After returning to Phoenix in 2004 to attend graduate school at ASU, Piatkowski told bike buddies John Menard and Patrick Carlson about what he'd heard and about his desire to start something similar in Tempe.

"I was, like, 'There's nothing stopping us from doing that here,'" says Piatkowski, who's now working toward his doctorate at the University of Colorado. "We sorta went from there and figured it'd be good way to have a party, meet more people, and ride bikes."

In August 2005, the three organized the Tempe Structure Scramble. Racers were given a manifest with a list of checkpoints to navigate. About 20 people each paid a $5 entry fee, and the winner got the pot. Besides friends' houses and ASU landmarks, Piatkowski had stops atop campus parking structures.

Piatkowski says he designed the race to be a mix of speed, strength, and navigational know-how.

Ko, who worked one of the checkpoints during the race, described whence events like the Structure Scramble sprang:

"The whole thing emulates, essentially in fast-forward, the day in the life of a bike messenger. The term 'alleycat' is for a race that messengers put on for each other, to find out who's the fastest, who's got the most balls, who'll race through whatever intersection without stopping."

Since that first Scramble, there've been almost two dozen alleycats and sprint events around the Valley. Ko says races aren't just limited to fixed-gear bikes, as mountain or road cycles can be ridden in the events. It's just that fixies go faster.

Ko organized his first race in February 2007 and called it Numbers. The gimmick was that riders collected various street and building numbers and added them up to determine the final destination. The winner of the event, Billy Franevsky, took home a Centurion track frame.

The competition was tame compared to the more infamous Dagger Death Race last October. Put on by Franevsky's Daggers BMX crew, it featured such gonzo tasks as riding into a candlelit Tempe Butte Cemetery to get a rubbing from a certain headstone, slamming either a beer or a shot of hot sauce en route, and maneuvering through a darkened tunnel to a soundtrack of people getting murdered.

While Ko's alleycats haven't been as spooky, they've offered a different kind of thrill. He says he's set his races in downtown Phoenix to provide an alternative to ASU-oriented races and to interact with an active urban environment. His choice of location was inspired by alleycats he'd seen in his native D.C., where riders were forced to navigate traffic-clogged roundabouts to reach checkpoints.

To plan his races, Ko pored through schedules for upcoming events in Copper Square, for nights when lots of people would be out and about. For instance, his second race, Letters, occurred last August on the same night as a Phoenix Mercury game at U.S. Airways Center and an Ana Gabriel concert at Dodge Theatre.

"The cars, the people, the congestion are the obstacles that make the race more difficult," Ko says.

Shawn Brick, who regularly participates in criteriums and category road racing, says he digs the alleycats because they aren't as uptight as more mainstream competitions. (Brick isn't alone, as numerous competitive racers are regulars at the events.)

"The competition is just a lot more chill," Brick says. "Kinda nice to go out there and do this and not be super-serious, like when you're training for an event."

Another attraction, Brick acknowledges, is that the races are adrenaline-inducing.

"There's definitely a thrill because of the unknown," Brick says. "And because of the open environment."

Alleycats aren't against the law, but riders must obey the same rules of the road as motorists, which preclude blowing through red lights or cutting dangerously in and out of traffic.

Many riders don't like being pigeonholed as adrenaline freaks or Jackass-like daredevils, but that's exactly how some appear. YouTube has a video of a local fixie rider speeding along Loop 202 during the Dagger Death Race.

Even though tragedy hasn't occurred locally, there's definitely potential for it.

Matthew Manger-Lynch, 29, was killed in February when an SUV hit him as he was attempting to cross against a red light during the annual Tour de Chicago alleycat.

Brick says such races in the Phoenix area aren't designed to involve illegal activity, but he adds, "It's nice that [alleycats are] a little bit more uncontrolled. You just have to have your head on a swivel. It's not like we're out there to hurt anybody, or ourselves."


It's First Friday in June, and more than a dozen fixed-gear fanatics and other cyclists have massed in front of HoodRide in downtown Phoenix.

While art-walkers peruse spray-paint stencilings and stickerwork at HoodRide, Terrence Murtagh and a few other riders are busy putting on a show in the street.

As the 27-year-old bartender at the Rogue in Scottsdale cruises along, he swings his leg over the front handlebar of his jet-black Fetish track bike while simultaneously pushing back hard on the pedal with his left foot, causing the bike to come to a skidding stop. It's a cool trick (referred to as a "leg over" skid) and it's not the only one in Murtagh's repertoire. He'd just been poppin' wheelies while friends Tim Reynolds, Sammy Black, and Steven Ferrer watched atop their fixed-gears on the sidewalk.

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My Voice Nation Help
16 comments
Dfkjfn
Dfkjfn

um you didnt actualy talk to the race orginizers did ya wasnt my first race ive set up nor my last first race as a crew..

state employee
state employee

the one issue that truely needs to be investigated is most ignored in regards to the az state hospital. since the ceo john cooper has started his career at the state hospital there has been major in justices and lack of concern for the safety of both staff and patients.john cooper before coming to the state hospital ran a senior living home. how does that make him experienced running a mental health facility???since he took over we have avaraged over 650 assaults a year,4 patient deaths due to neglegance,and over 1,000 injured eployees(brokrn jaws,fractured bones,stitches,infections and some requiring major surgery)! these numbers have doubled and tripled since he took over. he is responsible for major cover ups of his securitry supervisors involved in multipul sexual harrassment cases,patient abuse(allowing pts to fight eachother..we have had investigators uncovering alot of these issues and yet the state is still taking its time in dealing with it. talk to the employees,there is much more to invetigte and discuss!! the people of az have a right to know!! fight back state hsp employees!! az state hospital is not safe for patients or employees!!

state employee
state employee

I just now happened to see the comment written by Alice Vitte. I understand the motivation to protect her husband... but all of us who work with him: no such injuries noted. ASH protected him to save face, but someone with a temper like that should not be working with vulnerable patients.

citizen
citizen

mrs. vitto, you and your husband are both liars. you're only a liar because you believe the lies he tells you. mrs. ruebbelke-smith never even got close to him or laid a finger on him and he knows it. she is a pacifist who has NEVER physically hurt another human in her life! she now has a permanent scar on her leg and suffered FAR worse injuries that your weak husband! do you think she got to go to the hospital? no, she spent the night in jail for riding her bike. they took away her only form of transportation for no reason! talk about loosing money, you have nothing to complain about! anyone who would blame their injuries (from crashing their work vehicle into their own security booth) on innocent people is totally distrustfull. don't think there aren't eye witnesses that saw him crash. the car paint is probably still in that security booth! i could care less about his SELF INFLICTED injuries. you can pamper him all you want, he obviously needs it! that's where the dent in the car came from, there is no other way for it to have occured. it would have been impossible to kick it in that way, especially while riding a bike! who is he trying to kid? if the hospital would actually release the real footage (if they haven't distroyed it already) it would clear the whole matter up. end of story. you all are hiding the real story because you are guilty of total and blatant misconduct. i pray neither of you are christians as you "appear" to be because you got some bad karma coming your way from being liars. vitto, have an unbelievably negative and evil spirit within you. just tell the truth and be honest! stop living a lie.

Concerned citizen
Concerned citizen

If your husband went to the emergency room with a "black eye" and "some swelling" he is a pussy that should go back to what ever menial job he had before he got fired and decided to become a night security "officer". I was the last person out of the hospital. Your husband was still alert and cognizant enough to kick at me and instead hit my bike. His glasses, in one piece mind you) were still on his fat fucking face and his shirt wasnt ripped. He had only exited his van long enough to threaten to "beat the fucking ass" of the guy he had previously tried to run over. Your husband is trying to save face for fucking up a job that a monkey could do by claiming he was assaulted. I see your naivity in regards to how much of a man your husband actually is also extends to your lack of knowledge when it comes to the law as well. Anyone can be accused of a crime, that doesnt make them guilty. For instance i can accuse you of being a fucking dolt idiot. That doesnt make you a fucking dolt idiot, however marrying that sad sack of shit doesn't help your case.

Alicia Vitte
Alicia Vitte

I have put much thought into my making a comment on this article as this is a personal topic for me. While I was not at the Az State Hospital during the race I was at the hospital where they took my husband Giovanni afterwards. This article refers to "alleged photos" which show swelling of the face, and the comments from participants in the race. Let me share what I saw that night. I was led through the emergency room and I see that my husband has a black eye and swollen cheek. I see his ripped uniform and his broken glasses. I also see the marks upon his chest and legs, just as he smiles and tells me not to worry I am told that I have to go back to the waiting room while they take my husband for a cat scan as they suspect swelling of his brain or concussion. I read in the article that Ms. Ruebbelke Smith was man handled and detained by guards. I am sure that was unpleasant - my experience that night was unpleasant as well. The next day I watched my husband explain to our daughters why he looked the way he did. In the following week I watched as he went to doctor visits to check his vision and repair his glasses. I assisted him in budgeting to buy a new uniform. I watched him return to work and continue in his job. I understand that the people in this race are claiming innocence over a misunderstanding and Ms. Ruebelke Smith is claiming she is a victim because she lost her bike, but I see the flip side. I see my husband that went to work to help keep the people of this state safe, a thankless job most nights, come home injured and now he is being slanted by the participants of this race as reckless and dangerous. As an avid reader and defender of this publication I am saddened by this article and its lack of research. Did Mr. Leatherman go to the hospital records showing date and time of entry and release to review if the photos of injuries match those described by the hospital staff? Did he take the time to review statements made by other officers? Did anyone at all question why, if no one was in the guard shack that night, the guards were on alert and the hospital gate sealed? Did he question that fact that there are no skid marks on the pavement or grass at the hospital to indicate Giovanni jumping curbs or squealing tires as was stated by one of the racers? Did he question why if Ms. Ruebbelke Smith is being charged by the State if she did nothing wrong? New Times prides itself on showing real life stories about Arizona to Arizona and I have always enjoyed that but now I have to question the integrity of an authors story and whether this is a paper I should continue to support. The men and women of the State Hospital have a job that most people never see or appreciate, but picture for a moment how worse off we would be if they were not there doing the job they do. Now take a moment please and try to understand that while everyone in the race that night was Just trying to have a good time - my husband and his co workers were doing their job.

rationalmind
rationalmind

The Hospital is a state-run institution and P.P.D. are municipal employees. They would have to obtain a court order to be able to "watch the tape" from that evening. Eye witness accounts are proven to be unreliable. Somewhere between unintentional mistakes and hysteria lies the truth.

Forrest
Forrest

It's a darn shame that the author of this article decided to ignore the fact that we all pulled together to build our friend a new bike for free when hers was (wrongfully) detained by the PPD. I guess only squeaky wheels get grease. No pun intended. I've spoken with employees of the hospital and have been informed that the guards tend to watch television in their shack when they should be working and doing things like making sure people don't wander onto the grounds. What probably happened was that the guard on duty was slacking off and not paying attention. Once he realized that there were some people where they shouldn't be, he flipped out because, were he to get caught, he would lose his job. If he were paying attention, this mess wouldn't have happened in the first place. Since it has happened, though, I hope the hospital guards are brought to justice for what they did.

We are not punks, nor are we thrill-seeking hooligans. We are just a bunch of people of varying ages with a common interest. If hipsters hadn't hijacked bikes, we'd be looked at as nothing more than nerds.

Dan
Dan

"Its a shame that the pure fun and joy of one of these events will be clouded by the incident at the hospital. I told a friend of mine that works for the P.P.D. about this article and the incident at hand and he has actually seen the hospital surveillance video from that night and said it was as brutal as some of the gang fights he has seen. Two security guards where jumped by a total of about 8 bike riders... What a shame I have always been a lover of my bike and would love to get involved with these races but what a shame..."

what a shame? wow... I actually was in this event and was trapped inside the gates upon entering (the entry clearly did not have any signage suggesting entry was illegal and the gates were wide open), there was only one guard that was verbally confronted and that was after he made several attempts to strike as many cyclist as he could w/his van, as for the physical confrontation, there was none, none of us were an a position to strike any guards as most of us were scrambling for an exit, we did yell at him several times to stop, most of us pleaing for him not to strike anyone else, but other than that there were no physical altercations, aside from the one individual that was detained by the gauds and that was after she was already apprehended and was inflicted onto her persons by said guards, so not only did this brutal gang land style attack never happen, but if it did it could have already been used as evidence against the individual obtained, but since it doesn't exist it was not, so maybe you shouldn't post comments on events that yr "friend" clearly fabricated in an attempt to make us out to be criminals for whatever gains, basically in so many words yr friend is a lair and you as a mouth piece for yr friend need to get yr facts strait before condemning the actions of people that you do not know, cause most of us are pretty nice people.

Dan
Dan

"Its a shame that the pure fun and joy of one of these events will be clouded by the incident at the hospital. I told a friend of mine that works for the P.P.D. about this article and the incident at hand and he has actually seen the hospital surveillance video from that night and said it was as brutal as some of the gang fights he has seen. Two security guards where jumped by a total of about 8 bike riders... What a shame I have always been a lover of my bike and would love to get involved with these races but what a shame..."

what a shame? wow... I actually was in this event and was trapped inside the gates upon entering (the entry clearly did not have any signage suggesting entry was illegal and the gates were wide open), there was only one guard that was verbally confronted and that was after he made several attempts to strike as many cyclist as he could w/his van, as for the physical confrontation, there was none, none of us were an a position to strike any guards as most of us were scrambling for an exit, we did yell at him several times to stop, most of us pleaing for him not to strike anyone else, but other than that there were no physical altercations, aside from the one individual that was detained by the gauds and that was after she was already apprehended and was inflicted onto her persons by said guards, so not only did this brutal gang land style attack never happen, but if it did it could have already been used as evidence against the individual obtained, but since it doesn't exist it was not, so maybe you shouldn't post comments on events that yr "friend" clearly fabricated in an attempt to make us out to be criminals for whatever gains, basically in so many words yr friend is a lair and you as a mouth piece for yr friend need to get yr facts strait before condemning the actions of people that you do not know, cause most of us are pretty nice people.

concerned citizen
concerned citizen

"I told a friend of mine that works for the P.P.D. about this article and the incident at hand and he has actually seen the hospital surveillance video from that night and said it was as brutal as some of the gang fights he has seen. Two security guards where jumped by a total of about 8 bike riders..."

All i can determine from this dribble is that either your "friend" at the PPD is a fucking liar, your friend at the PPD is an idiot, or that you have no friends but wanted to sound important and informed.

wanker
wanker

thanks for your comment "wanker" i cant wait to get "creamed" ( am i going to be secreted on? ) by a bus. ill sit and laugh with you, maybe even share some of the "cream".

im assuming you are british, as you used brit slang. so , ill speak in a language you understand

piss off you bloody cunt.

cheers.

Jeremy
Jeremy

Its a shame that the pure fun and joy of one of these events will be clouded by the incident at the hospital. I told a friend of mine that works for the P.P.D. about this article and the incident at hand and he has actually seen the hospital surveillance video from that night and said it was as brutal as some of the gang fights he has seen. Two security guards where jumped by a total of about 8 bike riders... What a shame I have always been a lover of my bike and would love to get involved with these races but what a shame...

dk rogers
dk rogers

after reading this story all I have to say is wow what a bunch of wankers. can�t wait until they get creamed by a bus during one of their little races. i�ll sit back and laugh my ass off then.

hugh
hugh

Sounds like a great group to hang out with. Act like obnoxious punks at a hosptial, get in a fight with security, and then run away, leaving a woman to take the blame.

fixed
fixed

good job Ben.

 
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