Punched for Riding a Bike

Cyclist Attacked By Motorist at MacArthur BART

Mary Ann Blackwell at the location where she was punched by a motorist last week. Photo: Streetsblog/Rudick
Mary Ann Blackwell at the location where she was punched by a motorist last week. Photo: Streetsblog/Rudick

Last Wednesday, March 8, at 9:15 am, Mary Ann Blackwell was riding her bike down Martin Luther King in Oakland, on her way to the MacArthur BART station, to get to an appointment in San Francisco. She turned left onto 40th, to reach the station entrance. The long-time cycling advocate saw something familiar to cyclists throughout the Bay Area–a car, in this case a black sedan, stopped on the bike lane. “There wasn’t even a car against the curb, but he didn’t pull over,” she told Streetsblog, during her first trip back to the location since the incident.

Blackwell did what many Bay Area cyclists do—she was frustrated, so she said, “this is a bike lane!”

“This isn’t parking,” she added to Streetsblog, pointing at the striped bike lane at the MacArthur BART station. “I never made any slur or anything like that.”

But this motorist, who was in the process of discharging a passenger, got out of the car and punched her in her eye. “I was very fortunate. It wasn’t a bad punch; it was a glancing blow. If it had been full force it would…” she trailed off, motioning to her eye, which still has signs of purple bruising. It had enough force, however, that she was left stunned and lost her balance. “I was straddling my bike. I set it down and then fell over,” she recalled.

She fell into traffic. As the perpetrator got back in his car and drove off, good Samaritan cyclists stopped and blocked traffic and helped her out of the busy traffic lane, probably saving her life.

Her fellow cyclists, she said, seemed to show more concern for her than the BART police did. “The BART police listened to me but seemed to take no particular interest–their main issue was ‘do you need medical treatment?’” she said. “And then they said ‘it’s in the street’ so it’s Oakland Police (OPD) jurisdiction.”

The OPD sent an officer to her house the next day. Blackwell said the police are hopeful that they can get evidence from security cameras located around the station (if they are working). Additionally, one of the cyclists got a partial plate and a description of the suspect. All in all, she’s hopeful the man who hit her will be apprehended and charged.

That said, there’s another “perp” she holds responsible for what happened, and that’s the city engineers who designed the street. “This is poor infrastructure,” she said, motioning to the wide lanes and insane design of the bike lanes, which she says contribute to creating conflicts between cyclists and motorists.

For those unfamiliar with the area, there’s a green “kermit” lane, also called a “super sharrow,” down the right lanes of 40th leading up to the station. However, 40th, with two wide lanes in each direction, is more like a ground-level freeway than a street, with cars continually speeding along it. “This green stripe has been called a fail. Cyclists don’t have the confidence or knowledge to hold the lane and the drivers are aggressive and fast,” said Blackwell.

Cyclists are expected to hold this lane amid high-speed traffic. Photo: Streetsblog/Rudick
Cyclists are expected to hold this lane amid aggressive, high-speed traffic. Photo: Streetsblog/Rudick

“All of 40th Street remains problematic, including the green ‘super sharrow’ experiment which has not yielded favorable results,” wrote Robert Prinz, Education Director for Bike East Bay, in an email to Streetsblog. “I was involved in an intentional (non-injury) hit-and-run on 40th, right on top of a green sharrow and next to a ‘bikes may use full lane’ sign.”

As Streetsblog has long argued, except on the calmest streets, putting down sharrows or door-lanes or any other kind of paint-only treatment is a travesty. It’s pretend infrastructure that offers no protection and, in many cases, just intensifies conflicts and hazards. A wide road needs physically protected bike lanes and intersections. “We have brought issues regarding bike and pedestrian safety with both 40th Street and the internal station streets to the attention of BART and Oakland staff and electeds over several years, but with no action taken yet,” said Prinz.

MaryAnnpointing out dangers
Even during Streetsblog’s interview with Mary Ann, car after car drove on the bike lane and buses crisscrossed it, creating obviously hazardous conditions for cyclists. Photo: Streetsblog/Rudick

In fact, where 40th goes under the freeway to the BART station, as seen in the above photo, even the green stripes disappear, and it returns to being a door lane. Motorists are supposed to jog across the bike lane to discharge passengers at the curb. Short of feeding cyclists onto the freeway above, it’s hard to imagine what traffic engineers could have done to make the area more dangerous–it’s a staggering example of bad design that desperately needs to be fixed. As Blackwell points out, there “isn’t even a curb cut so cyclists can get from the street . . .  into the station.”

Prinz, meanwhile, hopes this can be improved in the future. “Oakland’s bike master plan update, happening throughout 2017, will be a great opportunity to rethink not just these streets but also safe and stress-free bikeway connections to all transit hubs around the city,” he wrote. “With a new DOT, talented staff, and local funding to make things happen, Oakland is poised for some very transformative changes, but only if we choose to prioritize safety and mobility.”

This bent pole on the sidewalk under MacArthur BART says volumes about the dangerous road conditions. Photo: Streetsblog/Rudick
This bent pole on the sidewalk under MacArthur BART says volumes about the dangerous road conditions there. Photo: Streetsblog/Rudick

None of these issues, of course, forgives the motorist for punching her. But Blackwell hopes the incident can be a catalyst to focus public officials on fixing this dangerous area, before more road violence occurs. “Reconfigure this to have a protected bike lane and a curb cut, and I’m also requesting a couple of bicycle-mounted policemen patrolling this urban, dense BART station,” she said, adding that cops on bikes can see much better and are more connected to the environment.

Blackwell is slowly getting back into her regular routine, but it’s been difficult. She’s caught herself crying over the incident. “I’ve been riding all over this area with impunity for twelve years. I even used to go to the De Young Museum by myself on a bike. I no longer feel like I can do any of those things,” she said, her voice cracking. “And I’ll be 68 in March,” she said, pointing at her shiner and trying to force a smile. “Now I won’t get any young boyfriends anymore.”

Mary Ann Blackwell during happier times, on a ride in Sacramento. Photo: From Facebook
Mary Ann Blackwell during happier times, on a ride in Sacramento. Photo: Facebook


  • bobfuss

    No, roymeo’s problem was that his error was too easily comprehended. And that rather than just admit it, he kept doubling down thereby drawing more attention to it.

  • bobfuss

    Saying that I have egg on my face when I am the one who successful hit the target with my egg is an interesting gambit but I think readers can easily see through it.

  • Project much?

  • Honestly I think you’re better that THAT, too.

  • bobfuss

    THAT that?

  • bobfuss

    Dude, you cited the vehicle cose to imply that Mary did not violate it but that the driver did. I simply pointed out that the vehicle code says nothing abut punching either. So your argument excuses the driver. Fail/

  • Boy, it looks like you brought a “Punching” to a “Pulling over vs. Yelling” fight.

  • And I told you “Yep. You are right.” when you brought in something new to the discussion like a shiny rock you found in the back yard.

  • bobfuss

    If you know that you were wrong and that I was right, why are you still whining?

  • bobfuss

    As I said elsewhere, both sides escalated and nobody comes out of the incident with any credit.

  • Original poster equates A and B.
    I point out A and B are different.
    bobfuss is still crying about C and for attention.

  • So you’re saying you can’t keep your own posts and threads sorted, either?
    Shore done proved that right.

  • bobfuss

    My recollection was accurate. I made the cited statements.

  • bobfuss

    I didn’t equate anything, which is why I used the word “escalation”.

  • Corvus Corax

    Ritchie: I have exposed you as the sneaky shape-shifting troll that you know you are; I have called you ridiculous, a whackjob; I have repeatedly expressed my low opinion of you, my contempt for you; I have told you how distasteful, how disgusting I find your nature.

    And you’re FLATTERED?

  • bobfuss

    I assume that you are a logical person, and would therefore only direct such venom and energy at someone whose arguments you feel represent a credible threat to your values and goals.

    Otherwise it would seem like you are just obsessively abusing and stalking someone for no real reason at all. And I feel sure that you are much more rational and ethical than that implies.

  • Corvus Corax

    Your assumption that I am logical is correct, but your conclusion is pure misdirection, trying to force the reader to think that your conclusion is the only possible one, whereas Occam’s razor leads to a conclusion that it is simply that I intensely dislike you for all the reasons I have said time and again. Face it. How many people must call you a vile troll before you must admit to yourself that they are saying the truth?

  • Stuart

    It seems more like projection than misdirection. I think the interesting take away here is that bobfuss thinks that the only reason someone would expend the energy to post obsessively is if they are feel the target of their arguments is a “credible threat to [their] values”. The obvious conclusion, given his obsessive posting here under his various handles, is that despite his constant protestations that StreetsBlog, cyclists, advocacy groups for safer streets, etc. are fringe groups with no hope of gaining broad support, he’s actually terrified of them.

    So he while he pretends to think that the voters are against things like road diets and protected bike infrastructure, the truth is apparently that he *can* see that the general trend is to move away from entirely car-focused city planning, and apparently thinks that flooding this and other sites with constant repetitions of the usual pro-car talking points will slow or reverse the process.

    The fact that he thinks siding against a woman who was punched in the face (for expressing mild social pressure in the face of illegal behavior) will make him a more credible advocate for his values would be funny if it weren’t so sad.

  • Corvus Corax

    I am no psychiatrist, so I can’t speak to projection, although I think to give Rich more credit as a word-manipulator and think him capable of conscious misdirection.

    And as much as I may criticize him to his face, I am not all that comfortable discussing him behind his back right under his nose;) So let’s ask him. Yoo-hoo, Ritchey-pie, I know you’re out there. Are you capable of giving us an honest answer?

  • cmu

    As one who rails against bikers who claim that 20-25 is not ‘fast’ (and, imo dangerous on urban streets) that’s a supreme irony! (btw I’m a regular, and under 15mph, cyclist.)

  • cmu

    All this sturm & drung is weird to me. As a cyclist, I can SEE a driver about to pull out of an illegal parking space & take precautions. Rarely do I have to STOP for a double-parked car, I just go around. While of course in a perfect world no cat would even briefly occupy a bike lane, let’s get real. Sharing the road briefly is no big burden, at least for me in Brooklyn where the cars cannot go too fast.

  • cmu

    Agreed. One a*s*le does not a bike-hater make.

  • cmu

    Actually, while I think you’re over the top sometimes, that’s funny (and accurate.)

  • cmu

    Rubbish. What was said was that there are stupid & incompetent drivers who DONT treat cyclists safely, and the faster the street the worse likely the consequences. So why chance it? It’s a major leap from there to “not go out the door.”

  • bobfuss

    How many people? Well, you’re the only one who expresses anything more than a mild irritation with me, so I’d say your case is a special one. Personally I never hate anyone just because they hold different opinions to me, and I really don’t understand why you take online chat so seriously.

    But I try and find a genuine reason for your obsession with me and the only logical reason for such a pathological hatred of someone you don’t know and who has never done you any harm , is that you believe that I am effective in undermining your beliefs, values and preferences.

    So either that logically explains your behavior or you just harbor irrational loathings for random strangers. The former makes you look less weird.

  • bobfuss

    I suspect that the driver would have responded similarly to another driver who remonstrated in the same way. He might not have done if the remonstrator had instead been a bigger guy. But then for all we know, he had a gun in his car and might have used it in that case. Most road rage incidents don’t involve cyclists.

    Generally speaking if a driver blocks a bike lane then he is fully aware that he is doing that, and trying to “educate” him about his error is not going to achieve anything. There is a downside risk though, evidently.

  • Are the police investigating such an incident? The suggestion that because the victim is a cyclist, the police have chosen not to prosecute a simple assault (it didn’t involve an automobile at all, just a simple assault) then that seems like a new low for the police.

  • Stuart

    > While of course in a perfect world no cat would even briefly occupy a bike lane, let’s get real.

    Sure, let’s get real.
    – Realistically, how many Uber/Lyft drivers would stop in the middle of traffic on a major street, drop of their passenger, and then stay for several more minutes to mess with their phone?
    – Realistically, how many people would stop in the middle of traffic on a major street, get out of their car, and go into a shop to buy something?
    – Realistically, how many people would stop in traffic on a major street right next to open curb space to do any of the above?

    Those are all things that I see multiple times a day happen in bike lanes, even during a rush hour commute along major bike arteries in the city.

    We’re not talking about a slightly imperfect world here, we’re talking about constant, flagrant, often completely unnecessary abuse of high-traffic bike lanes.

    I grew up in a place where cars occasionally, briefly blocked bike lanes. It never bothered me. SF is not that place though, and as a result, we need better bike infrastructure (or failing that, meaningful enforcement).

    bobfuss likes to talk about theoretical cases where there’s absolutely no curb space anywhere, no low-traffic side streets they could stop on instead, and where drivers carefully pull in and out of bike lanes after checking for cyclists, then spend the absolute minimum time there. He acts as if this is the norm, and as if it happens very rarely, and thus that it’s all no big deal and cyclists are just whiners with unreasonable expectation. But that’s not even remotely close to the reality of riding in SF.

  • Vooch

    interesting question:

    A 5,000lb motor vehicle traveling at 35MPH is beyond a shadow of a doubt – a deadly weapon

    A bike & rider at 200 lbs traveling at 25MPH isn’t. ( BTW cyclists, even Freds don’t ride 35MPH no matter what they say at the bar)

    Finally, the solution to unruly speeds by cyclists is protected bike lanes. Cycling speeds are always slower in PBLs.

  • Corvus Corax

    Either you are prescient and/or telepathic, delusional, or lying. Which is it? If the former, you have abilities far above me and other mere mortals who are often surprised by a car pulling out right in front of us; if the second, you are very lucky so far and I wish you continued luck; if the latter, we have our own Clarence Thomas cyclists here too.

    Can you SEE a driver about to open his car’s door too? Can you SEE a car hooking a right, right in front of you? Can you SEE traffic coming up on your left as your ‘just go around’ an illegally double-parked car? Gee, wish I could! And I bet so do hundreds of injured cyclists.

  • Corvus Corax

    Aha! Got my answer – thanks.

  • Corvus Corax

    I read through your posts and found some disturbing thoughts:

    And, as an also avid driver, I can easily imagine one [a chain-reaction crash] at the higher speeds I love to drive at.

    I never have worn, and never will wear a helmet. And I’d prefer my fellow riders not wear one.

    Nothing more to be said.

  • cmu

    Yes, it’s not prescience, it’s watchfulness and awareness. Of course, if one is barrelling along at 20mph on (imsr) Valencia street, this may be moot. If one is traveling at a safe speed, one can “see” such things.

    Just as when I drive, I am aware often of a car about to cut me off/pull into my lane etc. It’s called defensive driving/cycling.

  • cmu

    I’m in Brooklyn and there’s enormous fuss here about delivery vehicles double-parking on commercial streets (some of which have non-protected bike lanes, affected as well.) As one who piddles along on my errands, it does not bother me as imo it actually slows traffic as the perceived street space is narrower. Of course sometimes I have to wait prudently if a car’s too close behind for me to assert my right-of-way, but…that’s ok.

    I don’t know about SF drivers, perhaps they’re more aggressive. I lived there long ago, and used to drive much more, so I assume that the average Californian is more entitled. Otoh, in the outer boroughs here it’s better not to antagonize drivers!

  • Corvus Corax

    Are you being purposefully ignorant? They are talking about car speeds, not bike speeds.

  • Corvus Corax

    *or an idiot,

  • cmu

    It’s not the momentum, it’s the cyclist’s own ability to avoid/brake/ etc at 20-25 mph on a city street, which imo is marginal. Even around 20mph, pedestrian movements, and squirelly road surfaces are dangerous.

  • Corvus Corax

    :0 :0 :0 :0 :0 :0 :0 :0 :0 :0 :0 :0 :0 :0 :0 :0 :0 😉 OMG, Ritchy!
    One person called you a ‘tendentious fool’, one gave you a ‘gold star for persistent irrelevance’, one gave instructions on blocking your posts, two said they will block you, one called you an ‘effing troll and nothing more’, one accused you of ‘crappy trolling’, one said you were ‘molasses in the flow of logical discussion’ (and got 5 upvotes), one said that trolling was your raison d’être; and that was in this thread alone (not counting the countless hate-filled responses your trolling has elicited on so many other threads). And THAT’S mild irritation to you? You are truly delusional.

    I notice that you had no reply to Stuart’s and my question as to whether you were using misdirection or projection. Interesting…

  • Joe R.

    Any bike with well-maintained brakes can stop faster than most motor vehicles. I’ve hauled my bike down from 30 mph to 0 in about 40 feet. Also, you’re basically saying high speeds are dangerous primarily to the cyclist since you claim their ability to maneuver or brake is marginal. In my book that’s not a good reason. If a cyclist wants to put themselves in danger, that’s their prerogative. A cyclist riding at high speeds rarely puts anyone but themselves in danger. For a competent cyclist even that’s not true.

    It seems you’re personally not comfortable with speeds over 15 mph. That’s fine. Nobody is going to force you to go faster but it’s a bit presumptuous to use your comfort level to dictate the speeds you think cyclists you ride. The legal speed limit on NYC streets is anywhere from 20 mph to 40 mph, depending upon where you ride. That means it’s legal for any road user to do those speeds. It’s defacto legal to go 5 to 10 mph over given the typical criteria used for speeding tickets. What this means in practice is on nearly all streets any speed a cyclist might reach will probably be below the legal speed limit, and almost certainly below the defacto speed limit.

    There are absolutely times when cyclists should ride slower than their abilities for safety reasons. But to suggest you should never ride above 15 mph, particularly in the outer boroughs where trips are often longer, seems a tad unrealistic to me. If anything, in order to make human-powered travel more attractive to the masses we should try to make it faster. That would include building bike highways, legalizing e-bikes, mainstreaming velomobiles which let average riders go 25 or 30 mph, and so forth. The better bikes can compete with cars and mass transit in terms of speed, the better chance we have of them reaching a high mode share.

  • Joe R.

    Well-designed PBLs don’t slow down cyclists at all. NYC’s half-assed attempts at PBLs would be laughed off the streets in places like the Netherlands.

    As for 35+ mph speeds, there are times when I’ve been riding east on Union Turnpike, usually during the winter months, when there’s a strong tailwind. I’ve seen ~60kph (38 mph) on my bike computer for long stretches, even on the parts which were mostly level. Most of the drag on a bike is aerodynamic. When a tailwind eliminates that you fly right along.

  • bobfuss

    The sum total of all those comments is less than you have directed towards me in a single 24 hour period. So while it is entirely predictable that a teller of uncomfortable truths might attract some hostility on a narrow, single-issue advocacy site like this, the question remains why you, out of everyone here, takes that beyond the odd throwaway comment to become a pathological obsession.

    I do think you need to reflect on why my articulations cause you disproportionate anguish and distress. On the fact of it, reasonable people should be able to encounter disagreement without becoming a stalking monster.

    Stuart and I exchanged a number of comments and I cannot recall any question of his that I did not fully counter. And he certainly has not complained about not being fully answered. So I suggest that you ask him why that is. For my part, I do not know which of his questions you mean.

  • Joe R.

    My experience pretty much agrees with cmu’s here. Either we have two prescient or telepathic people here, or we have two people who just are able to keep maintain a good state of situational awareness. I think it’s the latter. Drivers about to pull out of spots give you cues, like the front wheels starting to turn left. And I tend to keep somewhat aware of what’s going on to my left, especially when I get near intersections, so as to avoid right hooks. As cmu said, it’s called defensive cycling.

  • Joe R.

    Same here. I usually just seamlessly merge into traffic to get around double-parked vehicles. To me it’s more a minor annoyance than something worth making a big deal about. We already have lots of better reasons to get pissed off at dangerous drivers.

  • Corvus Corax

    I don’t want to say ‘famous last words’, so I will just wish you continued good luck. But please, don’t forget about Icarus.

    I started riding probably before you were born, and pay constant attention to my surroundings, yet I have been doored a couple of times, and have had more close calls with drivers suddenly pulling out, right hooking, and such, than I would wish. I guess I am just not as good as you at being ‘able to keep maintain a good state of situational awareness’, but better than all those dead and injured cyclists, who must’ve deserved what they got for not paying better attention. Really?

  • Vooch


    it’s high time we get ourselves a couple of velomobiles and reclaim the BQE for active transportation !

    but seriously – NYC PBLs are just primitive short stretch PBLs.

    One day soon, we can hope some roadway space on all of Robert Moses urban parkways can be returned to cyclists. People forget that Moses included PBLs in his initial parkway projects.

    So let’s get PBLs on

    Bronx River Parkway
    Mosholu Parkway
    Henry Hudson Parkway
    FDR Drive
    Harlem River Drive

    and all the rest….

  • Joe R.

    Just curious but when were you born? I’ve been riding for 39 years. I was born in 1962. Never had a major incident. Yes, I have been doored a few times, and was almost right hooked once or twice (hit the brakes and turned sharp right to avoid it). Those were back when I was still learning. Haven’t had as much as a fall in the last two decades. I’m not saying nothing can ever happen to me, but I think any cyclist who wants to can eventually ride in such a way as to avoid most of the common mishaps.

  • Joe R.

    I do hope that happens soon. Incidentally, I’ll probably get a velomobile once I know I have some time to enjoy it. That might be only a few years from now. This is the one I like: https://velomobiles.ca/MilanSL-speed.html

    Here’s someone doing a fast ride in one:

  • Vooch

    let me try to understand this :

    A 200 lbs. 200 watt cyclist all of 2′ wide capable of stopping in 11ft at a normal cycling speed of 12 MPH…

    …is more dangerous than;

    A 5,000 lbs. 300,000 watt motor car at least 7′ 6″ wide requiring 115 ft to stop at a normal speed of 35MPH….

    2′ wide machine needs 11ft to stop.
    7’6″ wide machine needing 115ft to stop.

    which is more dangerous ?

  • cmu

    Untrue. Unfortunately for you, you’re violating the laws of physics when you say that. A cycle has skinnier tires and cannot achieve the close-to-1g deceleration of a good car’s brakes. Mass is also tricky…a verhicle’s higher mass both helps and hinders, but, in balance, a cycle will skid its tires well before a car.

    At 30 mph it takes 44ft at 1g deceleration. A car can get .85-.9g, a cycle less. If you skid the tire, the deceleration drops, so your figure is fantasy.

  • cmu

    I am over 65. I doubt that. While irrelevant since it’s anecdotal, I’ve never been doored (or close,) never been almost-hit-by-a-car either. I can of course thank my lucky stars, but I prefer to think it’s because I ride really slow and am watchful.