A London cyclist was violently mugged by four men, who pinned him to the ground and almost rode a scooter on his chest before flying off with his £3,500 electric mountain bike, on a popular cycling route which has become notorious for many similar incidents of brutal bikejacking.
On February 22nd, the 73-year old Ian Potts was returning home after an off-roading excursion in the Epping Forest on his Canyon Neuron:ON through the River Lea towpath. As he headed south under the A406 — a long and dark underpass with a number of concrete pillars — four men jumped him from behind.
Ian told road.cc, “I was listening to the radio when I felt a pair of hands grabbing me and another on the handlebars, making me crash down.”
He tried to fight them off and resisted at first, until they threatened to pin him down by driving a scooter on his chest. He said, “They drove the scooter on me, not fully on top of my chest but to a point where it pinched me and held me down.”
“I was concerned about the wheel and my feet which were tangled. They were pulling and shoving, trying to grab it from underneath my feet, so I just yelled at them: ‘Just let me get my f****** feet out’. They pulled the bike off and then they were gone.”
Ian said that he was he concerned that they might come back. “So I just curled up, moaned and pretended to be hurt, almost like a corpse. I just hoped they would disappear, and thankfully they did.”
They also left with his pannier, which had his spare battery and his wallet with some money, debit card and his Freedom Pass. After a while, he got up, headed out on the road and told a bus driver that he’d been mugged, who let him to get on.
Ian said that this was the first time he had been robbed in the 50 years that he’s lived in London, and was just glad that it wasn’t as bad it could have been. “They could have really hurt me and even stabbed me had I tried to fight back. I got off lightly,” he said.
He had gone to the Epping Forest with his buddy was heading south via the Lea River towpath. His buddy was around 20 yards ahead of him when they entered the underpass. After the muggers stole Ian’s bike, they whizzed past his buddy, who noticed Ian’s eMTB and went back looking for him, but by that time Ian had left on the bus.
After the attack, Ian reported to the police, who according to him were nice and friendly, but told him to ‘forget it’ and that he’s ‘not getting any of it back’. “They’re putting their hands up, it’s a dead end,” he said.
Recently, the River Lea towpath has been a site of a number of brutal bikejacking where knife-wielding men have assaulted cyclists. The towpath, which traverses all the way from Waltham Abbey to the Thames at Limehouse Basin, along the Tottenham, Hackney and Walthamstow Marshes, is a popular route for many cyclists.
In February, a road.cc reader was knocked from his bicycle by masked men and threatened with a knife during an attack on his ride home from work on the towpath.
Last year, plainclothes police officers made two arrests after coming to the help of a woman who was targeted by muggers at knifepoint in as they attempted to steal her bike near the Hackney Marshes on the towpath.
Besides, a few years ago, Met police were tracing men responsible for a series of knifepoint robberies targeting Hackney towpath cyclists and pedestrians in four separate, brutal incidents in as many days.
Last week, there was a violent bikejacking on another popular cycling route in south London, when Ben, a cyclist was attacked and had his bike taken by two masked men during an ambush, not far from the scene of previous similar incidents.
“It just isn't safe,” Ben told road.cc after the attack. “I just want to warn other people from using it altogether, especially if using a semi-fancy bike, just to prevent the same thing from happening again. The only time I believe it might be safe is on the commute, when the route is busy, but even then I don't think safety can be guaranteed.”
Ian said that he is recovering now, his bruises have gone and his chest has healed, and he’s getting over the trauma. “Though it does set your equilibrium off — when you're on a bike, which is an expensive bike — you think whether am I going in the right route, should I even be going down here?” he said.
He said that the towpath is quite dangerous for cyclists. One of his friends, who’s in the River Lea rowing club had told him that some of their members had been mugged as well while cycling to the club.
“It’s easy for the assailants to get off the towpath and disappear into the urban environment quite easily,” he said.
Ian is now using one of his friend’s mountain bike and started going out with them again.
He said, “I joined the Seaman’s CC when I was 14 and have been cycling ever since. Now at 73 I’m not giving up though it did give me time to reflect on my future routes. I’ve been cycling the Lea for years but not any more.”
Adwitiya joined road.cc in 2023 as a news writer after graduating with a masters in journalism from Cardiff University. His dissertation focused on active travel, which soon threw him into the deep end of covering everything related to the two-wheeled tool, and now cycling is as big a part of his life as guitars and football. He has previously covered local and national politics for Voice Wales, and also likes to writes about science, tech and the environment, if he can find the time. Living right next to the Taff trail in the Welsh capital, you can find him trying to tackle the brutal climbs in the valleys.