Man Charged After Alleged Attack With Handsaw

Photo: Michael Vandeman
Michael Vandeman

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A Berkeley resident with a history of publicly denouncing mountain bicyclists' effect on the environment was charged Wednesday in two separate incidents involving bicyclists in the hills east of UC Berkeley.

The Alameda County District Attorney's Office charged Michael Vandeman, 67, with misdemeanor assault with a deadly weapon after he allegedly struck a bicyclist with a handsaw on the East-West fire trail on April 18, according to Deputy District Attorney Josefa James.

James said Vandeman is also being charged with misdemeanor vandalism for a separate incident in June 2009 in which he stopped a bicyclist in the Berkeley Hills and allegedly punctured his tires with a screwdriver.

Vandeman, a UC Berkeley graduate and self-described "transportation activist," was arrested by UCPD Friday after two bicyclists reported being attacked by a suspect matching Vandeman's description on April 18, according to Lt. Alex Yao.

The two men were riding their bicycles west on the trail when Vandeman approached them heading in the opposite direction and proceeded to strike one of the bicyclists with a handsaw, inflicting minor injuries, Yao said.

When the bicyclists asked the man why he was attacking them, he told them bicycles were not allowed on the trail.

Though the incident occurred April 18, the bicyclists did not report the incident until after they had read a UCPD crime alert detailing a similar incident that occurred on May 6.

According to the crime alert describing the May 6 incident, a man approached a UC Berkeley student riding his bicycle on the upper fire trail, forcibly stopped him, told the rider he was ruining the environment by riding his bicycle on the trail and - upon releasing him - brandished a small sharp tool. The bicyclist later fled.

Yao said that the police are currently investigating a possible connection between Vandeman, the May 6 incident and other incidents.

"We are still investigating whether or not (Vandeman) is involved in other cases," he said. "Right now it is too early in the investigation to comment."

However, police were able to connect Vandeman to the screwdriver incident last June.

According to his personal website, Vandeman graduated magna cum laude from UC Berkeley, received a doctorate in psychology from UCLA and taught at San Francisco State University.

His website also contains numerous letters to public parks departments denouncing the presence of bicycles on hiking trails.

"Mountain bikers seem to think that, just because they are able to buy a machine that allows them to ride off-road, the public is obligated to give them a place to ride it," he said in a Oct. 22, 1999 letter addressed to the director of Oakland's Office of Parks, Recreation, and Cultural Affairs. "That is not true!"

Yao said bicycles are not allowed on the fire trails east of campus.

Vandeman is being held on $12,500 bail and will have his pretrial hearing 9 a.m. on Thursday at the Wiley W. Manuel Courthouse in Oakland.


Javier Panzar is the news editor. Contact him at [email protected]

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