It was a week and a half ago that I was (nearly) bike-jacked. And every time I talk about this, someone inevitably asks: “Is that a thing?”
I don’t really know. Except that it’s a thing that happened to me one Saturday morning on my ride to a church meeting. What it brings up for me is a series of questions about Christians and their relationship to the legal system, Jesus’ call to give to those who ask, and what discipleship looks like in the face of conflict.
As I merged onto the bike path last Saturday morning, I saw a cyclist towing a kid carrier down the way. They were taking up the entire bikeway, and so I rang my bell a few times, and spoke, indicating that I was about to pass on the left. He didn’t move to either side, but I was able to squeeze by and speed on down the path.
The bikeway travels next to the SkyTrain tracks from the suburbs towards downtown. I pulled up to a stop in front of Nanaimo SkyTrain station, waiting for the light to turn. Another gentlemen stood at the same corner, waiting to cross on foot.
As I was waiting, I turned around to see the cyclist I had passed earlier speeding down the path, all the while shouting. I wasn’t sure what we was saying. Had I dropped something? What news?
He jumped off his bike, was quickly in front of me, wrapped the strap of his bag around my handlebars (including the right front brake) and yelled at me to Get Off His Bike.
Perhaps he was confused.
But he assured me with his bold determination that he was not confused. He stood there, insisting that I Get Off His Bike. Which is all seemed very problematic, since I had taken the bike from my apartment that very morning, put my waterbottle in the bottle holder, and left from there.
It’s hard to remember the exact sequence of events here, but I started to scream at him to let go of my bike. I’m not exactly loud. But I screamed. Really, really loudly.
I turned my attention to the man crossing the street.
“Call the police. Help!”
“I don’t know the number” came the reply.
I screamed “help, help, help” turning to look at and looked at the woman stopped in her sedan at the light.
At this point, I’m bracing myself for the guy to hit me and take my bike. In these brief instants, I’d come to the possibility that this could happen, but for some unknown reason did not get off my bike. Stupidity? Assumption that someone would actually help if it came to it?
I didn’t know him. I didn’t know what he was capable of. I just knew that things weren’t going exactly as planned for the morning commute. Did he have a weapon? Would he hit me? What on earth was his story?
Eventually two SkyTrain attendants ran over and asked what was going on. I asked them to call the police. As the other cyclist was still holding on to my bike, he leaned in and said to me
“Even if I don’t get the bike, you’re not going home with it.”
And so we waited. I’m not sure how long we waited, but at 9:05 I texted my boss to tell him I’d be late for my meeting. As I pulled out my phone, the other cyclist whispered
“Nobody can help you. Put your phone away.”
We waited awhile. It seemed like eternity. I tried several times to ask him why he was doing this. No response other than venom.
Unable to wrap my brain around the situation, I was afraid. What was going to happen? Was he going to hit me? Did he have a knife? At least by this point there were witnesses actually paying attention to the situation, but it was nerve-wracking all the same.
An attempted bike-jacking? Really? Is that even a thing?
The Transit Police pulled up on 24th Ave. and conferred with the SkyTrain attendants. As they arrived, the cyclist sneered
“I’ve seen you around downtown.”
The intimidation worked. Obviously.
The Transit Police split up. One came to talk to me, and the other to speak with the other cyclist, taking him to a separate location. He asked for my version of events, what happened, how, when.
I took a sip from my water bottle.
We went over vitals, who I was, where I had purchased the bike. I told him about the shop, where it was, that it opened at 11, that I’d been there the week before to deal with a derailleur issue that the proprieter had fixed on the spot when I came in. I also told him about how I had gotten a flat fixed at another shop earlier that week, and that yes, I had the receipt for that transaction too.
When the Transit cop asked to look at my bike, I got off, and using the key from my key chain, locked the wheel to the frame both for safekeeping, and as a subtle message about whose bike this actually was. Because who knows? I suppose it was possible that I wouldn’t leave with my bike.
They looked at my ID and confirmed my identity. Asked if I wanted to press charges. Eventually they sent me on my way, promising that I’d be given some time to get ahead on the road. I didn’t really look back and see what was going to happen to the other guy.
And I still wonder. What happened to him?
Over the days since the event took place, I also find myself with a few more questions:
- What do you say to the question of pressing charges?
- What should our relationship be to the legal system?
- Would pressing charges help, or would it just make things worse for this guy who, it seemed likely, was already living pretty close to the street?
- How does this one incident come to bear on the possibility that this guy re-offends?
In the end, I didn’t press charges. It was frightening. In fact, it took me a few days to feel like I could back on my bike. A few more to take the same route again. It was annoying to be late, but obviously not the end of the world.
As much as this event shook me up, I’m still perplexed by the question of how Christ might respond to a bike-jacker on the road. And I’m troubled by the ambiguity that response has to the Canadian legal system. What, in the end should I have done?
When I arrived at my meeting and told this story, someone pointed to Jesus and said I should have given up my bike (if you have two cloaks, etc…). My immediate response is that I hope he was joking.
At the same time, I also know that most Christians (myself included) do a lot to dismiss that passage of scripture. So there’s context. There’s complication. And what happens when the guy who’s demanding your bike already has one (with a trailer). How does this passage work when the one who needs that bike is looking for an upgrade, and trying to extract it with intimidation and violence?