A Berkeley High School Mountain Bike Team member was bikejacked while riding near Tilden Park Golf Course on Wednesday morning.
Word of the bikejacking spread through the Berkeley cycling community in the hours that followed. Several people alerted The Scanner to what happened.
Nick Hoeper-Tomich, BHS Mountain Bike Team head coach, said the incident took place Wednesday between 8 and 10 a.m. on Golf Course Road between Shasta Road and Grizzly Peak Boulevard in Tilden Regional Park.
"It's super frustrating," he said. The news "went through the team channels pretty fast."
The student was riding near the golf course parking lot when a black Camry cut him off, Hoeper-Tomich said. Two guys in masks got out of the car. They ordered the student off his bike and left with it.
The bikejacking happened in what tends to be a busy area near the golf course, with a lot of people coming and going.
"It's especially brazen," Hoeper-Tomich said. "I’m pretty sure there were people teeing off 50 feet from where it happened."
Mountain Bike Team members were targeted last year during an armed carjacking in Berkeley while coming back from a group ride on a spring weekend.
In that incident, the culprits took a team van and four bikes. A subsequent fundraiser brought in nearly $27,000 to help with the replacement.
Before that, nothing like it had ever happened to the team.
If it had, Hoeper-Tomich would have known about it: He's been with the BHS Mountain Bike Team in some role for nearly 20 years, ever since he was a freshman at Berkeley High himself.
Cyclists have been targeted in East Bay hills
On Wednesday, the student was riding alone when he was confronted near the golf course, Hoeper-Tomich said.
It was at least the third time since June that robbers have targeted cyclists riding in the East Bay hills. The other two incidents happened in Oakland around Skyline Boulevard.
Hoeper-Tomich said there were some similarities between what happened Wednesday morning and the bikejacking incidents last month.
He was not sure whether a weapon had been used Wednesday. But the people responsible seemed "pretty organized" and somewhat tactical in their approach.
"They know what they’re doing," he said.
The Berkeley Scanner has asked the East Bay Regional Park police for any additional details they might release.
Safety tips may help riders avoid bikejacking
After Hoeper-Tomich heard what happened, he sent out several safety tips to the team. He said he hoped the tips might reduce the risk that any more young cyclists would be targeted.
He urged the students to ride together rather than alone; stick to trails rather than roadways; and avoid wearing headphones so as to stay aware of their surroundings.
"Have a ride plan ahead of time and share it with your family so people know where you are in case the worst happens," he said. "And, most importantly: Don't fight back. You don’t know who’s behind the gun, or whether they have the intention of using it or not."
Others have advised cyclists to attach AirTags to their bikes so they can be tracked if taken.
As of Wednesday afternoon, Hoeper-Tomich — who also owns Stay True Cycles in Berkeley — said he was still working to speak with the student and his family to see if they needed help to replace the stolen bike.
"Getting him back on a bike is a priority right now," he said.
He also noted that his wife had been riding in the same area of Tilden park when the bikejacking happened that morning.
"It could easily have been her," he said.
"I think it’s gonna happen again," he added. "It makes me kind of anxious to be out and riding."