Colin Albright was bicycling home Wednesday night when, he told police, he may have inadvertently cut off a motorist as he headed from the Hot Metal Bridge bike path onto Water Street.
Mr. Albright, described by his pastor as a mild-mannered bike shop employee, said nothing of an acrimonious exchange between himself and the driver in his interview with police. He kept riding home, he said, making his way to Harcum Way where he dismounted, put his bike over his shoulder and began climbing the city steps up to Josephine Street.
The car, a gray sedan, followed him and parked at the base of steps. A man climbed out and began chasing Mr. Albright. The man, brandishing a small hunting knife, caught up to Mr. Albright and "without saying anything, began immediately stabbing him," said Pittsburgh police Lt. Kevin Kraus.
The man slashed at Mr. Albright's head and neck, slicing him from his ear to the middle of his throat. He left Mr. Albright there covered in blood, grabbed his bike and descended the steps, tossing it in bushes.
Mr. Albright stumbled down the steps and called police. He made his way to Sarah Street, where he was met by an ambulance and taken to UPMC Mercy, where he was in critical condition but was able to speak to police.
Thursday, Mr. Albright remained in the hospital, his condition upgraded to good, as police attempted to piece together the bizarre and gruesome attack. Even investigators remained incredulous as to how such a minor traffic dust-up could lead to such an attack.
"It's a uniquely brutal case of road rage," Lt. Kraus said.
Police do not believe the attacker knew Mr. Albright. But if he had, he might have known that Mr. Albright, a slight-statured bike enthusiast, was not prone to fight.
The 25-year-old is a member of the Hot Metal Faith Community, a Christian church based on Sarah Street and was described as a pacifist.
He was recently married and living in the South Side Slopes, working at Pro Bikes in Squirrel Hill.
"He is a joyful, always happy guy," said Pastor Jim Walker. "My gosh, he is so at peace."
Mr. Albright previously worked as a bike messenger for Troy Hill-based Jet Messenger, where a colleague said he was an upstanding employee and a safe cyclist.
"I haven't ever heard of him being unsafe in general," said office manager Martin Carney. "He was a real good messenger, a real polite person."
Mr. Carney said he's heard of arguments between motorists and cyclists, but nothing that turned violent.
But as he saw it, the attack had nothing to do with how Mr. Albright was behaving on his bike.
"It doesn't seem to me that any way a person rides a bike would provoke a response like that," he said.
The attack on Mr. Albright comes at the end of a summer in which two cyclists were killed and another was seriously injured after being hit by motorists that then drove away. No arrests have been made in any of the incidents.
Moriah Balingit: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-2533 or on Twitter @MoriahBee.