Friday, April 20, 2007


I had a really spooky, heart-rate-spiking incident yesterday morning on the way to work on the Segway.

First of all, let me explain that I come to work really early, arriving by 5:30 AM. This time of year in Phoenix, the sun is not yet up, so my trip starts in total black dark and I arrive at work just at the beginning of light appearing on the horizon. I have a bike light on my handlebar guard that provides me about 20 feet of illumination in front of the Segway for that areas where street lights are not present.

About a mile from the end of my trip, I cross the Salt River and then the 202 Freeway on a pedestrian bridge about 8 feet wide. The total length from the start to the end of this bridge is probably 3/4 a mile. The sidewalls on part of the bridge are about 3 feet tall and concrete, with the other side being either steel rails or a chain link fence.

At the end, right before it goes back to regular sidewalk with no walls on each side, it goes down a little incline and curves slightly to the right. Another feature of the last part of this bridge is that there is a LONG stretch (200 feet) at the end where there is a gap in the streetlights and the sidewalk gets REALLY DARK there. This is the one place I need my bike "headlight" more than any other place every morning to make sure the sidewalk is clear of rocks, bricks, bottles, etc which might toss me off if I hit it at 12 miles per hour.

So, I'm cruising along in a "sidewalk trance" basically, almost at the end of the bridge and nearing the point where the streetlight illuminates the sidewalk again finally.

Suddenly, and completely surprisingly, I notice some movement on the sidewalk on my right, up against the 3-foot-tall concrete road barrier wall. It's a shirtless Hispanic man, in a fetal position but up on his knees, leaning against the wall !! As he either hears me or sees my light, he raises his head and moves his hands forward on the sidewalk like he is about to crawl.

But the really scary part was just SEEING him there and seeing him raise his head up and realizing that in this very dark and "expected to be empty" section of sidewalk, someone was there !!

Well, at that exact moment, I have NO IDEA what his intention might be. Is he about to rise up and mug me? Is he going to jump up and point a gun or knife my way? Is he going to jump up and tackle me off the Segway?

I have VERY limited options to defend myself. First of all, from the time I notice him until the time I will pass him is about 2 seconds total, because I'm moving about 16 feet per second. I don't really have time to react to anything he would do.

Imagine my relief when I see this: he puts his head down and SPITS on the ground beneath him right as I fly by him. That's when it hits me: he's just a drunked up or drugged up guy laying on the sidewalk. He's no danger to me.

I had a brief thought of stopping to see if he needed help; but at that time in the morning, in the darkness, I would really be in a pickle if he was sober enough to want to fight or be aggressive toward me in any fashion. Not that I'm worried about defending myself one-on-one, but if he had a knife or any other weapon, then I would be at a distinct disadvantage.

So it was definitely something I will remember and will think about every day when passing that point. Strange and Weird and Scary and SPOOKY.....

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