Fenty Loses Grip on His Bike but Not His Image

By David Nakamura
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, August 7, 2008

Adrian M. Fenty is an image-conscious mayor, never loosening his tie and rarely straying from his all-business script in public.

Turns out, he's protective of his image even during a personal trauma.

Last week, Fenty (D) lost control of his bike during a training ride and crashed on the pavement near the Whitehurst Freeway. Although few details have emerged, two people who saw the July 29 wreck said the accident was so violent that a police officer assigned to escort Fenty's cycling team on a motorcycle thought the mayor needed medical help.

The officer radioed for emergency assistance as Fenty picked himself up off the road, limped to a grassy area and lay down, said the two witnesses, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the incident.

But when an ambulance and a firetruck arrived a few minutes later, the witnesses said, Fenty and his brother Shawn waved them off, ordering the workers to leave.

Instead, they said, Fenty, who appeared to be holding his arm and rib cage, lay on the grass 20 more minutes, waiting for his security detail to arrive in a black Crown Victoria with tinted windows. The mayor's detail helped him into the car and ferried him to Shawn Fenty's house, where a doctor was summoned.

"It was a very violent wreck," one of the witnesses said. "His bike flipped all the way over; he landed on his shoulder and slid across the way. . . . Once the [emergency] unit was on the scene, he was adamant about not keeping them around -- officers, marked vehicles, everything. . . . His brother said they did not want any attention."

Fenty, 37, a competitive triathlete, has gained significant political mileage from his fitness regimen. His active and disciplined training schedule has been used as a metaphor for his governing style. But Fenty, who missed 3 1/2 days of work recovering from the accident, discounted public relations as a motive for dismissing the emergency personnel.

"As you can see, the accident was a hard fall, but it did not require an ambulance or firetruck," Fenty said after a news conference at a library Monday, his only public appearance since the fall.

The mayor had two dime-size scabs on the lip and chin, limited mobility in the arms and a sore right hand that made it hard for him to shake hands. He also was wearing a protective boot on his left foot to cushion a hairline fracture that he suffered in a pickup football game several weeks earlier.

"My initial thoughts were to assess what happened right away," Fenty said, "and I decided I did not need an ambulance."

The mayor's staff members did not inform news organizations about the accident until a day after it happened, and only after Fenty canceled several public appointments. Spokeswoman Carrie Brooks played down his injuries, joking that Fenty told her that he "falls off his bike all the time" and that it was "no big deal."

After the news conference Monday, Fenty was asked by a television reporter about reports that Fire Chief Dennis L. Rubin was trying to fire four employees accused of avoiding emergency calls. Then, the reporter jokingly asked about the mayor's accident: "You didn't have to call 911, did you?"

"No," Fenty replied, "but if I had, I'm sure they would have been there fast."

© 2008 The Washington Post Company