’s a short drive to the beach or a long vacation getaway, GPS navigation on a mobile device is proving to be a very popular traveling companion