Nard Claar didn’t see the trip wire — set 3½ to 4 feet high — until he ran into it as he rode his bicycle across the bridge on the Rock Island Trail.
The taut cord caught the brake cable to his front wheel. The bike went from about 15 mph to zero instantly. The back wheel went over his head.
“As soon as it hit my frame, I broke the trip wire, but it had already locked my brakes, so I was flipping end over end,” said Claar, 69, an avid cyclist. “I went basically head-first into the cement bike path.”
He broke three ribs and his right collarbone. His helmet shattered and he suffered a concussion.
“If I wasn’t wearing a helmet … or I landed a little bit differently, it could have killed me,” Claar said. He spent about 24 hours in a hospital and has a slew of doctor’s appointments lined up. He might need surgery.
Claar, a local artist, was cycling March 28 with Zac Chapman, the executive director of Colorado Springs Food Rescue. Chapman was cycling just behind Claar. Although he also crashed, he wasn’t severely hurt.
The cord appeared to have been deliberately strung across the trail near North Academy Boulevard and Constitution Avenue. It was knotted to either side of a metal bridge and pulled taut. Colorado Springs police are investigating it as a crime, said Lt. Howard Black.
Susan Davies, executive director of the Trails and Open Space Coalition (TOSC), wrote in a letter to the cycling community that Claar was injured “by somebody aiming to hurt bicyclists.”
“The injured cyclist is a local artist who spends much of his time trying to make our community better,” says the letter, which was co-signed by local organizations Kids on Bikes, Medicine Wheel Trail Advocates, SoCo Velo and Pedals and Pints. “The offender is as much a criminal in our eyes as the person who hides along a road and shoots at unsuspecting passing cars.
“Whether done out of hatred or as a prank, it is dangerous and thoughtless. The bicyclists could have been permanently injured or worse. All of us must defend against these illegal actions. We must be vigilant and report them when we see them occur. These criminals must understand the seriousness of their actions.”
Although Claar said the crash made him nervous, he doesn’t plan to stop cycling.
“To me, the one thing I enjoy about the trails is I don’t have to be aware of cars and so worried about getting killed by a car, but now I question safety on the trails, too,” Claar said. “I’m definitely going to approach my riding on trails much differently from here on out and be much more cautious.
“I mean, because I was looking down at the long, straight trail, and I thought, ‘It’s a downhill, I like to go fast. … There’s nobody around, it’s perfectly safe, I can do this.’ I wasn’t expecting an unknown, nonvisible trip wire to be right there.”
An incident like this should be taken seriously, but it shouldn’t make people afraid to use the trails, said Allen Beauchamp, TOSC bicycle initiative coordinator and engagement chair for Bike Colorado Springs, a TOSC program.
“For the most part, I think it just promotes being aware of your surroundings and acknowledging the fact that malicious behavior does exist in the world around us — but not to have that become a fearful thing,” Beauchamp said. “If we are more aware trail users, we’re just going to have more eyes out looking at our environment, and that will discourage this kind of behavior.”
The Gazette’s Leslie James contributed to this report.
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