Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on December 29th, 2011 at 9:43 am
Reader MeiLin Miranda recently had a traffic interaction I thought was worth sharing. It's a story about a display of road rage being defused by a passerby on foot that came to the verbal aid of MeiLin and her daughter while they were biking in Southeast Portland...
"My 14-year-old daughter and I had made a last holiday shopping expedition to the Hawthorne District and were cruising west down Madison on our bikes. I think it was at 37th when this happened — it's a really narrow street that should have parking removed from one if not both sides of the road, but alas.
"They're legal, they're at a stop sign, and there are cars coming! What is with you? What do you want them to do? Seriously, what do you expect them to do?"
We were stopped at the intersection (Madison has the stop but 37th doesn't). A bunch of cars on 37th decided it would be awesome to all try to get through the bottleneck at once from both sides. What a mess. People backing up, driving onto the sidewalk, cars coming and going in weird ways. The intersection was dangerous, and not just for bikes. Thank goodness they were all moving slowly. Even if it had been a four-way stop there was no safe path through the intersection even if it looked clear; there was too much wackiness on both sides.
The car behind us started honking at us really aggressively. Suddenly a young man on the sidewalk announced in an extremely audible voice, "They're legal, they're at a stop sign, and there are cars coming! What is with you? What do you want them to do? Seriously, what do you expect them to do?" He said more that I don't remember — nothing abusive, just standing up to the driver. He didn't confront the driver and kept walking, and the driver stopped honking. I was flustered enough that I didn't say "thank you." (The kid says she did but doesn't think he heard her.)
"I think this guy coming to our defense shut the aggressive driver down, and I'm grateful; he un-harshed my holiday mellow."
I am a really safe, visible, non-confrontational, law-abiding bicyclist; I don't block traffic, I obey traffic laws, I take my lane but if I can defer safely, I do. Even so, I have had similar things happen where aggressive honking has turned into dangerous speeding past, verbal abuse and so on, as have we all. One guy almost pushed me off the road on 12th past Powell just that way. Aggressive honking is nerve-wracking; you always have to wonder if the driver is going to escalate.
I think this guy coming to our defense shut the aggressive driver down, and I'm grateful; he un-harshed my holiday mellow. I wish I could have thanked him better."
While the aggressive honking and behavior of the person driving the car was unfortunate, the actions of the stranger remind us that we're not alone out there.
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