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Sept. 25, 2007

Jeff was on the phone to 911 and battling bad cell reception.

"What was the license plate?" he asked me.

"Foxtrot, echo, 'S' as in Sam, 4-3-3."

"Say it again?"

"Foxtrot, echo -- What's 'S'?"

"Sierra," Peter said.

"Oh, right. Foxtrot, echo, sierra, 4-3-3."

Five minutes earlier about 15 of us had been in a single-file paceline near Libertyville. We'd just turned onto St. Mary's Road and were ramping our pace up over 25 mph. Suddenly a white truck passed us, moved to the right and slowed. My initial thought was that he was turning. But when he came to a halt, I realized there was no road, and he was not turning.

This was an attack.

The first few riders were able to ditch into the gravel, but the rider in front of me endoed over his handlebars. On his way down, the truck's tailpipe sliced his shin, and I think it was his foot that swung up and broke the truck's taillight. About five others went down in the ensuing pileup, but fortunately the wounds were minor. (Bob would be taken to the emergency room for precautionary X-Rays, but they came back negative.)

I stayed upright myself and pursued the truck far enough to get its plate. I started yelling it so I wouldn't forget -- "FES! 433! FES! 433!" -- and immediately txt'ed it to myself. (Unfortunately, I couldn't make out the state. Our guesses included Utah, Arizona and Idaho. It turned out to be Florida.)

Everyone was OK, thank goodness. I have the rest of the tale up over at Chicago Bike Racing. Long story short: The guy turned himself in, as is apparently common with hit-and-run's, and the outstanding Lake County sheriff's deputies who responded to the scene didn't buy a word of his story (he claimed he was avoiding a squirrel). He would spend the next 48 hours in jail and now faces felony charges.

It helped immensely that two other drivers returned to the scene to give statements. They were able to confirm to the deputies that we had been riding single-file and as far to the right as possible.

It's an amazing feeling to see and hear the handcuffs put on someone who has just tried to do you harm. Most car-on-bike attacks don't end this way, so we are of course thrilled with the outcome thus far.

The positive reaction from the bike community has been wonderful. Yesterday set a record for visits to Chicago Bike Racing. People are promising to help see that the driver is not undercharged. It's nice to know that as a group, we refuse to be bullied.

The best outcome will be publicity. Cars and bikes need to be reminded to share the road. Reckless driving needs to be stigmatized, but cyclists also need to be aware of the impact we have on local residents. We demand patience, but we must return courtesy. Every time we ride more than two abreast or take up more than our share of the road, we aggravate drivers unnecessarily, and more cases of road rage will be inevitable. Next time it might not end with cuffs, and next time it might not end with everyone riding home safely.

Photo taken: Sept. 22, 2007