LAWBREAKERS BEWARE: Local bicycle vigilante will mess you up
He’s a bit like Batman, or maybe Dirty Harry – avenging wrongs committed against cyclists. He even wears body armour, although technically it’s part of his mountain biking equipment. We can’t tell you his name because sometimes he goes too far. Waaaay too far. And when you read what he’s done, you’ll understand why we’re actually a little bit scared of him.
We’ll call him “The Shock.”
Over the past few weeks, Gig City has told you stories that bicycle advocates never tell media when they’re promoting Bike Month – like how some cyclists like to ride high, or how they hook up for sex while on their bikes. This story is even more controversial because it’s about a vigilante cyclist who smashes car windows, catches thieves and locks them to bike racks, and can stop a car engine without the driver even knowing what happened. And even if the driver whipped a Glock out from under the seat, The Shock says he’s not all that worried.
“They’ve already got a weapon. Their vehicle is the biggest weapon they’ve got. I’m not really afraid of a gun because I’ve been threatened by a much larger piece of metal,” he explains. “A gun isn’t much use at 20 yards, anyway. At least, not the way most people hold it.”
The Shock began our interview by recounting an incident where he spotted someone trying to cut a bike lock at the University of Alberta in front of Rodeo Burger a few weeks back. It was a fairly low-key intervention by his standards. He found a security guard, and by the time they got back to the scene, the owner of the bike had arrived and was fighting with the thief.
The Shock says he simply stood ready with his lock until police arrived. He says he would have hit the guy in the leg, but his help wasn’t needed. Why didn’t he just stay at the scene and use a cellphone to call for help? We wondered that, too. And that leads to this next story.
When The Shock lived in Vancouver, he says he discovered someone crouched down trying to steal the fork from his bike. He says he piled the guy into the rack so hard that the would-be thief was temporarily incapacitated. The Shock owned a type of bike lock that worked like handcuffs, and while the loops were too large for hands, he says they worked fine for feet. So he locked the guy to the bike rack and called the fire department from a nearby phone.
He watched the rest from afar. The firefighters, he says, brought out the Jaws of Life, but they didn’t fit, so they used a saw and shielded his foot. Not that the police would care, The Shock says, but he believes it’s best to avoid using your own phone when you intervene with thieves the way he does.
“I’ve had a guy try to wrench me off my bike. I swung my lock and hit him – in the head,” he says. “There’s no such thing as going too far with a thief if you catch them red-handed. You don’t kill them, but if you beat them bad, call 911 from a pay phone. Say, ‘Some guy just beat the tar out of someone.’”
Motorists who pick a fight with The Shock can end up equally sorry. Here in Edmonton, The Shock says he threw his U-lock at the back window of a driver who cut him off and then gave him the finger. The glass was shattered. Another time he was walking a bike through a crosswalk with a group of people when a driver turning right tried to edge through. The Shock crushed the fender with his foot.
He learned a lot about dealing with angry drivers while training to be a bicycle messenger in Calgary. One day he says he watched as one of the experienced messengers was cut off by a man in a sports car. Words were exchanged and the man ran his car at the messenger. The man made the mistake of getting out of his car to confront the messenger, and he soon found himself U-locked by his neck to a parking meter.
Cars with intentionally-loud exhausts are a particular pet-peeve for The Shock, so he’s taken to making simple devices to silence them. He cuts a small section of bicycle tube, fills one end with baking soda and the other with vinegar, and then pinches it closed in the centre. Whenever he wants to silence a motor, he pops one of the homemade devices out of his bag, removes the pinch that separates the ingredients and discretely pushes it up the exhaust pipe. The chemical reaction makes the tube expand inside the pipe, which he says is usually hot enough to melt the rubber just enough so that it sticks without bursting.
He’s used it twice and both times, he says, it shut the engines down dead. The drivers couldn’t start them again, and he says they likely didn’t find out what happened until a mechanic found the blockage.
Witnesses don’t really remember what The Shock looks like – all they can really recall is that they saw a guy on a bike wearing a helmet.
“It’s like having a Roman candle fight in a park. People are going to see you but they aren’t going to be able to give a description of you,” he says, adding that there’s always Plan B.
“You’re on a bike. You can get away.”
But even The Shock admits he’s gone over the edge of reason. A bus driver once cut him off by turning right immediately after passing him. It was near West Edmonton Mall and there was no curb – only a chain link fence. The Shock says he had to grab onto the fence and pull his bike up by his clipped-in feet to keep from being crushed by the bus’ rear wheels.
Enraged, he followed the bus into the WEM transit terminal and confronted the driver, who he says tried to accuse him of being at fault. The driver even said that she was going to report him.
“I said, ‘I’m going to give you a good reason to call the cops.’ So I walked around to the front of the bus and swung my lock and splintered the whole front windshield,” he says. “The bus drivers here suck.”
The Shock has a lot of enemies out there. Some of them are even cyclists. Doesn’t he think the violence just breeds more violence? Could his number come up one day?
“Have you ever been threatened by a car, had someone try to run you over, run you down? We’re human – we’re squishy,” says The Shock about why his actions are justified. “They took it out on me first. Maybe they just need a wakeup call.”
And as for thieves, he says somebody has to do something. That time a few weeks back when he went to find a security guard at the University of Alberta, he says there were a lot of people who were just watching the guy cutting the lock and not doing anything.
“I made a promise to the bike gods that I’d kill whoever stole my bike,” he says. “I’ve had a bike stolen myself … Goddamn scumbags.”