Update: Bike rider mugged on Ballona Creek bike path; Redlands driver attempts to run down cyclists

Are the Ballona badlands back?

In a crime reminiscent of the bad old days of five years ago, when bike riders were attacked in two separate assaults on the Ballona Creek Bike Path, a cyclist was mugged on the popular bikeway Friday evening.

According to a comment from Mark Neumann, a friend of his was assaulted by three men in an attempt to steal his bike.

On Friday night about 6 pm while riding home from work, a friend of mine got assaulted on his bike riding the Ballona Creek bike path in Culver City on Friday. His words: “He threw his bike into my front wheel as I was about to pass him going about 20 mph. So that dumped me straight onto my shoulder and ribs. I hopped up and the guy was starting to pull my bike away. I told him no and grabbed it back. Wasn’t thinking straight with all the adrenaline cause he pulled it back and started reaching in his pocket. But then he let go and ran off. That’s when I started to feel the injuries and that I couldn’t breathe from the ribs and punctured lung. Feeling better today but the ribs hurt like a mother. Hope to get the chest tube out tomorrow and then get home.” Three guys caused him to crash and tried to steal his bike. He has 5 broken ribs, a broken clavicle, collapsed lung and some good road rash. He is doing well at UCLA but in lots of pain and unable to move.  Be careful on this path.

Unfortunately, things like this are nothing new.

And not restricted to the Ballona bikeway.

An August, 1990 article in the LA Times reports that the Automobile Club of Southern California had warned its bike riding members to avoid Ballona Creek due to dangerous conditions there — a risk made evident when a rider was shot to death on the bike path near Marina del Rey that July.

And it was just two years ago that riders were attacked in at least four separate incidents on the Greenway Trail in Wittier, including a woman who was severely beaten before her attackers ran off without taking anything. Or, thankfully, doing anything other than beating the crap out of her.

It’s a fear that leads many riders, especially women, to avoid off-road bikeways, particularly after dark or when other riders aren’t likely to be present. And may have contributed to the hit-and-run death of Erin Galligan in Santa Monica last year, as she chose to ride through a dangerous construction area on PCH rather than take her chances on the dark, secluded beachfront bike path just a few feet away.

It’s not that bike paths are inherently dangerous. It’s the fact that assaults like this are relatively rare that makes them so shocking.

But it’s an inherent problem with virtually any off-road pathway that while they offer protection from motor vehicles, large sections of the paths are likely to be out of public view and rarely, if ever, patrolled by the police, providing a secluded location for anyone with evil intent.

In fact, in the 2008 assaults, it became clear that the LAPD didn’t even know there was a Ballona Creek bike path, let alone where it was. A problem compounded by the three separate police agencies — LAPD, Culver City PD and LA Sheriff’s Department — responsible for various sections of the bikeway.

None of whom I have ever seen patrol the pathway while riding there myself.

That lack of police protection means it’s up to you keep an eye out for dangerous situations and people or circumstances that just don’t look right. Just as it would be if you were walking or riding through a secluded alley or parking garage, or any other place where an assault could be hidden from public view.

Though how you avoid someone throwing a bike at you is beyond me.

Update: Neumann forwards another report from a friend showing the long history of violence on the bikeway, this one dating back more than 20 years.

Flashback to: Wed Nov 27, 1991 Ballona Creek bike path. Back then there was no fence between the projects and the bike path. I was attacked by a gang while riding home from my office in Beverly Hills. They pulled me off the bike. One of them cold cocked me. I took off running. They caught me. Struck me on the side of the head (with a bike helmet on – no less) with either a gun or a pipe. While on the ground that night I thoroughly believed it was going to be my last day on this planet. But, they grabbed my backpack and ran away. (They got my wallet and a Rolex.) I was in shock. I had a fractured zygomatic (temple) arch. They never caught the culprits. My doctor failed to diagnose my fracture. It healed broken. I had to have corrective surgery which resulted in an infection/abscess. More surgery. A week in Torrance Memorial on 24 hour IV antibiotics. Lost 20 pounds. Necrosis to my jaw bone. Followed up with corrective surgery and bone removal. I have permanent limited opening of my jaw. I never thought anything could rattle me but I could not walk down a street without looking over my shoulder for over a year. I refused to ride that stretch of Ballona Creek for over 15 years. I will only ride it now if I am with others. A couple of weeks after I was assaulted a guy was shot and killed on his bike in the same stretch. I knew him. He worked at that corner mini-mart up from the MB Pier (where Skechers is now). Anyhow, I hope your friend is OK. Truly.

Update 2: The victim of the assault has been identified as Manhattan Beach school board member Bill Fournell; he was released from the hospital after five days with a broken collarbone, broken ribs and punctured lungs. 

Manhattan Beach Patch places the assault at around 6 pm on July 19th, between the Higuera and Dusquesne bridges.

………

Maybe they really are out to get us.

According to multiple reports, a Redlands man is under arrest for deliberately aiming his car at number of bike riders in a string of attacks this past weekend.

Redlands police arrested 26-year old John McDonald on charges of assault with a deadly weapon after he repeatedly attempted to ram bicyclists along Sunset Drive with his Honda Civic. In at least one case, he swerved across the roadway in an effort to hit a cyclist riding in the opposite direction, forcing the rider off the road.

More frightening, police responded to similar calls throughout the weekend, including two on Sunday, suggesting that the attacks continued over at least a two-day period.

Under the circumstances, it seems like a miracle that no one was seriously injured.

Or worse.

And yet, when they finally did arrest him, McDonald was held on just a $50,000 bond. I guess trying to kill someone with your car isn’t considered all that serious unless you succeed.

Anyone with information is urged to call Redlands police at (909) 798-7681.

………

Finally, police are looking for the hit-and-run driver who plowed into a group of cyclists at the monthly San Jose Bike Party, injuring two riders and leaving one with a broken hip and skull.

Clearly, hit-and-runs are not just an LA problem.

They seem to occur with frequency wherever motor vehicles come in contact with soft and breakable flesh.

17 comments

  1. JD says:

    It’s earned the nickname “Diaper Creek” for all the discarded diapers that wash down into it.

  2. I ride Ballona frequently, and I have, honest, seen motorcycle cops on it. At least three times in twenty years….

    Bicycle police on the creek would be a good idea, not least because then malefactors might never be quite sure that an approaching cyclist wasn’t a cop.

  3. Chip says:

    I ride this path 3 to 4 times a week and have been seeing some people just hanging aroud the area where this happened. You would think that the culver city PD would at least patroll this a few time a day?

    • They would sure catch a bunch of underage drinking and ‘non-legal’ use of marijuana if they just rode it once a day. I see it once a week.

      This is very alarming though. I have always thought about the possibility of an attack and carry a folding pocket knife at all times, but I don’t think that would have even been able to prevent an attack using a flying object like a bike.

  4. Ted,

    The comment says it occurred on the creek and referenced Culver City but it didn’t really indicate WHERE on the creek this happened. Do you have any other information which might help us identify the location of the incident?

    Given the complexities of jurisdiction and law enforcement its important to get an accurate location so the correct authorities can be alerted and encouraged to patrol.

    It’s also important to note this is a pretty busy bikeway used frequently by many. If we have suspious folks congregating in places, we should let authorities know. As someone who uses this path regularly, it’s important to me we do what we can to ensure it’s safe.

    • bikinginla says:

      I don’t have a location yet; that’s something I’m going to try to get today.

      • Taffygrrl says:

        Glad to hear the Redlands man is being charged with assault with a deadly weapon.

        Very concerned to hear about the Ballona Creek bike path incident. I am normally on the bike path at that time of day and it’s usually pretty busy with families and bike groups. Count me as another one who would like to know where this happened (I’m assuming in the area across from the dump, but I’ve been wrong before).

        • bikinginla says:

          My best guess is that it took place near the Mar Vista Gardens housing project, which has historically been a problem area. But in reality, it could have happened just about anywhere. And maybe that’s the key point we should take away from this.

          • Biker395 says:

            Some of the past assaults have taken place at Mar Vista, and some under the 405 interchange. I think the likely location is at on the west side of Inglewood, as that is a place where teens have been congregating lately to drink beer and the like. FWIW, I rode my bike on that path at about the same time last Friday, and I saw activity like that in that location.

            The CC police need to make enforcement along that corridor a higher priority. All they need to do is make a few arrests for underage drinking, run a few IDs for parole violations, and I’m sure they’d all find somewhere else congregate and other victims to hassle.

            • taffy says:

              I would be surprised if it was the area by the Mar Vista Gardens. The biggest problem I have there is avoiding all the kids on tricycles! There’s a huge amount of families there in the evenings, many going to or from Culver Slauson Park. (Frankly, it can be a bit of a PITA to get by them at times, but I’m always glad to see families being active together.)

              I was assuming it was the portion northeast of Duquesne. There’s about a mile without an exit, there’s no one around to hear you since it’s lined with warehouses, and that is the least trafficked portion of the path.

  5. Kent says:

    Echoing Ted’s comment that events like this are indeed rare (local police have said they consider the Ballona trail a low-crime area), they nonetheless are very troubling to trail users. More access points would help in the remote areas along the trail, mostly in Culver City. Proposals for this in the past have been met with strong neighborhood opposition, but that’s not a good enough reason to stop this much-needed safety improvement. Perhaps its time to push harder for this, and more police patrols. On the latter, even random, infrequent patrols might be beneficial.

  6. Derik says:

    This incident *definitely* sucks, but I gotta ask: What’s the point of throwing in news stories and anecdotes from 23 bleedin’ years ago (not to mention incidents at other times in other places)?? Even the smallest, lowest crime town in America could probably dig up some unsettling incident if they go that far back. Five years between assaults seems pretty infrequent. I’m all for improving security (lights and more access points, anyone)? But the tone here is a bit much. You could say “unfortunately this isn’t new” every time there’s a burglary – and you wouldn’t be wrong, seeing as burglaries have been going on since the dawn of civilization – but you might be creating a bit of a misconception if the last burglary in your neighborhood was 5 years ago. Let’s hope this isn’t the beginning of a new trend. Right now there’s no reason to think it is.

  7. David says:

    Still hoping to find out the specific location of the attack on Ballona Creek. Any one find out yet?

  8. You want more recent reports? How about last night:

    I was doing my usual weekday evening training ride (from playa del rey, out and back on the Ballona Creek path, loop on Pershing, back home… 23 miles)…

    Anyway, as I was westward bound, fighting the wind, passing Mar Vista Gardens, four young kids (aged from about 5-11 I would guess) were standing there hanging out. Didn’t think much about it. About 10-20 feet after I passed them I felt something hard and heavy hit my shoulder – the little f&*#@rs threw a rock at me!!

    I stopped and yelled “Excuse me?!” most of them ran off.

    I turned around and saw them coming back to see if I did in fact return.

    I yelled I was going to call the police and they all scattered back into the apartment project.

    Not cool. Not cool at all. And just little kids. Imagine if that rock had hit my head? What then?

    Be careful out there.

  9. Eric W says:

    I’m on part of the Ballona Creek path a lot recently. No cops, no kids hanging about, no great amounts of trash either. It’s pretty nice and way better than the streets.

    Sorry to hear someone got mugged, but it’s been fine for me. This path gets some maintaince too. There was a crew triming back the bushes just West of Sawtelle on Tuesday. And grafitti is painted out (the same day usually) sometimes on my return trip. I do go around those projects too.

    Maybe the path just needs more people using it!

  10. Brian says:

    I ride the Ballona Creek path 5 days a week most of the year, commuting to work and back from Culver City to Westchester. Generally things are safe, but there are some problems…

    1. I’ve had multiple bottles thrown at me from the Mar Vista Gardens. Broken glass all over the path, but luckily no direct hits on me or others.
    2. I’ve had kids, again near the MVG, throw rocks at me.
    3. There are an increasing number of idiots on the path with motorized vehicles. I’ve seen motorized scooters, mopeds, motorcycles, golf carts, and even small sized dune-buggy-type-things.
    4. Any police presence is very, very, very, very rare.
    5. Increasing numbers of kids hanging out under different bridges smoking and whatnot.
    6. There are some folks living under the 405 underpass.
    7. Often folks (adults) drinking heavily at the Centinela entrance.

    After getting better from the events 5 years ago (my friend was one of the victims), things have definitely been taking a slow and steady turn for the worse during the past couple of years.

    I’d love to see more entrances, or possibly the elimination of the fence entirely, but good luck with that. I’ve argued for this at City Council meetings in Culver City and LA, but it’s not likely to happen. The cynic in me says there won’t be any real change or action until people are hurt very, very badly on a regular basis. Since, of course, I hope that does not happen, I don’t think there is going to be much effort to change things.

    I’ve tried to call LAPD to report disturbing-but-non-emergency things on the path, and generally gotten the clear message that this is not a high priority.

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