HOUSTON -- Maybe it s hard to believe, but Hermie Escamilla actually survives in Houston without a car.

Then again, maybe it s not so hard to imagine for a theater student at the University of Houston who works at a bicycle shop. Mostly she shuttles around a fairly tight circle of inner loop locales.

I ride to work, I ride to school, I go grocery shopping, Escamilla said.

But there s a sad irony in her riding habits. Of all places, she avoids bicycle paths especially after a series of robberies on the popular Columbia Tap trail.

I hear things that happen all times of the day with people being caught off guard with other people that are using the trail as well that maybe have bad intentions, Escamilla said.

Houston police confirm several reports of incidents along the trail, which runs along an old railroad right-of-way extending from east downtown to Braes Bayou southeast of Texas Southern University.

Police officials don t want to say much about what s characterized as an active investigation, but a check of crime report records indicates at least a dozen robberies have happened on or around the trail in the last month.

One victim who asked to remain anonymous said he was riding his bicycle one morning when several young men standing alongside the trail tried to attack him. A couple of them struck him, but he managed to keep riding. As he looked back, he said he noticed another young man apparently chasing him on a bicycle.

The victim said officers investigating the crime told him more than a dozen cyclists had been attacked by gangs of thieves apparently trying to steal expensive bikes.

Police officials wouldn t comment on how many cases they re investigating.

Bike shop workers aren t surprised thieves are targeting high-end bicycles, which routinely cost thousands of dollars.

Things that you ll find at retail shops range anywhere from a $400 hybrid to $1000 mountain bikes to $3000 road bikes, said Donny Sanders, who works with Escamilla at Daniel Boone Cycles.

Police encourage cyclists riding along the trail to watch out for suspicious activity, advice Escamilla already takes to heart.

Just be aware of your surroundings and if possible, ride with someone else, Escamilla said.

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