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I got flipped off by a cyclist today

Posted by on November 13th, 2007 at 11:56 am

New 10-foot bike lane on SE Madison-6

(File photo)

I had symbolic experience on my way into work today. Symbolic of a major barrier we (as people who use bicycles as our primary form of transportation) face in bringing the primarily motor-vehicle-driving public under our tent.

This barrier is some cyclist’s attitude toward traffic laws, and their response to other cyclists when that attitude is called out. Here’s what happened…

I was riding south down the hill from Mississippi Street and I had crossed one lane of N. Interstate Ave. I was on the MAX platform waiting for a chance to cross. A TriMet bus stopped and waved me through. I continued on down the road at then we both (me and the bus) stopped at a traffic light at the intersection of N. Albina and Interstate.

As we waited at the red light — swoosh — a cyclist blew by me. It was as if the signal didn’t even exist.

I yelled, “The light’s red buddy!”, and then watched as he whipped around and gave me the one-fingered salute.

Nice. Way to stay classy. I can only imagine what the bus driver, all his passengers, and the other folks stopped at that intersection thought.

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

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Paul
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Paul

Sorry Jonathan – but sadly I\’ve had the same experience. No matter what community you are a part of, there will always be at least one jerk in the bunch.

Steve Durrant
Guest

Bad karma for all of us, and it makes it more dangerous for all of us. Its worth the comment though Jonathan. Thanks.

David Dean
Guest
David Dean

Why do we take it upon ourselves to call out cyclists who are disobeying traffic signals but no pedestrians downtown would ever think to call out other pedestrians who cross against the light?

wsbob
Guest

Morons on bikes, morons in cars…same difference. And right, I think the people on the bus, in the cars and stopped at the intersection are probably inclined to think something like the following:

\’To hell with these people. They want greater consideration for themselves, but they don\’t want to extend it to anyone else! Streets are for cars and trucks. Bikes are just play toys! Get them off of the streets!\’.

Every time a cyclist blows a traffic regulation where everyone can see them, they\’re also blowing a positive public relations opportunity for biking as viable transportation. It\’s a classic case of shooting one\’s self in the foot.

Ron
Guest
Ron

There is currently a bike messenger looking rider (don\’t know if he really is — I look like a messenger and am not, just searching for a common frame of reference for the description) who rides Interstate and around NoPo who completely ignores all traffic control. He is on a blue fixed gear with distinctive wheels (white, large star spoked I think).

He blew by me waiting at a red light at Going and Interstate the other day (not an intersection to be trifled with), and then I watched him blow through Skidmore and a red light, forcing a cyclist moving West on Skidmore to slow abruptly while moving across the Max tracks (a tricky maneuver.

Quite ridiculous, really.

DAN
Guest
DAN

This type of behavior is so common place that I have given up defending cyclists to friends, co-workers and even my wife.
People on this site complain all the time about police stings but I wish they would ticket more cyclists. The backlash form motorists just keeps getting worse towards us so when recent tragic accidents happen we get no sympathy from the public to make any changes that would benefit us. Unless we start to really police ourselves we will never get
the kind of support we need to improve things.

Nelson Muntz
Guest
Nelson Muntz

Why should they? Last I heard, pedestrians were not clamoring for equal rights on the roadways or staging protests claiming police bias. If we as a community expect drivers to obey the law for our safety then we had better get our house in order first. Public perception is 90% in this battle.

Curt Dewees
Guest
Curt Dewees

David Dean,
It\’s probably due to our sense of discretion and wanting to avoid physical danger. When you and the flagrant lawbreaker are both on bikes, it seems highly unlikely (to me, anyway), that the lawbreaker will slam on the brakes, do a quick U-turn, and come back to confront you.

When you\’re both on foot, however, what\’s to prevent the lawbreaker from turning around and coming back to confront you? Perhaps try to pick a fight with you?

Road Rage
Guest

The great challenge we face in our effort to improve conditions on the road is one of public perception. It\’s the one guy on the road that day who feels the need to express his opinion with the one-fingered-salute who ruins it for us all; himself included.

The downward spiral will not be reversed untill this attitude is curbed – figuratively and literally.

Tomas Quinones
Guest

Jonathan, you\’ve just described my daily interactions with a number of cyclists riding up and down Ankeny or across Burnside and 20th.

How can we proclaim \”We ARE Traffic\” if these bad apples keep showing non-cyclist that WE see ourselves above Traffic Laws?

felix
Guest

Must be a slow news day…. Wahhh someone ran a red light… Wahhh. 😉

Ayleen
Guest

I\’m not going to say I\’ve never done anything illegal and I can tell you that calling me out wouldn\’t make me think twice. Something a little more witty or crass might get my attention. Usually I\’m fully aware of my decision and the last thing I want is someone telling me I\’m a bad person. Most of us do not like to be told what to do.

However, I do thoroughly appreciate motorists telling me \”I can\’t see you\” (
or \”Get a light!\” when my lights are (ashamedly) low on batteries. That\’s something we often don\’t notice ourselves and need to pay more attention to. It helps to have it pointed out by the people (motorists) who are most relying on us to have bright lights.

All that being said, could the message of safety be made cool/fun/entertaining? I challenge all of you creative types to give it a shot in 8 minutes of fewer for Filmed by Bike. You have until March 1, 2008. Details on our site.

kg
Guest
kg

This is just sad and all to common.

kg
Guest
kg

On an even more disturbing note, I just ran across this post on craistlist
http://portland.craigslist.org/mlt/bik/477634527.html
\”

On my way in this morning, and while stopped at the stop sign of SE Clay St. @ SE 11th, the young dark haired goateed driver of a AGG Enterprises truck going south on SE 11th thought it would be funny to heckle my friend and I as he drove by. Know what that means, he wasn\’t watching the traffic in front of him or around him. It was harmless yet annoying to us, and brazen since a co-worker/driver of his killed another cyclist. Why do they have a license to drive when they behave like that, especially in light of the recent incidences?
\”

Franklyn
Guest
Franklyn

if we (cyclists) want to be taken seriously as part of the traffic, then we have to conform to all the rules regulating traffic. Only when other traffic can reasonably predict the behaviors of cyclists according to what they are accustomed to (traffic laws) will we be taken seriously. (there will always be lawbreakers, intentional or otherwise, in all forms of transportations)

I live in the SF bay area but read this blog regularly because I was impressed by portland\’s bike culture after a visit in the summer (after doing the 1-day STP). We are dealing with similar sets of issues down here in the Bay Area. Portland is definitely more advanced (even though the Bay Area is not lagging that far behind) in bike planning.

cheers,

Apollo
Guest
Apollo

\”I can only imagine what the bus driver, all his passengers, and the other folks stopped at that intersection thought.\”

Since you were stopped next to the bus, I hope they heard you yell at the cyclist and thought, \”gee, I guess there really are law abiding cyclists that don\’t appreciate other cyclists breaking the law\”

Bad PR from the bird flipper, but good PR from Jonathan.

SkidMark
Guest
SkidMark

Hopefully they thought some cyclists obey the law – and some don\’t.

Stripes
Guest
Stripes

It\’s sad, but I think some of it has to do with cyclists wanting to emulate the suppossed machismo of bike messenger set.

Bike messengers are are viewed by the more impressionable members of our community as being effortlessly cool, lithe, strong, hipster-type glittering beings on bikes.

As a result, stopping at a stop sign is seen as equated with being a sissy on a bike.

It\’s a shame, because really it shouldn\’t be.

wyatt
Guest
wyatt

it is impossible to make everyone follow the rules – whether in a car or on a bicycle. why is that so hard to understand?

the biggest difference is that, as a whole, bikes cause less destruction.

Road Rage
Guest

David Dean @ #2:

For me, I know that the rare occasions where I\’ll call someone out; it is due to either the potential danger of the illegal maneuver (to the rider or others), or the flagrant nature of that maneuver.

Pedestrians aren\’t in any real danger of losing their rights to use sidewalks and crosswalks, are they? I am a runner as well as a cyclist and see a real and different attitude from motorists toward me when I run versus when I ride. Pedestrians are accepted and excused on many occasions – perhaps because of their vulnerability and probably their greater level of politeness as a whole.

Cyclists however have bad PR cases rolling around all the time. When was the last time you saw a pedestrian flagrantly disobey a traffic signal and then flip the bird to the motorists around them? Yeah, I don\’t remember either…

Kronda
Guest

If only there was some sort of \’bonehead database\’ to keep track of all the stupid people so we can more effectively avoid them and/or try to curb their ways.

Here would be my most recent entries:

1) Riding up Interstate after dark, helmets on, lights blazing, passed by Brett\’s ghost bike AND a news van on our side of the street with a reporter doing an on scene report about the crash. Halfway up the hill, I think about passing Jess, who\’s riding in front of me but it\’s a good thing I don\’t because I would slammed into exhibit A; A woman riding down Interstate on the wrong side of the street in the bike lane. I would\’ve slammed right into her. She had a helmet but no lights. I become aware of her when I hear Jess yelling \”Really bad idea!\” as she passes us by going around and into the oncoming traffic lane. I echo Jess\’s sentiment aloud to which the woman replies, \”Duh!\” My question is, if she had brains enough to know how stupid she was being, why not turn around and go the 25 ft back to the crosswalk and get on the right side of the street!!!?? I also lamented that her boneheaded move was probably going to be captured on the news as she rode by the reporter. Oh the irony.

2) Heading north on Willamette Blvd in the neighborhood section just before it meets Rosa Parks way at the crosswalk. I feel/hear a whoosh as a helmet-less male roadie brushes by me without so much as an \”On your left.\” We catch enough at the cross walk to witness him turn left into the bike lane going the wrong way and then haphazardly veer right all the way across the road to the correct bike lane just after the turn, in front of a driver making a perfectly legitamite right turn who had to slam on his brakes. He did all this without a single turn of his head to look and while wearing headphones.

We looked on in stunned disbelief and
managed to yell, \”YOU\’RE STUPID!!!\” but of course he was too far away and too plugged into hear us. We were kind of disappointed that the driver didn\’t even honk at him since he certainly had earned at last that.

Every time I think I\’ve plumbed the depths of human stupidity, I\’m proven wrong. With friends like these, who needs garbage trucks and biased police?

Tasha
Guest
Tasha

This is so very common. I run into it at least once a week. I\’ve stopped saying things, as I\’m sick of getting \”f**k you\” back or the finger. They obviously do not care. Or maybe they do and pride makes them flip you off to pretend they don\’t care.

Some people just like the fact that they define themselves as anarchists. They are the ones that give the rest of cyclists a bad name.

SkidMark
Guest
SkidMark

Ron: I don\’t know how many times I have been trackstanding at a red light on my \”brakeless\” fixed gear death machine and I have had a multiple-speed \”commuter\” fly past me, ignoring the traffic device.

The characterization that the only traffic scofflaws on bike are messengers or hipsters trying to look like messengers is bunk. That video from Ladd\’s Addition is proof: lots of \”normal\” people on \”normal\” bike blowing a STOP sign, not an Aerospoke in the bunch. Just the like the traffic scofflaws in cars, they come from all walks of life.

The ones that bother me the most are the ones going the wrong way, especially in a bike lane.

Moo
Guest
Moo

So…after the person turned back from giving you the bird, wouldn\’t it have been funny if he ran smack-dab into the back of a parked car. Not seriously injured or anything, just a few broken bones and lost chicklets. What a loser!

Ron
Guest
Ron

Skidmark — to be clear, I was talking about a single individual — I described him as such in case anyone else in my area had perhaps seen him as well — I used no other language intended to smear a particular group of riders.

Once one learns to track stand at a stop, it\’s a helluva lot more fun than riding through it anyway.

Cheers

David Dean
Guest
David Dean

Curt Dewees,

I totally agree there is that aspect. But also, pedestrians crossing against the light doesn\’t bother me at all. Does it bother you?

Dave
Guest

Sadly in my experience cyclists and car drivers have about the same proportion of a**holes. Though it\’s not really that surprising. Getting on a bike doesn\’t magically make you a better or nicer person.

I commute (by foot) down that same portion of Mississippi and Interstate, and bikes are just as likely to ignore or disregard my right of way as cars.

Of course cars have the potential to do far more damage, but the tendency is there regardless of how righteous your transport mode (except for transit passengers: they all rock!).

RyNO Dan
Guest
RyNO Dan

Isn\’t the treatment you receive on your bicycle like 100 times
worse from the car operators out there ?

Isn\’t all the following….

engine-reving,
too-close-following,
honking,
crazy passing in the wrong lane at illegal speeds
near-accidents due to careless, rude and self-centered driving

….way way worse than a hand gesture, and 100-fold more prevalent ?

The priorities here seem wrong. Best, –DanS–

tonyt
Guest
tonyt

David Dean,

There are two things at work here. The egregious nature of the offense (blowing through a light without checking out the intersection) and the fact that, like it or not, we cyclists are viewed as a \”group\” more than peds are. You know that.

If Jonathan were talking about getting flipped off after he yelled at a cyclist for rolling a stop sign at a quiet residential intersection, I would frankly be inclined to side with the flipper, although I might argue that a \”mind your own business\” might be a better response.

But that\’s not what we\’re talking about.

Apples are not oranges here. There are degrees of behavior and after the last month and a half that we\’ve endured, it would help if riders could display a modicum of diplomacy, and perhaps, dare I say, some common freakin\’ sense.

A lot of cars at an intersection? Perhaps not the time to run the light. Cars lined up and taking turns at a stop sign? Maybe not the best time to pass all the cars on the left and blow through. 11pm, no cars and the light won\’t change? Go ahead, roll the light.

Is it that difficult for people to understand that there is some THINKING that needs to be applied here?

I don\’t think it\’s entirely unreasonable to call out stupid behavior. This is not to say that we should all get in each other\’s business, but stupid behavior is stupid behavior and we all pay the price. Get with the program.

Coyote
Guest
Coyote

Gosh Jonathon if I had known it was you I wouldn\’t have flipped you off. 😉

Of course I am joking, but seriously, how would a smoker react if you walked up to him on the street and pointed out the dangers of smoking? Perhaps the next time you see an obese person, they would thank you for pointing out the increased risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes that they enjoy. Wanna talk about Jesus?

When someone yells, the natural reaction is to yell back. It is how we are wired. Effective dialog only happens with an invitation.

toddistic
Guest
toddistic

It\’s a witch, burn the witch!

And what do we burn besides witches?

MORE WITCHES!

Matt
Guest
Matt

While I agree that it\’s bad PR for us to be breaking traffic laws ourself, I\’m kinda reluctant to flip out over it. A lot of drivers seem to have this attitude that they don\’t have to obey the law or accommodate cyclists, because they once saw a cyclist run a red light. I mean, that\’s probably the most common response anytime a cyclist expresses concern about safety, or the failure of motorists to abide by traffic laws that protect him or her. But it\’s bullshit. And I\’m kinda hesitant to indulge drivers in it. Yeah, we should all obey the law, but we should also be challenging the brain-dead notion that our safety on the road must be contingent on the good behavior of every other cyclist.

miles
Guest
miles

Unpleasant experience… but in the end no one should identify to closely with a mode of transportation.

He was an ass, and his ass was on a bike, that\’s all…

When I was harassed by thugs on the MAX I didn\’t think I\’d been harassed by MAX passengers… I was harassed by teenage thugs riding on MAX…. etc., mutatis mutandis.

pushkin
Guest
pushkin

SkidMark\’s #17 comment sums it up. It made me laugh. Well put!

Ashley
Guest

That is totally LAME. My friend and were riding Eastbound across the Hawthorne bridge, and a cyclist was flying TOWARDS us in the pedestrian lane. We commented as she passed by, \’Hey the Westbound crossing is on the North side of the bridge!\’ to which she snarled, \’WHO CARES!\’ Totally rude. She probably would have flipped us off too if she could have controlled her bike enough swerving around bikes and ped traffic.

oops
Guest
oops

You know, I used to ALWAYS do the rolling stop (emphasis on \’rolling\’) at that intersection, considering it\’s a \’T\’ and all the cars turn left onto Interstate. Pretty safe to roll through with proper precautions. Probably what birdman thought.

Well, one day a car in front of me actually goes straight across Interstate into the warehouse parking lot (because they had a green light) as I\’m getting ready to roll through.

So, I don\’t do the rolling stop anymore. Apparently, the light is there for a reason and for people like myself who\’ve convinced themselves that they take all the \’proper precautions\’ in every situation before rolling through the red.

But I never flipped anyone off…

Paul Tay
Guest

Lose the light. Use a circle. Problem SOLVED.

Get the feeling roadway design ENCOURAGES criminal speeding by motorists who insist on catching the red light?

pablo
Guest

I was on bus #6 MLK on the way home the other day when we approached the stop on the Hawthorne Bridge\’s east side… a cyclists was in the land and a passenger yelled… \”run him over!\”

Good times!

Zaphod
Guest

There are enough of us out there riding safely and legally to minimize the free PR we\’re getting from the red light blazing sketch riders.

It would be interesting to interview a random sampling of drivers and cyclists to get a real idea of perception stats.

Andrew
Guest
Andrew

Cyclidiots who blow through red lights and make other crazy moves are a threat to me and other cyclists… because they piss off drivers, who then see all cyclists as nuisances that should be swept off the road. That selfish rider and others like him hurt all of us on the road… and erode our standing at City Hall and in the Legislature.

David Dean
Guest
David Dean

tonyt,

Based on the information presented, I don\’t get the impression that the saluting cyclist ganked anyone else\’s right of way. Knowing that the cyclist had an interest in self preservation leads me to conclude that he probably was paying attention as he blew the red light after determining that it was safe enough to proceed.

So the issue then really is about the law and whether or not it is OK for a cyclist to disregard it and whether or not we should admonish people who do. In that, I think there is a direct and relevant comparison to pedestrian traffic.

Roma
Guest
Roma

Due to my hatred of vigilantes of any degree, I probably would have flipped you off as well.

The guy knew the light was red, and he showed you the proper appreciation for pointing out the obvious.

David Dean
Guest
David Dean

Matt #32, well said!

toddistic
Guest
toddistic

Statistics can be manipulated to serve whatever agenda is needed.

felix
Guest

I just went to lunch and yelled at a guy who I saw walk on a red light. I feel better now!

miss
Guest
miss

I\’m at work so don\’t have time to read all the posts right now – but maybe the point is that we as bikers should be leading by example and stop being hypocrites. How can we, as bikers, be outraged when car drivers don\’t obey the laws, if we aren\’t either? Just a thought.
It\’s frustrating to be defending bikers who don\’t obey traffic laws, putting themselves and others at risk.

I would think/hope that after all the media attention and the recent tragedies that WE would ALL be a bit more careful. All, meaning bikers AND drivers.

Coyote
Guest
Coyote

Andrew #40,

I am not sure that cyclidiots are a danger to others cyclists in way you describe. In fact, I see them as traffic calming elements. I know when ever I am driving and I see one, I slow down. I always makes sure that cyclists are really going to stop, and that we agree on who has the right-of-way.

I do not advocate anyone ride like an idiot. I am just saying when I see Joe Dumbass riding the wrong way down the bike lane I drive as though he is a loose dog, or a small child.

tonyt
Guest
tonyt

David,

If Jonathan was stopped next to a bus, then that bus would obstruct the cyclist\’s view for the 40 feet he was riding alongside it. If he blew by Jonathan as he wrote, knowing that intersection as I do, I would argue that unless this guy was omnicient, he was flirting with disaster.

Re your ped comparison; in any conversations I\’ve ever had, as a ped and a driver and a cyclist, I have only ever been lumped in with other cyclists. Peds and cars are seen as \”the masses\” and as such individuals are less likely to be representative of anyone in particular. Sadly such is not the case for cyclists.

It would be great if the flipper\’s behavior existed in a vacuum, but alas it does not. It has a disproportionate effect on how we, as cyclists are perceived and treated. THAT is why I think cyclists tend to be more bothered with the behavior of other cyclists than peds are with the actions of other pedestrians.

Jim T.
Guest
Jim T.

This is the unfortunate part. We -bicyclists – want motor vehicle drivers \”respecting\” us. That will only happen when we obey the rules too. We – motorists – see all to many bicycles ignoring the rules to have much sympathy. I\’ve seen a lot of letters saying that police need to ticket bicyclists. Much as I would hate to see that, perhaps that is what it will take unless we can police ourselves.

Dabby
Guest
Dabby

In reference to Stripes comments: (and only to his comments, for I have more to say on the issues of the article, but that would make my post horribly long, so I digress)

While there is no way to deny emulation of messengers, to use that as an argument in any way in reference to this post is quite out of line.

Your comment points to \”supposed\” machismo of the messenger.

What do you think it takes to make it alive through a day, 8-10 hours, of constantly dealing with the exact issues that have the whole cycling community in a rage?

It takes machismo, or something along the same lines, to stay alive enough, alert enough, and brave enough.

This is what tends to separate them from most.

This is also sadly what is so attractive to some, hence the emulation.

Take the problems you encounter on your commute, on the way to Zoobomb, or even on the way to your local coffee shop, and multiply them by a couple hundred.

Then add the possibilities of having your boss yell at you that the package in your bag must be from the NW to the south side of town in 15 minutes, but it is late so you have about 5 left. This is in reality the amount of time it takes to simply go into the building, let alone get there.

We are now past machismo, fully into self preservation, and protection of your paycheck, for there is a long line of kids willing to do the same job for next to nothing, starting tomorrow.

That is your average messenger day.