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Police catch Met Branch Trail attackers, but dispatch problems remain

The Metropolitan Police Department still has a little ways to go to get used to dealing with the Metropolitan Branch Trail. They successfully caught some kids trying to attack riders, but gave discouraging messages to riders and dispatchers still are having trouble with locations on the trail.

Photo by TrailVoice on Flickr.

On Wednesday, a group of kids tried to taser someone riding along the trail. Fortunately, the cyclist avoided the attack and police responded quickly, though to no avail. Unfortunately, one of the officers advised the cyclist not to ride on the trail.

This is not a good message for the police to be spreading. Elizabeth Brooks Lyttleton wrote on the Met Branch Trail listserv,

Why are MPD officers telling people to avoid the MBT—it is completely counter-productive! The more people that use the trail, the more eyes will be on the trail, the less likely that kids will be able to attack people without getting caught!

I'm extremely disappointed in the response from the MPD—the message the officers conveyed was, "Don't use the MBT, because it is a lawless zone. Sorry, not our problem."

The good news is that the next day, the police caught the kids, or at least some kids with a taser. Richard Evans was in the area and noticed some kids holding a taser and matching the description from the original letter. He called police, who arrived and arrested the group.

Back in the bad news department, though, Evans had a lot of trouble getting the dispatcher to recognize the trail as a valid location. Evans wrote,

The dispatcher had no idea about the trail and kept asking me for a cross street over and over again. Essentially the trail marker wasn't good enough. For that matter, even R street and MBT didn't even satisfy him. I had to give him the nearest intersection before they would send someone out. By the time the I was able to satisfy the dispatcher, the kids were already at the next entrance. This is completely unacceptable.
I wrote about this issue almost a year ago when it similarly arose on the listserv after another failed attack on the trail. The DC 911/311 system, run by the Office of Unified Communications, requires a specific address or intersection to take a report, so dispatchers end up delaying with frustrated callers when incidents take place in areas without obvious addresses or cross streets.

The simple solution is to make the Metropolitan Branch Trail a "road" in the system, so that dispatchers can simply enter it. DDOT officials said a year ago that they had given the necessary geographic data layers to OUC and MPD to incorporate into the system, but it took a long time to load. I emailed DDOT and MPD officials about progress, and bike program head Jim Sebastian passed the question on to OCTO. They replied that the trail is now in the system:

Operators will be able to refer to trails as TRAIL—METROPOLITAN TRAIL AND NEW YORK AVE and obtain a location on the map. There are over 400 locations added to the map. Training the operators on this new functionality is next and that will occur June 14-16. It took too long to get them in there but at last that part is done. 311 map is next.
Meanwhile, members of the MBT listserv have started to organize "biking buddies" where people who regularly ride on the trail after dark can meet up at Union Station or other entry points and ride in groups. If you ride the trail or would like to, consider participating to make the trail safer for all. Join the listserv to find out more.

The trail is still new and doesn't yet connect to all of the places it eventually will, like extending farther north and bridging to Rhode Island Avenue Metro. The Capital Crescent gets about 500 users an hour during its peak times, while the MBT is still around 500 a day. As the MBT increases its traffic, crime will become far more difficult to track.

Our own Stephen Miller, who works for Rails-to-(and-with)-Trails Conservancy for his day job, is organizing a Safety Open House on June 22, from 4 to 7 pm at 4th and S NE along the trail. They've asked neighbors and people from MPD and DDOT to gather and talk about how to improve safety. Hopefully MPD will be able to announce by then that they've asked officers to encourage people to ride rather than discourage them, and that 911 dispatchers have been trained to know how to properly enter calls about trail incidents.

David Alpert is the founder of Greater Greater Washington and its board president. He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He now lives with his wife and two children in Dupont Circle. 


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DC desperately needs CCW permits.

by TGEoA on Jun 6, 2011 10:42 am • linkreport

@TGEoA - The region needs a regional CCW permit.

by Redline SOS on Jun 6, 2011 10:45 am • linkreport

Yeah, CCW works. Random assaults never happen in states with CCW. Imagine the utopia we could create for ourselves if we could just grow a pair and give a handgun in the pocket of every law abiding citizen in the DC metropolitan region.

by JTS on Jun 6, 2011 11:14 am • linkreport

If both are armed, doesn't the guy on solid ground have an advantage over the guy on the bike?

by Ben Ross on Jun 6, 2011 11:42 am • linkreport

Forget the permits, how about just make concealed carry legal period. The gun laws in DC are ridiculous and need to change. The idea of getting all guns off the street has proven over the last 40 years to be a totally failed policy, as the 80's and 90's were the most violent time in the history of the city. Yet you still have the city leadership desperately hanging on to this delusion. Give the non-criminal citizens their guns back so we can stop living in fear.

by Doug on Jun 6, 2011 11:43 am • linkreport

Actually DC's gun laws have been a success. Just look at the numbers.,_D.C.#Statistics

by Nick on Jun 6, 2011 11:47 am • linkreport

@Ben Ross
It's not about who would win in some shootout. Most people don't want to get into a shootout at all in the first place, including criminals. I think these kids would think twice about trying to rob people in the park if they were likely to be carrying guns. Even without their forethought though usually flashing one disfuses a situation pretty quickly.

by Doug on Jun 6, 2011 11:49 am • linkreport

Where do you conceal the weapon in your lycra?

And how do you "flash" it while pedaling as fast as you can in a direction away from the miscreants?

by Ben Ross on Jun 6, 2011 11:55 am • linkreport

Those numbers don't support at all what you are saying. The crime rate dropping since 1995 has nothing whatsoever to do with gun laws. Hand guns were banned in 1976. Which were then followed by the two most violent decades in the history of the city. Forgeting about the many many other factors which influence violent crime, there is obviously no link between strict gun laws and decreasing violent crime.

by Doug on Jun 6, 2011 11:56 am • linkreport

@Ben Ross
I don't think there is any law stating you have to be covered head to toe in skin tight lycra to ride a bike. Anyway, if you do feel so inclined though you can always were a fanny pak.

It's really not that hard though, they make some pretty easily concealabe guns. Go to a store and take a look at some of the pcket 380s they have these days. You don't have carry around some Desert Eagle hand cannon.

Also, you can stop and flash your gun. The miscreants will do the running away.

by Doug on Jun 6, 2011 12:02 pm • linkreport

@Nick - looking at the violent crime rate trend in DC, in a vacuum, is meaningless. Correlation does not imply causation. Furthermore, DC's gun law took effect in 1975. Looking at data from 1995 to 2008 seems pretty pointless, since the law had been in place for 20 years prior.

In order to infer anything from that, at a minimum, you would need to also compare it to the crime rate in other cities, and look at data before and after the law.

Nationally, the violent crime rate declined 31% in the same time period. So DC actually did better than the national average. But DC also was the murder capital of the United States at the beginning of that period. We had a lot more room for improvement. We also had a substantial change in demographics over that time, which is far more important to crime rates than any law.

@Doug: "Most people don't want to get into a shootout at all in the first place, including criminals."

Most homicides in this city are gang-related. I'd say gang members are among the most likely people in this city to be carrying guns. Your theory doesn't really seem to reflect the reality. If the knowledge that someone could be carrying a gun is a strong deterrent, then how come almost all the gun-related violence in this city is in situations where both parties involved are probably packing?

Personally, I don't think gun laws make much difference one way or another. Although I have no interest in owning a handgun, in some ways I'm glad the law got struck down, because it will at least make all the gun nuts shut their pie holes about how the crime is because you can't carry a gun.

There's just no evidence one way or the other. Every "study" I have ever seen that claims a CCW law has reduced crime has turned out to be seriously flawed to the point of absurdity under any kind of scrutiny.

For example, the author of Texas's 1995 CCW law proudly proclaimed 10 years later that handgun homicides had gone down 18% in the 10 years following.

What he failed to mention is that nationally, the number was 31% in the same time period. Handgun homicdes in Texas declined at a lower rate than the national average. So just on the simplest analysis, the law was a total failure.

Of course this doesn't account for any number of other factors that could make things different from one city or state to another. The point is it's very difficult to analyze in any meaningful way.

I wrote about this in detail on my blog a couple years ago.

by Jamie on Jun 6, 2011 12:18 pm • linkreport

Concealed Handguns should be banned in all major US cities. DC did the right thing by somewhat amending its rather draconian law that stated how a registrant must break down his/her gun even when in the owners home.

What they shouldn't do is even remotely consider a concealed weapon law. And if you are that afraid of what "may" happen while riding a bike through a trial, maybe you should stop riding it altogether. This would be an example of when guns laws go too far.

Thinking about this story, I wonder if the cyclist was told to be mindful of the potential danger of this area...or advised to stop riding the trial..period.

Personally, I think people need to be mindful of their environments at ALL times, especially in large cities like DC. People should take their own safety seriously.

by HogWash on Jun 6, 2011 12:29 pm • linkreport

Yeah, right. Throw more guns into the mix. If guns made us safer, we'd already be the safest society in the world. Instead, we have the highest rate of gun violence in the industrialized world.

Too many people with quick tempers ("That driver cut me off! I'll show him..."), who have no firearms training, and who make snap judgements ("That brown person has a gun -- he's gonna rob me."). Using a gun in self-defense, even as a deterrent, is way overrated. This ain't TV.

by Smilla on Jun 6, 2011 12:32 pm • linkreport

I agree that the reality is that guns laws don't seem to have an effect on violent crime rates either way. I'd like to see a long term study of people who actually carry (which is a very small minority) and incidence of crime. I'm not aware of any data like that though.

To your comment about gang related violence though. Yes, many times both parties are armed. However, there is a difference between a crime of opportunity and cases like that where specfic individuals are being targeted. Most of us don't have personal vendettas with gang bangers.

Honestly, if I was out to steal some wallets and someone flashed a gun on me I would definitely run away and find an easier target.

Regardless, I certainly feel a lot safer carrying. It gives me an option I would otherwise not have if I felt the need to use it. I don't see why anyone would be against allowing me that option.

by Doug on Jun 6, 2011 12:40 pm • linkreport

"Honestly, if I was out to steal some wallets and someone flashed a gun on me I would definitely run away and find an easier target."

Have you ever been mugged? Most of the time you already have a gun pointed at your face. Or, alternatively, someone runs up behind you and punches you in the head.

If, in fact, there was any real threat to a mugger of a possible victim carrying a piece, you can expect that they would simply adjust their strategy to account for that. Few muggings that I have ever heard of would have offered the victim much of an opportunity to defend themselves.

The street is not the OK corrall, and you are not dealing with civilized people. The moment they saw a gun, you'd be blown away. But of course you'd be an idiot to try to pull one on someone who's arleady got one pointed at your head, and also has a friend who you can't see behind you as is usually the case.

by Jamie on Jun 6, 2011 12:47 pm • linkreport

How many incidents like that can you cite from states where concealed weapons are legal? I don't see shootings like that happening in Virginia where guns laws are very liberal and lots of people have concealed carry permits. Actually they have a lot less shootings on that side of the potomac than we do. How do you account for that?

You don't make any argument against guns whatsoever but simple state "they should be banned". Why?

Your comment about just aviod the trail if you are worried is exactly the kind of thing the writer in this article is complaining about hearing from the police. Do you take the same position in regards to that?

by Doug on Jun 6, 2011 12:53 pm • linkreport

Uh-oh, it's a gun debate.

I keep loaded guns for protection. I have several thousand trained experts carry them for me in shifts. Works pretty well in a densely settled city where the dispatchers can find all the locations where crime happens.

by Ward 1 Guy on Jun 6, 2011 12:54 pm • linkreport

"Actually they have a lot less shootings on that side of the potomac than we do. How do you account for that?"

How do you account for crime in Chevy Chase being lower than PG County? Come on. I hope you can do better than that.

Check out crime rates in Richmond -- which has an almost identical homicide rate to DC. It used to be worse -- but it's getting worse again as of last year so they may recapture that title.

Richmond is also on "that" side of the Potomac. How do you account for that?

You can't compare a city to not the city.

by Jamie on Jun 6, 2011 12:56 pm • linkreport

@Doug -are you a handgun salemans or something? One thing seems very certain -you are not an experienced bike rider.

Carry a loaded gun against your body as you ride and risk that it goes off when you wipe out -which is an inevitability if you ride often enough? Or try to get it out while still riding and ride one handed while facing away from the direction you're travelling to try and use it?

The fact that you haven't thought this through and seem so paranoid as to think you need a gun at all times to feel safe are reasons enough for me to think you are absolutely the wrong type of person to be carrying a gun around. Violent crime is really rare. Have you ever been attacked? The amazing thing is that people live together pretty well and there aren't more violent incidents. Think of the <1 million people riding the metro everyday all crowded next to eachother. Very rarely is there a violent incident. Its pretty remarkable. Human beings are mostly decent. Your paranoia is misplaced.

by Tina on Jun 6, 2011 1:05 pm • linkreport

Yeah, if someone had a gun pointed at my face I wouldn't pull mine out but I don't have to either. Not just over my wallet anyway.

I don't think that's how most muggings do happen, usually you get sized up first and in those moments when you are being stared down you'll avert you eyes quicken your step and pray they aren't looking at you while I'll be blatantly palming the gun tucked at my waist at staring right back. That's how you end up with gun in your face or being jumped from behidn while I end up just walking past a guy on the street with just a hello. You can believe whatever you want though, this is all just conjecture. Your idea that anyway willing to mug someone is simply a totally irrational maniac with no instinct for self perservation is laughable ridiculous however.

by Doug on Jun 6, 2011 1:06 pm • linkreport

Why the hell is this about guns? The obvious solution is a bike helmet that has a face screen and breathing apparatus attached. When you approach danger, press a button and mace will spray out all sides of the helmet in an impenetrable cloud, as everyone grabs their faces screaming, you ride away safely, giggling.

by Jared on Jun 6, 2011 1:11 pm • linkreport

@Doug -I've warded off a man who would have approached me on the street using very much the same technique you describe without needing a gun to do it. I guess I'm braver than you, and better at asserting myself.

by Tina on Jun 6, 2011 1:12 pm • linkreport

"Your idea that anyway willing to mug someone is simply a totally irrational maniac with no instinct for self perservation is laughable ridiculous however."

Not at all. They have a very strong self preservation instict. That's why they usually come up behind you and punch you in the head, disorienting or injuring you before you even know they are there, so there's no possibility of you reacting.

Likewise, they rarely act alone. It's rare to hear of someone being mugged by a single assailant. And you often don't see their accomplice or accomplices.

Sure, maybe you'll be lucky, and the teenager who's out doing his first crime will be your assailant. Most of them are experienced, though, and the chances of you being able to handle yourself better in that situation than them is extremely low. Most of them do this on a regular basis. You probably don't get mugged on a regular basis.

I am guessing you don't actually live in the city and don't have very much personal experience with these sorts of incidents. It doesn't happen like it does in the movies.

They are also relatively rare at an individual level. I have only been mugged once in 20 years in DC. But I also know plenty of people mugged or attacked at some point, and I read about them a lot on blogs.

It just doesn't happen the way you think it does. There's very little chance that a gun would do you any good except increase your chances of being killed when you pulled it out. Even if you got a shot off, and managed to hit your attacker, the only thing you'd likely accomplish is being DESTROYED by his friends. As I said: this isn't their first rodeo. But it is yours.

by jamie on Jun 6, 2011 1:13 pm • linkreport

I'm hardly paraniod. I believe in the basic decency of most human beings. If I didn't I certainly wouldn't advocating distributing weapons to all of them.

I've got a lot of bike riding under my belt and I can probably count the number of times on one hand that I have wiped out. It does happen though rarely. Regardless, you can fall off a bike with a handgun on your person without it going off. Guns don't generally fire unless you purposely pull the triger. Some are safer than other in that regard and you could purposely purchase one with a high level of safety features if accidental discharge is something you are worried about. You are the one who sounds paraniod in that regard, go do a little research.

by Doug on Jun 6, 2011 1:16 pm • linkreport

@Doug-accepting for moment that guns don't go off when knacked against ground with you bodt on top of them with momentum...
Please address the wisdom of getting a gun out with one hand while still riding and turning your face and torso away from the direction of travel in order to use a gun. I do not believe any experienced biker would recommend this.

by Tina on Jun 6, 2011 1:24 pm • linkreport

Whatever, their is no point of getting into a pissing contest about what would happen in some theoretical situation. We can't know till it happens. I'm not getting dragged into trying to justify myself as some kind of street smart badass(though I am :P). You certainly don't know me to be otherwise.

If you got smacked in the head and knocked out though I guess it wouldn't matter if you had a gun either way. It certainly wouldn't do you any harm in that case though. I still maintain that it's pretty hard to sneak up behind someone in the middle of a deserted street or alley, unless they are scared shitless of having a confrontation and don't want look around. It's a lot easier not to be scared when you can deal death out to 50 yards with the twitch of a finger. Just saying...

by Doug on Jun 6, 2011 1:30 pm • linkreport

I suppose that's why cowboys rode horses not bicycles, lol. I would recommend just stopping the bike first though before getting all John Wayne on anybody.

by Doug on Jun 6, 2011 1:34 pm • linkreport

"it's pretty hard to sneak up behind someone in the middle of a deserted street or alley"

Yet that is *exactly* what happens the vast majority of the time. There is a reason everyone advises you to stay alert, don't wear headphones, etc. when walking around in the city. Because that's how you get mugged: when you aren't paying attention.

The way I personally got mugged? Someone just walked out from a shadow when I walked by an alcove and stuck a gun in the back of my head. I was also talking with my wife and not in "high alert" mode. We were steps from my front door in Adams Morgan.

There are plenty of dark places to hide at night, and no amount of alertness can keep you 100% safe. But you seem to think that it would be hard for a mugger to surprise you. It's extraordinaily easy.

If you were completely sober, alert, not on the phone, and paying attention to your surroundings, you probably aren't likely to be a victim in the first place. Muggers prey on easy targets. There are plenty of them.


by Jamie on Jun 6, 2011 1:36 pm • linkreport

So Doug is recommending that the incident that happened instead happen differently so as to support his worldview regarding the efficacy of using a concealed weapon in an urban environment. Makes sense.

I, for one, feel far safer knowing that most people don't go around constantly reminding themselves that "It's a lot easier not to be scared when you can deal death out to 50 yards with the twitch of a finger," even if I have to face the possibility of being unarmed during a once every 20 years assault by a 15 year old.

by JTS on Jun 6, 2011 1:38 pm • linkreport

@Doug - ... I would recommend just stopping the bike first... This is also bad advice. Faced with a would be attacker on foot its a hell of a lot more efficient to just sprint away to safety. This is not just hypothetical conjuring either. I've done it. Why don't you just admit you really aren't a regular biker who has relied on biking as a primary form of transportation, and that bikers carrying guns is not the solution to a group of would-be-attackers on the MBT. The solution is the one that transpired; they got caught by the police, albeit with a problem from the dispatcher.

by Tina on Jun 6, 2011 1:50 pm • linkreport

@Tina, you can't deal death from 50 yards if your moving at 15 mph, you'd be more than 50 yards away before you could get your instrument of death out.

by Jamie on Jun 6, 2011 1:52 pm • linkreport

@Jamie -...if your moving at 15 mph, you'd be more than 50 yards away... Exactly! Sprint away. Only Hussein Bolt would be able to catch you.

by Tina on Jun 6, 2011 1:56 pm • linkreport

.. but what about the death dealing? :(

by Jamie on Jun 6, 2011 1:57 pm • linkreport

No, I have launched in a to a thoeretical discussion with Jamie which long ago drifted away from anything concerning the reality of this incident. Sorry if that's confusing for you.

Yeeash, "constantly reminding themselves", strawman much. Try to keep this civil. Just saying it could be a comforting thought in certain situations. I suppose you have never been scared for you personal safety in your life though.

The reality is guns are out there like it or not. The only question is to you just want the bad guys to have them or are you going to let a normal working stiff like me who is concerned about not breaking the law and going to prison carry one also? I don't see how you have any justification not to, outside of your personal whims. Can you offer anything beyond you don't like the idea?

by Doug on Jun 6, 2011 1:58 pm • linkreport

I'm a gun agnostic: don't own one, and probably wouldn't if it were legal. But I tend to think the "dangers" of private gun ownership are overblown. Having dispensed with the throat-clearing, I *am* a huge fan of ridiculous, logically-inconsistent arguments.

So hearing pro-CCW advocates argue for the last many decades that DC's high gun homicide rate was a function of gun-control laws, but that the second the violent crime rate started to fall, that crime rates "have absolutely nothing to do with gun laws whatsoever howdareyouevenimplythat!" has provided me with my RDA of humor.


by oboe on Jun 6, 2011 1:58 pm • linkreport

I'm sure some insects and worms would be crushed under the bike tires.

by Tina on Jun 6, 2011 1:59 pm • linkreport

"The only question is to you just want the bad guys to have them or are you going to let a normal working stiff like me who is concerned about not breaking the law and going to prison carry one also?"

I feel the same way about sarin gas, weapons of mass destruction, insider trading, and kilo bricks of cocaine. Am I going to just let everyone else have all the lethal (and/or insanely fun) stuff?

by Jamie on Jun 6, 2011 2:00 pm • linkreport

@Tina, you can't deal death from 50 yards if your moving at 15 mph, you'd be more than 50 yards away before you could get your instrument of death out.

Solution: handlebar-mounted .30 caliber machine guns.

[Note: We really have turned ourselves into a nation of children somehow.]

by oboe on Jun 6, 2011 2:00 pm • linkreport

I'm with you. Doug's fantasy of being able to "deal death out to 50 yards with the twitch of a finger" is part of the problem with guns. A mythology has grown up around guns as a means of self-defense, thanks to movies, TV, and the NRA.

It's easy to fantasize about using a gun to scare away or shoot a bad guy, but in reality, you're more likely to use the gun in anger or stupidity or suicide. More guns on the streets doesn't just mean that more "law-abiding" citizens will have them, but more criminals, drunkards, clumsy doofuses, and trigger-happy vigilantes will, too. As Jamie and Tina have pointed out, there are better ways of making our streets safer.

by Smilla on Jun 6, 2011 2:02 pm • linkreport

@oboe, my operating assumption is that if you can think of it, someone else has already. Awesome!

Now just do a google image search for "handlebar mounted guns" to be really afraid for the future of society.

by Jamie on Jun 6, 2011 2:03 pm • linkreport


Why not a pedal-powered flying machine with a couple of thermobaric fuel-air bombs? The Founding Fathers in their infinite wisdom and keen perception were pretty clear in their beliefs that all men should have the right to carry an RPO-A portable rocket-launcher to defend our precious freedoms. What a shame it would be to think that Paul Revere vainly laid down his "one life to live" by ringing his bell to warn the Redcoats we would exercise our Second Amendment rights!!!

by oboe on Jun 6, 2011 2:08 pm • linkreport

By the way something else that TV and movies make people believe is that a normal person could actually hit a target at 50 yards with a handgun.

I had the opportunity to shoot some guns while on a friend's farm not long ago. Using a 38 special I couldn't hit a fricking 4 foot diameter oak tree at 50 feet! I did better with the shotgun and the clay pigeons, though.

So along those lines, wouldn't it make sense to have some kind of mandatory training as a prerequisite to be a licensed gun owner? I mean, you can't just get in a car and drive, for exactly that reason: cars are dangerous in the hands of an inexperienced user.

It seems odd that guns, which serve only one purpose, to kill, would not have any test required in order to legally own one.

by Jamie on Jun 6, 2011 2:09 pm • linkreport

Was just on the MBT on Saturday. Saw someone walking on the wrong side. Other than that, nothing suspicious. Hmmm.

Perhaps the occasional plainclothes police bike patrol might help?

by Alan on Jun 6, 2011 2:09 pm • linkreport

Admit I'm not a regular bike rider? Who's hiding anything? I'm not saying a commute to work on a bike everyday. The only comment I made regarding personal biking experience was that I've riden enough bikes to know you don't fall over every 15 feet or at least I don't.

If it's so easy to just ride past these attackers though why is this even an issue? Won't these taser weilding kids just realize it's completely impossible to assault someone on a bike and go find something else to do? I mean come on, you can't have it both ways.

I guess just enjoy your muggings since you've resigned yourself to them. I don't think it's fair to insist on dragging everybody else down to be helpless victims with you though.

by Doug on Jun 6, 2011 2:10 pm • linkreport

Yes, Doug, you really captured the essence of all my comments: I enjoy my mugging. Note: singular. One mugging. In a time period of 20 years. The result of which was, nobody got hurt, and I lost about 50 bucks, far less than the cost of a gun, and the consequences had I actually had one and decided to shoot some guy in the back as he was running away.

I hope you enjoy living in fear. Your chances of dying in a car accident are vastly larger than your chances of being shot in a mugging, did you know that? Since you are so afraid of crime I assume you live in some nice suburban community which keeps you in your car a lot.

by Jamie on Jun 6, 2011 2:13 pm • linkreport

@Doug -I said "if you ride regularly emough wiping out is inevitable". How did you interpret that I implied one wipes out every 15feet from that?

I concluded you are not really a regular biker based on your envisioning a scenario where it would make more sense to stop your bike and confront someone instead of simply speeding up and away; and not thinking through the only other option of trying to ride one handed, and handle a gun at the same time. If you truly knew about biking you would not suggest either of these.

The kids did not succeed at tasering someone. if they had we would know. That would be huge news. The fact that they were trying is news. but they got caught by the police, with no thanks to the dispatcher or a bike with a gun. Turns out a cell phone is a good defense.

by Tina on Jun 6, 2011 2:20 pm • linkreport

@Tina, let's be fair to Doug. There's at least a possibility that, since this was on a bike trail, the suspects were apprehended by a bike cop who certainly would have had a gun.

+1 bike riding with guns.

by Jamie on Jun 6, 2011 2:21 pm • linkreport


Sadly, I think you're right.

by oboe on Jun 6, 2011 2:23 pm • linkreport

@Jamie. ok.

by Tina on Jun 6, 2011 2:24 pm • linkreport

@oboe: Love the first comment to that artile

by Tina on Jun 6, 2011 2:27 pm • linkreport

What you don't seem to get is that just by having a gun on you you aren't obligated to use it in every single scenario. If you think it's possible or better to just ride away then you still can. A gun isn't going to slow you down. Say there is someone blocking the path though or any number of other scenarios. Again if you feel there is no way someone could threaten you on a bike then why be concerned with police response.

My question wasn't how you concluded that I'm regular bike rider or not, my question was as to how you concluded that I was asserting that I was one.

Also, on a side note, I would point out that it's perfectly possible in GTA3 to ride a bike one handed while you shoot a gun.

I know you think you are being funny but that's a good point about the bike cop actually.

By the way, I don't live in fear. Just advocating for taking a precaution against something isn't living in fear. Do you wear a seatbelt? Or would you consider that living in fear of car accidents?

I don't feel like relating my entire life story to strangers over the internet either. I have lived a lot of places but no I don't currently live in the burbs in a gated community or otherwise and haven't even ridden in a car in about two or three weeks maybe.

by Doug on Jun 6, 2011 2:42 pm • linkreport

Not to pile on here, but "taking a precaution against [deadly assailants]" every single time I leave the house is pretty much my definition of living in fear. One of my co-workers won't ever ride in the front or rear cars of Metro rail for fear of dying in a deadly derailment. If you ask her, of course, she'll say she's not living in fear, merely taking a precaution. And getting on a middle car is certainly a heck of lot easier than carrying a deadly weapon all the time (not to mention properly storing, and maintaining it).

CCW is pretty much a Charles Bronson fantasy. And best of all, the mere act of carrying is a successful deterrent, given that the thing deterred would never happen anyway.

Carry a concealed lucky rabbit's foot: it's cheaper, safer, and every bit as effective.

by oboe on Jun 6, 2011 2:52 pm • linkreport

Lisa: “By your logic, I could claim that this rock keeps tigers away.”

Homer: “Hmm; how does it work?”
Lisa: “It doesn’t work; it’s just a stupid rock!”
Homer: “Uh-huh.”
Lisa: “…but I don’t see any tigers around, do you?”

Homer: “Lisa, I want to buy your rock…”

by JTS on Jun 6, 2011 2:57 pm • linkreport

@oboe... for kicks, you should mention to your co-worker that they moved all the 1000-series (accordion style) cars to the middle of the trains after the accident.

So is it safer to be in the car in the middle, but also the one that crushes like a tin can?

Personally, I'll just remind myself that far more people get struck by lighting ever year in this area than die on a train. And homicide is one of the least likely ways to die in the DC area, unless you are in a high-risk group (e.g. a gang member) -- well below almost every disease, the 'flu, car accidents, other types of accident, and so on.

I wonder how many gun-owners, who carry one only as a "precaution", also do other things that actually are much more important to their survival, like eating healthy and exercising regularly?

by Jamie on Jun 6, 2011 3:01 pm • linkreport

@Doug Say there is someone blocking the path But thats not what happened in this story, for which you came out "guns blazing" suggesting that the riders on the MBT just needed to get a gun out - suggesting that was the solution to stopping these kids with a taser. Well, no one got a gun out and shot to death some stupid teenagers, no one got tasered and the kids got caught when someone used a phone to call the police (with no thanks to the dispatcher).
You just sound trigger happy. The kids were already caught and no one got hurt and yet you think the better solution would have been a biker with a gun, without thinking through how that would have actually worked in this situation.

by Tina on Jun 6, 2011 3:02 pm • linkreport

@tina: in Doug's world, every time a mugging happens, you have lots of advance warning that you are going to be mugged. So, if it were him on the bike trail, the teenagers would have put up a sign that said "warning: surprise attack ahead" so he could get his gun out.

Or maybe it's like in the movies, your spidey sense tingles, you look over your shoulder and realize you're being followed by a shady character wearing a trenchcoat and mask.

The weird thing is that, in every situation I've ever heard of, the muggers pretty much look like everyone else on the street, and you don't know your're about to be mugged before it actually happens. Surprise is kind of their MO, which makes sense, since if you let people know you're going to mug them, they might run away or something.

Or maybe he just intends to walk around waving a gun all the time?

I don't know how I could live if every waking moment, every time I went outdoors, I operated under the assumption that I was about to be mugged. I'd die of a heart failure long before anything actually happened to me.

by Jamie on Jun 6, 2011 3:07 pm • linkreport

I don't think I would carry everytime I went to pick up a cup of coffee. If I know I'm going to be out late and night going through a bad neighborhood or something though, yeah I think it's a reasonable precaution. Or maybe if their has been series of muggings on a street or trail I frequent. The reasons why I need to carry arn't really the point anyway, I shouldn't have to justify that to you or anybody else. As long as I'm not hurting anyone I should just be able to do what I want.

As far as properly storing and maintaining... I don't know what you think is all that complicated but whatever it is you are worrying to much.

by Doug on Jun 6, 2011 3:16 pm • linkreport

I felt like sharing my opinion about CCW. It honestly wasn't even on my mind though till I read the first four comments which all referenced CCW though. Also, I haven't even suggested actually shooting anyone throughout this whole conversasion.

You don't need to be spider man to notice somebody walking up behind you or to feel threatened but anyway...

You want to characterize carrying a gun as some desperate act of paranioa. It's only because you are so paraniod about guns. Do attack people who carry pepper spray for self defense with the same ridiculous hyperbole?

by Doug on Jun 6, 2011 3:38 pm • linkreport

Good point Doug! When's the last time you ever heard of someone successfully defending themselves from a mugger with pepper spray?

I've never heard of a single incident. So I googled it... turns out there are a lot of people being mugged with pepper spray, but not so much the reverse.

I imagine if these pepper-spray victims had guns they would have been safe, right? Even though they couldn't see once they were sprayed.

Anyway, I have no problem with people carrying pepper spray if it makes them feel better, just like Oboe's rabbit's foot. There are a couple important differences between a gun and pepper spray.

1 Unlike a gun, it's totally practical to walk with a can of pepper spray in your hand, so you could actually react immediately. It's also far more likely to be carried by women than men, who are far more likely to be victims of rape and not just muggings. I still don't think most people with pepper spray end up being able to use it to defend themselves in an actual incident, because most people don't actually walk around with it in their hand all the time.

2. Unlike guns, you can't accidentally kill anyone with pepper spray.

by Jamie on Jun 6, 2011 3:46 pm • linkreport

The reasons why I need to carry arn't really the point anyway, I shouldn't have to justify that to you or anybody else. As long as I'm not hurting anyone I should just be able to do what I want.

You'll notice that I didn't ask you to justify anything. One question though: if you heard that kids on the MBT were attacking folks on the trail with hand-held tasers, and you saw one of these kids run towards you with his arm extended, at what point would you be drawing your weapon? At what point would you be firing? And what would you do if you found out his brother was off the trail, seriously injured, and he only wanted to ask you to call 911?

Life is messy.

by oboe on Jun 6, 2011 3:47 pm • linkreport

@Doug, I do not believe concealed weapons should be allowed on the streets of any major city. Why? Because there has yet to be evidence demonstrating that carrying them has resulted in less crime. So for me, wearing guns as underwear is a nonstarter. If there was evidence that showed carrying around a sure-to-kill weapon reduces crime, I would be more amenable.

I stated that people should be more cautious of their own environment. I also questioned what the rider was avoid the area..or take precautions when you're in the area. If it's the former, then that isn't much different than people warning their friends to AVOID SE DC/ETOR altogether. Is that just as callous as what the writer thinks the police was doing?

by HogWash on Jun 6, 2011 3:50 pm • linkreport

Last time I checked, Isn't (attempt to)attacking someone with a taser an ASAULT CHARGE? WTF are the police thinking???.....ooh ooh, I know....we really don't wanna be bothered with this, so just stay off the trail!! Hmmmm....comments Ms LANIER????, about your TRIFLING police force???

by meg on Jun 6, 2011 3:54 pm • linkreport

Okay, I'll play along... If I saw a kid running toward me with his arm extended, I'd probably just ask him what he wanted. If I didn't like his answer I might kill him.

Anyway, you can arrest me then after I shoot someone for no good reason. Not before. What's so unfair about that?

In all seriousness though, it depends on a lot of things. Hard to quantify things, the look on his face, the way he was running, his size. I'm pretty sure that 99 times out of a hundred I wouldn't pull a gun on him but who knows. If I did, hopefully I'd be vocal and visible enough about it to slow him down. If not I'd like to think I wouldn't ever shoot someone unless I knew for sure their was a direct threat, like a gun or a knife in his hand that I could see. It's hard for me to imagine someone continuing to come towards you when you are waving a gun in their face and yelling though. You don't think that would stop this kid who wants to borrow my cell phone?

The whole scenario is pretty unlikely to begin with anyway, don't all kids over the age of 4 have a cell phone of their own these days?

by Doug on Jun 6, 2011 4:32 pm • linkreport

The whole scenario is pretty unlikely to begin with...

Kinda the whole point. It's extremely unlikely you'd be carrying when something went down. Once you're in a situation like that, having things not go exactly according to plan is not unlikely at all.

by oboe on Jun 6, 2011 4:43 pm • linkreport

...and at home a dog is far better protection than a gun. Even a tiny dog as long as it barks.

by Tina on Jun 6, 2011 5:01 pm • linkreport

"Actually they have a lot less shootings on that side of the potomac than we do. How do you account for that?"
How do you account for crime in Chevy Chase being lower than PG County?

The answer is the same in both cases: fewer blacks.

by Justin Russo on Jun 6, 2011 5:16 pm • linkreport

Or, if you're not a deluded racist: significantly higher percentage of endemic poverty and centuries of de facto racism.

by oboe on Jun 6, 2011 5:17 pm • linkreport

Come on, you are just trolling me now. We are already pretty far off topic, so maybe we can just have that discussion another time.

That was totally not the point you were trying to make with that scenario. You were trying to get me to say something like "if he got within 15 feet of me I'd shoot to kill" so you could continue to vilify me as some sort of murderous maniac. Sorry to disappoint.

Anyway, you'll get no argument from me on the unlikelihood of getting robbed or assaulted. The plan is only to potentially have more options available if it should though. Are the chances of something bad happening because you have a gun greater than those of something good in that unlikely event? They are both pretty small but I wouldn't think so. I don't have the statistics to show if I'm right or not though, do you?

by Doug on Jun 6, 2011 5:29 pm • linkreport

You were trying to get me to say something like "if he got within 15 feet of me I'd shoot to kill" so you could continue to vilify me as some sort of murderous maniac. Sorry to disappoint.

Go back and reread the exchange. There's nothing of the kind in any of my comments. No reason to infer anything from what I've written.

As I said, there are two unlikely scenarios here: the first is that anything will happen to you while carrying, unless you go looking for trouble. The second unlikely scenario is that, if anything *does* happen, that it'll go according to plan.

by oboe on Jun 6, 2011 5:35 pm • linkreport

Speaking of rereading, my "plan" as stated in my previous comment would simply be to have options and that is basically guaranteed by the satisfaction of the first condition. So...

by Doug on Jun 6, 2011 5:54 pm • linkreport

Here's how to deal with punks who attack others along the Metropolitan Branch Trail:

by Herb on Jun 6, 2011 6:53 pm • linkreport

Police Patrols at all times will help - also make an attempt to brtand the trail to make it more like an interpretive park trail - also video cameras (highly visible) should be installed everywhere. No guns, just vigilance.

by dick on Jun 7, 2011 3:01 pm • linkreport

What's desperate about the need?

by Woody on Jun 9, 2011 3:17 pm • linkreport

Yes, fleeing a would-be mugger is the best option on a bike. But as Doug said, what if they block the path? What if they approach while you're locking up your bike? I'd rather have a gun on me. There are handguns small enough and light enough to be easily portable on a bike.

It's too bad CCW is illegal in DC. Because if it were legal and these little hoodlums tried this, the cyclist could hold them at gunpoint till the cops show up.

I'm an Obama-loving semi-liberal and don't even own a gun, but DC is the only place I've ever felt threatened in and the only place I'd ever bother with a CCW if allowed.

by JB on Jun 10, 2011 9:44 am • linkreport

Ahh yes, the "if only we had concealed carry" argument.

Sure, you could pull out your gun and "hold them at gunpoint." The more likely alternative scenario is that they pull out their gun and shoot without thinking, because they're a dumb 17 year old who thinks they have nothing to lose. If they weren't a dumb 17 year old with nothing to lose, they wouldn't be mugging people in the first place.

by MLD on Jun 10, 2011 10:27 am • linkreport

Getting back to the safety of bike trials in general - I was dismayed to read this. An incident happened last week at my finace's office, which is right along the (i think) Washington & Old Dominion Trail through Virginia. These kids actually came off the trail, and attempted to mug one of the building's cleaning staff, threatening, chasing him and assaulting him before he managed to get to a place where he could call 911. It's definitely a scary proposition. I would love to see more police presence along those trails, especially as people are more often using them to commute and not just for a daylight recreational ride.

by jen on Jun 15, 2011 2:47 pm • linkreport

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