Last night, while riding home, I was involved in an incident that I wasn't sure how to interpret, but I then found out that at nearly the same time, at almost the exact same location, one of my neighbors was stabbed.
I was riding across the Sousa Bridge on my way home from work, and as the bridge ended, and the trail around Barney Circle began I saw a man walking towards me along the trail. He was on the "westbound" side, like me, and did not seem to see me as he didn't move over to the "eastbound" half of the trail, but he was wearing sunglasses and was hunched over so I figured he just hadn't noticed me yet. I slowed down and was about to ring my bell (I don't like to pass someone who I don't think sees me, and I don't like to cross over to the opposite side either) when he stepped to his right, across where the center line would be - if the trail there had one; so I figured he'd seen me and I pedaled on, moving to the far right of the trail.
As I passed him (with plenty of space), he moved toward me and I felt him put his hands on me - one on my left shoulder and one on my back - and push me. Luckily I stayed upright, but I had to stop a few feet farther on to get my balance. I wasn't sure what had happened. Was that on purpose, or had he not seen me as I thought, and I startled him. When I looked back he was walking towards me very quickly saying "my fault. my fault." But the speed at which he was walking, and the stories I'd heard of others being pushed off their bikes and robbed, made me nervous. Without thinking I shouted "F--- you, back off!" At this point he got angry "No, F--- you, F-- you" he said and started running toward me as I rode away at full speed. As I crossed the intersection of Barney Circle and 17th, I looked back and saw him still running full speed toward me, Terminator-style, so I rode on up Kentucky Avenue. About half a block up, I stopped pulled out my phone and dialed 9-1, and figured if I saw him turn the corner, I'd dial the last 1. I didn't and so, unsure if this had all been a misunderstanding (I'd startled him, and then I cursed at him) or if this was a robbery/assault and not sure the police could get there in time to him - or if they could even do anything if they did, I put my phone away and continued on to pick up my kids at daycare.
I regret that now. Because at around the same time, two blocks from the intersection I had just left, a woman was touched in almost an identical fashion, except in her case, the assailant had a knife.
The victim, 33, who did not want her name published, said she halted at a stop sign after crossing the John Philip Sousa Bridge. She had started pedaling again when she saw a man, who seemed unsteady on his feet, walking toward her. She was crossing the street at the intersection of 17th and G streets SE, about two blocks from her home.
She said that she tried to steer so that she would avoid the man, but he grabbed her arm and hit her in the shoulder.
She managed to stay on the bike and pedaled away. After several blocks, she looked over her shoulder to see if the man was following her. She saw that she was bleeding.
She stopped at a residence where a person was in the front yard and told him, “I just was stabbed! Can you help me?” She called 911 and was taken to a hospital, where she received stitches to close the knife wound, she said.
Police are looking for a black man between the ages of 30 and 40 and about 5 foot 11. He was wearing a black shirt and black jeans at the time of the stabbing at about 5 p.m. Tuesday, police said.
Based on Strava, my incident happened almost exactly at 5pm, which means I'm not sure if it happened before or after hers.
I did call the police later that evening to report the incident - in case it was part of a pattern (little did I know). A police officer showed up and seemed pretty disinterested (he was very concerned that we had a package on our front porch though), and didn't take a report and basically made me feel like I'd wasted both our time, but after the stabbing I was able to contact the investigating officer in that case.
I guess my lesson here is that when I feel uncomfortable enough to run, I should call 911.