Cars chased, rammed, and doored bicyclists in separate incidents across the East Bay from Thursday through Saturday, according to witnesses and videos posted to social media. Two bicyclists were taken to hospitals for broken bones and gashes in attacks that bicyclists fear could be the beginning of a campaign to push them off the roads.
Most of the bike riders who were hit and harassed were on their way to or leaving a monthly group bicycle ride called the East Bay Bike Party.
“These were violent, targeted attacks with cars used as literal weapons,” organizers of East Bay Bike Party told the media Sunday. “These were another frightening reminder that local governments must take immediate action to make the streets safe for everyone.”
Warren Wells, the policy planning director of the Marin Bike Coalition, wrote on Twitter that attacks like these will affect people’s desire to bike.
“It’s hard enough dealing with driver inattention and carelessness,” he tweeted. “[T]here’s going to be a chilling effect.”
This is not the first time the East Bay Bike Party was attacked. Last September, a car rammed at least two participants in the middle of the ride on the Oakland-Berkeley border, leading to destroyed bikes and frayed nerves.
The loosely organized event combines socializing with green mobility advocacy. The organization’s messaging urges safe riding and looking out for each other.
Mingwei Samuel, one of the bike party event volunteers who is also a member of the Traffic Violence Rapid Response team, spent the weekend working with Charlotte Hryse, who works for the UC Berkeley School of Journalism, scouring social media to try to learn more about the attacks. With the help of victims, witnesses and neighbors, many of whom shared home security videos, they pieced together some evidence about the incidents.
First, the group says that the four cars the suspects were driving were likely either Hyundai or Kia models, which have been recently targeted for theft due to a security loophole that has gone viral on TikTok. The East Bay Bike Party found that Ta’Liyah Hands, an Oakland resident, had her 2018 Silver Hyundai Elantra stolen in the Laurel District around noon Friday. The car, confirmed by its license plate, was seen later that day in a video attempting to collide with bicyclists headed to the East Bay Bike Party. Several witnesses said the cars the drivers used to attack them matched these models.
The group was also able to determine that the suspects were young, possibly teenagers. Several of the victims we spoke to for this story agreed, saying they heard laughter from the car’s occupants as they swerved at bicyclists. Most or all of the suspects were also male.
The East Bay Bike Party’s members believe that the same group of people caused all of the collisions using three different stolen cars.
An attack on King Street
The first attempted attack occurred around 5:30 p.m. in Berkeley. Watson Ladd, a 31-year-old Berkeley resident, was riding a bike southbound on King Street between 63rd Street and Alcatraz Avenue when a light blue SUV approached him from behind.
As they passed the roundabout on Harmon Street, the car pulled alongside Ladd and a passenger forcefully opened the front side door in an attempt to run him off the road. He stayed upright on his bike and did not run into another car or another structure.
“Thankfully, I was fine. A bit of soreness in my shoulder the next day but nothing serious,” he said.
Ladd said he was “pissed” after the attempted assault and became much more aware of all the cars that were passing by. He also said it was the first time anything like that had happened in nine years of riding in the Bay Area. He is considering buying a helmet camera to catch anyone else who attempts this type of attack.
“There’s really not much one can do about drivers insistent on committing assault,” he said.
He did not report the incident to the police because he said it wouldn’t have been useful, as he did not get a good look at the make of the car or the license plate.
Attacked on the way to the East Bay Bike Party
On Friday around 5:30 p.m. in Emeryville, a driver in a 2018 silver Hyundai Elantra sedan attempted to hit cyclists riding north on the 4300 block of Adeline Street, at one point racing past stop signs and towards two cyclists riding in the buffered bike lane. This is the car that was later identified by its license plate as being stolen. A bicyclist riding behind the victims was able to record the attack on a head-mounted camera. The video was first shared on the Reddit forum BAbike.
The video shows the driver of the car pulling up next to the cyclists and a passenger trying to knock them off their bikes by dooring them. After the attack, the driver sped up and turned right onto 44th Street. The cyclists later said on social media there was one driver and two passengers inside the vehicle, one of whom was wearing a gray hoodie. This passenger can be seen in the video but has not been identified.
Later that afternoon, participants in the East Bay Bike Party started to ride toward Rockridge BART for the start of the event. Most decked out their bikes in neon lights to match the month’s “Glow Ride” theme. By 7:45 p.m., more than 500 riders had gathered at the station. The event path, as designed by event organizers, would take the group on a circuitous route from North Oakland to downtown, then to DeFremery Park in West Oakland, and finally to the edges of Lake Merritt.
Before they even left Rockridge, riders were targeted by a gray Hyundai Elantra. Rockridge resident Ross Judge was leaving his house on his bike around 7:45 p.m. when, according to a video his security camera took, a car started chasing him. The car accelerated and tried to force him off the road, he told East Bay Bike Party organizers. He did not suffer serious injuries.
Nearby on Shafter Avenue, 27-year-old Manchester, England, native Ellie Mead was hurt when a Hyundai sped up next to her near the corner of Shafter Avenue and Forest Street, near Market Hall. The car’s passenger opened the door in Mead’s path, making her collide with it. Mead was thrown to the ground, suffering a gash on her forehead. She called her friend, who took her to the nearby Kaiser hospital for observation.
A few days later, Mead said she was grateful she had not suffered brain injuries but that she had a lot of pain on her left side, where the door hit her.
“I have lacerations on my hands too. I’m still in a state of shock. The thing that was confusing was that it was a deliberate, unambiguous situation. That was a hit-and-run, and I felt rage and felt vulnerable,” she said.
Mead said her biggest worry at the time of the collision, once she was able to gather her thoughts in the hospital, was that she knew the people who hit her were still out in the street that night as the bike party was happening. “They could take a lot of people out if they wanted to,” she remembers thinking.
According to Mead, after the car hit her, the driver turned left onto Forest Street, under the BART rails and Highway 24, toward Claremont Avenue. Just a short while later, a car appears to have targeted more bikers on their way to the bike party, this time on Colby Street toward Claremont, three blocks away. Witnesses said it may have been a silver or gold sedan.
Vanessa Weng said on Instagram that someone in a car opened a door to try to hit her while she was riding slowly on the right-hand side of Colby Street. “I didn’t fall, luckily. I am grateful for the other bicyclists that stopped and helped me fix my bike as best as they could and give me hugs and support,” she said.
Becca DeShetler, who was riding on Colby around the same time as Weng, said on the same Instagram comment thread that people in her riding group of seven were also targeted. They were riding in a single file and were not obstructing traffic.
“He even hit us after we tried moving off the road. There was nothing to provoke this driver, they were out to hurt bikers,” she said. No one in her group suffered serious injuries.
As bicyclists who had been attacked by the car or cars reached the bike party’s rallying point they warned others. The organizers attempted to make an announcement.
Samuel said that since hundreds of people attend this event, it’s “hard to reach everyone, and definitely not everyone heard the announcement.” Samuel said that in the past, the group has posted meeting points and route changes in the middle of rides but that most people do not pay attention to their phones while on their bikes.
Shock and severe pain after a collision on Grand Avenue
East Bay Bike Party organizers said no one attacked riders during the group ride, which ended around 11 p.m. But after people left the last location at Lake Merritt, several bicyclists appear to have been targeted once again.
A blue Hyundai hatchback slammed into Russell Heller on Grand Avenue near the Park View Terrace intersection, throwing him off his bike. He doesn’t remember whether the driver rammed him with the car’s body or whether passengers opened the door to hit him. He does remember being in shock and severe pain.
“I broke my elbow bone, one that is detached, and I’m gonna have to get surgery to repair that this week. I also broke a bone in my foot. It’s unclear if I need to get surgery. Those are the physical injuries but mentally, I was definitely pretty freaked out,” Heller told The Oaklandside.
As Heller was lying on the ground, the blue Hyundai continued on Grand Avenue and hit more people.
Marcelo Monsalve said he and his friend Kevin Cassman were riding eastbound on an e-bike together. Around 11:30 p.m., as they were about to make a turn from Grand Avenue into Bay Place, the Hyundai hit them and another rider named Rebecca.
Marcelo, Kevin, and Rebecca were not seriously injured. The two men said they were aware of their surroundings enough after the collision that they were able to see that the car had made an illegal u-turn on Grand Avenue and was coming back to try to hit more people. As they followed the car back east on their bike, on the other side of the street, they found Heller on the ground, dizzy and hurt. As they helped him get up, Monsalve was able to take a video of the car speeding away.
As more people gathered to figure out what had happened, Heller told the group he would be able to walk home eight blocks away. But he collapsed on the sidewalk within seconds. Monsalve and Cassman picked him up and walked him home.
“They were all super kind,” Heller said.
Cassman, a 22-year-old San Francisco State University math major and Oakland native, said he is afraid he and others would have been severely hurt if it wasn’t for the traffic island on Grand Avenue that caused the driver to veer away.
“They almost ran into the island, which forced them to go left. The car hit me but they didn’t open the door. It was a sideswipe. We saw a group of people in the car. They were laughing and trying to scare bicyclists,” Cassman said.
More attacks on Saturday
Two more bicyclists were hit by a car Saturday afternoon. One of the apparent attacks occurred near the same intersection of Shafter and Forest where Ellie Mead was hit Friday night.
Trygve Ristroph was riding when he was hit from behind. According to Ristroph, a witness saw the collision and gave him the license plate number. Ristroph later learned in conversations with the OPD the car is a Kia Soul. Sarah Drekmeier, who lives in the area, said the police told her that the suspects drove a purple car.
A few hours later, around 4:45 p.m., a Kia Soul rammed into Eric Husted, an engineer who lives in Berkeley near San Pablo Park. The 37-year-old said he was headed to the Oaktown Spice shop in Albany and as he was crossing the road at the intersection of Acton and Parker streets he made eye contact with the driver. Instead of waiting for Husted to cross, the car turned into him and sped up.
“Fortunately I did not fall off the bike, but I tried to pedal and the bike would not move. The car proceeded to the next intersection then turned around and drove back at me for a moment. I was concerned I would be intentionally hit again and I quickly got on the sidewalk behind a telephone pole with my bike and the car drove off,’ he said.
Husted was not injured but submitted a traffic injury report to the Berkeley Police Department. He saw two young men in the car’s front seats.
Husted was unaware of the attacks the day before but said it was still a scary situation because it was obvious the driver was trying to deliberately hurt him.
“It’s still very frightening to think I may be targeted for riding a bike. I understand cyclists sometimes behave erratically but that doesn’t justify attacking anyone,” he said.
On Monday night, three Berkeley councilmembers condemned the attack on Husted.
“Getting from Point A to Point B should never be a life and death situation. But as the heinous ‘dooring’ attacks on East Bay Bike Party participants show, we tragically still have a very long way to go to achieve that,” District 8’s Mark Humbert, District 2’s Terry Taplin and District 7’s Rigel Robinson said in the statement. “Any driver who weaponizes their car against people riding bicycles or on foot must be prosecuted and have their licenses revoked, at a minimum.”
Frustration with the police response
In the days after the attacks, some in the East Bay bicycling community have expressed frustration with how the attacks are being handled by the police. Gene Fiengold wrote on Facebook it doesn’t matter how much evidence citizens gather about the offending suspects as long as local authorities can’t or won’t arrest them.
“Let me know when you find a cop that cares to see it. I have dozens of incidents over the years recorded on my bike cam. Nobody cares,” Feingold said.
Cyclists frequently complain that the police take their complaints less seriously and that attacks against them rarely lead to an arrest or prosecution.
One of the people who was hit by a car during the September East Bay Bike Party ride, but who did not want to share their name, told us they don’t think the police are doing enough to protect bicyclists on the road.
“It’s really disturbing that vulnerable bikers are still being targeted. No arrest was ever made of the guy who attacked me and the other cyclists. These cars are being used as deadly weapons, as dangerous as any gun. The people who did this have to be caught if we’re going to feel safe biking on East Bay streets,” they said.
Samuel said that part of the reason he and others from East Bay Bike Party were able to get more information is that lots of people don’t trust the police to solve these crimes.
“Police just generally aren’t respectful to bikes and bike lanes. Or they just don’t feel safe interacting with police,” Samuel said.
Mead said she was told that unless she is having an active emergency, they can’t send an officer to take her report. When she called 911 yesterday, she was told an officer would show up but that “it may take awhile. “No one showed up for the whole day,” she said.
The Oakland Police Department said they are investigating the incident that occurred at 8 p.m. on Feb. 10. The department said that officers were dispatched to the corner of Boyd Street and Forest Avenue, where they found a victim and filed a report. According to the OPD, the victim refused medical treatment and was able to leave the scene on their own. The incident is still under investigation and the department is asking the public to call its Traffic Investigation Unit at 510-777-8570.
Some of the bike riders who got hit this time say they are scared to get on a bike again.
Eric Husted said that once he fixes his broken bike, he will see how he feels about it.
Russell Heller said he is afraid of getting on one.
Ellie Mead said she wants to bike again but every time she sees a car drive by, she feels nervous and shaken.
“I really want to know who did it and why. It’s so weird and evil. If it’s part of an anti-biking vendetta, I want to know who did it. I want to go to the bike party again. This is a whole different level of rage and recklessness directed at cyclists.” Mead also said she wants to believe the best of Oakland and the people who live in it and that until now, she’s only had positive experiences.
Kevin Cassman said this experience made him realize how important protected lanes are. After Cassman and Monsalve dropped off Heller at his home, they biked back on the new protected lanes on Telegraph.
“I’m not scared of cars, but after the collision, it was shocking being on the road with them. If there was a takeaway, it’s that we need more protected lanes.”
Cassman also said he’s grateful for how the community has rallied around him and the other victims in the last few days.
“A good community will have people that take care of you. It’s poetic—their idea of fun was trying to kill us and our idea of fun was to ride bikes with our friends.”