The incident occurred near Houghton Road and Old Spanish Trail.

Editor’s note: Kenneth Lenger sent along this account on an incident that occurred on Old Spanish Trail last Wednesday. He said they didn’t call the police because they weren’t sure what jurisdiction they were in. He considered stopping into a police station nearby, but eventually decided against it. 

I think as cyclists we need to make sure we report things like this. If it were to happen again it would illustrate a pattern and it makes it clear to the police that not everyone on the road respects our right to be there. 

Guy McArthur (another cyclist) and I were riding west on the shoulder along Old Spanish Trail, almost to Houghton Rd. An older green pickup truck going the opposite way (east) crossed well into our lane and sprayed us with some unknown liquid (might have only been water but I don’t know for sure) from a device he obviously installed on the truck for that specific purpose. The spray was actually projecting to his left and forward from the vehicle, so it wasn’t just over-spray from the windshield washers. It was also a large amount of liquid in a wide fan. I rode for another 20 miles after that, and seemed to have some burning in my eyes, but that may have been a perceived feeling and not from the liquid.  When I got home I showered and tried to rinse my face and eyes as best I could. I felt OK when I woke up the next morning.

What really concerns me is that this is not simply an incident of momentary road-rage in “the heat of the moment”. This guy modified his vehicle for the premeditated purpose of assaulting cyclists and had to swerve out of his lane into oncoming traffic to get close enough to do this. I’m sure he has been and will continue to assault cyclists with this device every chance he gets.

25 thoughts on “Motorist sprays cyclists on Old Spanish Trail”
  1. I am dumbfounded that someone who realizes that the device was intentionally installed opted not to report it to the police.. Yea, let’s wait until someone is injured or killed to speak-up.


  2. I can’t say that I’ve had a-okay relationships with the police over the years. But if something like this had happened to me, I would have called the police AND the paramedics. Being sprayed with something that causes symptoms merits being checked out.

    As for getting the authorities to do something, you do need to be a bit of a squeaky wheel. And, come to think of it, this blog is a great place to come and start squeaking. Because a whole bunch of other cyclists will join your squeaking chorus.

    There IS strength in numbers.

  3.  I think it is actually really to convince yourself not to call the police.

    Many people believe the police won’t do anything. Martha rightfully points out that the people who pester the police see more action. It’s unfortunate that is works that way.

    I also think there is a more psychological issue at work. Maybe it is shock or maybe it is just that you don’t want to believe it happened and if you report it, it makes it more concrete.

    Tucson Bike Lawyer wrote about how lots of bicyclists involved in crashes refuse treatment and police aide because of the shock of the crash.

    I think we all know what we should do, but it’s harder to do them sometimes.

  4. People are nuts, can’t believe the extent that some will go to in order to hassle others.

  5.  “Many people believe the police won’t do anything.”

    Many people would be right.

  6. This is disturbing, but also very, very common.  In my day, I’ve had the following items tossed at me or in my general direction while on foot or riding a bicycle: bottles (empty and full), fast-food refuse, cigarette butts (some still lit), and, of course, untold verbal epithets.  A friend of mine back home, in the South, once had a tiny green bible thrown at him, along with a few didactic taunts from the passenger’s seat window.

    In this sick car culture, anything that suggests another way of being in the world is perceived as an imminent threat.  Subsequently, cyclists (and pedestrians, too) have to put up with this nonsense.  My condolences to Mr. Lenger and Mr. McArthur.

  7. Martha’s right.  Being sprayed with an unknown substance should at least merit a call to 911 for medics and police.  Whether you believe the police will do something or not, one thing is certain:  if you don’t call the police nothing will be done.

  8. I’ve had a hand broken by a full soda bottle thrown from a car coming in the opposite direction.  I was on a bike and regret to no end not being able to ID the car.  I only saw a bottle.  The vast majority of drivers have no issue with us cyclists, but the few that do cause enough havoc to make up for all those that don’t.  It’s those few that need to be reported and prosecuted.

  9. Yes, please call 911, wherever the incident takes place. The 911 operator should be able to easily resolve jurisdiction issues if you give them basic info, and route a unit.

    Arguing that there is no point in calling 911 because “they don’t respond” is irresponsible.

    Keep in mind that if there really is someone spraying cyclists, that individual’s behavior may just be the hackneyed tip of the iceberg…

  10. Back when I was bicycling around the country, I was forced off of Highway 61 in Louisiana. Yep, the same Highway 61 that Bob Dylan sang about.

    I got right back on the road.

    Then the guy pulled off, and, in front of his wife and kids and a lot of other people on Highway 61, cussed me out. And here’s what I told him:

    “I have enough $#@^& right to be on this road as you do, so *@#$ off!”

    I continued on and what should pass me but an official State of Louisiana car. I did an angry pantomime for the benefit of the driver of said car, and guess who passed me two cars later? And he was good as gold?

    It was the cusser and his family.

    Never saw him again.

    As soon as I got to a pay phone (this was 1981), I called and made a report. Alas, the dispatcher couldn’t take my report unless I knew what parish the incident happened in. I didn’t know. So, no report.

    Those of you who’ve seen me in person know that I’m short of stature and slender of build.

    And I don’t take. @%^$ off-a nobody. Bike-tripping around America made me this way. If nothing else, it makes you very willing to stand up for your right to use the road.

  11. Your point  and how this relates to this story?  The guy didn’t stop, he didn’t have an opportunity to talk to him and, most  importantly, this isn’t 1981. He could have called immediately(assumption) and as this isn’t backwater La I don’t think the Parish/County thing would have been an issue. Good for you; you swore at the guy. Wow, that really helped.

  12.  My story is yet another example of how bicyclists are treated like second-class citizens on the roads of this country.

    Like I said above, I don’t take shhh! off of nobody. So, when it comes to asserting my right to be on the road as the operator of a two-wheeled vehicle, I’m going to assert it. Even if it means using language that might not be suited for Sunday morning in church.

    So there.

  13. If TPD, given plate numbers and witness descriptions, won’t investigate gun and baseball-bat assaults, they won’t begin to look into this.

  14. Dreamers…The cops hate us.They(and the judges) are drivers too.I’ve ridden in worse places(Western Australia comes to mind)but many Arizona drivers are from the shallow end of the gene pool.We’ll NEVER be a Platinum bicycle city.The weather’s great,the bike culture is nice but the mainstream culture here is ignorant and hostile to bicyclists.

  15. he’s just angry that us cyclists are in better shape than he is.  I bet he hasn’t seen his d!ck since 1980.  Bullying derives from the bully lacking what his victim has.  instead of building himself up, the bully tends to destroy everything/one around him to make him feel substantial.  basic psychology.

  16. “I don’t take shhh! off of nobody”. Speaking of the shallow end of the gene pool; this double-negative would mean you take it off of everyone.  Not taking it off of anyone what you meant perhaps? 

    Do you not see that you are the cycling equivalent of the person who was driving the truck?

    I’m in a duel of wits with an unarmed opponet.  Sorry I ever commented.

  17.  Relax, veloist, it’s just a figure of speech. You’ve used them in conversation, haven’t you?

    Or maybe I should tone it down and say that my many years of traveling solo on a bicycle has made me into a very feisty little almost-old lady. Who is not afraid to stand up to the male egos on this board and out on the road.

    So there.

  18. I have observed that TPD has gotten much, much better with cyclist incidents, although they still have their wayward officers.  Pima County Sheriff’s Dept still seems pretty unreconstructed, unfortunately.  I can understand why this cyclist did not call 911; there are very strong impulses to just keep going and try to forget it and move on.  However, something this pre-meditated should probably be reported.

  19. I have observed that TPD has gotten much, much better with cyclist incidents, although they still have their wayward officers.  Pima County Sheriff’s Dept still seems pretty unreconstructed, unfortunately.  I can understand why this cyclist did not call 911; there are very strong impulses to just keep going and try to forget it and move on.  However, something this pre-meditated should probably be reported.

  20. Well, certainly nothing will happen if nothing is reported.  If it is reported, there is a chance something will be done.  It’s simple logic.

  21. The mainstream culture is not hostile to cyclists, and no proof exists to support your claim.  The vast majority of motorists get on fine with cyclists, and that is evidenced in the fact that the fast majority of rides and rider/driver interactions result in nothing untoward happening.

  22.  This “simple” logic knows no bounds. Don’t think you can hit a baseball to the moon? Well you don’t know if you don’t try! But by all means, report. Doing the same thing over and over again, expecting a different result — well, there’s a clinical definition for that.

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