Armed robbers now targeting Bay Area mountain bikers

(AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

Criminals in San Francisco, Oakland, San Jose, and other nearby cities can already feel pretty confident that they won’t have to worry about inadvertently targeting an armed citizen given the scarcity of concealed carry permits in the Bay Area, and a rash of robberies of mountain bikers in the hills outside of Oakland is just the latest reminder that while California has a ton of gun control laws on the books, they do far more to stop the law-abiding from protecting themselves than they do to prevent violent crime.

Oakland resident Louisa Spier was riding her mountain bike in the Oakland Hills when she was robbed at gunpoint last month. Spier said three thieves approached her on a trail that runs along Skyline Boulevard and demanded that she turn over her bike; one of them pointed a gun in her face.

“I felt super scared … and super heartbroken,” Spier said. “I love Oakland, I love living in Oakland and I’ve lived here for over 30 years. It made me feel so sad.”

Spier said she was riding alone, which she does regularly, on a Tuesday afternoon, following the median trail home after a ride at Anthony Chabot Regional Park. The trail is popular with both pedestrians and cyclists, and Spier passed a father carrying an infant right before she was approached by the three individuals.

“I said good morning, but in that moment I could see that they were completely covered, hats with brims, masks all the way up to their eyes. The one closest to me had an arm behind his back,” she said.

Oakland police and the East Bay Regional Parks Police Department have reported at least three other robberies of mountain bikers and outdoor enthusiasts in recent weeks, all with generally the same modus operandi; a group of individuals, at least one of them armed, robbing individuals of their bikes, cellphones, and wallets.

Oakland police also issued an alert to the community, calling the robberies “an alarming trend.”

“The department remains vigilant of the numerous incidents occurring in Oakland and urges you to be aware of your surroundings at all times,” Oakland police said. “Don’t be distracted by your electronic devices. Do not resist. Property can be replaced.”

Spier said she hasn’t been mountain biking since the robbery.

“Now that I heard there are more robberies, I will not ride until they stop,” she said.

I hate to break it to Spier, but violent criminals in Oakland aren’t just targeting mountain bikers. They’re also going after people behind the wheel. Carjackings have also become increasingly common in the city, with an 85% increase in carjackings reported last year. Things don’t appear to have improved much this year, though the city’s homicide rate is down slightly compared to this point in 2021.

Oakland police chief LaRonne Armstrong has previously declared that the city needs more “good witnesses” and not more armed citizens, and more recently tried to blame “ghost guns” for the violent crime plaguing his city, but with the city’s police department still hundreds of officers short of its needed staffing levels, you can bet that there are plenty of residents who would love to be able to lawfully carry a firearm in self-defense. Any chance of that happening in the near future depends on the U.S. Supreme Court and its upcoming decision in a case dealing with New York’s “may issue” carry laws, which will hopefully be strong enough to not only undo New York’s laws but the “may issue” laws on the books in seven other states, including California. We have a constitutionally-protected right to bear arms for our own protection, but in the Bay Area the unconstitutional infringements on that right have left criminals with the upper hand; whether on city streets or on the trails in the Oakland Hills.