NEW ORLEANS - A steady stream of cyclists on Esplanade Avenue in Treme put new shared bike lanes to good use Monday night. But an alarming duo of attacks on cyclists on the street means some are taking extra precautions.
“It’s pretty unsettling,” Maya Taylor, who bikes to work daily on Esplanade. “It definitely makes you more aware wherever you're biking if something like that is happening to cyclists.”
A man was riding his bike at Esplanade and North Robertson Street around 2:20 a.m. Friday when another man stepped in front of him, slowing him down, said New Orleans police. That's when another man hit him in the mouth with a baseball bat, fracturing his jaw.
“It's horrible,” said cyclist Eugenia Uhl. “I just don't know what makes people want to do stuff like that.”
But what happened later that morning is even worse. Police say few blocks down the street, in the 1200 block of Esplanade, two attackers approached another man on a bike. This time, they struck the victim so hard, his skull fractured. Neighbors told police they saw two African-American males in hooded sweatshirts fleeing the scene.
“I'm not happy to hear the news because it's been really a joy to see all these people everyday ride on the new lanes,” said Lorenzo Bergen, who owns a home on Esplanade.
Police said the attackers may have sent two cyclists to the hospital, but the motive wasn't robbery. Nothing was stolen from the victims.
Police said these attacks are different from the so-called "knock out" game because here, a baseball bat was used.
“Baseball bats, oh man. I tell you, you're on a bike, you can make a quick getaway; that's all you can do,” cyclist Keith Cummings said.
“I've heard of other people getting mugged on this street. I think it's all because of like the intrusion of wealth into this area,” cyclist and community organizer Y. Frank Southall said. “As this area attracts a lot more well-to-do folks, I think we're going to see these attacks rise when you have obvious targets. People know they have money; it's just going to continue.”
Police said they've increased patrols in the area. And cyclists said the attacks won't keep them from doing what they love.
Police describe the attackers as black males between 16 and 18 years old.
One was tall with a thin build in a gray hooded sweatshirt. The other was between 5'6" and 5'8" in a black hooded sweatshirt. If you have any information, call Crimestoppers at 504-822-1111.