Weekender Ride

Portland, Seattle featured in The Economist

Posted by on August 4th, 2008 at 10:38 am

Screenshot of Economist.com.

Few media outlets in the world have the reputation and reach of The Economist. The magazine and website cover international news with an intelligence and depth that is increasingly hard to find.

That’s why when they mentioned Portland and Seattle’s recent headline-grabbing road rage incidents, several readers emailed me the link (thanks Chris and Rex).

In an article published on July 31st titled, Bumpy Roads: It’s not all free wheeling, The Economist framed the increase in biking in the U.S. as being marred by road rage incidents in Seattle, Portland, and disagreements between bike advocates and law enforcement officials in Colorado.

Here’s the excerpt where they mention Portland:

“But cycling’s popularity has a downside. The people of Portland, for instance, have been entertained over the past few days by a series of altercations between bicyclists and motorists. In one, a motorist and cyclist came to blows after the motorist berated the pedal-pusher for ignoring a stop sign. The enraged cyclist used his bike to batter the motorist’s car until a bystander punched him.”

The article was also accompanied by a photo of Bridge Pedal, the annual Portland ride that attracts nearly 20,000 people.

I realize the juxtaposition of the road rage incidents involving bikes and the increase in biking is a very seductive storyline, but I am amazed at how this continues to captivate media outlets around the world.

Read the full article at Economist.com.

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

  • bahueh August 4, 2008 at 11:08 am

    you shouldn\’t be amazed Jonathan..this is what the media does…
    until another story comes along…it\’ll die out soon enough, unless more drunk idiots in cars and on bikes comes to rescue mainstream media…

    by all means, lets feed the trolls more..

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  • Sodapop Johnson August 4, 2008 at 11:08 am

    Just goes to show the Economist is another rag that doesn\’t bother to research the stories they write. Write \’em a letter and tell them to remember their journalistic roots, because the magazine is pretty worthless now.

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  • Diogo August 4, 2008 at 11:09 am

    I think it\’s worth mentioning that The Economist is an openly conservative newspaper, which often displays its ideological view within its articles. Despite of that, I enjoy reading it because of, like you said, their in-depth analysis.

    This article, however, has none of those good qualities but all the usual bias. Very poor and superficial, simply repeating the mistakes other media outlets have commited. The Seattle case, for example. I was there for the weekend and I read on the Stranger about how all the media had mischaracterized the Critical Mass incident by completely ignoring the cyclists perspective and painting the driver as a innocent victim. But The Stranger also remarks that, after the initial bias, most papers started correcting their headlines and articles to at least mention the fact that the driver admitted to have run people over. But The Economist simply echoed the anti-bike bias by only caring to print the \”dowside\” of biking…

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  • Russ August 4, 2008 at 11:25 am


    Keep in mind \”conservative\” in Europe is more or less \”moderate democrat\” in the US – to use simplistic shorthand. The Economist isn\’t exactly the Weekly Standard.

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  • xb August 4, 2008 at 11:29 am

    i am waiting for PEDS VS CARS! this weekend, i watched as a sloppy driver nearly didnt stop in time as a ped was crossing the street in front of the car (at a stop sign). the nearly-hit pedestrian was a construction worker, complete with coveralls and hardhat, and he really let the driver have it (verbally). if he had had some tools on his belt, i wonder if there would have been some busted headlights.

    luckily the boregonian didnt get word of it, or they could have pit more people against each other in the eyes of the public.

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  • Russ August 4, 2008 at 11:40 am

    After reading the \”briefing\” (which is what I think they call this short and short on fact or nuance articles), about all I can agree with is the last sentence.

    Speaking of that, my girlfriend had the trifecta of a bad commute this morning.

    First, she had three kids on BMX/mountain bikes rush her going the wrong way in the bike lane of a 35 mph road, when they figured out she wasn\’t going to move into traffic for them, they went into the car lane and almost got nailed by a pick-up which had to lock up it\’s breaks.

    Second, she came up on a guy who was standing in the bike lane talking on the phone. He saw her coming and refused to move. She waited until she was clear and passed him in the car lane. When she passed, she said \”Please keep the bike lane clear\” and he yelled \”You don\’t tell me what to do you fucking hippy!\” and chased her down the street trying to knock her off her bike.

    Further up the street a car turning left pulled right past the sidewalk and into the bike lane in front of her and she almost hit the car but managed to stop on time. For this one at least the driver was apologetic.

    Quite a 3 mile ride.

    So yeah, \”it looks as though there is a need, on (all) sides, for a revolution in manners.\” I can agree with that at least. The rest of the article is trash.

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  • Ethan August 4, 2008 at 11:44 am

    I have always enjoyed the Economist . . . not least because they always tended to provide the balanced coverage of this administration so lacking in most media outlets. That said, I am beginning to think they are just pessimists . . . you rarely read many articles that really look at a given trend/technology/movement that don\’t leave you feeling like it probably won\’t work out. Be it conflicts, alternative energy, justice, human rights, even Obama . . . the Economist seems to prefer sitting on the fence, pointing out all the possible pitfalls. I guess this way they are never exactly wrong.

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  • cyclist August 4, 2008 at 11:48 am

    Sodapop: Strictly speaking, the excerpt Jonathan posted is true, some moron on a bike did bash the shit out of someone\’s car because that person dared to tell him not to blow a stop sign. I\’d also say that many people found that altercation entertaining, in a perverse way.

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  • Whyat August 4, 2008 at 12:00 pm

    Maybe this is actually more of a story than anyone here wants to admit. It keeps spreading further and further and further. Everyone here is certainly paying attention.

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  • Evan August 4, 2008 at 12:02 pm

    In the US, there are probably hundreds, if not thousands, of road rage incidents every day. If a driver is killed, it might make the third section of the newspaper, but otherwise these incidents are so common they do not merit any attention at all. However, when there is a case of road rage involving a cyclist, it will probably be on the evening news on TV, in addition to the front page of the paper and maybe the radio as well. The recent stories in Portland and Seattle have relied on the media’s thirst for a sensational story, but unfortunately have been short on facts. People tend to forget that what appears in the news is often poorly researched and presented with whatever bias is necessary in order to gain viewers/readers/listeners. “Bike vs Car” is a perfect example. When was the last time you saw a story in the evening news about bikes AND cars?

    The US was built for cars, period. Cyclists on US streets are treated as second-class citizens, or worse. People who try to improve facilities for cyclists are seen as counter-culture “liberals” regardless of any actual political affiliation. Many of the people who ride in our Critical Mass rides are on the fringe of the cultural spectrum and could even be compared to the super hard-core gun-rights folks who like to wear their guns on their belts around town.

    There are plenty of cyclists who disobey the rules of the road, both written and unwritten. To imply that drivers are somehow better at following the rules would be folly. Most cyclists, however, do not assert their so-called right to the road with violence. A bad rider, either by stupidity, drunkenness or even plain old human error may injure himself, but is much less likely to injure (or kill) others. I’ve ridden my bike plenty drunk, and I fell off. I don’t make a habit of it. When people drive drunk, innocent people die.

    I’m just a guy trying to get somewhere. I happen to find that a bicycle is the most appropriate way to get there for most of my trips. For that, I have been threatened, intimidated, and even assaulted. And for what?

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  • Russ August 4, 2008 at 12:08 pm


    Sure there is a story, but it\’s an old one that\’s only been magnified lately. I don\’t think any service is done to the story with 5 paragraphs that say a lot of nothing other than to provide a simplistic version of several incidents while excluding important facts or just getting some wrong.

    To understand any of those events the reader would need to run a search for each, and even then might still not find any kind of overall context to fit it all into.

    In other words, an outsider reading the piece actually comes out less/badly/wrongly informed, which is bad journalism.

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  • Icarus Falling August 4, 2008 at 12:40 pm

    I am interested to find out who wrote this piece as I could not find it linked to the article.

    I suspect I do know who wrote it, as the lack of integrity in the article points a finger…

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  • Graham August 4, 2008 at 12:43 pm

    Well, they got one thing right about the coverage:

    The people of Portland, for instance, have been entertained over the past few days

    That\’s what it\’s mostly been about: entertainment. Jerry Springer disguised as news. It\’s reality-show entertainment, and maybe also the indulgence and validation of simmering resentment drivers feel at being stuck paying 4+ bucks a gallon for gas.

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  • Robert August 4, 2008 at 3:52 pm

    \”The magazine and website cover international news with an intelligence and depth that is increasingly hard to find.\”

    I was very disappointed to read this statement. The Economist covers news with the same pervasive neo-liberal economic viewpoint found on Fox News, but under the guise of critical analysis. Its centrist stance on social issues may make it appear more moderate, but its bitter pill agenda of globalization, privatization, and deregulation is swallowed only by those blindly seduced by British diction, and international focus.

    To anyone interested in changing the status quo, as I\’d expect a bikeportland.org reader to be, please think critically while reading the Economist. It does not offer objective views, so balance it with one of the other magazines out there covering international news with depth and intelligence, such as Harper\’s or the Nation.

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  • David Feldman August 4, 2008 at 6:02 pm

    Man bites dog…….it always sells.

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  • Joe August 4, 2008 at 9:20 pm

    I think the anti-bike bias goes beyond typical conservative vs. liberal bias. The car culture is so entrenched in American ideology that even liberals cling to their \”right\” to run wild on the road with ill-respect toward other road users. This will be tough, but it can be won… With sensibility and personality.

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  • Brad August 4, 2008 at 9:24 pm

    I ride a bike so everyone hates me and wishes me dead. The cops are just itching to shoot me. Drivers want to run me down because I am solely responsible for expensive gasoline. Wahhhhhhhhh!!!

    Here\’s the reality check. We riders are a small but steadily growing band of people who are just early adopters of alternative transportation. We are neither an oppressed minority or social revolutionaries. We are not special litle snowflakes or freedom fighters.

    Let the media write and say what they wish. I don\’t give a damn what some editor thinks my riding is weird. I am an adult who doesn\’t need the validation of the masses to feel good about what I do. Other than a few fringe dwelling cowards safely hidden behind their internet anonymity, no reasoned or considered voice has called for violence against cyclists nor have they implored legislators to criminalize cycling. I feel no personal threat as a result of sophomoric and pathetic attempts to sell papers. Equally silly and deluded are those who come here to blather on about how merely riding a bike makes them the vanguards of some new enlightened age and the car owning bourgeoisie will be crushed under their fixed geared vehicles of social justice.

    If you really feel frightened to ride then give it up. If you truly feel that American society is one huge conspiracy against bike riders, quit pedaling. If you think that the act of riding a bike makes you some sort of revolutionary hero, prepare yourself for a lifetime of anger and disappointment.

    Ride because it pleases YOU. Ride because YOU get something out of it. Ride because YOU actually friggin\’ enjoy it!

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  • Icarus Falling August 4, 2008 at 11:28 pm

    \” Smile
    Like you\’ve got nothing to prove
    No matter what you might do
    There\’s always someone out there cooler than you

    I know that\’s hard to believe
    But there are people you meet
    They\’re into something that is too big to be
    Through their clothes
    And they\’ll put up with all the poses you throw
    And you won\’t
    Even know

    That they\’re not sizing you up
    They know your mom f#@$ed you up
    Or maybe let you watch too much TV

    But they\’ll still look in your eyes
    To find the human inside
    You know there\’s always something in there to see

    The veneer
    Not everybody made the list this year
    Have a beer

    Make me feel tiny
    if it makes you feel tall
    Because there\’s
    always someone cooler
    than you\”
    (Ben Folds)

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