(06-03) 18:54 PDT SAN FRANCISCO -- The grim numbers for the car-vs.-bicycles rampage in San Francisco tell only part of the story.
Three neighborhoods invaded by one car Wednesday night with a driver bent on mowing people down. Four bicyclists left sprawled on the pavement. Six minutes from start to finish, from first victim to last.
The rest of the story could be found Thursday in the three victims still recovering at San Francisco General Hospital, in the manhunt for the driver, and in the sense of disbelief among residents and workers that such random hostility could shatter their corners of the city.
"It's always very calm here, lots of bicyclists and lots of quiet," Okell's Fireplace salesman Heath McGrail said, shaking his head as he looked out the window toward the scene of the last hit-and-run, at 17th and Missouri streets. "We never have any trouble - unless, I guess, you've got someone hunting those bicyclists down to run them over. It's shocking."
Investigators said the driver had carried out the assaults in a blue Nissan Rogue crossover sport utility vehicle. They said it was registered in Berkeley and was not believed to be stolen, but by late Thursday, there were still no arrests.
The victims, hit at four locations as their attacker wove wildly through traffic, sometimes down the wrong side of the road, were described as men ranging in age from their 20s to their 40s.
One victim was treated at the scene and released. The three at San Francisco General - one in critical condition, one in serious and one in fair - are expected to survive, said hospital spokeswoman Rachael Kagan.
"The two who aren't critical are alert and awake, but they're very shook up," Kagan said. "They are puzzled, certainly perplexed at what happened, and right now they are just focused on healing."
Terror in the dark
The rampage began at 9:43 p.m. in the Mission District, on a quiet stretch of Harrison Street near 23rd Street where houses overlook strips of well-tended flowers and a bike path.
"I heard this big bang and ran outside, and there was a man on the street moaning and curled up in pain and his bicycle on the ground," said Ramon Fernandez, 66. "There were many police who came in about a minute, and then all of us were standing around wondering how such a thing could happen here."
As luck would have it, two San Francisco General emergency nurses were in a house on the block and came out to help.
Melissa Pitts, 31, and Rich Nepomuceno, 33, immediately stabilized the victim, who appeared to be in his 30s, and waited for the ambulances to arrive. His bicycle was in two pieces a few feet away.
"We cut off his clothes to see the extent of his injuries, and it appeared the main injuries were to his face," Pitts said. "He was groggy but conscious."
Nepomuceno, who had bicycled over to Pitts' house just a few minutes before the attack, said he was happy they could serve as first responders, "but it was an awful circumstance."
Speeding along street
Two minutes after the first hit-and-run, the driver mowed down his second bicyclist about a half-block south on Harrison, at a corner with a gourmet coffee shop and other neighborhood stores. This time, resident Aurora Marina tore out of her house in time to see the driver - briefly.
"I saw that this car had hit someone and was going very fast up the street - very fast," said Marina, 56. "There was a man on the ground with blood all over his face and a lot of people coming to help.
"We could tell that the car hit this bicyclist with blood on his face head-on, and then took off. It was crazy."
A couple of minutes later and about 1 mile east, the third victim was struck at 23rd and Pennsylvania streets - a windswept, industrial block practically beneath Interstate 280 that is dominated by stretches of dirt and a Muni bus yard. This victim was only slightly injured and was treated at the scene.
The final crash
The driver then sped several blocks north to the heart of Potrero Hill where, at the corner of 17th and Missouri, he hit his fourth rider at 9:49 p.m., police said. Immediately after the impact, the driver smashed his Rogue into a light pole and a parked Jeep Cherokee at the corner - and then he fled. Police provided only a minimal description, saying he was a white man.
Thursday, there were fragments of glass and blue chunks of car fender strewn on the street.
Police Lt. Lyn Tomioka said all the victims "do appear to be targeted. We don't know if they were known victims, or if it's because they were on bicycles or what the issue was."
Mayor Gavin Newsom released a statement saying the attacks should not shake anyone's faith in the safety of bicycling in San Francisco.
"I'm proud that San Francisco is one of the bike-friendliest cities in the nation," he said. "We will not tolerate violence or rage against cyclists or pedestrians."
Renee Rivera, acting executive director of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, called the rampage "a shocking anomaly." The last time a hit-and-run assault garnered this much notoriety was in 2006, when a driver killed a pedestrian in Fremont and drove to San Francisco, where he injured 16 more people from downtown to the Richmond District.
According to the coalition, the number of bicycling injuries in the city dropped 19.3 percent from 1998 to 2006, even as the number of riders increased.
"We want people to know that our streets are normally safe places to ride and getting safer all the time," Rivera said.