There are a variety of reasons someone might attack you on your bike. They might hate cyclists or get road rage. They may also just think your bike is really cool, which is fine unless they get to thinking they’ll steal it from you while you’re on it. Or, you could ride right into the middle of some kind of a drug deal like I did once (I live near the border). Whatever the reason, there’s a few things you need to keep in mind for defending yourself.
Ride In Groups If You Reasonably Can
There’s always safety in numbers. If you’re commuting, it’s OK to ride alone, but if you’re going out for fun, you’re just a little safer with more people in your party. Criminals aren’t going to attack a group of people who could pummel them with water bottles and e-bike batteries. Defending yourself with safety in numbers can prevent attacks without you ever knowing about it.
One of the most important things you can do to stay safe from attack is pay attention to your surroundings. If you see something dangerous, you can avoid it. If you don’t see it, you can’t defend yourself from it. I could go on for hours about this, but to keep it brief, let’s take a look at defensive expert Jeff Cooper’s color codes for states of awareness:
- Condition White – Not paying attention. The only thing that keeps you safe is nobody attacking you. You can’t safely ride a bike, especially in a complex urban environment or mountain biking trail, like this.
- Condition Yellow – You’re paying attention, but there’s no particular threat. General awareness, and “keeping your head on a swivel” to see what’s going on around you and look out for problems and suspicious things.
- Condition Orange – You see something suspicious, but you don’t know whether it’s dangerous. If something makes you feel suspicious, try to trust your instincts. Avoid suspicious things.
- Condition Red – An active threat that you know is a danger and are having to deal with.
Don’t Stop For An Attacker
If something puts you into condition orange or red, and you’re moving fast, don’t stop if at all possible unless you’ve got an opportunity to quickly turn around and escape in that direction. If someone jumps into your path with a weapon, for example, speed up and try to fly past them. They’ll probably chicken out and move out of the way when they see you aren’t going to stop. If they do attack you anyway, you’ve just given them a pretty severe punch, especially if you’re on a Class 2 or Class 3 e-bike going 20-30 MPH.
You’re wearing a helmet and know what direction you’re going, plus you’re on a bike. Them? They’re probably helmetless and will have a big chunk of metal and rubber in their crotch and face. Ouch!
Two Things To Do To Defend Yourself When You Do Stop
Any time you stop on your bike (threat or not), do these two things to make yourself safer:
First, unclip your helmet strap. This makes it so an attacker can’t grab you by the helmet and get control of your head in a fight. Make a habit of doing this whenever you stop for more than a few seconds, and you’ll never have to worry about the helmet grab being a problem. If they do get your helmet while it’s clipped on, they’ll have a lot of control over you and can severely injure your neck in a fight.
Next, if you have to stop and there’s a person approaching you (even if they appear friendly), put the bike between you and them. That way, if they attack, they’ve basically got a little fence in the way. You can move the bike back and forth to keep it between you and them, and put them off balance if they grip onto it. This puts you in a much stronger position to defend yourself. If their goal is to take your bike, they’ll have to go around it to get to you, so they’ll probably just take the bike.
No piece of property is worth your life, even a $5000 high-end bike. You can always buy another bike later. Defending yourself first is the important thing.
For Our US Readers: Being Realistic About Weapons
Finally, let’s talk briefly about weapons. If someone pulls a knife or a gun on you, give them the bike unless you’re still moving. If you’re moving, keep moving and get away as discussed earlier. If you’re stopped and they got the drop on you, don’t let the bike be worth your life. Roll it toward them so they have to catch it or off in a different direction, and then split while they’re fumbling for the bike. I carry a weapon myself, but I’m not going to get in a gunfight over a bike. That’s idiotic and immoral. The point is defending yourself, not defending property.
You may want to carry your own weapon like I do, but just because I’m pro-gun rights doesn’t mean I’m pro-being stupid. I’m a certified firearms instructor. I’ve been through a police academy. I’m most of the way done with a relevant master’s degree. I know what the laws for use of force are, and where I can and can’t legally go with a gun. In other words, I’m not just some random person who bought a gun and stuck it on my belt.
It’s a big responsibility that should be taken seriously. It’s life-and-death stuff. You could go to prison if you get it wrong while trying to defend yourself.
I’m not saying you have to take graduate level courses in dealing with emergencies to carry a gun, but don’t be a fool and carry one without a reasonable amount of training. By reasonable, I’m not saying take the 2-4 hour course many US states require for getting a permit, or the zero-point-zero hour course 24 states now require with “constitutional carry.” Attend at least a 10-15 hour course, and work hard to stay current after that. Use a safe and/or gun locks. Don’t carry while impaired. Don’t pull a gun out over stupid things that could be resolved without it.
Also, keep in mind that carrying a weapon isn’t for everybody. If you’ve got a bad temper, severe depression, or any other disorder that makes you a danger to yourself and others, or just don’t like guns, it’s probably not a good idea to force yourself into carrying one just because you’re afraid of being attacked or because your friends/family are pushy about it. There are other non-lethal options, like pepper spray, that may be a superior option for defending yourself.
I don’t want to discourage anybody willing to get the training and be responsible from carrying, but I wanted to take an opportunity to inject some good sense into a topic that irrationally splits along party lines. Gun control seems to be a dead issue in the United States these days, but that doesn’t mean we can’t improve things in other ways, like encouraging people to be responsible.
So, whatever your position on the issue, be responsible and encourage people you know to do the right thing on this. Thanks for coming to my TED Talk.
Don’t let all this talk about defending yourself ruin the experience of riding. E-bikes are supposed to be fun!
There isn’t some ne’er-do-well around every corner trying to kill you and steal your bike unless you’re riding in some very awful places. Just pay a little more attention, be ready to take reasonable actions (like unclipping your helmet when you stop), and don’t do anything stupid, and you should be fine.
Featured image by Jennifer Sensiba.
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