Urban Tribe - Ride with your kids in front.

Road Rage: Rider buzzed and then confronted near North Plains

Posted by on August 27th, 2008 at 9:45 am

The following story was shared by Lynne Cuevas and posted on the Oregon Bicycle Racing Association (OBRA) email list (emphasis mine):

“I was on the newly chip sealed Helvetia rd yesterday riding along in the center of the lane trying to find the smooth spots in the road as there was no traffic at the time. All of the sudden there is an older brown chevy p.u. whizzing by my left shoulder blaring his horn. My reaction was to fly the bird and keep going.

He turned left at Jackson Quarry rd. as well as I did. I came upon his truck at McCann tire and stopped in the road to see just who this jack ass was. He came running out of the business yelling at me about how illegal I was and that I was going to end up in a ditch! I trieds to explain to him that if he would have tooted his horn a couple of hundred feet behind me, I would have gladly moved over for him and that the chip seal was hard for me to ride. He heard none of it and yelled at me. Of course I told him he was wrong and I did have as much right to be there as he did.

This infuriated the man. He ran towards me and was kicking gravel on me from less than 5′ away and swung his arms wildly as he was calling me a bitch.

At that time the guy from McCann’s told him to stop. I tried to explain to the shop guy what had happened, he told me to leave. I was on the street…not on his property. I got the license number of the truck and left.

The police said they were going to go talk to him but wouldn’t give me a return call to say how it went.

I later learned that the guy that harrassed me was an employee of the tire shop. I was a customer of his a month ago. He changed over some tires for my friend. We are both cyclists and wanted to give the small business owner our business.

He won’t get my business anymore.

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  • wsbob August 27, 2008 at 10:29 am

    Strange. From that letter, it\’s hard to know exactly what to think about what all happened in this incident. The driver of the truck\’s behavior seems crazy. That\’s to be occasionally expected from people. I can\’t tell exactly from the letter whether the tire shop owner was really being unreasonable to the woman bike rider, or whether he had his hands full with a problem employee that had just presented him with his most recent example of why he\’s a bad employee.

    I commend bike rider Lynne Cuevas for being cool under the pressure of this situation, confronting the offender when there was an opportunity to do so when another person was there to observe, and also getting the license plate number and calling the police.

    Incidentally, the O in one of last week\’s editions I think, carried a letter from North Plains mayor in response to the O\’s recent story detailing that city\’s somewhat notorious reputation for liberally issuing traffic citations. The mayor offered the city\’s concern over road users safety as a justification for the rate and circumstances the citations tended to be issued under, but I felt that for the most part, she avoided the central question raised by various people that have been issued the citations, and by the O itself in the article it pulished. The central question is whether the city of North Plains is exploiting road users to generate operating revenue for its cash strapped budget.

    The disturbing experience Lynne Cuevas has had certainly raises further questions in my mind about whether the city of North Plains (if that\’s the jurisdiction for this driver\’s actions on the road)is placing its priorities in the right area.

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  • Pete August 27, 2008 at 11:06 am

    I see two sides to this story. I often ride in the \”tire stripe\” on chip-sealed roads and look over my shoulder frequently, listen keenly, etc, but every so often someone will \’sneak\’ up and be stuck behind me, not trusting why I\’m left of the fog line. Some drivers honk (and scare the crap out of me), others may sit for minutes waiting for me to notice or being afraid to pass. From their perspective they didn\’t expect to come up on me, and can\’t understand why I\’m not on the right where I\’m supposed to be. I\’ve learned to appreciate this (coming up on cyclists many times myself while driving).

    The guy has a point that if the driver honked as a warning instead of in frustration it would have been OK, but this is a cyclist-sided view in my opinion, and he shouldn\’t expect a driver to understand, and I daresay should have some empathy towards how a driver feels coming up on a cyclist in a road and having to brake. It\’s a jolt to the nerves, like being \”buzzed\” by speeders is while riding. Does it rationalize inappropriate behavior? No, but it an escalated situation behavior will naturally become irrational.

    The big thing I\’ve learned is that flipping the bird invitates escalation no matter what. I was flipped off by a cyclist who I nearly hit when he ran a stop sign, and it made me want to pummel the guy, especially since he validates people who generalize that \’cyclists are jerks\’. I\’ve practiced restraint on many occasions with honking/speeding drivers, and I think it\’s saved my ass in some. (Buzzing cyclists is a sport where I ride! 😉

    The bottom line: in an escalated situation nobody\’s going to admit they\’re wrong, and behavior will become irrational (often leading to personal or property damage). I feel it\’s best to prevent escalation entirely, even if I swallow pride or eat crow.

    Sometimes I\’m \’right\’, sometimes I\’m wrong, but always I\’m vulnerable.

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  • Brad August 27, 2008 at 11:12 am

    Cool under pressure? Sorry but that is not the case as Ms. Cuevas flipped off the driver thus inciting an angry individual to higher levels of anger.

    We have an angry jerk of a driver, an angry cylist, and a business owner with the impossible task of mediating a conflict involving an employee and a stranger. He acted most correctly to diffuse the situation at hand. He doesn\’t need an explanation of what happened and he certainly didn\’t need any violence on his property. If Ms. Cuevas felt threatened then she should have called the police at that moment or asked the tire shop owner to do so. That is who needs the explanation if an assault took place.

    To borrow from football, personal foul on the driver – 15 yards. Personal foul on the rider – 15 yards. The penalties offset, replay the down.

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  • davidio August 27, 2008 at 11:49 am

    With all the talk about \”appropriate\” headlines in the media here recently, I find it interesting to see this one reading (in my eyes) that the cyclist was confronted by the motorist. It appears to me from the story presented by the cyclist that *she* stopped riding upon finding the truck stopped at the tire shop – \”to see just who this jack ass was.\” Was she expecting tea and cookies? I\’m not saying that I wouldn\’t do any different (I happen to appreciate a very lively discussion), but perhaps this confrontation was initiated in part by both parties?

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  • Jonathan Maus (Editor) August 27, 2008 at 11:54 am

    \”but perhaps this confrontation was initiated in part by both parties?\”


    i actually pondered this while writing the headline.

    I decided that the man in the truck confronted Ms. Cuevas because it seemed to me like she merely stopped in the road outside his business. At that point, he then came outside and confronted her.

    what do others think?

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  • t27 August 27, 2008 at 12:52 pm

    Instead of looking at it as a car vs bike, look at it as person to person. Consider the situation if this interaction was to take place in the grocery store. An impatient shopper yells at and races past a casual shopper brandishing a deadly weapon. Casual shopper brandishes the bird. Later in the check out line, impatient shopper yells at casual shopper some more. Store manager asks casual shopper to leave. The only difference is being a lunatic armed with a truck is socially acceptable. Pull the same stuff in another social context and the men in the white suites will take you away if the swat team doesn’t get you first.

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  • brian August 27, 2008 at 3:56 pm

    One more example of why it pays to look like a dork and ride with a mirror. It greatly reduces the number of times you are surprised by a car sneaking up behind.

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  • Pete August 27, 2008 at 4:41 pm

    brian (#7): I haven\’t been able to figure out a mirror solution for my racing bike (helmet mirrors don\’t work for me – I keep turning my head to look in them ;), but I couldn\’t agree with you more. I added a mirror to the flat handlebar on my commuter bike and it made a big psychological difference, if nothing else.

    Also, sorry I got the gender wrong in my comment above; I interpreted that the story was submitted by Lynne, not that she was the rider.

    Yes, I think there were two guilty parties here, to a degree. Stopping accomplished nothing (except noting the license plate), and flipping off the driver aggravated him more. wsbob makes a great point, though, about looking for opportunities for witnesses present when conflict does arise (saved my bacon once!).

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  • wsbob August 27, 2008 at 5:12 pm

    Brad (comment #3, I\’ll agree with you in part…flying the bird is not a good thing to do. As I was typing my comment out before heading off to work, I\’d kind of forgot the rider saying she\’d done that. By her account of the incident though, the actions of the driver in response to her presence in the lane of traffic ahead of him was as follows:

    \”All of the sudden there is an older brown chevy p.u. whizzing by my left shoulder blaring his horn.\”

    By that action, he startled her, probably unnecessary. Flipping the bird is something people sometimes do when they\’ve been startled, and isn\’t necessarily an expression of simple anger or animosity.

    Lynne Cuevas, rider of the bike, doesn\’t say in her account of the story, when she called the police or had an opportunity to do so. Sooner rather than later would probably have been best. Nothing in her account indicates that\’s what she did or did not do.

    Personally, I still think she was cool under pressure here, at least reasonably so. A lot of people completely lose it in situations like this…lose all concentration and composure, and never get enough information that would allow any kind of follow-up whatsoever. That didn\’t happen to her.

    Regarding editor Maus\’s question in comment #5 about who confronted who in this incident. With the info available in Lynne Cuevas\’ account of the incident, clearly, the driver of the truck was the first to confront her on the road. Then, at the tire store, he again was first to confront her as she stood at a distance observing (and taking mental notes, I imagine).

    Can you imagine observing this guy? …running up to her and kicking rocks at her from 5 feet away, waving his arms, swearing… . Guys like this one driving the truck are the kind of people that make me wonder… are they mentally fit to be driving?

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  • lunchrider August 28, 2008 at 3:52 pm

    when I read this I can\’t help but think this is a case where the cyclist should have just ignored the honk, cursed to themselves and moved on. Sure chipseal isn\’t the best stuff to ride on but when you ride the center of a lane on a road you get honked and passed by other vehicles. Get a mirror and calm down

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  • wsbob August 28, 2008 at 10:51 pm

    lunchrider…with all due respect…have you thought through what rider says in the boldfaced sentence in the first paragraph of her account of the incident?

    \”All of the sudden there is an older brown chevy p.u. whizzing by my left shoulder blaring his horn.\” Lynne Cuevas, rider of the bike

    She likely did not realize she was holding up a vehicle behind her, or that one was even there until, according to here account, it rushed up on her and blared the horn. The driver of the truck would seem not to have bothered to slow down and pause behind her so that she could move over and give him the lane.

    Acknowledging a polite, warning honk or beep-beep from a vehicle horn is easy. Dealing with a hostile, antagonistic, menacing blast from a vehicle horn is something else entirely. It\’s cause to question just what exactly is going on in the mind of the person behind the horn and in this incident, behind the wheel of a truck.

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  • lunchrider August 29, 2008 at 10:12 am

    in attention when riding is no excuse
    its why I use a mirror. the only protection is constant vigilance.
    as a vulnerable vehicle its the cyclists job to ride wisely and safely.
    As a driver and rider I know that its perception that counts. and besides as I know well there are 3 sides to every story, yours mine and the truth.
    I don\’t excuse the driver but everybody using the road has obligations

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  • wsbob August 29, 2008 at 10:59 am

    Good point about inattention, lunchrider. But was this a case of inattention (on the part of the rider, Lynne Cuevas, or impatience and intolerance on the part of the person driving the truck?

    She doesn\’t say whether or not she was using a mirror. She may have been. Even if not, she might have very well been sufficiently attentive on this, what I imagine to be a relatively quiet country road, for the driver of a truck approaching her at a fairly reasonable speed for that setting.

    In general, I can\’t help but agree that a person on a bike has to ride defensively. Riding on roads that motor vehicles use, they always have to have their senses tuned just for the occasional person that drives in the manner Lynne Cuevas describes in her account of this incident.

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