- A trap set along a Colorado Springs bike trail severely injured a 69-year-old rider late last month.
- Nard Claar suffered a broken right clavicle, three broken ribs, a concussion, and road rash when his bike got caught in a parachute cord intentionally strung across the trail.
- Police are investigating the case as criminal assault. Claar won’t be able to ride again for 2-3 months.
Nard Claar loves to ride his bike. The 69-year-old Colorado artist rides every chance he can get, often going on long-distance touring trips with friends.
That’s why what happened on March 28 hurts twice as much.
Claar was taking advantage of a sunny Thursday morning to ride the Rock Island Trail, a paved bike trail in Colorado Springs, with his friend Zac Chapman. The pair reached the trail’s end and turned around. The way ahead was long and straight, with a slight downhill. Traffic was light, so Claar picked up a little speed.
But in the 10 minutes that passed on the pair’s out-and-back route, someone had strung a taut parachute cord across a bridge on the trail. It blended in so well with the scenery that Claar didn’t see the cord before striking it at 15-18 mph. The trap caught his cantilever brake cable, locking up his front wheel. His Black Mountain Cycles monstercross bike flipped, sending him crashing hard to the pavement and shattering his helmet.
Chapman crashed as well, though not as severely. When he recovered, he saw Claar breathing irregularly and convulsing, and immediately called 911.
Claar doesn’t remember anything between the moment of the crash and when he woke up in the hospital, his torn and bloody cycling kit tossed in a trash bin in the corner. He suffered a broken right clavicle, three broken ribs, a severely sprained left thumb, a concussion, and a bad case of road rash. He may need surgery to repair his clavicle.
“When [I came to], it never occurred to me that it was a booby trap, even though there have been incidents before,” Claar said. “What kind of maniac would do this? What kind of evil being wants to see someone hurt?”
Nearly a week after the crash, he was still in great pain, relying on his wife, fellow artist Sheary Suiter, for help dressing and moving around. Doctors said Claar will be off the bike for 2-3 months, putting a planned summer bikepacking trip from Spokane, Washington, to Missoula, Montana, in jeopardy.
“I like riding trails to be in nature and so I don’t have to worry about cars on the road,” Claar said. “Instead of just being able to enjoy the scenery, I’m going to need to stay alert for traps like this.”
Claar’s crash came a few days after a San Diego cyclist reported narrowly avoiding barbed wire strung neck-high across another trail. Last fall, three men in Portland, Oregon, were arrested for stringing twine across a popular bike and pedestrian path, causing injuries to a rider’s face and neck.
While there’s no database tracking these incidents, traps set on bike trails are a rare but persistent menace. South Carolina attorney Peter Wilborn said that while traps account for a statistically small number of cycling cases, nearly every lawyer in his Bike Law network has experience with them.
“Bike booby traps have been around for 30 years or more,” Tim Blumenthal, president of the advocacy group People for Bikes, told Bicycling after the Portland case. He added that the most common tactics involve sprinkling tacks or burying wood strips with nails pointing upward along the trail.
“For the people who think it’s funny to string wire across a bike path as a joke or prank, I wonder if they know they could face serious jail time if convicted,” said Megan Hottman, a Colorado bike attorney. “The punishment is likely much more severe than they have contemplated. The ramifications of these types of wire traps could be death or serious impairment for life.”
Colorado Springs police are investigating Claar’s case as criminal assault, though they haven’t yet identified any suspects. Anyone with tips can call 719-444-7000.
Claar, meanwhile, said he wants to keep looking forward, and doesn’t want to dwell too much on his assailants.
“They’ve essentially taken 2-3 months of my life away from me,” Claar said. “One part of me absolutely wants to be vengeful, to do to them what they did to me, but what good does that do? There’s no point to a never-ending cycle of hurt.”
The most important thing now, Claar said, is to recover and get back on his bike.
“I have been hit by cars three times, hospitalized three times, had things thrown at me,” he said. “But if I could get on my bike right now and ride, I would… Every time I get on a bike, I smile. I’m like a kid again.”
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