(UPDATED 5:34 PM with additional SCL information, 6:07 PM with city plan for camps in the area)
ORIGINAL REPORT, 12:49 AM: For years, Jackie has commuted by bicycle between her job in West Seattle and home in Georgetown, using the trail under the West Seattle Bridge.
What happened to her Thursday night has never happened before. And she wants to get the word out. Via e-mail, she told us it happened around 8:30 pm:
I was jumped by a guy at Spokane and Marginal on the bike trail. It was that super dark patch (the city hasn’t fixed the lights, they’ve been out since last year). A guy jumped out from the bushes in front of my bike. I had to slam on my brakes to avoid hitting him. He then came around my left side and grabbed at my shoulder, I’m guessing to drag me from my bike. I was so scared. I ducked (luckily I was wearing a close-fitting nylon jacket, so he couldn’t get hold of me), and I rode as fast as I could out of there.
It happened near an area where bicyclists have noticed an increasing number of campers. There is no way to know for sure whether the man who tried to grab Jackie lives there or elsewhere. But in response to some followup questions we asked after her first note, she added:
I don’t know if the individual this evening was associated with the larger encampment or was with the small group of tents on the west side of Marginal Way. He did mutter incoherently at me as he was trying to grab me. I’m assuming he was either under the influence or was in need of psychiatric help. The bushes/vegetated area he seems to have emerged from (but I’m not certain, as it was dark and everything happened quickly) are on the north side of the sidewalk. For what it’s worth I didn’t get a good look at him, but he was African American, maybe in his 40s or 50s. He was of average build, maybe around 5′ 10″. That is all in my police report as well.
She has been “road-riding” for at least a decade. We asked if, given what happened, she has specific advice for other riders:
I guess the one thing I would tell cyclists would be to avoid this part of the trail, as it is dark and you are vulnerable (as you’re removed from the road and easily ambushed). If you do take the trail, try to ride in a group if you can. I’m planning on staying in the road the next time I ride through here, especially in the evening. Usually I avoid the road during the day because of all the truck traffic, but I’m not sure what else to do. I asked the responding officer if it would be better to take West Marginal south and go over the First Avenue Bridge – he said it’s more dangerous down there.
The area where this happened is, we believe, outside Southwest Precinct jurisdiction, but we’ll be asking police later today who’s accountable, and also checking on the lighting situation Jackie mentioned.
10:42 AM: We are following up with City Light for starters regarding why the lighting isn’t fixed after months of reports – the e-mail chain provided to us indicates it’s more complicated than a matter of broken bulbs but not why it’s taken so long. SPD is next on our list.
12:43 PM: Just went back to the scene and caught up with a city team that included the mayor’s public-safety adviser, Scott Lindsay. He said this report hit the radar of the Emergency Operations Center’s daily homelessness-related activation first thing this morning. A trash cleanup was already planned in the area for next week, he said – a Seattle Public Utilities rep was there, too – but now it’ll be expanded, and they’ll be addressing the tents encroaching on the paths. Overall, he said, they’re putting together an “action plan.” We’ll have a separate followup by day’s end with this and more.
1:35 PM: What else we’ve learned so far:
-Seattle City Light spokesperson Scott Thomsen says a fix for the lights requires an “engineering” solution which has not yet been finalized, and permits will be required.
-City Councilmember Lisa Herbold tells us she was saddened to hear about last night’s attack and that she had been “trying to get SPU’s attention to this location for several weeks to address the need for garbage pickup. The Mayor’s office notified me yesterday that garbage pickup will happen next week.” Here is another photo we took today – this is the sidewalk on the south side of Spokane, across from the area where the attack happened.
-SPD spokesperson Det. Mark Jamieson provided us with a copy of the police report on the incident – nothing in it that we hadn’t learned directly from Jackie in our e-mail exchange late last night – and also confirmed that in addition to local officers, the department’s Navigation Team is aware of the situation too. (As we’ve reported in recent community-meeting reports, or as you might have heard from citywide media, this is the departmentwide SPD team tasked as of recently with homelessness-related intervention/enforcement.)
5:34 PM: More information from SCL spokesperson Thomsen about the light-repair status:
After the streetlight outage was reported in December, crews made a determination that the outage did not involve the lamp fixtures, which would have been a quick fix. That shifted the task to our streetlight engineering group, which determined that the outage was caused by damage to the underground power supply, likely from someone who was trying to steal copper wiring from a hand hole access vault.
Engineers started sketching the designs for a restoration, but have been unable to complete that work due to a number of homeless people who have been camping in the area and debris.
Plans are in place for the city to clear that encampment next week, which will allow our engineers to complete their work.
Once the engineers have finished, we have a contractor ready to do the repairs.
6:07 PM: The city has more details on its plan to sweep the tent camp by the bike path next week and to clean trash along Spokane Street – read about it here.