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Attack on cyclists not an aberration

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The recent incident involving a group of teens that attacked two cyclists in North Portland has sparked dialogue about the safety, race, and vulnerability of cyclists.

In the over 70 comments listed so far, I was amazed at how many other people reported being attacked while on their bikes, and how the majority of them were in the same general area of North Portland.

I understand that violent teens and racial tensions are as much of a social issue as a cycling issue, but I still think it’s important for local law enforcement personnel, city bureaucrats, and bike advocates to know that this is going on.

Below are the eight other incidents that have come in as comments to that recent post:

From Jeff:

“I’ve had friends tell me about being chased on bike by young black kids in NE during the summer, when you see large groups of teens roaming the streets at night. A few others have mentioned having eggs thrown at them.”

From Michelle:

“I know a woman who nearly had her bike kicked out from under her at N Williams and Fremont…She was waiting at a light and trying to not to be nervous about a group of teens on the curb nearby, when one of them came over and started kicking her wheel. He busted a few spokes but she managed to take off before he succeeded in destroying the wheel. She’s been pretty freaked out ever since.”

From Scott:

“My wife was assaulted near Legacy this September… she blogged about it… ‘My friend I were biking to a show yesterday evening. We were waiting for a light to change on N. Vancouver when a young woman waiting at the bus stop decided she knew Shannon and needed to slap her. Which she came over and did.'”

From Pete:

“I was riding in the bike lane on N. Williams at Skidmore – where I normally turn right to head home. An ethnic youth ran directly into my path and and started yelling and motioning as if he were going to try and hit me

All the while his friends were jeering things to the tune of ‘Take that f-er’ and ‘I’m going to f- your s–t up’.”

From Thomas:

“I had a similar situation happen to me where I was riding down N. Dekum St. and had to ride past a group of teenage boys at a stop light. One of them ran up to me and tried to kick me off of my bike. Luckily, I was able to catch myself before almost wiping out and was able to ride away.”

From David:

“On three separate occasions in the past year, I have been threatened with physical assault while riding my bike. The first occurred on the Hawthorne bridge, and was instigated by another cyclist (I forget his name, but it was that (guy James) written about in the papers). the second was at the intersection of NE Multnomah and 20th – this time by a pedestrian. The third and most recent occurred about 2 weeks ago at the intersection of MLK and Fremont…at about 9pm, a car full of teenage girls – probably in high school – pulled up next to me at the stop light. What started as waving and smiling quickly turned into racial taunts and threats of violence laced with obscene remarks of a racial/sexual nature.”

From Greg:

“A group of three teens jumped out at me around SE 45th and Powell while I was biking a few months ago. I avoided falling and made it out of there alive. I called the cops afterwards and they asked me “so… what do you want us to do about it?”

From Josh:

“As a resident of North Portland, I have also had similar run-ins…along the same stretch of N. Williams where a group of teens at a bus stop threw handfuls of washers (or screws, nails, whatever) at my cycling companion and I.”

I was conflicted as to whether or not to post this.

The last thing I want to do is make anyone think that riding a bike in Portland is dangerous (it’s not!). It just seems that there hasn’t been much conversation in the community about this issue and having all these comments come in such a short amount of time really surprised me.

And I can’t help but wonder how the outcry and sense of urgency from the city and from the public would be different if the same things were happening to motorists.

As for a solution? I think it comes down to healing our neighborhoods. That means being more involved in neighborhood activism (been to your neighborhood meeting lately?) and speaking up to the city and police about allocation of resources to neighborhood livability and traffic safety issues.

If you ever feel threatened while riding your bike (or not), please consider reporting the incident to the police (non-emergency number is 503-823-3333, and of course 911 if it’s an emergency).

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