Safety advice on bike jackings with acid
Following a spate of five acid attacks on moped riders, most of them late-night food delivery riders, we have the following urgent advice to prevent life-changing injuries.
On 13th July 2017 a criminal moped team attacked five bikers across North East London, in the space of 90 minutes. They stole two bikes during the rampage.
In each attack, they threw a corrosive substance at the rider and at least one of the riders received injuries that were reported as being ‘life changing’.
Officers helping a victim after the London attack
The bike jackings follow news that acid attacks on the public have doubled since 2012, to 504 attacks in 2016 alone.
After the recent attacks, we would urge the most vulnerable group especially – food and other delivery riders on mopeds – to take at least some of the following precautions.
Advice on dealing with an acid attack follows at the end.
Always wear a full face helmet, with the visor down
The face is the main target for the attackers so wearing an open face helmet makes you an easy target.
If you have a flip-front lid, always keep the front down when you are on or near the bike – even when stopped to check directions or to make a call.
It’s not reasonable to keep your visor on lock, although that would be preferable, so try and keep the visor as close to the face as possible to prevent an attacker reaching over to flip the visor up and spray directly into your eyes.
Use a handsfree headset
Bluetooth headsets cost around £20. Investing that small sum means you don’t need to wedge a smartphone between your cheek and the padding – often the reason for going open face.
Always wear gloves
It’s tempting, especially in Summer, to leave the gloves off when you need to access your phone so much for pickups and deliveries.
You can search YouTube yourself for videos showing the effects of acid on the skin, but for your hands especially, at best you can expect to lose their use for 4-6 weeks and at worst be left with a lifetime problem affecting your ability to grip a handlebar firmly or even hold a smartphone.
Always wear leather gloves (textile gloves, especially Summer ones, could let the acid seep through). If you are buying to wear in warmer weather, pay attention to the ventilation and how it could let liquid through to the skin.
Protect your arms and legs
You should always wear proper protection to avoid road rash in case you send the bike down the road. Although we get that on hot Summer days it’s tempting to just wear a T-shirt.
However, if you are wearing a full face helmet and gloves, the attackers might go for any exposed skin.
The best protection will be anything that is waterproof and has a smooth surface that allows liquid to run off easily. Waterproofing will not give you full protection though.
Getting hot and sweaty may be the price you pay, but it’s far more preferable than permanent disfigurement – from acid or the Tarmac.
In an attack, let them have the bike
Don’t try and hang onto the bike, especially if you have received burns.
No bike is worth your life or injury. If you can, fit a simple tracker that might help you recover the bike later – the important thing is to just let it go. If a criminal is prepared to use acid, knowing what it can do to another person, you don’t know what other lengths they will go to.
When you do recover the bike do not go alone. Call the police and arrange to meet them at the same time.
More advice on dealing with a bike jacking is available here.
Dealing with an acid attack*
Seek medical assistance as soon as possible, but do not wait for an ambulance.
If you are attacked your priority should be to get to get the acid off your skin as quickly as you can.
If no one is available to call for you, leave dialling 999 until AFTER you have attempted to rinse the acid from your skin.
Unfortunately, water mixed with sulphuric acid feels like it is causing more burning. Do not dab or wipe slowly but use a large amount of water to rinse the acid from the affected area – just get the stuff off.
If you have been attacked in the face, remove your helmet first to make it easier to rinse with water. Acid may also have seeped into the lining, which could continue to burn if left in contact with your head.
You will need to rinse the skin under running water for at least 10-20 minutes and at least 20 minutes if acid has splashed into your eyes.
Acid reacts with the oils in your skin to produce a ‘soapy’ feeling. Keep rinsing with water until this sensation disappears.
Remove any clothing that you think may have acid soaked in. If someone is helping you, you need to make them aware the substance is corrosive, to prevent their own skin being damaged.
Call for legislation to be changed
In our opinion, it should be a criminal offence to carry acid in such a way that it can be used as a weapon. It should be as serious as carrying a gun.
Parliament will be discussing the matter shortly – please write to your MP to urge them to act.
You can find your local MP’s contact details here: http://www.parliament.uk/mps-lords-and-offices/mps/
Get yourself sorted:
Stop tucking your phone inside an open face helmet. Invest in full face helmet and a bluetooth headset to connect to your phone. Flip lids are obviously easier for talking to customers but you need to ride with the visor down.
*This does not constitute medical advice. If you feel you may be vulnerable to a potential acid attack, please take the time to fully understand what you should do in an emergency.