The newly opened West Seventh Street bridge may have been a little more bike-friendly Saturday afternoon than officials were expecting.
A man who later identified himself to the Star-Telegram as Mat Olson, a professional BMX stunt rider, rode his bike over the bridge’s 24-foot tall arches to the astonishment of onlookers.
“It seemed like I was on top of a mountain,” Olson said. “It was all windy and crazy when I was up there. It was pretty exhilarating, that’s for sure.”
It was also, apparently, pretty illegal.
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Though a Fort Worth police spokesman said he had not heard of the incident Saturday, Olson said some Fort Worth officers had noticed the small crowd and stopped to investigate.
“By the time they got out of their cars, I was already halfway across it,” said Olson, who had talked to an attorney before the stunt to learn what charges he might face. “They were more astonished than anything: ‘I can’t believe you’re alive right now. Are you kidding? Why are you doing this?’ ”
Olson said the officers ran his name, questioned him about his motives and rattled off all the citations they could write him, including criminal trespassing, improper use of a vehicle and destruction of property.
In the end, Olson said, they let him go with a warning.
“I think I kind of smoothed them over,” Olson said. “They said: ‘To be honest, we’re glad you’re alive. We don’t want to see that on our watch. Tell your friends we’ll be watching out for this and we won’t be lenient the next time.’ ”
A plan in the works
Olson, who splits his time between Arizona and Fort Worth when not traveling for his job, said he had contemplated the stunt since the bridge was being constructed.
“You can turn anything into an obstacle with a little bit of an imagination,” Olson said.
He wanted to do it last week, he said, but the cold, windy weather changed his mind.
“I said let everything come together. If it was meant to be, it’s meant to be,” he said.
The nice weekend weather, coupled with the availability of fellow riders and friends willing to help him pull it off, made Saturday the perfect day, he said.
“We just essentially got everyone together, pulled the trigger and did it,” Olson said. “It’s something you really can’t broadcast. Once you set the ball in motion, you better follow through.”
Immediately before his ride, his helpers placed support planks Olson had made from plywood and 2-by-4s over the meeting points of the bridge’s six north-side arches. The south-side arches couldn’t be used because modifications had already been completed to prevent such access, perhaps because skateboarders and pedestrians tried to scale or ride down portions of the bridge, Olson said.
Olson said a professional film crew captured his feat from five angles for a planned video on BMX stunts. He said such stunts, however, should be done only by trained professionals.
“I figured this would be another way to get my name out there,” said Olson, whose ultimate goal is to compete in the X Games. “It’s big. It’s crazy. It’s scary. It’s appealing. It’s not for the faint of heart.”
Travis Baker of Fort Worth was riding on the Trinity Trail shortly before 1:30 p.m. when he noticed a small crowd ahead.
“I saw a bunch of people looking up at the bridge,” said Baker, 31.
Following their gaze, he spotted several people on the bridge placing pieces of plywood between the arches.
“I was like, they’re getting ready to do something. I’m not going anywhere,” Baker said.
About 30 seconds later, Baker said, he and about 30 others watched in amazement as a man rode his bicycle from east to west over the bridge’s north-side arches.
Baker videoed it himself using his cellphone, which he shared with the Star-Telegram.
“It was one of those things where if I had taken a different route or gone slower or faster, I wouldn’t have seen him,” Baker said. “There was actually a Segway tour that happened to go right underneath as it happened. They got a pretty fun deal out of their Segway tour.”