HOUSTON – Houston promotes itself as a bike-friendly city, but that friendliness may be called into question as investigators search for five teenagers who aggressively stole a man’s bike.
The attack left 66-year-old John Preston, a geophysicist, with a broken collar bone, two broken ribs and deep bruises.
He said his attackers are roughly between the ages of 13 and 17, and that the incident happened along the popular Columbia Tap Trail in the city’s Third Ward.
The trail runs along an old railroad right-of-way extending from east downtown to Braes Bayou, southeast of Texas Southern University. Preston said he uses the path four times a day, five days a week.
On Wednesday, as he was passing Lockhart Elementary just after 5 p.m., he said he noticed a cluster of kids on the side of the trail. One of them allegedly lunged.
“I was knocked senseless,” he said. “I think somebody bolted out of the center, the bigger kid, and just literally tackled me.”
As he regained consciousness, he said he could see them walking away with his bike.
“I was very thankful for two things,” he said. “They left me with my life, which I really appreciated that. And two, they didn’t take my belongings. I had a backpack that my daughter had given me from the League of American Bicyclists.”
It was not the first time there has been trouble on the trail. Houston police say they are investigating several incidents, including Preston’s.
Some cyclists have since taken to Facebook, wondering whether they should now ride with weapons to protect themselves.
Preston has some advice.
“Be friendly to people,” he said. “Smile, wave, be cheerful and helpful.”
He has a similar message for his attackers.
“I love people, I love those kids,” he said. “And I just wish I could’ve helped them or said ‘you don’t need to do this, you know? Hit me up for a loan, ask me if I can help you—give me a chance.’”
He said he won’t let this experience stop him from riding his bike. It has clearly not stopped him from seeing the best in people.