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More thoughts on Sunday’s road rage incident

Posted by on July 11th, 2008 at 12:42 pm

“Bikes vs. Cars”. On the front page for the second day in a row.

Like often happens when major bike-related news becomes the talk of the town, the last 24 hours have been a whirlwind of activity here at BikePortland headquarters.

Even though I have loads of other work to do, it is hard for me to think of anything besides the incident reported in The Oregonian yesterday.

And still, this morning, I remain disappointed and I have sort of a sick feeling in my stomach about the whole thing.

(Photo © J. Maus)

While I appreciate the discussion this story has started, I think the way it was framed from the outset — by both The Oregonian and their primary source for the story, the Portland Police Bureau — is having a negative impact on our city. In my inbox this morning, I already have two emails from people who say they were harassed (either verbally or by menancing driving) while biking into work this morning.

First, let me be clear. I think poor decisions were made by all parties.

That being said, I feel this is primarily about an assault that resulted after two people on the road had a disagreement and let their emotions escalate.

Sharing the road, and the tensions road users feel are definitely news, but characterizing this one instance as a major trend in “bicyclist vs. motorist” anger, and presenting the story in a way that pits one user group against another in a false dichotomy, is unnecessary, unproductive and dangerous.

In their follow-up piece today (also on the front page), the Oregonian writes:

“There’s an undercurrent of tension between cyclists and drivers that sometimes erupts into violence…”

Imagine that line above written a bit differently:

“There’s an undercurrent of tension on our roads that sometimes erupts into violence.”

The real issue goes way beyond “bicyclist vs. motorist”.

Case in point. Headlines in Seattle today share news of another road rage incident. A 60 year-old man was tending his garden in a traffic roundabout when he was assaulted and later died after an altercation with someone in a passing car about not driving over his hose.

I feel The Oregonian played on Portland’s reputation as a bike-friendly city and on this city’s appetite for bike-related news — especially when it has to do with the “bike vs. car” debate — in order to run a more sensational and attention-grabbing headline.

Yesterday’s Oregonian cover.

Making stories grab readers’ attention is one thing (I try to do it myself), but there is a line I feel should not be crossed.

In the short-run, The Oregonian might indeed sell a few more papers, but in the long-run I feel they’ve eroded public trust, hurt their brand (something they can ill-afford to do these days), and most importantly, fostered a dangerious animosity between Portlanders.

oregonian_easyriders

The photo spread on The Oregonian’s
front page on January 20, 2006.

This is nothing new for The Oregonian. Back in 2006, in the wake of similar civic tensions following the infamous “Cyclist Sues Trimet” story, they ran a huge, front-page splash story titled, “Uneasy Riders.”

In that story, which I also expressed concerns about, reporter Joseph Rose referred to the bike/car relations in Portland as a “Cold War” and hinted that a “backlash against bicyclists” was about to begin. One of the photos accompanying the story showed a man on a bike from an old Critical Mass ride who was wearing a terrorist-like head scarf over his face similar to ones worn by extremists and militants.

As a publisher myself trying to make a living in the news business, I understand why they make their decisions and I understand they have no obligation to be sensitive about the issues. But as a citizen of Portland who understands the dire importance of traffic safety — where escalated emotions can lead to serious injury or even death — I wish they would be more careful with stories like these.

How does the coverage of Sunday’s incident compare with other road rage stories?

Sunday’s incident was plastered on the entire top half of the newspaper with the headline, “Cyclist clubs driver with his bike.”

In contrast, in a major road rage incident last year, a man in a car intentionally ran down a man on a bike on SE Clinton Street. The collision nearly killed Ben Ramsdell, and the man in the car also hit a second person on a bike in the same incident. The driver of the car later told KGW-TV that he was “frustrated the cyclist was not sharing the road.”

Where did that story end up? It was given a few lines of coverage in a roundup of other “Public Safety” stories that ran on page D2.

I find the difference in priority given to these two stories striking.

One component of the story that is particularly troubling is the “mob” mentality of the “angry” group of people that stopped to come to the aid of Steven McAtee (the man on the bike).

From what I’ve learned, the group formed after McAtee had been punched by someone and had fallen to the ground. Imagine yourself coming up on that scene. A car, a bike on the ground, its rider on the ground, the car driver not doing anything to help. It is completely understandable that some people would make the incorrect assumption that the bike rider was in need of support.

Do I condone mobs? Do I condone jumping to conclusions based on scant knowledge of what actually happened? Of course not.

But I understand that situations like this, that are charged with emotion and people yelling and people visibly hurt, are very confusing and it doesn’t take much for things to escalate. Add into the equation the psychology of someone on a 30 pound bike, who rides through the streets within inches of 3,000+ vehicles that with the smallest miscalculation could seriously injure or even kill them.

I don’t doubt that the people who stopped were boisterous and angry, but I just wish the Police Bureau could have been more sensitive in explaining the context of the situation.

What can we do to move this dialogue forward and try to make something positive out of this?

We are All Traffic is a nascent advocacy group that seems particularly well-suited to organize around this issue. You might remember WAAT as the group who helped the community come together in the wake of the two fatalities last October by holding a press conference at City Hall and a rally at Waterfront Park (that was attended (off-duty) by Police Chief Rosie Sizer).

One of the group’s organizers, Erin Greeson, describes WAAT as a “citizen coalition that works to improve safety and equality for all road users,” and says their efforts include working to help educate the media on transportation-related stories and issues.

Greeson feels that yesterday’s coverage of the road rage incident by The Oregonian was “sensationalist” and “a big step backwards”. Greeson says the Oregonian’s coverage,

“Generates new levels of road animosity — which is a life threatening issue — while reinforcing stereotypes and community divides. It is one of the most angering and disappointing pieces of reporting that I have seen this year. It is unacceptable. We can take action to prevent further cases of such irresponsible news coverage.”

WAAT is also planning a “State of the Streets” event in September. If you’re interested in getting involved, they are having a meeting to discuss actions and share ideas this Monday (7/14). For more details, send an email to eringreeson [at] gmail [dot] com.

I realize I’ve written at length about The Oregonian’s coverage. I do this because it had an immense impact on how Portlanders (and now the world) feel about what happened. I also realize there are other important issues that this story has helped bring to light. I plan on covering those in the days and weeks to come, as I’ve done on a daily basis for the past three years.

And, as always, I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

__________

[Editor’s note/update: I just updated this story (7/11, 9:55pm) with the photo from today’s newsstand edition of The Oregonian. As you can see from the photo, for the second day in a row, they have put this incident on the entire above-the-fold portion of the front page. I am also surprised they used the “Bikes vs. Cars” headline.

Back in October, in the wake of two fatal crashes in as many weeks, they used that same phrase to accompany a graphic/map of locations of recent car/bike collisions. I immediately contacted them and told them the “vs.” part was unduly divisive. They agreed and quickly changed the headline to “Bikes and Cars”. Too bad they did it again.]

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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BikePortland.org » Blog Archive » My opinion on The Oregonian’s front page bike plan articlejasonThe First Bike Beaverton Event « First Person IrregularLadd Circle ResidentForseti Recent comment authors
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bahueh
Guest
bahueh

I think now is a good time for We Are All Traffic to STEP UP and make itself heard through the media…

seriously…if I didn\’t read this website occasionally, I would never know they existed…

maxadders
Guest
maxadders

Jonathan, thank you for taking the time to write this. It\’s a shame the Oregonian doesn\’t have more rational, level-headed, objectively focused journalists like yourself. I hope this piece finds its way into the inbox of at least one anti-cyclist commenter from the O\’s piece– we need to move toward civility, not hostility, and I believe your words are the best, most logical interpretation of a very disappointing event.

John Reinhold
Guest
John Reinhold

Coworkers today started in on the \”we should license bicyclists\” and \”bicycles don\’t pay their share\” arguments this morning.

Mostly just to try and get under my skin, but it was on their minds due to the story in the paper.

T Williams
Guest
T Williams

Let no person forget that this whole incident has been incited for nothing more than the sake of profit.

**deleted** you, Oregonian. No wonder you\’re on your last legs.

Mary
Guest
Mary

Jonathan, your piece was well put. I agree that WAAT should do whatever they can to be more in the public eye. And shame on the Oregonian for their sensationalized article. Something does need to change but that article is not the change Portland needs.
~Mary

Anonymous
Guest
Anonymous

Just a few days ago on Canada\’s busiest highway:
http://www.cbc.ca/canada/toronto/story/2008/07/08/401-accident.html?ref=rss

One of them must\’ve been a bicyclist. I don\’t know how else to explain such a clash.

Michael H
Guest
Michael H

Very well written, THANKS for taking the time to write this and present it in an neutral manner. Hopefully we can all move on and understand both sides of the issue and be compassionate toward one another, Cheers

Patrickz
Guest
Patrickz

Thank you, Jonathan. And thanks to all of you out there who choose to remain reasonable and not go to extremes spouting generalities and accusatory statements. And by all means, we need people such as We Are All Traffic to add a good dose of level-headedness to all this sad business.

John Russell
Guest

I don\’t read the Oregonian daily, but I certainly hope that this has sparked more than a few letters to the editor. I also hope that the O has the integrity to publish those letters showing how we really feel after they more or less picked on the road user not protected by thousands of pounds of metal.

Has the Tribune picked up on this at all?

Also, on an unrelated note, when can we expect the forums to be back up?

cotan
Guest
cotan

It looks to me like the facts of the story are pretty much correct. The tone seems typical for a newspaper regardless of the story (i.e. it\’s nothing against cyclists in particular, it\’s just what makes a good read). There was hostility within the crowd, and the potential for mobs/riots always make for compelling reading.

It sounds like the main concern here is the location (front page) and proportion given to the story seem out of line.

That\’s water over the dam now. The question should be one of how to proceed forward to recover from the event. Everyone can piss and moan about how unjust the coverage was, but that doesn\’t move anything forward.

Ron
Guest
Ron

On my commute in and home yesterday, I had 3 motorists wave me on at 4 ways when they had clearly stopped before me. It was a good day on a bike, one of the best. Maybe I just got lucky. Maybe people are thinking about all this.

I know that when I am on my bike I am an ambassador for the bike community, and my actions matter. Should I (or each of us) be seen as representing the entire set of people riding bikes? Of course not. But, such is the case right now, and right now it really matters.

We\’ll unlikely win over anyone who is hell-bent on hating people on bikes, but we can certainly help prevent the the average person from deciding to characterize us as thugs.

One thing I always do which I wish more cyclists would do is recognize and if possible show appreciation when someone in a vehicle SEES you, and behaves accordingly. For instance, I always wave a hand back when a driver pauses their right turn so that I can pass by in the bike lane.

Why thank someone for obeying the law? Why show appreciation for someone simply recognizing my right(s)? Because the world could use a little more manners and appreciation of others around us.

We\’re all traffic, and all humans, and we\’re all neighbors.

Off my soapbox now 🙂

Thanks Jonathan for the great reporting.

007
Guest
007

Thank you for writing this, Jonathan.

The Oregonian is so desperate for readers that they \’ll grasp at anything. This is pathectic, but the Oregonian is a pathetic newspaper these days. Renee Mitchell was always trying to start trouble between cars and bikes in her column. Not sure if she still works there. I hope the story dies soon so the \”O\” can\’t profit from it.

Living in close-in NE and commuting to downtown everyday, I think drivers and bicyclists get along really well. There are always a few bad apples or clueless knuckleheads in both groups.

Jonathan Maus (Editor)
Guest

\”It looks to me like the facts of the story are pretty much correct.\”

I agree cotan. The facts, from what I can tell (even though the police report is no longer avail. due to restrictions by the DA\’s office), are accurate.

the issue is how those facts are portrayed. it only takes a few key words to alter how a story comes out.

the front page size of the story is one part of it, but i am also concerned about how information is handled by the police bureau in bike-related stories (a concern i have had in previous situations as well).

Carissa
Guest
Carissa

I\’d be interested to see reporting cover if the man on the bike also drives.

They make a point of showing that the man in the car is a bike advocate (which, I think, either needs to be backed up with specific examples or shouldn\’t be restated so frequently), but not if the biker has a drivers license and a vehicle. It looks like they were trying to avoid the car vs bike formula by presenting the driver as a cyclist, but it\’s just as important to show the cyclist as a driver. To break that divide you have to show similarities both ways.

Darren
Guest
Darren

Jonathan,

In a world a trash journalism and the direction the Oregonian has set for itself, you (and similar responsible bloggers) are the reason we turn to the internet for meaningful news and opinion.

Take to heart the Gandhi quote that goes something like \”First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.\”

Keep it going Jonathan and we all win.

Cøyøte
Guest
Cøyøte

The Oregonian has become a rag. I am not suprized that than they hyped up a \”man bites dog\” story as lead feature.

I guess the bloom is off the rose for the big tomato scare. Imagine a thousand people have got diarrhea since April form tainted tomatoes. Meanwhile 14,000 have died in car crashes in the US, and 300,000 world wide in the same time period.

It boggles the mind what we consider news. I guess those road deaths are not controversial enough to be news? But two guys duking it out on the street is a real story.

Icarus Falling
Guest
Icarus Falling

I agree that a big piece of the problem lies in the way the Portland Police Dept. deals with situations. And the way that the local papers follow suit with irresponsible reporting.

Not only situations involving bikes, but in general. The police seem to neither understand the laws we pay them to uphold, nor understand the damage that incorrect or biased police reporting does to the city.

The PPB needs to be reigned in, and start getting their facts straight. Also, reporting incidences in an unbiased manner would be most helpful to the \”whole community\” we live in.

While the Oregonian is certainly one of the worst and most corrupt papers in the country (a belief I have held for a long time), they are in the business of selling papers, and sensationalism such as the headline regarding this incident is exactly how they do that.

If it wasn\’t for the Ross Island killer Pamphlin, I would read the Tribune. But I feel no better about supporting that paper than I do the Oregonian.

Good job of reporting on this Jonathan.
Keep it up!

Alicia Crain
Guest
Alicia Crain

Thanks, Jonathan, I appreciate your candor and approach to the issue.

I volunteered this spring/summer for the BTA to present the Bike-Car Safety portion of the Share the Road Safety Class. This class is open to road users (driver, bikers, pedestrians, skate boarders, we even had a snowmobiler once) who receive certain citations in exchange for a fine reduction or elimination. One of THE MOST important points I, and I think all of the other BTA volunteers, and the other presenters (Judge Larsen from Mult. County Traffic Court, Mike Morrison of Trauma Nurses Talk Tough, Portland Police Traffic Division Officers, and the Willamette Pedestrian Coalition) is that there are not \”walkers\”, \”bicyclsts\”, \”skate boarders\”, \”drivers\”, etc., but that we are all ROAD USERS who fall into these categories at various times in our daily lives (not sure about that snowmobiler, but maybe that\’s what the ticket was for). And, part of that is that all road users must look out for the VULNERABLE road users, which, like it or not, includes people on bikes, people walking, people on skate boards, and, no matter what they\’re doing, children. Now, this does not take away responsibility from people using certain modes of transportation to follow the laws and make intelligent, common sense decisions (like wear a helmet when you ride your bike – most people on bikes who are hit by cars die of head trauma inflicted because they are not wearing a helmet, it\’s really amazing what that piece of plastic & polystyrene can do – split 4 ways and all you get is a minor concussion).

From the comments on the evaluations, most folks in the class (drivers outnumber bicyclists 9 to 1) did not have any idea that bicyclists are allowed to be on main roads (let alone take the lane legally when it is unsafe to share the lane or when they are keeping up with traffic, like downtown) that drivers cannot drive in the bicycle lane FOR ANY REASON (outside an emergency, narrowly defined), and that \”WAIT HERE\” painted in front of the new green bike boxes means…wait for it…WAIT HERE, which in turn means, NO TURN ON RED (I know that sign that says NO TURN ON RED can be quite confusing).

Another frequent comment is that this class should be mandatory for all new-to-Oregon/Portland and new drivers, because the DMV test & driver\’s ed classes just are not covering these important laws and topics. We should encourage the City of Portland to work with the DMV to add bicycle-car law-based safety questions to the test that is administered in the Portland area.

I suggested this to PDOT last fall and they whined that it was putting too much of the load on drivers. Well, I looked up some statistics and while 43,000 (or a town a little smaller than Corvallis) people are killed each year in the US in car crashes, only about 750 people die in bike crashes in the US each year (~85 million cyclists) – and most are hit by cars. In fact, you are most likely to die (statistically) as a bicyclist if you are male, 16 years old, not wearing a helmet, and going through (not necessarily disobeying a traffic signal) an intersection in an urban area.

So, what is my point? When a person is a bicyclist, wear a helmet and obey traffic signals; when a person is a driver, slow down (please! where\’s the fire? i mean really, going 40 in a 30 only gets someone hurt and doesn\’t get you where you going more than 30 seconds sooner) keep an eye out for cyclists (you cannot see what you are not looking for…google \”awareness test\”), and obey traffic signals. And stop pointing fingers, take some responsibility, and start organizing and lobbying the city and the state to do more to educate the public about laws and safety measures.

Most bicyclists in Portland do obey the laws, it\’s just that the ones who don\’t are more visible. I don\’t drive more than once a month and I certainly don\’t ask all frequent drivers to take the heat for the bad ones who disobey traffic laws, so why should I and other law-abiding bicyclists take the heat for the shoddy ones? They shouldn\’t.

Forseti
Guest
Forseti

Excellent work, Jonathan, as always, but particularly timely and important here.

The Oregonian\’s shameful pandering to the troglodytes who won\’t share the road is just despicable. They are abusing their position of public trust to sell papers and making the situation worse in the process. Sadly, as you so ably point out, this is nothing new for them. This is how they make profit. I am totally disgusted by the Oregonian.

Their journalism is so bad I never read it anyway, but now I am actively looking forward to the end of their negative presence in our fair City.

None of them can hold a candle to your reporting on important local issues. And they all know it. Darren got it right-on at #15. The sooner the Oregon goes the way of the dodo, the better.

Forseti
Guest
Forseti

One more thing:

All of you reading this who agree with Jonathan (and me and countless others) about the Oregonian and who have a subscription, CANCEL IT. Write them a note explaining why and then help put them where they deserve to be, out of business.

Dennis
Guest

thank you Jonathan,

For seeing the big picture. Journalism is in many ways the fourth branch of governance. Finding a journalist that can be trusted to keep both feet on the ground, and maintain journalistic integrity is vital, and one of the reason why I keep hitting \”refresh\” on my browser, at different times in the day.

tonyt
Guest
tonyt

I don\’t think I\’ve seen a headline of that size in the Oregonian since 9/11.

Shame on them for fanning the flames on this.

That being said, I find myself avoiding any information about this story other than the very basics. I don\’t need to get worked up.

This just stinks all around and I find the Oregonian and their sensationalistic approach sickening.

Shame.

Diogo
Guest
Diogo

Johnatan,

You\’re way better journalist than those folks at the Oregonian. It\’s so obvious that this was sensationalism to backlash against bikes and an attempt to stay relevant, at the expenses of quality in the coverage.

But I see one positive aspect on this: I think that expliciting a conflict is a major step towards overcoming it. But the conflict here is not between cars X bike. The conflict is about change and opposition to it. Its about reactionarism against progress. The Oregonian is trying to energize all the reactionaries (and guess what? they ride bikes and they drive). Those that will start harassing bikers because of this are not doing because they are drivers – they are doing because they are —holes.

I say bring it on. Let\’s confront them. Let\’s not be timid, let\’s not bend to the peer pressure of \”you give bikes a bad name\”. The infrastructure we live in is damaging to all of us and the planet. Let\’s continue to challenge it, to disregard it, to disobey the rules that keep the unhealthy order. If they are getting defensive, it means its working.

Laura
Guest
Laura

I suspect the Oregonian is going to have more articles on the topic soon. Ken Goe was out on the Hawthorne this morning, interviewing cyclists, including a friend of mine. Stay tuned…

The PPB is vigilantly protecting us from ourselves, too, using an umarked car to sting cyclists yesterday afternoon at Ladd\’s Circle.

Ethan
Guest

I\’d rather be assaulted by a drunk on a bicycle than one driving a 2,000 pound machine any day of the week . . . and how many times has that happened in the last year, where people DIED?

And, not that it\’s related, but I had some pretty solid object hurled at me on NE Dekum last night at midnight (and yes I had lights, helmet and was NOT intoxicated).

Jonathan Maus (Editor)
Guest

I think The Oregonian is full of excellent reporters and that they play a vital role in the health of our city.

My intention is not to call their reporting skills into question. I do not expect them to share the care and sensitivity to the bike issue that I have. I\’m simply sharing my feelings that they should consider being a bit more responsible with the information they are given… especially with issues that have a direct impact on public safety.

Whyat
Guest
Whyat

It blows me away that no one here seems to be mentioning:

A. The cyclist was biking while (VERY) intoxicated.
B. The cyclist ASSAULTED the driver with his bike

Every week I see someone on this site saying \’I don\’t understand how someone can possibly hate a cyclist! I don\’t get it!\’.

This is why. When a drunk cyclist assaults someone with their bike the Portland bike community points fingers at everyone else and fails to take an iota of personal responsibility.

Maybe the Oregonian is a rag. Who cares!? They\’re allowed to report whatever they want. Steven McAtee is squarely to blame here, and that we the Portland bike community are unable to admit it is sad and pathetic.

If we as a community can\’t condemn a drunken dangerous assailant we are clearly never going to be able to earn the respect of the rest of our community. We have an entire section on this board dedicated to close calls. We\’re allowed to point fingers at bad drivers but can\’t take it when people point fingers at bad cyclists? Are we a big bunch of babies? That\’s what it feels like to me.

I am COMPLETELY embarrassed to be a part of the PDX bike community today.

hanmade
Guest
hanmade

Over the years, I have watched the Oregroanian get worse and worse in their quality of reporting. There is no \”us vs them\” on the roads. The vast majority of drivers I have dealt with on my bike have been friendly. I would think the percentage of rude drivers to bicyclists be about as high (or lower) than it is between two vehicles. That rag of a newspaper should be publicly admonished by our leading officials.

Jonathan Maus (Editor)
Guest

\”It blows me away that no one here seems to be mentioning:

A. The cyclist was biking while (VERY) intoxicated.
B. The cyclist ASSAULTED the driver with his bike\”

Whyat,

I agree. These are very important issues. However, I don\’t think anyone is pointing fingers.

The reason I am not condemning a drunken, dangerous assailant has nothing to do with not taking personal responsibility… it is simply not the chosen focus of how I\’ve reported on this story so far.
thanks,

Alan
Guest
Alan

Jonathan,

Many *many* thanks for your thoughts. I\’ve been reading you for several years now (so its certainly about time for me to help fund the blog!) and I have always admired your ability to keep an open mind and not be swept away by one point of view.

I\’m not going to trash the Oregonian on this story although their coverage of the leaves much to be desired. Everyone should know the old saw, \”dog bites man – not news, but man bites dog, that\’s news!\” Same goes here. If you\’re looking for balance, don\’t rely on a single news source.

As for the participants in this sad story, I agree with you. There were mistakes all around.

I am sure that every person in this city sees behavior every day that offends them. Think what you want about the behavior you see, but beware of confronting the person you find so offensive. Unless your skills as a \”public confronter\” are exceptional, things could easily go awry. A red light at an intersection is rarely a satisfactory place for telling a stranger about their shortcomings.

And we could all spend a lot more time asking ourselves, \”how does my public behavior look to others?\” We are practically blind to the impression we make. When someone does call us to task, try to treat it as an opportunity to take off the blinders, not a challenge. I\’ve had drivers and cyclists and pedestrians yell at me many times in this town. It unnerves me every time, it usually pisses me off, but it has never been just cause for violence. There is no defense for what the cyclist did in this case.

I think the best response to this story, like so many others, is to mend bridges. I\’ve been on my bike joking with drivers at red lights, giving thumbs up to ones who let me pull in front of them, and trying to obey more of the laws than usual. Everyone has been exceptionally friendly. This is a good city to ride in.

Diogo
Guest
Diogo

The other day I was doored while riding my bike by this careless lady in her car. She was quick to apologize but I just kept riding, didn\’t say a word – what\’s the point, she didn\’t mean it. Someone riding with me censured her, though – which I find unpleasant. Accidents happen, its just hipocritical to chastised others like that when its unintentional.

People do stupid things all the time. They get drunk. They get into fights. I find awful that so many people would \”lynch\” the guys involved in this case, asking one of them to be fired from his job, and what not. You may disapprove his actions, but there\’s way more to a person than one isolated action, so its just so backwards and irrational to condemn someone like that.

There\’s way too much hipocrisy involved here, I think.

erin g.
Guest
erin g.

Jonathan, thank you for these excellent thoughts and reflections. The Portland community would not be what it is today – so cohesive, communicative, and so full of momentum – if it weren’t for you and bikeportland.org. Thank you for dedicating yourself to the common good in such extraordinary ways. You work your heart out to do what is right for us all. You are an inseparable part of what makes this city so special.

Everyone – If you would like to apply your energy and ideas toward direct action in affecting change, please get involved with We are ALL Traffic. It is a great group of fun and passionate yet concerned citizens representing diverse community fronts. Please read above for information about how to get involved as we work to improve safety, equality, and respect on the streets for all.

To the media – Thank you to the myriad reporters who have generously supported the efforts of We are ALL Traffic in the past (for the long list, including fine Oregonian writers, who went above and beyond to cover our news, see comment #12: http://bikeportland.org/2007/11/18/despite-rain-hundreds-attend-we-are-all-traffic-rally/). We look forward to working with new and returning media allies in making sure that news coverage of traffic issues fosters safe behavior and respect on the road. Also, thank you to The Oregonian for playing a vital role in the success of the Towards Carfree Cities Conference and Sunday Parkways event (Dylan Rivera’s features were superb). I implore readers to refrain from translating yesterday’s sensationalism fiasco into reason to discount The Oregonian entirely. It was one bad mistake amidst a growing trend of supportive community coverage. We should call the editors and specific reporter out on that vital error without isolating the publication and its many good reporters. They deserve our appreciation and support, just as they have supported us.

Let’s work together to segue this frustration into a sense of universal respect and solidarity. When we lead with the high road, great things follow. Like Darren’s (#15) Gandhi quotes says!

Erin Greeson
We are ALL Traffic

Moo
Guest
Moo

#1 – Forget wasting anyones time in talking about stoking up the \”we are all traffic\” line of b.s. Until those cyclists who continue to blow by red lights, weave in and out of traffic, and basically wreak havoc over everyone else\’s commute – stop, cyclists will always have the same old rep…bullies of the roads.

Paul Souders
Guest

@ Ethan:
\”I\’d rather be assaulted by a drunk on a bicycle than one driving a 2,000 pound machine any day of the week . . . and how many times has that happened in the last year, where people DIED?\”

Yes but every time it happened it made the front page of the O with 75% above the fold and a headline in 60 point type reading \”Driver Kills Other Person with CAR!\”

Oh, wait, that *didn\’t* happen?

Grant
Guest
Grant

Laura,

It\’s not a sting.

They aren\’t hiding the stop sign, they aren\’t enticing you to break the law.

It\’s plain and simple enforcement.

You choose to break the law in the presence of the police you get a ticket.

As for the article in question it\’s unfortunate in the way it is portrayed but it has been very telling about how people are perceived, both through the portrayal in the article and in how person each was viewed at the scene.

Rick
Guest
Rick

This incident, it seems, would be a great opportunity for a cycling community to make a statement about their commitment to bike responsibility, and be a part of the greater community. By at least acknowledging what allegedly happened in a thorough way, this site could help do that.

Instead, the article above is not a report on the incident. It is a media analysis piece, commenting on the reporting of the incident. For those of you most familiar with blogs for your \”news\” information, this is an op-ed piece, not to be mistaken for a balanced news article.

While it\’s an admirable addition to the discussion, providing some insight on the tone of the mainstream coverage, there is a glaring avoidance here of the reporting of what allegedly happened. It\’s not enough to say that that hasn\’t been your focus so far.

If the Oregonian\’s reporting was so bad, provide a more balanced actual news article on it. Otherwise, you\’re reporting on the reporting. And, ironically, not doing a heck of alot to offset the us/them situation you accuse the Oregonian\’s coverage of fostering.

Jill
Guest
Jill

Whyat (#27)-
Did you read the hundreds of posts from Jonathan\’s original article? It\’s pretty clear that the \”bike community\” vehemently condemns the actions of McAtee. He behaved as a drunk idiot.

Jonathan- thanks for your excellent, measured reporting, as always.

I am very concerned about harassment of bicyclists as a result of the sensational reporting by the Oregonian. Thanks WAAT, for stepping in to try to calm road users of all stripes.

scoot
Guest
scoot

Seriously, where\’s the outrage about those damned trees getting in the way of people\’s right to camp? If the headlines had been reversed, there\’d be chainsaws revving all over town.

On my ride downtown late this morning, I did get a couple of stink eyes more than usual, but I think I may have been looking for them. I also had more than usual courtesy and mutual acknowledgment between me and drivers. And I never once felt any need to smash my bike into anyone.

I appreciate this site and your commitment to it, Jonathan Maus. I may even pony up again when you get the forums back up.

drew
Guest
drew

The Oregonian is a business. Businesses sell a product or service to make a profit. I would imagine that the Oregonian is getting plenty of publicity and maybe selling several thousand addtional newspapers as a result…Good for business.

Hey Jonathan, have you had a story with more blog responses than this one? What about news mediums asking for your opinion? Just a perverse thought, I suppose.

As Whyat said, \”I am COMPLETELY embarrassed to be a part of the PDX bike community today.\” I took the max today instead of riding.

Anonymous
Guest
Anonymous

I think everybody here agrees \”Steven McAtee is squarely to blame here\”. I don\’t think I\’ve heard anybody defend him.

I just think the real story is \”… this is primarily about an assault that resulted after two people on the road had a disagreement and let their emotions escalate.\” (JM) Although \”McAtee is squarely to blame\” imo.

I, also, don\’t appreciate that everybody walking by a newstand yesterday was struck by a headline that caused dissension and raised blood pressure whether a biker or a driver. In my case, I was just mad at the O.

As for me, I obey traffic laws on my bike to do what I can to alleviate some of the dissent.

Donald
Guest
Donald

False dichotomy. That was my main problem with the Oregonian\’s story, it\’s tone and the play it received.

Today I\’ve had my fair share of co-workers coming over to my desk, leaning against my Raleigh and asking me vapid questions about drunken brawls…

So be it.

Drivers the last two days have been to me as they are most days: Courteous and careful for the most part, with a few dunderheads thrown in to spice things up.

What I can say is I\’m deeply disappointed in the Oregonian and OLive (which really are two different animals). I know people at both. I know they know better. I know there a great many riders in their ranks. One can only shake one\’s head at some times.

(I have to note, though, that OL did BP.org the courtesy of linking to the site today.)

Thanks for the thoughtful input, neighbor. Seems the issue could use more of it from all sides.

_DA

djasonpenney
Guest

Jonathan writes,

That being said, I feel this is primarily about an assault that resulted after two people on the road had a disagreement and let their emotions escalate.

With 20/20 hindsight, I agree that Colin probably shouldn\’t have exited his vehicle, but–frankly–I\’m not sure I would have just sat by while somebody was pounding my car with his bicycle.

I\’m not sure I would say that Colin\’s emotions \”escalated.\” He\’s a very nice and gentle man, and I\’m sure he was just totally taken by surprised.

Moving beyond that, I am appalled that this would be a front page story when the McDaniel story (a married couple murdered by a distracted motorist when she completely left the roadway) doesn\’t even get a mention outside of the Hillsboro Argus:

http://bikeportland.org/2006/06/05/memorial-service-today-for-darrel-and-sheryl-mcdaniel/

Jonathan Maus (Editor)
Guest

\”there is a glaring avoidance here of the reporting of what allegedly happened. It’s not enough to say that that hasn’t been your focus so far… If the Oregonian’s reporting was so bad, provide a more balanced actual news article on it. \”

I hear you Rick. here are my thoughts.

I do not think the facts were reported incorrectly by the Oregonian. This is more a matter of style, tone, and the issue of where the source of the information is coming from.

That being said, I agree that I should do more reporting on this. In the article above, I do touch on how I see the \”mob\” aspect of the story.

In addition, I am lucky in that much of what makes this site tick has nothing to do with my initial story — it comes in the form of all the comments from people who know those involved, who saw what happened, etc…

One of the difficult issues here is that i can no longer receive a copy of the police report and PDOT has clammed up completely about Steven McAtee .. sending out an all-employee email that no one is allowed to talk about his involvement with the case.

I\’m actually surprised no one has contacted me to offer their account of what happened. Typically I receive numerous emails from witnesses wanting to share their version of the story.. that hasn\’t happened in this case.

Also, to be frank, I simply am not motivated to delve into stories like this for some of the reasons I\’ve already shared. These are simply not the kind of stories I am personally excited about. It\’s the same reason I don\’t delve into every report of road rage, near miss, or crash I get tipped off about several times each week.

Also, unlike reporters at other outlets, I cannot focus solely on one story. It takes what I deem to be a very, very important story for me to drop everything and focus all my energy and time on it. Honestly, I am totally backed up with other stories I\’m trying to write, an inbox with 400+ messages, and lots of other business-related details.

i\’m not saying this isn\’t an important story…. I\’m simply trying to be candid on why I haven\’t been pounding the pavement and uncovering every little detail of what happened (like I\’ve done with other stories in the past).

I will have more to report on this story in the days and weeks to come for sure. Thanks for your feedback.

Forseti
Guest
Forseti

I hate to tell you this Whyat and drew, but you aren\’t \”part of the PDX bike community.\” There\’s no such thing. It\’s a figment of your imagination.

You\’re human beings who live in Portland and who happen to ride a bike sometimes.

You don\’t speak for me, and I don\’t speak for you, got it?

Men don\’t speak for all other men. Latinas don\’t speak for all other latinas. People who take the bus don\’t speak for other people who take the bus. People who live in Portland don\’t speak for all other people who live in Portland.

Just think about the term \”bus community\” and think about how stupid it sounds to use a term like \”PDX bike community.\”

McAtee got charged with multiple crimes. His actions are *HIS FAULT* and no one else\’s. I am not responsible for his actions because I ride a bike. Neither are you. Got it?

Just like I drive a car and I am not responsible for the behavior of the guy who killed Tracey Sparling.

And you actually have the gall to talk about personal responsibility. Worry about your own.

Icarus Falling
Guest
Icarus Falling

Laura,

It is illegal to run a stop sign. Though most of us do it, if not only sometimes, it is still illegal.

It is very counterproductive to bitch about getting a ticket for a law you broke, or seeing an effective sting against people who are BREAKING THE LAW!

Even though you may not like it, the Police were in Ladd\’s doing their job.

It may be misguided, and the least of the things the PPB should be worrying about, but it is a legitimate sting.

Graham
Guest
Graham

Hey Whyat,

If it were just a matter of some drunk guy assaulting a driver, that would be one thing. However, it seems that it\’s being presented by the Oregonian as emblematic of a larger bike vs. car conflict.

Also, as was pointed out in Jonathan\’s post: the Oregonian decided to make a story about a cyclist going batsh** on a driver front-page headline news, but chose to give a very comparable story about a driver going batsh** on a cyclist, \”a few lines of coverage in a roundup of other \’Public Safety\’ stories that ran on page D2.\” Actually the stories are comparable except for one major point: in the case of the driver attacking the cyclist, the driver NEARLY KILLED THE CYCLIST.

The placement of those stories is a clear choice on the part of the Oregonian: they play up the story that makes the cyclist look bad, and bury the story in which the cyclist nearly dies.

This fuels hostilities in what is already seems the most hostile part of otherwise super-nice Portland: its streets.

Of course, the Oregonian can report whatever they want. Thing is, if they\’re guilty of bad reporting, or editorial bias, particularly editorial bias that can incite hostilities that can get us killed, we can and should call them on it.

Finally, I\’m pretty sure that people on this site are not overlooking – much less condoning – the drunken assault aspect of the story here, but I haven\’t combed through the 300+ comments on the initial BikePortland story to be sure 🙂

Opus the Poet
Guest

I was assaulted by a driver using his vehicle as a deadly weapon, and there wasn\’t a story about it until 3 years later when one of my custom bikes won its class in a local car show. It wasn\’t news until I did something else, before that I was just another grease stain in the road. That\’s why drivers think they can get away with it, because they do and have for years if not decades, not even a disapproving story in the local paper.

Icarus Falling
Guest
Icarus Falling

\”That being said, I feel this is primarily about an assault that resulted after two people on the road had a disagreement and let their emotions escalate.\”

I would venture to say that this is in regards to the fact that nothing would have happened had Colin not yelled, then honked, then followed McAtee to do the same some more. Correct me if I am wrong.

The getting out of the car part of this scenario happened after the situation was already escalated. Blocks later…

Matthew Denton
Guest
Matthew Denton

Okay, in addition to a few bad bicyclists on the road, it looks like we\’ve got a few bad reporters in the Oregonian.

But I\’m not about to say that all Oregonian reporters are sensationalists anymore than I\’d say that we all run stop lights. Of course, the Oregonian is a group that should be able to control their more extremists members, (unlike the bicycling community, who, as we saw, tried to control our more extremist members only to get attacked for is,) but still, the Oregonian need to be gently reminded that they aren\’t doing balanced coverage, not attacked here.

Maculsay
Guest
Maculsay

While taking bike counts for PDOT at NE 122nd and Halsey on Thursday, I was AMAZED at how many people rolled down their windows to chat, along with some pedestrians. When they found out what I was up to, there was a common theme from most folks – bikes don\’t belong out here on the street, they don\’t pay for the roads, they don\’t have respect for the law, and how \”fed up\” they are with \”bikers\”. A couple of times I had to make sure we were talking about bicycles, not motorcycles :).

I counted these events – eleven in two hours.

One gal seemed embarrassed that she wasn\’t on her bike, and could not be counted. She was the only positive encounter I had.

One guy, who was actually older than myself by a number of years, became immediately agitated and almost confrontative when I said I was counting bikes. He rambled for awhile, eventually walking away. He told me to get a real life after I mentioned I\’d been car-free most of this decade.

As for the actual bikes passing through, there were more violating the law than otherwise – crossing on the wrong side of the street. One younger man actually was hit by a right-turning vehicle as he attempted to ride with his green, although he was on the wrong side of the street. No injury, fortunately.

Just a few anecdotes… I\’ll continue to ride, and I\’ve almost completely stopped cruising through some of the sedate stop signs on NE Tillamook, and NEVER running red\’s. I\’ll continue to always take the high road with incidents, even apologizing first for any issue, and usually I\’ll receive an apology back, and then a friendly wave.

Imagine the rage as fuel becomes more expensive…