Thursday, June 17, 2010

Pittsburgh police investigating recent attacks on bicyclists

Thursday, June 17, 2010
By Anthony Fenech, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Two days after a man was thrown off of his bike and assaulted by a group of people on the East End, the Post-Gazette has confirmed a pair of similar incidents.

Police spokeswoman Diane Richard could not confirm a connection between the incidents, but said that the department is aware of the recent assaults.

"There has been no set pattern for these actions," Ms. Richards said. "These are random acts of opportunity, when the opportunity presents itself."

Justin Chechile, 31, of Lawrenceville, said that on May 30, he was approached by a pair of bikers in the bike lane at East Liberty Boulevard and North Beatty Street.

One biker hopped off of his bike, throwing it into Mr. Chechile, who was flipped over the handlebars and onto the pavement.

While on the ground, Mr. Chechile said, he was verbally berated by the suspects, who were not found by police.

"I would like to see some people connected to what's happening," he said. "It feels like it's going to happen every day until they start finding them."

Another assault occurred Monday night, when 26-year-old Ryan Ference was thrown off of his bike and hospitalized while riding his bicycle home from work.

"I feel that they're connected as much as the youth in the area is connected," said Mac Howison, 36, of Swissvale. "It's the perfect storm with the increasing amount of targets in the cycling community."

Mr. Howison said that in early August, he and his wife were riding on East Liberty Boulevard when they were jumped by three men.

After being struck on the side of the head by one of the men, a dazed Mr. Howison remained on his bike and came to a stop.

The trio surrounded the couple and began taunting them.

"It kind of seemed like they were fooling around," Mr. Howison said.

A week after Mr. Chechile's assault, Zone 5 Acting Commander Kevin Kraus met with a group of 25 bikers, which Mr. Chechile said, "was supportive."

While no suspects have been identified, Ms. Richard urges cyclists to be cognizant of their surroundings and, if possible, travel in pairs.

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