Support BikePortland - Journalism that Matters

Reader shares story of bike path rage on Hawthorne Bridge

Posted by on January 9th, 2013 at 2:56 pm

Summer bike traffic-3-3

Traffic on the Hawthorne Bridge
path can get dicey… and nasty.
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

We’ve all felt it: You’re riding along on a crowded bikeway and sense someone is coming up fast from behind. Do you speed up? Ignore them? Merge to the right as fast as possible? Just maintain your speed until you can safely get out of the way?

We just heard from a reader who was in this position — and it didn’t turn out well at all. Let’s call him Kevin (he wants to stay anonymous). Kevin says he was biking eastbound on the Hawthorne Bridge path yesterday around 6:00 pm when it happened. I’ll let him share the details:

“A slower bike was in front of me. She stayed in the bike lane and didn’t make room. There were some pedestrians, some of them in the bike lane too [the bridge paths are 10.5 feet wide and shared by walkers and bikers]. I noticed a guy close behind me, so made room by riding on the pedestrian side whenever possible, but he didn’t make an attempt to pass.

Halfway over the bridge, he started calling me the worst names and screamed I should move over. Because of more pedestrians and the other bike, I was forced to continue. It’s maybe worth adding that we didn’t go slow by any means. The bike in front of me took the “OMSI” exit at the end of the bridge. So when there was finally room, the dude behind passed me like a mad man, screaming and yelling at me. He then cut me off and wanted to get off his bike, but got all tangled up and tipped over on the sidewalk in his apparent rage. At that point, I decided to avoid any kind of confrontation with this mad man and rode off.

If anybody witnessed this, I’d be curious to hear their perspective. He was maybe 50, with a white beard, a yellow jacket, and messenger bag.”

What Kevin experienced could be the result of someone simply letting out their stress after a bad day at work; but this kind of riding behavior is, unfortunately, not uncommon.

Reader Natalie Baker shared with us on Twitter today that she recently heard a nasty exchange between two riders behind her while waiting for the light on NW Lovejoy at the Broadway Bridge. “Every couple seconds,” she recalled, “this one guy would break the silence and loudly say something like, ‘Don’t forget to leave room,’ in this bizarre, taunting way as if he was trying to pick a fight, to the woman next to him. She’d respond, annoyed, with something along the lines of, ‘Don’t tell me how to ride,’ and they just kept going back and forth.”

“I couldn’t believe this kind of BS was happening among bike riders,” Natalie said, “I generally chalk up road rage to frustration from being trapped motionless in a tiny metal enclosure.” After a while she even turned around and asked the guy to “quit being a jerk.” (It didn’t have much impact.)

The fact remains there’s a large disparity of skills and speeds among people who share our bikeways. Back in 2007 we published an essay by veteran messenger John “Dabby” Campbell that explained why some people like to ride fast and urged everyone to co-exist peacefully.

To me, the problem is likely a mixture of people simply being jerks and a lack of space to ride freely. In a car, you can usually swerve and go around someone in a different lane; but on a bike there is often not the same amount of space to operate. On dedicated paths like the Esplanade, a similar phenomenon plays out with fast-riding “pathletes” swooping by more leisure-focused traffic.

For Kevin, he’s still trying to figure out if he did anything wrong. “Should I have stayed in the bike lane so he could pass me on my right in the pedestrian lane?” he asked. “I don’t even know… I have never been yelled at by a bicyclists so far. It was bad.”

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. BikePortland is an inclusive company with no tolerance for discrimination or harassment including expressions of racism, sexism, homophobia, or xenophobia. 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

214
Leave a Reply

avatar
73 Comment threads
141 Thread replies
0 Followers
 
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
104 Comment authors
Todd BoulangerAlan 1.0VTRCEsthermatthew vilhauer Recent comment authors
  Subscribe  
newest oldest most voted
Notify of
jocko
Guest
jocko

A lot of adults are still big stupid babies.

SilkySlim
Guest
SilkySlim

I have only had the most congenial experiences over my last, I dunno, 2,000 trips over the Hawthorne Bridge.

Allan
Guest
Allan

Its the most depressing time of year. Credit card bills for presents are coming due. Just give folks some slack.

Luke
Guest

It’s disheartening to hear cyclists being volatile to other cyclists. We face enough adversity out there that we don’t need to turn on each other. In my humble opinion if you’re looking to get where you’re going as quickly, and with as little regard for others as possible, you should probably turn to other options for your commute. Cycling is for the thoughtful, patient minority.

Esther
Guest
Esther

I agree with your overall sentiment and with the fact that we need more roadway for bikes and pedestrians on the Hawthorne bridge. another problem is not just the harassment but the simple fact of people tailgating me on the bridge. It is dangerous and illegal in/on ANY vehicle.

I’m a relatively slow and defensive driver and biker, so on the freeway I just cruise along in the right or middle lane and let people pass me as necessary rather than tailgating me. With only one effective ‘lane’ on the Hawthorne at rush hour, I get VERY nervous with people riding close behind me in case I have to stop suddenly or in case a pedestrian suddenly passes another pedestrian.

Erik E
Guest
Erik E

Just on the subject of the Hawthorne, why are there not rails seperating the sidewalk from the grated street? How people are not knocked into the street daily (especially in the summer) is baffling to me. Sorry to hear ‘Kevin’ experienced this. Personally, it doesn’t sound to me like he did any thing wrong, (unless you consider not beating the crap out of aggressive/rude rider a mistake).

Pete
Guest
Pete

“Pathletes” is my new favorite word of the day!! (Replacing “Market-ecture”, which is the new “Vaporware”).

Sigh, too long behind a desk and out of the saddle… 🙁

Reza
Guest
Reza

If you’re a fast cyclist, coming upon a slow cyclist, the proper way to pass them is on the right, in the pedestrian zone (when all is clear, of course).

Remember, the slower vehicle always has the right of way, and there is only one bicycle lane on the bridge in either direction.

Dolan Halbrook
Guest
Dolan Halbrook

Crossing the Hawthorne can get a bit dicey at times if people are overly paranoid and won’t move over for faster cyclists, or conversely overly aggressive and start passing dangerously, or even worse, on the right. I see both often enough, but day to day things go smoothly overall.

The worst experience I’ve had is a near altercation with a shirtless runner who, I kid you not, was swinging his arms out at passing cyclists in an attempt to punch them if they so much as rode one centimeter in the pedestrian lane. He very nearly sent a newbie rider into the car lane. I was pretty shocked and confronted him; he backed down and kept running the other way. I really hope I never encounter that guy again or if I do, that he’s taken his meds.

Ben
Guest
Ben

I’ve never heard of this before, but I have been yelled at by other cyclists for not running red or yellow lights, especially at T intersections where my lane of travel parallels a sidewalk through the intersection.

maxd
Guest
maxd

I commute on Interstate, and my pet peeve is “fast” riders passing in the 5-foot bike lane. There is not really enough room for one bike in those lanes. When I want to pass someone, I wait until there is a break in traffic and use the auto lane to overtake. BTW, I put fast in quotes because I have encountered quite a few guys (always guys) on road bikes who think they are faster than they are, work up enough speed to pass, then I get stuck behind them going up a hill. I think that is just classic machismo, though.

Kevin C
Guest
Kevin C

I avoid the Hawthorne Bridge because of the overly aggressive riders and lack of space. There is not much room to pass and for some reason that baffles me some riders will fly by way to close to both me and the traffic lane. I’d much rather take another route.
Is it machismo that causes riders to pass, speedism, do they sleep to late?

dan
Guest
dan

Woohoo, full contact Cat VI racing! If you’re really the Lance Armstrong of the Hawthorne, you would be able to pass at will. If you’re not capable of getting around a slower rider in the available space, maybe you’re not quite the burly-thighed powerhouse that you imagine yourself to be, and you should just relax until there’s a safe place to pass.

I am a dedicated and competitive Cat VI racer, but it’s all in fun. Crowding slower riders and passing unsafely is just being a jerk: if you routinely stoop this low, perhaps you need to rethink your approach, and what you risk vs. what you gain.

jocko
Guest
jocko

“When commuter races commuter the only winner is disgrace” -Das Snob

Charley Gee
Guest
Charley Gee

I almost always bear to the right on the Hawthorne Bridge if it is safe to do so, leaving the left bicycle path open for those who wish to pass me. I consider passing others on the right very dangerous and counter to our traffic system “norms”.

Todd Boulanger
Guest
Todd Boulanger

If the description of the white bearded rider where a bit older then it could be a road rage rider than has been a problem on the Interstate Bridge a few years back.

It is time for the City of Portland to seek to buy (or trade for) the Hawthorne Bridge from the County, so it could be managed in a more bike friendly way. (Unless the County wishes to make these proposed changes.) Given the peak volumes of bike traffic on the bridge (and assuming the City wants to meet its 2030 ped and bike goals) perhaps it is time to convert the outside motor vehicle lane to bicycle use to make it safer for all bridge users. [Any PSU students want to take this traffic modelling on? Hint hint.]

Nate
Guest
Nate

About the only time I get peeved by other cyclists are the Freds that pass at stoplights/signs from the rear of the pack. They inevitably gum up the works at the far side of the intersection because they aren’t actually [fast cyclist not doped up]. Prime locations for this are on N. Williams and at the W. end of the Broadway bridge.

I watched one such yahoo brush the shoulder of a woman with a kid on a trail-a-bike, pushing her into the auto lane on NW Broadway. He got an earful at the stoplight at NW Flanders.

Just chill out folks. Not everyone is as comfortable on their bike as you, and brushing them on your way past can end in disaster.

John Lascurettes
Guest

I generally chalk up road rage to frustration from being trapped motionless in a tiny metal enclosure.

Though one can feel trapped on the Hawthorne as well. Certainly don’t like the precipitous edge of the sidewalk to the bridge grate below. I generally avoid the Hawthorne because of the bike-ped gridlock on it. If I do ride the Hawthorne, I know it’s a place where I just need to chill the hell out for the duration of the span. What’s an extra 30 seconds to traverse it?

In a car, you can usually swerve and go around someone in a different lane; but on a bike there is often not the same amount of space to operate.

I find the exact opposite to be the general truth. I cannot just “swerve” to a different lane, nor should I. I must check that the lane is clear, etc. On a bike, I generally have much more room to operate. I often come out of a bike lane to go around a slower biker, taking the auto lane for the duration of passing that other cyclist. Since I require less space than a car, it’s often easier to find the gap to get in and get out than it takes in a car doing an analogous maneuver. One cannot do this as readily on the Hawthorne (or any of the bridges, really) while on a bicycle because you are “stuck” in the bike-ped mixing zones which are particularly congested on the Hawthorne.

Spiffy
Guest

if I hear a bell or an “on your left” then I get over if there’s room… but I try to stay to the right side of the bike part of the sidewalk… I won’t ride in the ped zone unless I see a backlog behind me… and I time my reentry into the bike zone…

Sunny
Guest
Sunny

guys guys guys….the morrison is over there <—-

CPAC
Guest
CPAC

The bridge just isn’t that long. Go slow for a few hundred feet. It’ll add all of 20 seconds to your travel time.

deborah
Guest
deborah

If someone comes up on me fast I move to the right to let them pass on the left when the right hand side is clear. I feel like passing on the right is poor form.

Joe
Guest
Joe

Ride diffrent bridge if you don’t have a skillset to ride close or avoid stuff.
* Squids all over the place these days * fast squids,slow squids * just share the path with eachother we are on bikes and not in cars with rage right?

John
Guest
John

To Kevin (aka anonymous), I was right behind you and the raging dude when this happened. (You might have heard me say “whoa!” just as he fell off his bike. Then I passed you again at Hawthorne and MLK as you were looking back.)

I have no idea what his deal was. I didn’t witness anything that would have warranted such a reaction. I also vaguely recall him making some kind of hand gesture halfway across the bridge before this happened, and I thought “what did that gesture mean, and who was that intended for?”

Anyway, sorry you had to experience that.

Jeff
Guest
Jeff

Remember, all requests to pass via bell or voice are simply that. Requests. Being among the top 5% speed wise (not bragging), I frequently say aloud “request denied” if it’s not safe to get over. Given the high volume of walking traffic during commute hours, this is frequently the case.

There’s a general problem with zig-zaggers as well. Esp. those on bike who are pretty fast (faster than they think) but insist on riding the right rail and weaving in and out of the walking and biking zones. Please stop doing that. It’s the worst of the bad forms.

was carless
Guest
was carless

Folks, drug will mess you up. Im sure this has a Lot to do with these bizarre incidents.

wsbob
Guest
wsbob

For some people, this type of incident is an example of the reasons they’d rather drive rather than bike or take mass transit. Humanity in very close proximity can be tough to deal with when people aren’t conducting themselves well.

Kevin, relating his experience here, sounds as though he did about everything right that he could have, but Mr. white beard with yellow jacket appears to have flipped out nevertheless. That kind of reaction could upset anyone not prepared for it. Especially if no other riders happened to stick around to observe and possibly back him up, riding off was probably better than sticking around and attempting to talk with the guy.

Might not have been a bad thing though, if someone had been able to stay there, counter the guy’s apparent anger and frustration with self assured smile and a “How’s it goin’ man? What’s up?’ If safe to do so, it’s important to find out what’s going on with people having things bothering them, before it becomes a worse problem elsewhere.

Hugh Johnson
Guest
Hugh Johnson

That’s what’s so flawed about the “us versus cagers” mentality some have on this site. Jerks are everywhere regardless of their mode of transportation.

Dolan Halbrook
Guest
Dolan Halbrook

wsbob
For some people, this type of incident is an example of the reasons they’d rather drive rather than bike or take mass transit. Humanity in very close proximity can be tough to deal with when people aren’t conducting themselves well.

I fail to see how this would cause people to drive, as poor conduct is a pretty accepted part of the general driving experience. I mean seriously, who hasn’t given (or wanted to give) the bird to a fellow driver at some point? Overall I find cyclists are far more courteous on average to other cyclists than drivers are to other drivers.

joel
Guest

base problem for most of the rider courtesy issues i see out there is people riding how they drive/drove. drivers on bikes, thats what i see, day in, day out.

Livellie
Guest
Livellie

I think it was a couple of years ago a fast moving cyclist on the Hawthorne clipped a slow moving cyclist while passing…sent a young lady right into the steel road decking. Ouch! There’s certainly been times when I’ve wanted to get around slower moving riders but I try to take it easy on the narrow bridge pathway. My commute is long enough that I can make up any lost time once all clear and back on the open road.

Andrew K
Guest
Andrew K

Every once in a while I encounter bike riders on the Hawthorne bridge who are pretty rude and going way too fast as if that bridge is their personal race track.

The way I look at it, those of us on bikes expect auto drivers to slow down when they mix in traffic with us. As such, pedestrians have every right to expect bike riders to slow down when we are in a situation mixed with them (like the Hawthorne Bridge for example).

There are signs at either end of that bridge cautioning bike riders to slow down. I obey those signs and I reduce my speed giving pedestrians as much room to enjoy their walk as possible. If that means the bike rider behind me has to add an extra 30 seconds to their ride then so be it. I’m not going to feel bad about it.

Reza
Guest
Reza

In almost every application of the law (besides maybe tractors on rural roads), it is the faster moving vehicle that must give right of way to the slower moving vehicle. It is the faster moving vehicle that has the onus of deciding when it is safe to pass. It is NOT the job of the slower moving vehicle to decide when it is safe to get out of the way. The slower moving vehicle should NOT have to risk their safety by weaving in and out of lanes to satisfy those going faster than them, like a majority of you seem to claim.

And I say this as a fast rider, I feel like I am giving more respect to slower riders than the rest of you are by passing on the right. I should be the one taking the risk (for myself and for other pedestrians) by judging when it is safe to pass. Slower riders SHOULD NOT have that responsibility. They have the right of way.

In every other conceivable situation I can think of I pass on the left. But I don’t on the Hawthorne Bridge. Blame the design of the path that put cyclists to the left of pedestrians if you want. Better yet, blame the narrow width.

dwainedibbly
Guest
dwainedibbly

I’m fairly slow these days, probably 12mph or so in most situations unless I’m in a hurry or need to generate more body heat. I’ll move right when necessary BUT ONLY WHEN IT’S SAFE! Otherwise, Lance Pharmstrong (love it!) can wait. Worst case, I’ll slow down and let him stew. An advantage of that is that is it’ll make shorter gaps safe to pass in.

Kermit: “Bear Right”
Fozzie: “Left Frog”

pixelgate
Guest
pixelgate

90% of cyclists in those yellow/neon jackets are awful people. Complain about road rage all you want but the cyclist rage in this town is unprecedented. I’ve never seen so many aggro Lance wannabes in my life. The ‘hipster’ cyclists are fine, the bmx riders are fine, the casual riders, fine. It’s the neon jacket, rearview mirror, spandex wearing types who are always barking out orders at other cyclists. I just smile and give them a thumbs up when they yell at me (or others near me) on the esplanade.

Jim Lee
Guest
Jim Lee

Wessen on Hawthorne!

Shirtless rage!

Do not call Captain Renard!

J.M. Jones
Guest
J.M. Jones

Call this whatever you want to…..The PATHELETES are pathetic. They fail to inspire others to ride and certainly put forth a shining example to those in automobiles at the same time. See this a good deal. These people are all wrapped up in themselves and show a degree of disrespect to all who are not just like (or can keep up with) them.

Randy
Guest
Randy

Bridge bike conjestion…time to plan for a larger and affordable floating bike bridge

Rol
Guest
Rol

Leave room for what, exactly?? I would’ve been like “Sure! And don’t forget to leave room for my FOOT in your BUTT!”

Ironically and backwardsly, you could say that “Kevin” erred on the side of courtesy in trying too hard to accommodate the guy behind him. The best kind of error, mind you, like when two people get into a Portland Standoff (“Go ahead.” “No, you go ahead.” “No, you go ahead.”) Because I’ll bet what ended up annoying our Crybaby Schmuck was the tantalizing nature of the well-intentioned back-and-forth (essentially extending and retracting several passing invitations). I say this not because the Schmuck has any right to be mad about it, but because of experience — an analogous thing happened to me on a winding California highway once.

Realistically no one’s going to be able to pass anyway, until Slow Girl is able to pull over, and/or there are no walkers. It’s okay to make that judgment call, and devour someone’s 8 seconds that he would’ve saved. You presumably paid your taxes in some form or other, and when you’re done using that particular piece of public infrastructure, he can have his turn.

Final message to all Crybaby Schmucks:

In Rwanda in the 90s, if you happened to be of Tutsi descent, crowds of Hutus with machetes would chase you down and hack you up with machetes.

***

OK? Does that provide a little perspective on your problems?

Sunny
Guest
Sunny

If the passing cyclist had his emergency siren and lights on, we wouldn’t have this problem.

Protour
Guest
Protour

Pass wherever it is safest and make your presence known duh.

This article is easily explained by the fact that Portland and big cities in general but especially Portland are full of deranged people, many of whom travel by bicycle.

Also be aware that some riders aren’t just riding, they are racing on Strava, trying to set a new fastest time on a predesignated course on the internet. If you see someone who is riding by themselves but looks like they are racing, be a good citizen and get out of their way and warm others that they are approaching. Maybe root them on a little also.

Arundo
Guest
Arundo

Much of the traffic going to and from the south should be alleviated with the new options on the Caruthers bridge opening sometime 2014/15.

Skid
Guest
Skid

There’s a lot of “commuter racers” in the town and what bugs me most about them is they can’t seem to be able to form the words “on your right” when they want to or are passing you. And then they get all mad. And then they get in front of you and bonk because they wasted so much energy passing you.

Halley
Guest

I am just thrilled that it wasn’t about me. I’m proud to say that I have stopped “accidentally” spitting and blowing snot rockets on people that pass me on the right.

I also have stopped snarking on the lycra clad lady that runs every stop light and sign on my commute to work just one block ahead of me every Thursday morning only to have me catch up with her at the last light before my destination(while obeying every signal ) – breaking the law really doesn’t make you faster. . .

It’s about good manners and etiquette people! The last time I got honked at and told to get off the road & someone wanted to rage at me, I screamed back, “You wanna talk about it over some chamomile!?” They stared shocked, rolled up their window and drove off.

Ted Buehler
Guest

We’re still in the dark ages of bicycle roadway markings.

This free-for-all is probably what it was like driving in American cities before Detroit invented the traffic light in 1920.

Someday, hopefully soon, there will be channelization for bikes — multiple lanes, passing zones, no passing zones, and much less mayhem.

In the meantime, the lack of channelization will result in a lack of clarity on acceptable behaviors, and it will continue to bring out the worst in people.

Be careful out there, folks. Be nice, state your truth, hold to your principles when safe, and don’t get run off the road by other bicyclists.

Ted Buehler

Al from PA
Guest
Al from PA

They used to be called “scorchers” in the 1890s and were generally loathed and feared… Nothing new!

roger noehren
Guest
roger noehren

I subscribe to the minority view so well explained by Reza. I ride as far to the left of the portion of the sidewalk designated for bicycles, leaving plenty of space for faster riders to pass on my right when a safe opportunity presents itself.
If there are no pedestrians for a long way ahead of me, I ride on their side to savor the river view and fresher air. When I see oncoming pedestrians, I merge back onto the bicycle side (after determining that there are no cyclists approaching).
Perhaps this is because I have been a non-driving cyclist for over 50 years and have shared the Hawthorne Bridge sidewalk with pedestrians and other cyclists for over 30.

Joe
Guest
Joe

lets stop profiling everything until we get both sides or story. as riders we need to have diffrences and let go and ride on. nobody is perfect or maybe some can only judge stuff by 1 event or more, take time to chill and smile or whatever!

peace

geezer
Guest
geezer

I don’t understand this insistence on “never pass on the right.” It’s not coded in our DNA — there are entire countries where they drive on the left and pass on the right. The Hawthorne Bridge is not a dual-lane bike thruway, it’s a multi-use path with bikes assigned to the left lane. It plainly wrong to assume cyclists should normally ride in the pedestrian lane, and it seems only courteous that the rider who wishes to pass should be the one who makes the maneuver into the non-bike-traffic lane. You could announce it by saying “on your right”, which is then just a warning that someone is overtaking you (as “on your left” is on the Springwater), and not a demand meaning “get out of my way.”

jeremy
Guest
jeremy

I ride the Hawthorne everyday, twice and I am often passed and just as often I pass others. I am disappointed to hear about “Kevin’s” experience, but I hardly think we need to redesign the entire bridge over one jackass rider. I would say on the whole, I wait until the person ahead of me heads to the right side of the path, then I pass–likewise, when there are riders behind me I wait until there are no peds close and I head to the right side so others can pass me. I have not had any conflicts, any near misses, nada. I consider myself a reasonably confident rider (although lugging a first grader around on my xtracycle makes me more cautious) and I would encourage anyone who avoids the Hawthorne bridge to give it try. The light phase at Grand creates a boom and bust pattern heading into town. If you go slow off of the light, everyone will pass you (in the double lane area) and you can tool along at any pace you want until the next set of CAT VI racers shows up… on the eastbound return, it is not as clear a break, but it is pretty easy to slide right if someone is creeping up on me (I usually get passed on the eastbound rides). There are crazy aggro people everywhere, if I made decisions to avoid all activities that could possibly maybe interact with a crazy I’d have to lock up at home and get my groceries delivered…