A couple weeks ago I was biking home from a game night with some friends. It was about midnight in the suburbs–nothing to worry about. Or so I thought.
I was minding my own business just biking up a fairly steep hill on a street that led to the main road. Before I could get to the top there were two cars peeling out of the side street to the left just before the street reached the top of the main road.
The two cars stopped and somebody screamed. Doors slammed. I heard some bickering and what I assume was cursing and then the car in front sped out to to top of the road and drove away.
The other car slowly made its way up as well, and I thought it was just going to follow the other car and go away.
But it didn’t move.
I had stopped my bike, but I forgot my flashing handlebar light was on.
“Hey! Who is that?” somebody from the car yelled back at me. I just hung back and didn’t move.
Then the car’s reverse lights came on.
And the car started to back up.
I felt my heart start to thump. What was I supposed to do? Where was I gonna go? I should have raced back the way I came, back to my friend’s house or at lease not where I ended up actually going–into that same side street where the two cars came racing out of.
The street was a dead end.
My heart was pounding even faster as I heard the car coming down the side street after me. I ducked behind a van and threw my bike on the ground.
I keep thinking of all the things I should have done, but I was panicking. I didn’t know what to do.
I called 911 and got a recording! “Please wait for the next operator,” it said. After what seemed like ten minutes (it was probably only one minute) a woman came on and asked me what my emergency was.
“I think someone’s following me.”
By this time the car had turned around in the circle dead-end and stopped in the middle of it. I could see it through the windows of the van I was hiding behind.
“Who’s following you, sir?”
“I don’t know.”
“Where are you?”
“I don’t know.”
“How do you know someone is following you?”
“They followed me down this dead-end street. I’m hiding behind a van.” I proceeded to tell her the story about how there were two cars at first and now one of them decided to tail me. She again asked for my location and I managed to name the street that I fled from.
“Why would someone be following you?”
“I don’t know!”
The passenger and driver doors to the car opened and stayed that way for a good minute or so. Oh shit. Three figures got out of the car.
“Let’s go beat his ass,” one of them said. It was a girl. There were three girls. Three girls in a car followed me down a dead end street.
Recalling this story to my gaming friend later he asked, “Were they big girls?” At first I didn’t know they were girls at all! All I knew was that there was a car following me down a dead-end street. I didn’t know if they had knives or guns or what-have-you!
“What are they doing now,” the 911 lady asked.
“They’re walking down the street past the van.”
“Do you have any idea why someone would be following you? Do you know these people?”
“No! I was just biking home when they followed me!”
The three girls (now I know it might seem silly to be hiding from three girls, but I was on a bike and they were in a car and I had no idea what their intent was, except to “beat my ass” apparently) turned around and came walking back towards their car.
“They’re coming back now. Please help!”
“You gotta give me a side street or something else to go on, sir. I need to know where you are.”
Two of the girls decided to walk on the left side of the van I was now on the other side of and the other girl, dammit, decided to walk on the right side of the van!
I bumped into her.
All the girls screamed.
“Who are you?” the leader said to me.
“Who are you!? You followed me down the street!”
The dispatch woman said, “Sir, I heard a scream. Did you do something to her? Did you hurt her?”
“No! No! No! They followed me!”
“I know, but I heard a scream, is she alright?”
“Are you on the phone with the police?” the leader chick said. It was becoming clearer that these girls were indeed just stupid girls and weren’t going to pose much of a threat to me. I didn’t see any weapons and they seemed more intoxicated than menacing. I was starting to feel silly. I was still scared. Who knew what they were capable of if they were stupid enough to follow some stranger on a bike?!
“This is all a misunderstanding.” The leader said.
“A misunderstanding?! You guys followed me down the street!”
“C’mon, SoAndSo, let’s go. He’s on the phone to the police.”
The other two girls and their captain clearly didn’t want any entanglement with the law, so they piled into their car and drove away.
I was still on the phone with 911.
“Did you get a plate number?”
“No. It’s dark.”
“What did they look like?”
“I dunno. Girls!”
“Are you capable of getting yourself home?”
“I think so.” I got back on my bike and started down the street to the main road and then on to my own house, all the while talking to the 911 lady.
“Stay with me,” she said.
I got home and threw my bike on the ground and ran up the back steps. I pounded on the back door. ”Open the Door!” I shouted from the top of the steps, too shaky to use my own key to the house.
I explained the whole story to my wife and told her the cops would be coming any minute to talk to me about the incident. I was home and unharmed, but I was still shaken up.
Looking back on it now, part of me feels silly for worrying about a few chicks who really couldn’t do me any harm, but I didn’t know that at the time. All I knew was that someone had decided to follow me down that street. I’ll bet if I had kept on biking I could have pedaled right by them without any trouble, but because I stopped I triggered something in their heads that made them follow me.
I didn’t know they were all girls until they got out of the car, and by that point my adrenaline was already pumping wildly. Part of me feels silly. Another part feels justified in running (biking) away and hiding behind that van.
The cops came to my house about twenty minutes later and asked the usual questions: Did I have a description of the women who followed me. “Did you attack her?”
“No! Of course not! I didn’t attack her!”
“No,” said the officer, “did you get the TAG number?”
“Oh. No, I didn’t.”
Those chicks probably laughed all the way home or to whatever late night party they were about to attend and recount the night’s events.
One thing that’s been sticking in my head after all of this is this: what if I had had a gun with me? I’m sure brandishing that piece of iron would have made those girls get back in their car right away. Or maybe they would have pulled their own, more powerful piece of iron on ME. What if the gun had accidentally gone off when the one girl bumped into me.
“I heard a shot AND a scream. Did you hurt her?” the dispatch lady would have asked.
I don’t want this to turn into a rant about the Second Amendment, but I will say that I would have felt a lot safer if I at least had some pepper spray on my person at the time.
“Let’s go beat his ass,” they had said. “Oh. This is all a misunderstanding.” they had said.
I’m going to get myself some pepper spray and attach it to my key chain or at least have it hanging from my handlebars. I’m not going to let three crazy chicks scare me off my bike, dammit! I’ll still bike anywhere in this city, day or night. I have a right to the road just like any other traffic. Plus, on a bicycle, one is less likely to be pulled over by a cop after having had a few brews.
Yes, you figured out why I was biking in the first place–to avoid a DUI. I’m sure there is something such as a BUI, but I doubt it’s enforced very hard. If a cop pulls over a bicyclist then they really need to rethink their priorities. There are folks getting raped and robbed in the city and Officer Friendly wants to pull over some schmoe on a bicycle? Not likely to happen.
Be careful out there.