Guest article: Officer Robert Pickett on humility

Posted by on February 27th, 2008 at 10:05 am

Robert Pickett.
(Photo © J. Maus)

Robert Pickett is a member of the Portland Bicycle Advisory Committee, an Alice Award nominee, a regular commenter and contributor to the Forums here on BikePortland.org, and he’s also a Portland Police Officer.

Formerly a member of the Southeast Bike Patrol Unit, he now coordinates that unit along with being a Neighborhood Response Team officer.

Officer Pickett was recently recognized by the Police Bureau for his community policing efforts.

He previously wrote an article explaining why cops ride on sidewalks.



Catching Bees with Humility

A few Monday mornings ago I was at the entrance to the Springwater Corridor at SE 4th and Ivon taking pictures for a proposal I was drafting for PDOT. I’m hoping that removing some non-intuitive stop signs, adding some striping, and making a couple of other little additions might improve bicycle traffic flow between the Corridor and the East Bank Esplanade.

“Are most of us spreading the bicycle message respectfully, or are we making angry demands? Which strategy will best advance the biking cause?”

It was 11am, and chilly. Virtually no motor vehicles or bicycles. No parking either, so I left my car in the middle of the block on 4th Ave. with the hazards on, mostly in the motor vehicle lane, a little in the bicycle lane, thinking that there was still plenty of room for the few cars and bikes to get by for a few minutes. (See Photo)

A solitary man on a bicycle approached swiftly from the north. Mid-thirties, fit, maybe twelve miles per hour.

“Is that your car in the bike lane back there?” he asked as he came close.

“Yeah,” I said innocently, lowering the camera.

“MOVE IT!”

Shock, for a brief moment. Then anger. A vulgar, two word reply quickly came to my mind, but I managed to contain it. The man disappeared toward Sellwood.

He left me seething.

Officer Pickett’s car. (Photo by Robert Pickett)

But why so mad? I asked myself after a couple of calming seconds. I realized my rage was partially shame for being caught doing something I probably shouldn’t have. And mostly outrage at the dismissive rudeness of the man. He made no attempt to engage or understand or persuade, just a shouted command followed by a quick getaway.

I realized that in most settings we’d probably find ourselves teammates on the bicycle advocacy squad. But for a few moments, with two shouted words, he’d persuaded me to hate all bikers. Yes, it’s silly and unreasonable to judge a group by the actions of an individual. I know. But I was thinking it. I felt too angry and disrespected to be reasonable.

I quickly recovered, of course. But I worry a different road user, one less bicycle-oriented, might have been made a permanent enemy. How many potential allies are alienated with every yelled epithet or wave of the middle finger?

It made me wonder. Are most of us spreading the bicycle message respectfully, or are we making angry demands? Which strategy will best advance the biking cause?

I’m called to help mediate disputes all the time for my job. I’ve noticed that many people take strongest offense at a disrespectful or dismissive tone, to the extent that it can often overshadow the actual origin of the disagreement. And when the situation disintegrates to the point where someone calls the police, there has usually been enough perceived disrespect that traction toward solutions is virtually impossible, even with the fairest and most reasonable of strategies.

I have met neighbors who have lived angry at each other for years, all stemming from the simplest of perceived slights, like someone parking in front of someone else’s house, but aggravated by derisive communication.

Such anger seems a monumental waste of energy, when a softer approach, which might take a little more time and patience up front, could potentially prove more effective and efficient.

Had Angry Biker Man stopped to say, in a respectful tone, “Hey listen, I’m just a little concerned about your car edging into the bike lane back there and here’s why…,” most Portlanders, the vast majority of whom are quite reasonable, would have said, “sorry about that,” moved the car, and then probably thought twice next time.

Yes there are unreasonable people out there for whom this strategy will not work, and I’m not suggesting that patently reckless, dangerous behavior is acceptable from anyone, but I wonder if there is room to be patient about some auto-driver and bicycle-rider errors. I wonder if it is reasonable to give up a few inches of bike lane if it is safe to do so and it appears temporary.

If the answer is no, I wonder if a considerate request would tame more bees than a shouted demand.

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DavidS
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DavidS

I really appreciate the tone and sentiment in this piece. It has some good advice. The interesting point to me is that it seems that being the motor vehicle driver added to the instant rage of the writer. Imagine the same scenario in a grocery store. Leaving your cart in the middle of the isle almost always happens. When I’m the one who left the cart in the isle, I feel obliged to move it for whom ever if they come along. When I come upon a cart left by someone else I seem to be patient as they move out of the way. It’s a different story in the parking lot. I’m guilty. Funny how the car changes our perceived importance.

steve
Guest
steve

Well, of course the other option is…

Don\’t park in the bike lane!

Sarah Figliozzi
Guest
Sarah Figliozzi

Robert, I think is a wonderful piece and that you have very accurately touched on an essential, yet YIKES, difficult consequence of various users sharing the road. Road rage is difficult to tame (have we not all been there at one point – perhaps not out loud but that seething anger within) Unfortunately, as you point out, one false word can lead to lasting negative impressions. Thank you!

steve
Guest
steve

It sounds like the humble officer has gotten a taste of what it is like to be confronted by a rule crazy hall monitor.

Can he not see the irony here?

Citizens do not need to work on respect and humility. Power crazy cops do.

a.O
Guest
a.O

Yeah, people tend to get a little angry when people violating basic traffic rules and simply being careless *kill* and injure our friends and family members.

Given the death toll and daily harassment we face at the hands of people driving 2-ton death machines (~43,000 deaths/year), I\’d say you\’re lucky we\’re not angrier.

Writing \”Please Don\’t Run Me Over\” isn\’t working so well – it\’s time for something more direct.

Oh, and get your car out of my bike lane. When even PPB officers don\’t respect the rights of bicyclists, how are we ever going to make any progress? We\’re just supposed to keep asking you nicely while you keep killing us?

el timito
Guest
el timito

Thanks for the incisive and challenging essay. Having grown up a 97-lb. weakling in a rough neighborhood, I can attest to the power of gentle persuasion rather than brash confrontation.

I think most people turn brash because they are letting their adrenalyne speak instead of their reason or compassion. And I think cyclists often have adrenalyne flowing that they don\’t even realize, because of the constant fear of large vehicles and inattentive operators causing them injury, or worse.

Fear causes anger. It\’s a fear we manage or ignore, but you can see the anger rise whenever we\’re reminded of our frailty. (Check the comments after any tragic post on this blog.)

I think it is important to be conscious of this emotional \”background noise\” while negotiating traffic. I often find myself starting to curse another road user (driver, cyclist, or pedestrian) for making a \”stupid choice\”. Then I find on reflection that their action only caused me to apply the brakes for a second. Better to take a breath and enjoy the sunshine than let aggravation ruin my ride. I\’d rather spend my time forgiving others and moving on than letting hate and anger fill my day.

Adams Carroll (News Intern)
Guest

\”When even PPB officers don\’t respect the rights of bicyclist\”

a.O,

I hear your anger and frustration at the PPB… but I think it\’s totally misplaced here.

Officer Pickett shares his candid thoughts about an important issue, and you decide to come out swinging? It\’s funny and ironic because your response is exactly the issue Pickett is raising.

Please understand that to push the movement forward, it will take a lot of different approaches. There is a time and place for anger and agitation, and there is a time and place for being diplomatic and taking a softer approach.

That being said, in my experience, the militant tone evident in your \”get your car out of my bike lane,\” hurts our ability to garner respect much more than it helps.

compassionate warrior?
Guest
compassionate warrior?

It shouldn\’t be so hard to get a simple concept across in a civil or peaceful way, especially when it\’s related to safety…..deep down, most people don\’t want to be a hazard to others – but defensive modes or arrogant attitudes will shut down conversation no matter what.

Considering that, in these settings, we\’re all moving at speeds other than a walking pace, so these exchanges can happen quickly and it doesn\’t seem to occur to a lot of people to stop and get out of the car or stand next to the bike and have a full conversation rather than a rapidfire blast of words.

In addition to the mobility with the narrowed window of time it presents for verbal exchanges, this is an extremely violent society, the reality of which has desensitized many people to the point where might will always make right and words – especially peaceful words – have diminished value. In my experience, simple communication or dialogue has thus devolved into yelling matches or vulgar sign language wars.

Unfortunately, while the driver is worried about the dent I could put in their car and wants to gesture, yell or lecture in an extremely derisive way for slowing them down out of caution of my riding skill, I\’m busy worrying about whether my helmet will hold up even if the accident is unintentional or if I will have permanent neck problems in the future…perhaps thoughts of no insurance information to exchange or limited forensic support for legal proceedings or action if s/he was driving carelessly and caused me direct or indirect injury.

Somewhere in all the scurry of those thoughts, it DOES occur to me that there MUST be a better way for both of us to arrive at our destinations happy and with klean karma….yea?

Just my initial thoughts on the attention given to our mindfulness of words and our interactions with each other.

Carl
Guest
Carl

Steve, a.O,
Know your enemy.
Robert Pickett is not your enemy.

Thanks for another insightful piece, Robert. I\’m glad we have such a great ally in the PPB and such a good friend in the bike community.

I may not have the most respect for Police in this city, and private security guys cruising downtown sidewalks on bikes may still piss me off, but your writing has brought me more respect for the PPB and bike police on sidewalks.

Keep up the good work. See you on the streets.

mike
Guest

So if a motorist came by and laid on the horn and extended a finger out the window would this article have been written over at \’driveportland.org\’?

Austin Ramsland
Guest

\”He left me seething.

But why so mad? I asked myself after a couple of calming seconds. I realized my rage was partially shame for being caught doing something I probably shouldn’t have.\”

This is a great observation.

Jessica Roberts
Guest
Jessica Roberts

Quoting Steve: \”Citizens do not need to work on respect and humility. Power crazy cops do.\”

Steve, have you ever met Officer Pickett? Your comment made me laugh out loud, because I can\’t think of someone I\’d be less likely to describe as \”power crazy\” than PoPo. If you\’ve been a longtime Bikeportland reader, you will know that PoPo is thoughtful, diplomatic, very educated on bike issues, and a dedicated bicyclist himself. I think he\’s earned the right to speak his piece here and be considered in the same thoughtful and reflective vein in which he wrote his piece.

Also, I strongly disagree with you: we all, as citizens and members of this community of bicyclists, have an obligation to be respectful of each other and humble when appropriate. That\’s what civilization (not to mention being a productive advocate) means.

steve
Guest
steve

Any person capable of removing life and liberty from another is my enemy. I know him well. He wears a badge and a silly little uniform.

He tickets, imprisons and harasses. He gets angry when other people critique his illegal actions. He wants you to do as he says, not as he does.

He is a childish hypocrite. He is a cop. There is no situation so bad that a cop can not make it worse.

Officer Pickett said-

\”He left me seething.\”

Who needs to work on humility again officer? Try not violating basic traffic laws instead of lecturing the masses.

The fact that you are left \’seething\’ by a citizen pointing out your illegal actions has me terrified that you are allowed to carry and operate a firearm with impunity.

Perhaps instead of lecturing us, you should enroll in an anger management course? Or pursue a more honorable line of work.

Bryan
Guest
Bryan

I like the essay. As a passive/nonconfrontational individual, I\’m sure I would have ridden right by the parked car, maybe had some thoughts, but no actions. Even if the car was blocking the bike lane, I would have gone around and probably wouldn\’t have said a thing. I think it really comes down to the individual and their attitude. Just because of who was involved in this incident it stands out, but it happens all the time like comment #1.

Oh, and I\’ll always like Officer Pickett, he recovered my stolen bike!

David Dean
Guest
David Dean

It is ironic when a call to be reasonable is met with such obstinance and disregard. I too am frustrated by the pettiness of people and it seems like some people are waiting for a reason to snap. The problem is usually exacerbated by lack of accountability, in this case the cyclist\’s ability to ride away.

The real tragedy is that cyclists are painted with the same broad brush. People\’s pattern seeking brains are very impressionable, and when a cyclist is a jerk, it can change how they relate to all cyclists. And since we are in a vulnerable position relative to other traffic, the consequence of callousness can be disastrous.

Steve, just as I don\’t want to be bundled together with jerk cyclists, I\’m sure Officer Pickett doesn\’t appreciate being stereotyped by his profession.

a.O
Guest
a.O

I know Robert Pickett is not my enemy, and I\’m glad that he is willing to constructively engage the problem. However, I think we have a good faith disagreement on the approach(es) necessary to stop the loss of life on the streets of Portland.

I ride through that area every morning and my path is very often blocked by people parked in the bike lane. It is quite frustrating and I take it very seriously, because it often means I have to ride dangerously close to vehicles that can kill me instantly and that will yell at me and intentionally drive within feet of me in an attempt to intimidate me off the road. I\’m sure reasonble people can see how that might be dangerous.

So, pretty please, with sugar on top, would you please please please stop parking in the bike lane?

BURR
Guest
BURR

That bike lane on SE 4th between Caruthers and the Springwater Trail entrance is just plain stupid, it should be marked as a pedestrian facility, and not as a bike facility.

Antonio Gramsci
Guest
Antonio Gramsci

A problem that we face as cyclists that we do NOT share with motorists: when motorists break the rules, it often poses an immediate threat of death or serious injury to us. Too many and too frequent threats of such a nature aren\’t conducive of a friendly attitude. Rather, they often tend to inspire suppressed rage. That could be what Officer Pickett observed.

We need the Officer Picketts of the world to start taking this asymmetry a lot more seriously, by cracking down on dangerous motorists. This is not a situation that calls for \”evenhandedness,\” not when a motorist\’s bent fender can translate for a cyclist or pedestrian to months in the intensive care unit.

Even something as \”minor\” as a motorist driving up alongide someone and suddenly shouting out their windows at the top of their lungs needs to be taken seriously. Motorists who do this should at least be charged with \”menacing.\” Currently, they are under the sense of enjoying almost total impunity for such actions. Otherwise, these would surely not be such frequent occurrences.

Mmann
Guest
Mmann

Words of wisdom that translate to all manner of settings. As I told my war-hungry students all those years ago when the U.S. was preparing to bomb Iraq. Sit down and have a meal with your \”enemy\” first, then decide if you still want him killed. It\’s so easy to hate the anonymous – but much more difficult when you realize commonalities. Lives can be saved with this kind of thinking.

knitsy
Guest
knitsy

yes yes i agree with Maus, it\’s hard to get people together when others are so adamant on making it \”us vs. them\”.

i also understand that anger one develops on the road, someone cutting you off (this could be from the cyclists\’ or drivers\’ viewpoint) or those near misses you just want to retaliate with a \”FUUUUUCK YOU!!\” or smacking someone\’s hood with your fist telling them to wake up. i am usually about 2 blocks away before i start cursing and seething, which i guess is a good thing because honestly, it just makes things worse.

I\’m not saying everyone is going to respond well to rational words, some people are by nature irrational, and some people deserve getting yelled at. I\’m just saying if we\’re going to get people to understand biking in Portland, they\’re not going to get it with us screaming at them all the time.

joel
Guest

steve –

*everyone* needs to work on respect and humility.

i dont know officer pickett, and im not known for being the biggest fan of cops, but his tone and approach (at least in his writing) is one id be a hell of a lot happier seeing in more cops than i do.

and considering the photo of his car (which wasnt up yet when i first read this article), im gonna have to side with him on this one – yeah, he shouldnt park in the bike lane, but theres a GIANT SPACE between his car and the building – it beats the hell out of the lets-see-how-much-traffic-i-cant-screw-up parking approach that many ppb officers seem to have when stopping.

the true irony of all this, to me, is a cyclist yelling at someone whos in the midst of trying to make their ride that much easier, smoother, and safer – something they likely would have found out, if theyd taken the time to stop and talk nicely, rather than being a jerk about it.

bahueh
Guest
bahueh

mmm…Steve..you\’ve got issues..

your life and liberty will only be removed if you break societies laws…sounds like you\’re just pissed that you have to play by some rules…

Ashley
Guest

I like this essay, but I do think Officer Picket should have parked in a legitimate parking spot, and then walked to the site he was taking photos at. Cyclists are offered so little space as it is, that I know I\’m extremely offended as soon as a car\’s side mirror hangs over the line.

And I\’ve tried the nice request, and been told to \’F\’ off multiple times by people who refuse to take a blow to their pride for parking incorrectly. (i.e. how DARE someone point a finger at the decision I made) So don\’t anymore, instead I shout, scowl, beat my fist on a car, etc.-because I\’d rather shout the injustice first, then take the defensive heat of the person in the wrong. I\’d rather it not be that way, but I don\’t trust the people doing the reckless behavior to be willing and open to a conversation.

I would rather see a car block an entire lane of car traffic, then see it edge halfway in the lane, and partway into the bike lane. At least if you\’re all the way into the car lane their is a clear indication for a car to go around, it doesn\’t put the bike in a dangerous situation at having to navigate either between parked cars on 1.5 feet of space, or pull around the vehicle to the left and into traffic.

Vance
Guest

Is this dude the, \”wsbob\”, by any chance? That would figure. \”Can\’t we all just get along?\”, again coming from the involved party who broke the rules, was called on it, and now can\’t let it go. You were in the wrong, Mr. Pickett. \”But I didn\’t think it was all that big-o-deal\”, I\’ve said to how many cops? Ya. I don\’t get a lot of traction with defending my mistakes that way either, why should you? I love how the photo of your car is there to make it look like the person who had a problem with you illegally parked in a bike lane, had a problem with something that was no big deal.

Nice try. You were either illegally parked, or you weren\’t. I can clearly see in the photo that you were parked illegally. End of story. Where is your ticket for violation of Oregon Revised Statute 811.435? Why do you feel entitled to set, and follow your own rules, Mr. Pickett? Typical cop. While I\’m at it, what law did the person violate when they told you that you were breaking the law? None, right?

The attitude is what bothered you? That coming from a cop? Are you kidding me, here? There is no law requiring U.S. citizens to be nice about anything. The cyclist who told you to, \”MOVE IT\”, was perfectly within their right, and you were stone-cold busted.

You opened your guest article by owning up to your mistake. You went on to identify your lashing out as a reaction caused by shame. You should have left it there, and avoided coming into a cycling forum, preaching to us how to behave in public. You, the one illegally parked in a bike lane.

You are a cop, not a cyclist. You were in the wrong, not the concerned citizen who called you on it. Humility indeed. You brake the law, and then have the audacity to come in here and start telling real cyclists how it\’s going to be. Shameless.

Now if you\’all will excuse me, I have to figure out why I\’ve found myself in agreement with a.O. twice in one day.

brettoo
Guest
brettoo

Please, friends, let\’s not let our justifiable anger at drivers who endanger us spill over into attacks on a bike-friendly police officer who candidly acknowledged his mistake (he didn\’t have to do that or even post this piece) and his understandable feelings of resentment (you can\’t argue with feelings — he felt it — but you can then try to deal with them properly, as he did) and then both explained why that feeling was unreasonable, AND made constructive suggestions for better dialogue. Although he did leave room for bikes to pass, he admitted his mistake and made a constructive suggestion that will benefit everyone.

As noted above, he\’s not the enemy, and this isn\’t the place to vent those feelings of anger at others who are … unless we\’re prepared to take the next step, as Pickett did, and after admitting our negative reflexive response, move on to deal with it appropriately. Like by acknowledging the guy\’s honesty and constructive tone.

I know we\’re usually the victims and usually in the right, and I get pissed off on the roads too, and angry at PPB\’s frequent (but maybe diminishing?) anti bike attitudes. But it sure can\’t hurt to just lower the volume and hostility a bit. When someone offers you a handshake, don\’t slap it away.

I hope Officer Pickett\’s attitude will spread throughout PPB, and I hope we do everything we can to encourage that. We can start by applauding, not attacking, his commendably thoughtful, honest pro-bike gesture here. Then resume fire — a bit more politely perhaps — on more deserving targets. There\’s plenty of them about.

Ashley
Guest

p.s. thanks to Officer Picket for being an inspirer of conversation in difficult topics. I appreciate your sentiments here, and respect that we\’re all human, and make mistakes, and that you\’re someone who is willing to advocate for a different and more proactive approach, especially when we\’re seething in anger.

PoPo
Guest
PoPo

@#5 Very thoughtful closing paragraph. Forgiveness is indeed a lot less stressful for me too.
Also appreciate the idea of \”emotional background noise.\” That\’s a good term for a something that may influence a lot of communication on all sorts of matters.

Yeah, I thought for good while before writing about this, particularly because of the parking in the bike lane thing–worried about opening myself up to personal attack, and worried about that distracting from the other questions in the essay. (There should be a picture of my car up soon so people can add to their base of information on that, one way or another.)

I decided it was worth the risk, however.
It seemed useful to write from the perspective of a car driver (me) who unintentionally irritated a bicycle rider on that day, as the issue seems to come up a lot, is going to continue to happen as Portlanders continue to be traffic of all modes on our streets, and I believe considering issues from various perspectives is usually worthwhile.

There is a range of people who read this blog, and everyone has different reactions to such things. It is actually this diversity that makes Jonathan\’s work so intersecting and important–it has provided a gathering place for a huge range of bicycle riders (and non-bicycle riders) with all sorts of experiences and backgrounds and tolerance. We can learn from each other here, and gain exposure to new ways of thinking.

There is no doubt that some people think that the more respectful communication tactics described are not effective. My experience has been otherwise, but I don\’t know everything, and here\’s another chance for me to hear reasons to the contrary.

And I\’m not surprised that a few folks are focusing in on the car in the bike lane. That also seemed the focus for the rider on that day. I just thought it might be helpful to broaden the focus a little and see if there was anything more to learn/discuss.

steve
Guest
steve

You obviously have never visited an innocent person in prison, bahueh.

Or bothered to read a newspaper? Already forgotten about James Chasse?

You have nothing to worry about unless you have done something wrong, eh? Sounds like that little gem fell straight out of Faux news.

As an example. Officer Pickiett was the one breaking the law. His take on having that pointed out? Seething rage. He could just as easily chased down the cyclist and ticketed him, arrested him, or shot him.

I have been ticketed for \’disturbing the peace\’ and \’interfering with an officer of the law\’. My offense? Questioning two police who were illegally parked in a bike lane. They were busy harassing homeless youth. My critique of their illegal actions led to me being punished.

Methinks you need to pull your head out of the sand. Or perhaps your nether regions..

Your life and liberty can be removed at a cops discretion. Sorry to burst your fairy tale bubbleland. They are the judge, the jury and increasingly, the executioner.

Cops should have their cars and weapons impounded. Make the bastids walk around in their funny outfits with a radio and a wiffle ball bat.

chuck
Guest

holy hell people, the point of the article is not about the car being parked in the bike lane, or his \”seething\” after the comment by the cyclist. it\’s about the attitude that we have when we see a car doing something we do not like. how about we just step back, stop nitpickin\’ on the dude who also happens to drive a car as well as ride a bike, and read the rest of the damned article?

this whole thread is pretty much describing exactly what he\’s talking about. learn to use your big words, and keep your head cool.

Toby
Guest
Toby

I agree with BURR, there shouldn\’t even be a bike lane there. It\’s an industrial area with a lot of trucks needing to park to load/unload. To be honest, if I would of saw the car there, I probably would have been amazed at how much room there was, compared to how it usually looks when I go through. Buuuut no, there was no reason to park there, and also no reason for the agro response to being parked there.

WillJongIll
Guest
WillJongIll

Did you guys read that article? There wasn\’t any traffic. I think the point is pretty clear: Don\’t be an asshole.

I don\’t think anyone would argue that there are police who are assholes – as assholes can be found in every segment and vocation.

Was the guy on the bike in the article an asshole? Yes he was.

When people on bikes are assholes, does it contribute to the impression among others that all bikers are assholes? Quite possibly, and this, I believe, is the thesis of this article.

Of course people in cars are often assholes too. This is natural, because statistically, there are more people in cars – more chances to run into an asshole.

In a completely benign situation, as was described in this article, there was no justification for being an asshole. In fact, being one was actually counter productive for it did not encourage the \”driver\” to become more considerate for the more vulnerable bicyclist. Instead, it filled the driver (who is, let us not forget, otherwise a bicycle sympathizer) with rage at the assholiness of the biker.

Therefore, unless the goal of the biker, in this particular scenario, was to be an asshole, he did not succeed in achieving his goal.

Speaking of which – a while back I was at a Max stop at 6am (alone, on a weekend) and someone on the opposite side of the street, at the far end of the terminal (about 100+ feet away, wind going oppsite direction) noticed me smoking a cigarette came charging over to be directly opposite me and yelled crazy threats to call the police: This is also classic ASSHOLE behavior! (unrelated, but I wanted to get that off my chest)

So let\’s all try NOT to be assholes when it will go directly against achieving a positive result or make us less likely of achieving positive goals.

Being an asshole when it is justified is not necessarily being an asshole, and the whole concept is subjective — so to clarify, I\’m not* referring to those situations. Just unjustified (i.e. counter productive) assholiness.

*the article also does not seem to be

Billy Boy
Guest
Billy Boy

The piece could have easily been written from the opposite point of view, a cyclists reaction when being caught breaking the law by a driver, and being called on it.

It was very enlightening, and telling. If more of us took the time to think about these situations and react logically rather than emotionally things would be a lot better out on the road.

CovertCyclist
Guest
CovertCyclist

We have photo evidence. We have a written confession. Citizen issued citation anyone?

WillJongIll
Guest
WillJongIll

damn – when I started typing that there were only four comments but then I went away from my desk, came back, added a couple words and click \”send\” and i see everyone has already responded (I\’d say more eloquently than I).

el timito makes a good point. Still, let\’s remember to keep our asshole tendencies (we all have them) to asshole-appropriate scenarios.

compassionate warrior!
Guest
compassionate warrior!

what the hell happened here. it\’s like you turn around and even without thinking people spew a ton of words that are not working towards peace or understanding or even mutual cooperation…just brute force.

as a demil activist who grew up outside the US and now lives in Imperial Rome whichis blindly at war with the world as well as itself, that is SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO encouraging. thanks fer the inspiration, there! I hope someday those of you who are \”sowing seeds of anger\” to quote the venerable homeboy thich nhat hanh, will see the collateral damage done:

those of us who are not cops are witnessing an exchange that is not conducive to solving any problems faced by society whatsoever. how is this cool for us? Likewise, the bystanders watching a similar exchange on the street will walk away with a sense of despair.

Consider the pathological society which has brought forth the complacency towards this crap. this is an unacceptable situation — so, now what?

Matthew
Guest
Matthew

While there are people like Steve that just seem to hate all police officers, that actually isn\’t the point of this story in the slightest. So, moving on…

I was driving my mother\’s car, (with my mother in it,) a few weeks ago and was trying to go onto a busy street from a side one and so was stopped in the middle of the (unmarked) crosswalk when a pedestrian in the crosswalk came along and was annoyed that I was there. He hit the car and screamed some obscenities, and it wasn\’t until 10-15 minutes later that I\’m going over it in my head and realizing that the guy wasn\’t crazy, or anything else, he just thought I should have stopped further back.

Now I\’m fully willing to admit that I\’m not the best [car] driver, but I do know the laws, and the pedestrian was right, I should have stopped further back. And given that I often walk on that exact same sidewalk, I do share his frustration with cars there as well, and I\’m sure that his intentions were actually very simple: He wanted to inform me that I shouldn\’t block the crosswalk.

And the point of my story, and this story, is that the way you communicate that information is far more important than the actual message you are communicating… Letting people know that they shouldn\’t do X (park in the bike lane in Pickett\’s case, or block the crosswalk in mine) is a good idea, because [hopefully] in the future they won\’t do it again. But if you do it in a manor that makes enemies out of them, they\’ll do it again out of spite. Sometimes there isn\’t time for that, (cars trying to merge into you,) but given the exchange of dialog in this story, I\’m guessing this isn\’t one of them…

pushkin
Guest
pushkin

steve –

please keep posting. your comments are hilarious.

\”I have been ticketed for \’disturbing the peace\’ and \’interfering with an officer of the law\’.\” – best punchline so far!

Elliot
Guest
Elliot

As much as I agree with the sentiment of this piece, most roadway confrontations are set in a much faster-paced environment than the setting in which Officer Pickett and \”Angry Biker Man\” had their exchange. In their setting, there was space and time to have a thoughtful, calm exchange over the fact that Officer Pickett obstructed the bike lane with his car. In other scenarios which constitute the bulk of cyclist-motorist confrontations, there is no room for discussion unless both parties feel like pulling over… which in many cases would be the pretext for a fistfight. When a car nearly nails you on an arterial, how often are you able to recover, pedal hard and catch up to the offender at the next light and say, \”Gee golly, sir, you nearly killed me back there. I\’m kind of upset about it, maybe you\’d like to sit down with me and talk about it over tea sometime?\”

I think Officer Pickett\’s Angry Biker Man was out of line, but his scenario isn\’t a cyclist-motorist interaction issue. It\’s a cyclist-pedestrian issue. If someone is on their own, outside of a car, you need to treat them as they are, a real person. When you fail to give that basic respect, you make an enemy for yourself, and sometimes an enemy for the greater cycling community. As a cyclist out on the street, it is much easier to make a pedestrian ally than a motorist ally. I believe we need to prioritize good relations with pedestrians, with the expectation that they\’ll remember their good impression of cyclists later when they get in a car.

I wouldn\’t want to imply we have the liberty to treat drivers without respect, but the fact is the dynamic of being in an enclosed vehicle makes it easy for drivers to forget that we, cyclists, are real people. How else can you gain a driver\’s attention, without yelling insults? Until there is a binding, universal hand sign for \”pull over, let\’s have a nice chat,\” cyclist-motorist exchanges stemming from near-misses (etc.) will not move past middle-fingers and vulgar epithets as Officer Pickett hopes.

john
Guest
john

Its called flexibility and efficiency. I wouldn\’t even have blinked at a car parked like that, its just not a big deal. I can get by, someone\’s working and it just doesn\’t matter. Being nice and cheerful is much more important.

For example, i was out cruising around, went by, caught up to a cyclist at an interesection, I was like \”nice day, isn\’t it?\” And the response was \”wheres your helmet?\” Huh? My feeling was similar to Roberts.. so that how you respond to pleasantness? Wtf? why do you want to know where my helmet is? how do you know even if i have a helmet? Are you threatening me, do you think i need a helmet because you are going to run into me? Sorry but people don\’t think, being unpleasant is a dangerous activity.

CovertCyclist
Guest
CovertCyclist

There are unpleasant people in the world. I\’ve spouted an unpleasant shout or two in the heat of a dangerous/frustrating situation. Do I know it\’s unnecessary? Of course. I usually feel bad in hindsight. I\’ve also been known to inform somebody in a calm polity way that they are doing something hazardous or illegal. The angry cyclist may have juat had a horrible day at work. Ever had one Popo? I\’ll bet you\’ve never unnecessarily barked an order at anyone either. The world is never going to be perfect, with everyone being polite to everyone all of the time. Sure, the streets would be much more pleasant if that were the case, but it\’s not.

Also, just curious, have you ever left someone a ticket for the same thing you\’re guilty of while riding your beat?

CC

Vance
Guest

Agreed #32. Oregon Revised Statute 811.435 I believe is the law that was violated. I\’m wondering why no citation myself?

rixtir
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rixtir

I have to laugh at everybody who has suddenly discovered the vehicle code, and wants it STRICTLY enforced NOW!

hahahaha

Michelle
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Michelle

I think there\’s also something very basic going on in all confrontations – the biological reaction to having another animal raise their back at you.

It\’s really stressful! Especially if you know you\’ve done something wrong, whether really wrong or just a little wrong. I sometimes call out bicyclists or motorists for running stop signs or driving over diverters, and even as I do it in a sing-song \”Hey did you know you aren\’t supposed to cross that thing? Oh OK just checking!\” kind of way, I still see their shoulders rise up and their heart rate go up and they try and end the conversation as fast as possible.

Confrontation is uncomfortable. No matter how right you are, making the other person feel less threatened will make them feel more receptive to what you\’re saying. And isn\’t that what we want?

I would guess that, since I\’m a zealot, there\’s a 95% chance I would have stopped and scolded Officer Pickett for parking in the bike lane. That\’s the kind of thing I do. I hope, now that I think about it, that I would have done it in a way that made him feel like we were on the same team.

Thanks for this insightful \”turn-the-tables\” story Robert – it\’s made me think more critically about how I approach drivers and bicyclists alike as I cruise around town on my Zealot-cycle.

Robert Dobbs
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Robert Dobbs

What a bunch of ninnies. Seriously. Whining about every little infraction.

I\’m sure your tune would change if you got a ticket for every time you roll-stopped – which is a much greater offense under ORS, btw.

The guy was BARELY into the bike lane. You would have to be borderline retarded to decide to swerve into the traffic lane AROUND his the parked car.

I\’m no fan of the police, or our overabundance of laws but COME ON. You folks just look like fools dogpiling on Officer Pickett. It\’s no wonder why cyclists in Portland have an image problem!

And to the comments made regarding the asymmetry of risk for different road users – right there with you on that one. A Vehicular Homicide law would be a good legislative start and then some much needed infrastructural changes. It\’s a tough problem to solve completely as we are all about the Car Culture, but progress can be made…

Jill
Guest
Jill

Thank you, Officer Pickett, for a thoughtful reflection.

Officer Pickett clearly should not have parked partly in the bike lane, and he knew better (tsk, tsk). But this discussion is about attitudes.

I have angrily slammed my fist down on many a hood and yelled profanity, to see a shocked and horrified driver, who only then realized that they were about to run me over. Where my safety is at stake, I make no excuses for angry gestures- whatever it takes to get the driver\’s attention.

However, in cases like this, we have an opportunity to educate. Perhaps I am naive, but I think that most drivers are merely ignorant and not malicious. I try to reinforce good behavior. When a driver stops to allow me to cross an intersection or swings wide and slowly to pass me, I wave a thank you.

It\’s not often that we have a slow speed opportunity such as the one illustrated here for dialogue. Sure, maybe a driver in the same situation would have hurled insults, but we should aspire to the high road.

When I caught my mother-in-law parked in a bike lane and asked her to move her car, she exclaimed, \”Really? It doesn\’t say you can\’t park there.\” She is a conscientious driver and knows that her sons and daughter-in-law are avid cyclists. She just needed to be educated. If I had yelled at her (well, that certainly would not bode well for family relations), she would have only remembered the yelling and anger and not changed her behavior.

Not Always Nice
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Not Always Nice

I appreciate the officer\’s essay. It brings to mind a confrontation I had last week. A giant SUV crossed right in front of me, no sigal, could have easily hit me. When we were both stopped at the next light I noticed her window was open so I looked her in the eye and explained, calmly, what she just did. I scolded, but she said weakly, \”Sorry\”.

At the time, I thought she just didn\’t care, and it annoyed me. But maybe she heard me. I think that addressing someone as another person, looking them in the eye does two things. 1) For most of us, it makes us moderate our behavior, and 2)you see the message delivered. No matter the tone that comes across, being real with a person, instead of being passive-aggressive, avoidingly violent, might be more effective.

bahueh
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bahueh

yes, Steve…you definitely have issues.
you come across as pretty young…don\’t worry, you\’ll grow up one of these days.

Klixi
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Klixi

This article is SPOT ON. Now that I live downtown and walk more than ride I have come across SO many rude cyclists. I can easily see why we are so often disrespected after the sense of entitlement many cyclists have. I\’m embarassed by some of these people.

bahueh
Guest
bahueh

and Steve…I have visited local jails…
nobody in there is guilty from what I heard from their own mouths…..kind of funny that way…

quit mixing issues…and quit your cop hating diatribes…they aren\’t productive .

Elise
Guest
Elise

Hey there…we\’re all people, so let\’s treat each other gently as much as we can. Yep…in a car it\’s easy to be oblivious and many are. Yep, cyclists are vulnerable. But if we as cyclists treat every driver who makes an honest mistake like a malicious death-machine pilot, then no good will come to either party. Sure, I get mad sometimes too. I get mad when cyclists are killed, I get mad when I have near misses. I get mad at the unabashed assholes. I\’m no saint. I\’ve even gotten mad reading some of the above comments. But let\’s not assume the worst about people. Thanks for the article, Officer Pickett. And thanks for this forum, Jonathan.