By Christine Clarridge
Seattle Times staff reporter
The recent mugging of a man who was riding his bicycle through the Interstate 90 Mount Baker Tunnel has prompted police and the Cascade Bicycle Club to urge bicyclists to always be aware of their surroundings and travel with others.
Bob Cornwell was pedalling home from work through the Mount Baker Tunnel last week when he was attacked by three teenagers who knocked him off his bike, slammed him against a wall and stole his wallet, money and bike bag.
The Seattle University professor said he was lucky to escape with only a few bumps and bruises. Initially, he didn't want to report the incident to police.
"I didn't want to make a big thing of it," he said.
But a colleague and fellow member of the Cascade Bicycle Club encouraged him to call police, and warned others of the May 7 assault through a posting on the club's message board. The posting was forwarded through the local biking community.
According to a police report, the strong-arm robbery occurred shortly before 5 p.m. near the entrance of the tunnel from Sam Smith Park, on the lid of I-90 at Martin Luther King Jr. Way South.
Today is National Bike to Work Day, and while Seattle police said that bike muggings are not frequently reported occurrences, bicyclists are still urged to use the same common-sense safety precautions recommended to the general public. Those precautions include traveling in pairs or groups, paying attention, staying in well-lit areas and avoiding routes that lead through deserted parks, parking lots, garages and alleyways.
"This is an unpleasant event, but we don't see it as part of a trend," said David Hiller, the advocacy director for the Cascade Bicycle Club. "We think these are random acts and that they are targeting people, not bicyclists."
In fact, Hiller said, biking is becoming safer as its popularity increases.
"There are huge increases in the number of people bicycling, so the odds that you are going to be alone are pretty small. The more people there are out there, the safer it will be," he said. "Bad guys don't like onlookers."
Nevertheless, he said, the group is happy to reiterate some common safety precautions as well.
Like police, the bicycle club advises riders to pay attention to their surroundings and try to stay within sight of others.
"It's easier to be a victim if you're in an isolated place," Hiller said. "And don't put yourself in a place where you can't get help."
Cornwell's been commuting home from work for about three years and he's going to continue, he said. But he admits he's altered his routine a bit.
"You don't think about this happening in Seattle," he said. "I just rode into that tunnel without even thinking about it."
Christine Clarridge: 206-464-8983 or firstname.lastname@example.org