Long Beach: SoCal Biking Community Become Detectives (and Heroes)

Contrary to common myth, not all advocacy websites want to discuss the plight of humanity’s inability to catch up with itself, despite my last two Streetsblog stories serving as Example A and Example B of why that myth may have some validity.

Though the heroine of our tale, Cali Bike Tour’s fighting’-for-North-Long-Beach cyclist guru Elizabeth Williams, remains rightfully “violated and pissed,” there is a much more larger picture that momentarily distracts from the ugly part: the SoCal biking community protects their own.

Let’s start with that ugly part.

It was Veteran’s Day, this past November 11, when Elizabeth—the bubbly, self-identified Jesus Chick with the lollipop pedals—partook in the day we all wish we could say was our own everyday: she spent an hour on the Bluff doing free yoga (for those who are curious, click here), spent a few hours with fellow cyclist Nicole Vick to work on her League Cycling Instructor’s certification (one should always know how to handle road hazards), and even swooped by a newsstand so she could see her ad debut with the Port of Long Beach inside the local Press-Telegram paper (wow, Long Beach finally succeeded in having a person of color represented in pro-biking advertisements).

To say that bicycling isn’t Elizabeth’s life—both financially and spiritually—is the equivalent of calling Long Beach Orange County. It’s just… It’s just wrong.

And even more wrong—whether you want to refer to it as some cosmological alignment of bad fate or simple coincidence, it still remains wrong—is the fact that someone decided her bike was, well, theirs. Right off the back rack on her car outside a GameStop in the middle of the afternoon, someone (and I would venture to say this someone is about as worthy of a human as Michael Vick) jacked Elizabeth’s Trek 1600 within the 20 minutes she spent grabbing some household needs.

Anger was the main sentiment exuded by Elizabeth: after running through downtown, from the library to the Transit Mall, asking patrons sitting right outside, approaching a security officer, dealing with shoulder-shrugging police, and overall receiving a “Shit happens” attitude, Elizabeth went home crying.

“Some don’t understand that for a lotta people, their bike is their life,” Elizabeth said shortly after the incident. “This isn’t just my weekend fun—my bike is my business, my livelihood, and my passion. It’s a tool that I use to help others. And the fact that someone took something from me, something that I held dear… I felt so violated.”

Feeling like the police—even after meeting with the LBPD a few months ago to discuss how the police and bicyclists should build a stronger relationship—were less than helpful, Elizabeth took to her friends and social media.

Yell it and they will share.
Yell it and they will share.

And soon enough, Elizabeth saw “an awesome demonstration” of the biking community’s strength in sharing her fight to find her bike.

“I was surprised by the responses I received, especially from the folks I haven’t even met in person or ones I barely knew,” Elizabeth said. “And humbled by the love I felt. It really helped to get me through the process and meant more than I could describe in words.”

That response led to a Facebook friend Elizabeth had met just a few times while riding around with the Eastside Riders of Watts sending her a message: a member of the other Eastside Bike Club thought he saw Elizabeth’s bike on Craigslist. The beautiful chain of bicycling connections—from Long Beach to Watts to El Serano—working for one another is a hard to deny on an emotional level.

Thanks to Sergeant Karuda, Sergeant Lance, and Officers Quinones, Reyes, and Sturgeon, not only was the thief arrested (and I would venture to say that no one would want to deal with the police in Long Beach), but Elizabeth’s bike was returned—albeit stripped.

Share it and they will find.
Share it and they will find.

“As the officers put my front wheel back on, a huge wave of relief washed over me and I had to hold back my tears until I got back inside,” Elizabeth said while speaking of the moment LBPD dropped off her bike. “I’m so happy to have my bike back, but I still feel violated, pissed and like my bike was molested because the bad guy stripped all of the accessories off my beloved, including my computer, seat, lollipop pedals, water bottle cages, saddle bag with my lights, tubes, pump & tools, bento box, and my Jesus Chick tag that hung on the outside of my saddle bag, as well as my bike license stickers.”

Even though it may feel strange, Elizabeth, at least you have your beloved back and her character will return once you ride again. After all, you know—in the least—you have a hoard of peeps that got your back.

Think you lock your bike correctly? Think again and follow Bicycling.com’s essential tips for locking your bike.

  • Nicole Vick

    Hip hip horray! So glad you got your bike back!

  • Nicole Vick

    Oops, spelled hooray wrong. Oh well, you all know what I meant.

  • Elizabeth Williams

    Brian, thank you for this article demonstrating the power of our bike community. I am very thankful and grateful for Jaime Kate & Nicholas Rodriguez of the Eastside Bike Club for being on the lookout and notifying me my bike was on Craigslist, LBPD for their quick & effective response, arrest & actually recovering my bike and returning it back to me. This was a great display of team effort with lots of heroes involved! The power of social media is incredible, our bike community is just awesome and the LBPD definitely showed up & represented. I so appreciate all the support I received! Thank you!

  • Elizabeth Williams

    Thanks Nicole!

  • Robert Sykes

    I walked out of Walmart downtown approximately 1hr ago and noticed someone riding off with my bike. I was able to tackle him and retrieve my bike. The guy took off laughing. The bike was locked to the bike rack with a cable lock only. I know better now. I’m very lucky.

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