Severed brakes may have led to man's crash on bike-share bicycle in Seattle

Severed brakes on Lime Bikes in Seattle (KOMO Photo)

SEATTLE - A man riding a bike-share bicycle in Seattle reportedly crashed into a tree overnight after its brakes failed - and it's possible someone may have purposefully severed the bike's brake cable.

A Seattle Fire Department spokesperson says the 18-year-old man was taken to the hospital in stable condition after the crash, which happened on Fuhrman Avenue East in Portage Bay, a block from University Bridge.

A KOMO News crew responded to the scene and found a Lime e-bike there with slashed brakes.

Police say this has been an ongoing problem, with several incidents of brake slashings over the summer. I found four vandalized Lime bikes with their brakes either cut or ripped out Tuesday.

“It’s kind of scary because there are some big hills,” said Garrett Berkey. “You want to make sure you can stop safely.”

Berkey works at Recycled Cycles, and says anyone renting a bike-share bicycle should go through certain safety precautions before activating the bike. He says check the entire length of the brake cables, make sure the wheels and bar are straight and that the chain is properly attached.

He says test the brakes without sitting on the bicycle by pulling the handles and rocking the bike gently back and forth to make sure they’re working.

“One little thing could mean that you can’t stop. And that means if someone is pulling in front of you, that could be a bad day,” Berkey said.

Seattle Police say if they prove someone vandalized a Lime bike and caused an injury, that person could be charged with assault.

LimeBike says less than one percent of its fleet has been vandalized. In a statement to KOMO News, they wrote, “Rider safety is Lime’s top priority. If anyone has information relation to this or other acts of vandalism, we urge you to contact Seattle Police Department right away.”

Lime’s phone app allows riders to flag a bicycle, which deactivates it immediately. You can also call 1-888-LIME-345 if you see a problem.

One suspect was captured on video apparently sabotaging the brakes on several bike-share bicycles parked at 4th Avenue and South Main Street around 11:45 p.m. on June 14. He can be seen manipulating what appears to be a cutting tool around the bikes’ brakes before walking out of the video frame.

Police also found surveillance photos from a month earlier that appear to show the same man damaging a bike’s brakes near 4th Avenue and Holgate Street at around 11:15 p.m., said Jonah Spangenthal-Lee of the Seattle police.

Similar cases have been reported in other parts of the city since March - including downtown and the International District - but police have not yet confirmed whether there is any linkage between the incidents.

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