Cyclist Attacked on Ballona Creek Trail

Yesterday, I got an email forwarded to me about a cyclist being attacked, beaten and mugged on the Ballona Creek Bike Trail.  You may remember that there has been some controversy about gang activity around one of the entrances and whether or not it is safe for entrances to exist in communities.  The LAPD, favoring gate closure, has protested that they don’t have the manpower to properly police the trail and entrances.  This email shows that the problem is worse than we feared, it seems some police in the area don’t seem to know that the trail exists.

Below is a first hand account of the attack. 

was riding west on the BC path at a little after 1pm yesterday, when
there was actually fairly heavy traffic on the path.  Under the 405 two
gang members (this is what the police believe) threw another bike in my
path, causing me to crash, and then sprayed me with pepper spray and
took my backpack.  I rode to the LAPD station on Culver Blvd., despite
barely being able to see, and reported the incident since it was clear
that there would be more victims.  The attackers then used my backpack
(which had a heavy On-Guard lock in it as well as several books) to
assault at least two other cyclists (and possibly more, according to
the detective I spoke with), pulling a knife on one (this is also what
the police told me).  My backpack was recovered by one of the victims
who turned it in and called me.  It turns out this is the second time
he has been attacked in this manner on the BC path, this first time
being left unconscious for nine hours.  I did a search of the CICLE and
LA Bicycle Coalition websites and found other stories of such assaults
in nearly the same spot as recently as May and going back to 2006.  The
LAPD was helpful, but I got the sense that the BC path was not a high
priority, even though the crimes there are likely related to gang
activity in Mar Vista Gardens.  The officer who took my report did not
even know what I meant when I said I was riding on the Ballona Creek
bikepath under the 405 (he kept repeating the question, "but what
STREET were you on?").

Anyway, given the frequency of these
attacks and the fact that they occur in underpasses where cyclists are
going very fast and the lack of police patrols there, it would seem
irresponsible to encourage any use of the BC path.  Unfortunately in LA
the only other option for bike commuters like myself is to brave the
city streets with the obvious dangers there.  I used to take the Culver
Blvd. bike path, but the endless construction at the
405-Culver-Sawtelle junction makes it dangerous even to get to that
path on city streets now.

  • Looks like we have another example of how cyclists in LA aren’t actually considered citizens. Our safety is optional. The fact that one cop didn’t know about the bike path REALLY illustrates the point that we’re not LAST on the priority list, we don’t even make the list.

  • Not the original A.T.

    After the 2006 incidents, a few police officers (bike riders themselves) started patrolling the bike path (according to the blogs I read at the time).
    Some of the La Grange riders were having problems. But there was a police presence effort. It is likely that the police officer was trying to write a report, but didn’t know how to fill in the “street” block.

    When I rode it, I always had my beater bike and dressed down. I $25 bike and a guy in shorts is less a target than a $5,000 bike and spandex outfits. I also only rode it early in the morning, when most criminals (hopefully) are finally getting to bed.

    The last time I rode it (2006) there was a mattress across the path and a suspicious looking gentleman approaching. I turned around, got off the path and never went back.

  • Malia Jones

    Has anyone been able to get confirmation of this report from the police? This story just reeks of internet meme. I also “did a search of the CICLE and LA Bicycle Coalition websites” and found reference to an unconfirmed attack reported on March 23, 2008, and this exact story with slightly more detail.

    After all, it’s possible that those same community members who want to close the gate have realized that cyclists want to keep it open and are spreading rumors to weaken cyclists’ resolve.

  • I didn’t talk to the police, but I did talk to the cyclist in question. His personal details were removed to protect his anonymity. Suffice it to say he’s a real person.

  • I’ve been taking the BC path a day or two a week for the past few months. Each time it’s pleasant enough except for the area around MarVista gardens. The underpass for the 405 and it’s environs usually have the typical poulation of “let’s contribute to society by skulking and acting tough”. My solution would be a simple round up and drop them off in falluja.

  • Brian

    I was at the public meeting about the gate closure. Apparently it is illegal to loiter on the bike path. What about getting cyclists to call the police EVERY TIME they see ANYONE loitering around the 405/MVG? If there are a steady stream of complaints, perhaps the police will make it a higher priority.

    This really concerns me, as I commute from Culver City to Westchester along the path every day, three days a week my 3 year old daughter is on the bike with me going to daycare…


  • Brian

    It’s not showing up on the LAPD crime map…


  • Crime map hasn’t been updated since 8/17. Check again over the weekend.

  • ks

    This is so discouraging and creepy. I was running on the bike path last Thursday morning heading west. Just at the 405 underpass a cyclist stopped me to warn me off as two guys had just tried to attack him. I could clearly see the two up ahead hanging out on the path by that park watching us talk.

    I run before 7:00am and have also always figured any bad guys would either be asleep or at work at that time so I was pretty stunned (pre-caffeine – make that completely out of it). I hope that cyclist was okay, he seemed shaken but not hurt. I was curious if he reported it to the police, but I didn’t have the presence of mind to encourage him to do it. I didn’t continue down the path, but turned around and made up the mileage at the other end.

  • esquared

    I agree with KS that this is incredibly disheartening. The path is such a resource in the city. It’s a terrific transportation artery and a nice place for recreational cycling.

    I would guess that the closure of the east end of the path has degraded the safety of the whole thing. As I drive down Jefferson, I notice much more graffiti over there these days, which I think means more gang activity overall. Failing to clean it off is like giving up and just handing the property over to the gangs.

    Does anyone know who one would contact about the construction and upkeep of this abandoned portion? The signs about the closure went up rather suddenly, and there’s no contact information at all.

    Also, wouldn’t it be possible to eliminate/seal up some of the niches and hiding spaces in the underpasses?

  • Jeffrey W. Baker

    It’s very sad that in broad daylight in the center of a major city which considers itself prosperous and cultured anyone, bicyclist or pedestrian, can be violently attacked and robbed. It’s a symptom of our state’s descent into a libertarian Howard Jarvis paradise where warlords rule their turf in defiance of the law.

    On the other hand, you could probably rectify the situation with a few improvised explosive devices.

  • ShepDog

    I use the BC path for my work commute and I am very frustrated with these occurrences. I keep hearing that the path may be closed due to crime which is like putting a band-aid on a broken arm. If there is indeed a crime problem on the BC path it is up to the police to resolve it.

  • Brian

    I’ve learned more about this attack, which definitely was for real, in the past few hours.

    I stumbled across this blog when a colleague, knowing I commute on the bike path, emailed me.

    Damien–is there any chance you can use this site to help organize a response (e.g., to lobby or increased police patrols on the path, better lighting under the 405, etc.). I know other groups are already at work on this, and I am in contact with some of them, but a well-organized, coherent, and loud call for action is more likely to be heard. If anyone has ideas, feel free to email me at


  • Mo’Nilla

    I’ve been riding the path daily since ’89. Back in the day I used to carry a pistol in my fanny pack, which, in hindsight, wasn’t a bad idea (The pistol, not the fanny pack). But then I became a weight weenie and carrying that Ruger around was, like, way too heavy- plus, my fancy new jerseys only have three pockets in the back and are ill-suited for proper carry.

    Thank God for the forward march of technology:

    At 9 oz. loaded, it’s the perfect accessory for any serious roadie who must regulary navigate “troubled” areas of our city. Unfortunately it only costs $232 so it won’t appeal to many status seekers. Maybe they’ll come out with a titanium cyclist’s version in the future.

    But to be perfectly honest, I sincerely believe the only reason I haven’t had any direct interference from these fucktards is they can somehow sense that I would enjoy killing them.


  • this is very very sad. i’ve ridden this path numerous times, alone, with friends, and with my wife.

    i usually get on the path right on sawtelle (but now that’s closed, making it a better place for criminal activity – thanks LAPD!).

    one thing to do would be get off the path, and get back on at inglewood. i have a sneaking suspicion that the thugs would catch on to being avoided, and would simply move their operations to one of the several bridges.

    i’m not an advocate of violence, but perhaps a big group of bicyclists could go out vigilante style and hunt these guys down. once they get their butt whipped they’d be less inclined to do this type of thing.

    vigilantism seems a little rash, but it’s not like the LAPD is doing ANYthing except for shutting down more entrances.

  • esquared

    The incident still doesn’t appear on the crime map.

  • Funny you should mention that. There’s apparently been a problem for awhile with incidents on trails not making the list. We’re currently researching the problem and will have an update tomorrow.

  • In an early August edition of the Downtown News, staff writer Kathyrn Maese (Resident Advisor. “A Jarring Downtown Wake-Up Call.” 04 August 2008) wrote about being attacked and how her husband confronted the attacker. In the 18 August edition (“A Divided Response to a ‘Wake-Up Call'”), Maese quoted Central Division LAPD bike officer David Bowen: “I think you had the right attitude. You and your brave husband did the right thing the right way.”

    One can easily infer that in light of the LAPD’s lack of action, LAPD’s implicit advice that commensurate confrontation should be employed and the nature of the attacks, that using lethal force in this situation is well-warranted and practically endorsed by the LAPD. I would suggest taking action and eliminating the threat. One or two heads on pikes might keep away the other thugs, or invite them into an abattoir if properly arranged by those who do not wish to be attacked or ride in fear any longer.

  • If you think riding around with a gun is a solution to street crime, then the hoods at the Ballona Creek are not your only problem.

    Killing people is not the answer. You’ll end up in court, having to explain your sorry ass – paying for a good lawyer to save you from yourself. Then, later on, you’ll have your stupid “regrets” when you go over what happened in your mind constantly. You’ll remember what the guys mom looked like sitting in the courtroom glaring at you.

    Seriously, wake up from you stupid revenge fantasies.

    There are solutions to this problem. “Get a gun”, is not one of them.

  • Thanks, ubraj. I can always count on you to bring me back to reality.

    Poor me and my satiric, world-weary olde arse.

    I imagine your are still working your way up the Central Services coloured duct ladder? Or did you spend so much time colouring inside the lines to miss “Brazil”?

    “Sorry,” “stupid,” “stupid,” indeed. Try some fundamental punctuation the next time you try to not make too much of an idiot of well, you know what I mean.

  • Overuse of the word stupid requires a 27 stroke B, in triplicate.

  • BA

    I did contact LAPD and they do have a record of the August 19 mugging. They also indicated that they have a named suspect who will be apprehended shortly. For what’s it’s worth, they did not know of other attacks in that area and did not feel that daytime rides were a big risk. They recommended riding with a partner and that women especially not ride alone.

  • Anonymous

    i just moved to LA from minneapolis 3 weeks ago to begin the Public Practice program at Otis, which deals with large-scale art projects that serve a direct, active social function.

    i have finally found a beautiful apartment in culver city, which i will sign lease on tomorrow.
    in researching biking options for commuting to LAX area and santa monica for school, i found the ballona bike path just yesterday. i was really excited.

    upon finding out that people are being assaulted, i am obviously shocked. something needs to happen, and it sounds like pretty immediately. there needs to be a mobilzation.

    there is a significant art project that can develop around this issue with community participation and action.

    i have directed several public art projects with youth and would like to offer the idea to do a large installation / performance “intervention” amassing multiple talents and skills. through commitment and networking, we can make a change about the issue of gang members and others attacking bicyclists and its effects on the health of our neighborhoods.

    i would like to organize and put this idea into motion.

    with enough press, it will bring attention to what is happening to effectively change it.

    art is an excellent vehicle. (no pun intended.) in a city that is already so challenging and dangerous for bicyclists, we need to make sure that this path is usable and safe for everyone. please contact me with whatever ideas you may have and we can get started on the work.

  • Mo’Nilla

    ubrayj02 Wrote:

    If you think riding around with a gun is a solution to street crime, then the hoods at the Ballona Creek are not your only problem.

    [I just believe in self-defense, and if a gun is what it takes until a “real” solution to street crime is found, it sure beats getting your ass kicked and your bike stolen.]

    Killing people is not the answer. You’ll end up in court, having to explain your sorry ass – paying for a good lawyer to save you from yourself. Then, later on, you’ll have your stupid “regrets” when you go over what happened in your mind constantly. You’ll remember what the guys mom looked like sitting in the courtroom glaring at you.

    [Killing people is not the answer unless they’re trying to kill you first:^O
    If I had to kill someone to defend myself I don’t believe I would lose too much sleep. Out on the path there would likely be no witnesses and I would simply pedal away from all that unpleasantness, whistling merrily as I went.]

    Seriously, wake up from you stupid revenge fantasies.

    There are solutions to this problem. “Get a gun”, is not one of them.

    [I don’t have revenge fantasies, but I do know that there exists in our society a certain element which does not place as high a value on your life as you might. One of the few things they do respect, however, is your ability to take theirs- if you possess that ability. A gun is simply a tool enabling the small and weak among us to protect themselves from larger criminal adversaries.

    Let no-one try to convince you otherwise- the right to self-defense is inalienable.]

  • Rocky

    This morning 11/11/09 at 5:30 I was riding the Ballona Creek bike trail as I do almost every Morning and someone walking tried to knock me off my bike (west of Ingelwood). I called 911 right away… waited 35 minutes and then left, at 6:45 the 911 dispatched called back to see if I still need response! Both I and the perp were long gone.

  • First, call Councilmember Rosendahl. 213-473-7011. He needs to know that the police in his district are unable to support the cyclists who dare to ride Ballona. He also needs to know that the fenced in and secluded bikeway creates a hospitable environment for crime.

    Second, remember that the City of LA (LADOT) fought all the way to the State Apellate Court to have bike paths such as Ballona declared “recreational facilities” and you ride at your own risk, they are not responsible for maintenance and repairs the way they are on the streets of LA.

    Third, ride on the streets. It’s safer and there are witnesses. The residents around Ballona can’t get to you if you need help. You’re fenced in! (btw, even in rural wilderness parks, there are mile markers but on the City of LA’s Bike Paths, how do you identify your location?)

  • james

    has there been any crime on bc path in 2010?

  • enoughsenough

    This place is *still* not safe. A friend of mine likes to take a walk on the bike path and he has been attacked twice now. Each time it was by someone who was alone and clearly had no motive other than to cause bodily harm.

    Reading over this thread — yes, taking a gun out there to blow away gang members is not the answer. But a baseball bat….you bet.

  • james

    @enoughsenough, he was attacked when? what days of the week, months and years and what times of day? Ive ridden the path about once a month at different times of day and different days for the last 5 years. I still have not had a problem. I’d like to know the exact crime stats. I think its a safe place to ride and needs MORE people on it to make it safer.

  • Mark

    I ride the Ballona Creek trail about three times a week at 7-8 am. I second james’ call for more crime stats. The LA Crime Map linked earlier doesn’t show any crime for the past 7 days in a 5-mi radius around Mar Vista Gardens, which seems too unlikely to be correct.

    Does anybody know if there were any convictions in the 2008 assault case?

  • Joe

    My wife and I were riding our tandem on this bike path at about 7:46pm on 3/22/11. At the very bottom of the drop under the 405, a guy walked up to our bike as we came by and tried to kick us off of it. He missed me and kicked my wife in the thigh. Because we and the bike are so heavy, I did not lose control and was able to ride out from under the 405.

    I called 911 and a half hour later, LAPD found us. I’ve been riding this path for years. This is the first time something like this has happened. If I had a gun, I would have chased the guy down and apprehended him. I could not take my wife back to danger with me and I was not about to leave her alone. My guess is that there was likely more than the one person I saw.

    I know that riding so late and when it’s not light out is dangerous. It really makes me angry that this goes on in such a great place to ride. I’m a law abiding citizen and I’m not going to do something illegal to prepare for another confrontation. My wife and have talked about it and we’re not going to let people like this keep us away from our bike path. We will have a plan and something heavy like a “re-designed bike pump” at the ready. My wife is now in charge of lighting up the dark spots and we’re going to get pepper spray. We will wear safety glasses when we ride as well.

    We will make LAPD sick and tired of calls about people loitering on the path. The idea of lighting up these dark places is a good step towards making the area less hospitable to criminals.

    The officers that responded showed concern. They were unable to locate us quickly because I told them I was on the path east of the 405. When I called again, I gave them an address of a house on Culver Dr. (The street that runs parallel with the path on the east side.) A path location marker sytem would be another good step toward helping people in effectively reporting an emergency.

    They took a report for Battery and encouraged us to call any time we see someone using drugs on the path. I did not ask if it was illegal for them to loiter on the path. I will confirm and report it every time if that’s the case.

    If any one doubts that these thing are really hapening, leave me a way to contact you and I can show you the report and the bruise on my wife’s leg. Ok… forget the leg thing.

    Seriously! This is real!

  • 1234

    YOU MORON!!!!!
    A gun and YOUR CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT to defend yourself
    You’re the reason the MAGGOTS continue TO ASSAULT CITIZENS…

  • 1234

    Someone that has a PAIR!!!!!
    Let’s THIN THE HERD!!!!

  • alex

    The LAPD and CCPD wont do anything about this. A month ago on my daily commute to work a car ( white Volvo s80 Plate #6uxe579) tried to drive me and my coworker off the road 3 times while laughing at me. I called CCPD to file a report and they said that since the driver didn’t hit me there was nothing they could do, however if i waved a bat at someone I would be in jail in no time when I made this comparison the officer said that the difference was that a bat would be considered a weapon so i asked him if there has ever been a case where a car was used as a weapon, his response was im sorry there is nothing we can do. 3 days ago a different car with 4 black youths threw a milkshake at my head and sped off i was able to catch them at a red light and lets just say they’ll think twice before messing with someone on a bike again if the police department wont protect us then we’ll have to protect ourselves.

  • Sue

    Since when does protecting yourself = revenge fantasy??

    Grow up little boy. You can’t run away from thugs your whole life. Don’t mess with me and you’ll be just fine.

  • ubrayj02

    “Don’t mess with me and you’ll be just fine.”

    Who is messing with you? You shoot someone chances are you’re going to have to face law enforcement and the criminal justice system as well as your own stressful memories of the event.

    Running away from thugs is actually an adaptive strategy – especially in random, one-time, conflicts.

    You’re wrapping yourself in an emotional blanket and not taking a clear eyed view of the repercussions of using a firearm “for self defense”.


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