BEDFORD — Bad news travels fast, especially in this age of social media.
So, when a woman reported she was attacked Saturday afternoon while traversing the Milwaukee Trail, word of the incident circulated swiftly among trail users.
Patrons of the popular path rave about the natural beauty of the trail, but the remote setting has stirred security concerns from the outset.
"I haven't run on the trail alone since April 2016, mostly because it made my family nervous," explained JoAnna Kai Cobb. "I still run it, but I'm always with a group if I do.
"If we run to Williams, we have someone there meeting us to give us a ride back. Also, I always carry my phone and pepper spray when I run. The reason for all of that is because there is a limited sense of security out there.
"The nature is beautiful, and the trail is a wonderful community asset; but unfortunately, it ought not be enjoyed alone. People can hide anywhere, and it's difficult for law enforcement to get to the area quickly.
"One time, I was with friends on the trail, and a man dressed all in black came out of nowhere. We were startled, and he said to us, 'I'm a good guy.'
"We've had a good laugh about it since then, but that was enough to show me that I'll never run there alone. Not everyone is a good guy."
Angie Williams enjoys biking along the trail with friends.
"I both ride and walk on the trail," she said, "but never alone. I feel safe because we've never been bothered."
Arlene Brim has run the trail alone many times.
"When the weather cools, I run with my dog more often," she noted. "If I am by myself, I usually run from the Edgewood utility road toward town. I have not run out of town by myself for quite some time."
Brim said she's not as comfortable on the trail now as when she first began running there.
"I haven't had anything happen, but I know my husband doesn’t like me outside the city limits by myself," Brim explained. "If I'm in a group, I definitely feel safe."
Brim described Saturday's incident as very upsetting.
"I am thankful she was not physically harmed," she said.
Robin Elliott strolls the trail with friends, but often bikes alone.
"I don't bike there by myself on weekdays when there aren't many people around," she explained. "I always tell someone when I go and when I should be back."
Elliott said she's considering adding security measures in the future.
Both Becky Naughton Wright and Kathy Hammel count on canines to keep the bad guys away.
"I’ve only walked the trail alone once," Wright said, "and that was with our two dogs, a gun and a cell phone. I didn’t enjoy it because I didn’t feel as safe as when I’ve had my husband along or a group of friends. I think you should always have at least one person with you in any secluded area."
Hammel frequently runs the trail without a fellow human, but on those occasions her dog is by her side.
"Never have I felt unsafe with him along," she said, "because he is extremely protective."
She noted some stretches of the trail are desolate.
"That's why I take my dog with me when my friends aren't available," Hammel said. "The attack that took place Saturday sickens and angers me.
"Females must constantly be on alert when alone or in a small group. But attacks can happen anywhere, so we must be aware of our surroundings at all times."