A cyclist has recalled a shocking bikejacking which saw him knocked from his bicycle by masked men and threatened with a knife during an attack on his ride home from work through an East London park last week.
road.cc reader Christian Blunden was commuting on his regular route from his workplace at Tower Bridge's Shad Thames street to Walthamstow, a path he has plotted "a couple of thousand times" over the years, and passed through Millfields Park to access the River Lea towpath, just across the water from Hackney Marshes.
Riding through at around 7pm last Wednesday (8 February), the first part of the park was dark thanks to the poor lighting and limited British winter daylight hours, but there were plenty of people out running or walking their dogs.
Christian recalled passing "three guys" walking their bikes through but "didn't think anything of it" and eased up to around 20mph as the lighting in the second half of the park improved and the number of pedestrians reduced towards the towpath.
"As I approached the sharp turn left to the towpath that takes you under the Lea Bridge Road, I had the sensation of someone rapidly approaching behind me, easily doing 30mph," he told us.
"I remember thinking, 'this guy is an idiot trying to overtake me, he is not going to pull up in time' to make the sharp turn. Then next thing I know he is almost ramming me and shoves me to the point of losing control of the bike, I fly over the handle bars onto the path."
Having picked himself up from the shock of the fall, Christian suddenly realised the man behind, who had been riding an unrestricted e-bike, was trying to pull his Orbea away too.
"He was wearing all black with a dark beanie pulled down to eye level and also a dark face mask pulled up to his eyes," Christian explained. "There was nothing I could see of him except his eyes.
"I started yelling at him 'what the f*** mate.. what are you doing?' and he was yelling back at me 'give me your f****** bike, walk away'.
"I then for some reason, I wasn't really thinking about what I was doing it was just instinctual, I picked up my bike and started swinging it around at him like a weapon. He was yelling at his two mates who had circled round behind me to grab the bike.
"I was surrounded and I think one of them was trying to push me round using my backpack but that was made difficult because I was swinging my bike around. It was then the main guy, the one who pushed me over initially, who reached into his jacket and pulled out a knife.
"As soon as he pulled it out it was the only thing I could see and I knew it was over so I backed away and they let me go. Meanwhile they had taken my bike and were already on the towpath escaping."
The whole frightening series of events was over in under two minutes and around 30 seconds later another cyclist passed, but did not stop when Christian explained he had been mugged.
"I noticed that I was cut pretty badly on my right arm and was covered in blood," Christian continued. "A runner came up to me and asked if I was okay and I told him I was just mugged for my bike. We both called 999 and the police were there within 15 minutes.
"The police officers were very nice and apologetic, but they did say it was happening a lot at the moment along the towpath area. They did a quick assessment on my arm and said I would need stitches so they took me to Homerton Hospital where they left me."
Christian is still yet to receive a crime reference number for the bikejacking despite multiple attempts to contact the police and was left in no doubt he was targeted for his bike as the offenders did not take his phone or laptop.
"The only thing that was taken was my bike which was a 2021 Orbea Gain D30," he explained. "It had some some custom upgrades like carbon rims and SRAM Red crankset but they did not take anything else like my phone or my backpack, which had a MacBook Pro inside."
Unfortunately, Christian's experience is nothing new, with criminals in London regularly targeting cyclists for their bikes, attracted by the high-value kit and what Cycling UK's Duncan Dollimore suggested might be a perception of it being a "low-risk crime" if the "numbers of people being caught are so low".
Last year we reported on a spate of bikejackings across the English capital, but mainly in the south of the city, often involving youths on mopeds threatening lone riders.
In July, the situation was even so grim that British Cycling's policy manager Nick Chamberlain urged riders and clubs to "think carefully about the rides they have planned" and be careful when uploading rides to Strava or other ride-sharing platforms potentially easily accessible to criminals.
In October 2021, professional rider Alexandar Richardson — formerly a teammate of Mathieu van der Poel at the team then known as Alpecin Fenix and third at last year's national road race championships — was robbed of his bike by a machete-wielding gang in south-west London's Richmond Park.
Richardson was knocked off his bike and dragged for 100 metres by muggers on motorbikes who then pulled out a 15-inch machete and took his team-issue Canyon Aeroad.
Dan joined road.cc in 2020, and spent most of his first year (hopefully) keeping you entertained on the live blog. At the start of 2022 he took on the role of news editor. Before joining road.cc, Dan wrote about various sports, including football and boxing for the Daily Express, and covered the weird and wonderful world of non-league football for The Non-League Paper. Part of the generation inspired by the 2012 Olympics, Dan has been 'enjoying' life on two wheels ever since and spends his weekends making bonk-induced trips to the petrol stations of the south of England.