Urban Tribe - Ride with your kids in front.

A Portland road rage roundup

Posted by on March 20th, 2013 at 2:13 pm

Keep calm and carry on.
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

I hate to do this.

I get a lot of emails, Tweets, and sometimes even phone calls about collisions, close-calls, and other scary incidents involving people on bicycles. The vast majority of the time I just take in the information in and do nothing about it. After all, there’s a lot of traffic out there and I don’t think every time a person on a bike has an unfortunate experience it merits a blog post.

Not only that, but I constantly debate with myself whether posting about these things will only create more fear among readers, when overall, riding a bike is not dangerous.

However, earlier this month I received three emails in less than one week that shared three different and equally troubling road rage incidents. Given that, I felt that the community should know. I’m sharing the emails verbatim below in hopes of raising awareness that intimidation and harassment remains a part of Portland’s transportation culture:

From Bryan P. on March 1st:

Normally I have a few inconsiderate drivers but this past week I have had a rash of them, from the 1930’s truck that passed too fast/too close, the FedEx truck that sat behind me and revved his engine and honked, to the guy last night that passed me while speeding on 21st Ave, then pulled in front of me cutting me off with only a foot to spare, then jumping out and threatening me for getting too close to his vehicle.

This last episode has made me very upset and wanting to know what to do about the problem. I wish that Portland had the road rage law that Los Angeles put in.

I think the funniest one that I had was a driver that yelled at me on 21st Ave again, must be Conway employees, that called me “You Obama lover” as he sped past me at well over the 20 mph speed.

As a disclaimer, I take the lane in most circumstances given the right hook problem and the parked cars on most streets in Portland. Unless I have a bike lane I tend to ride toward the middle of the lane so cars have to go into the other lane to pass me. I feel that this action, which many bicyclists do not do, irritates drivers who feel that they have the right to go at any speed on any street.”

From David S. on March 5th:

Thermos thrown from a passing truck.
(Photo: David S.)

“Hey Jonathan,

I live up in the Woodlawn area and I was riding home from work downtown this evening. I had just turned off of Williams and on to Dekum. A few blocks after I had turned on to Dekum I was hit from behind by something. I thought at first it was a glancing blow on from a car rearview mirror because I heard a car approaching me at the same time. Then I saw something fall in front of me (See attached picture) and a white Ford F-150 pass me with it’s passenger window open. For a split second I thought it had fallen out of the car, but as soon as I realized that was very unlikely. Since I hadn’t fallen over or was not hurt my next reaction was get a license plate number (looked like a WA plate).

The truck had slowed down a bit, but as soon as i started riding faster towards it, they sped away. I gave chase around the block as they tried to lose me, annoyingly they had enough of a head start that I could never get a plate number.

I’ve been commuting to work for 5 years, racing and training around Portland for 3 years and I’ve never had anything like this happen. It’s not going to stop me from riding to work tomorrow. But it really is frustrating.

I would be interested in seeing if more riders in that neighborhood have had something similar happen especially if it’s been a white Ford F-150.”

From Aixe D on March 6th:

“[Subject line:] Warning to cyclists – dangerous, malicious driver

If you have a way to pass this on to Portland cyclists, please do: beware of a white Ford Econoline panel van, Oregon plates VBC-162, Newberg on the license plate frame, “Cornilles for Congress” bumper sticker. On my commute through downtown this morning the driver tried to intimidate me by gunning motor and screaming out the window, then edged into my lane and squealed away moments before I was going to ditch my bike. We’re lucky not to have that many idiot drivers in Portland, but this one seemed furious for no reason (I am a ridiculously law abiding cyclist), and his behavior was dangerous.”

Again, I hope these incidents do not paint the picture that it’s always a war-zone out there. It’s not. But it’s worth noting that our reputation as America’s most bike-friendly city often contributes to the myth that things are always kumbaya out there. Even I’ve dismissed those anti-harassment ordinances that are popping up in California as not necessary here in Oregon. Maybe I’m wrong.

What do you think? Should we consider these three incidents anomalies? Or should Portland — where it’s hard to go anywhere in town without driving next to someone on a bike — do more to deal with road rage?

NOTE: As pointed out by Ted in the comment below, if you experience something like this, please call 911 (if you’re able to do so as it’s happening). Or, once you’ve had time to catch your breath, report it to the Police via their non-emergency number (503) 823-3333. It’s important for the Police to hear about the incidents and tally them up in their database. Also, if you call something in, and the offender does something else further down the road, your call will help the Police build a stronger case against them.

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  • Ted Buehler March 20, 2013 at 2:26 pm

    2 suggestions:
    1) If you were assaulted, or if you have reason to believe the driver was drunk, call 911.

    2) Otherwise, call the Portland Police nonemergency number and report an incident of road rage against a bicyclist. Give them the time, location, details of the threatening vehicle, and ask them for increased enforcement at that location at that time of day.


    Make the numbers add up, and the enforcement will follow.

    See, for instance, the Oregonian reporting on the number of odor complaints about the food composting facility in Washington County,

    Jan, 2012, 200+ complaints

    March, 2013, 1500+ complaints

    Ted Buehler

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    • Chris I March 20, 2013 at 4:07 pm

      It’s so hard to tell if the swerving is due to them being drunk or irate; I tend to err on the side of caution and would report it as a drunk driver. The police tend to be more responsive to that…

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  • Josh Berezin March 20, 2013 at 2:27 pm

    While each of those incidents sound upsetting, intimidating, and uncalled for, my own experience lately has been the opposite. I’ve found that since the improvements to N Michigan were completed, drivers are generally more accomodating and respectful than before. I ride that route daily, so it’s been interesting to see how the changes to the street improve behavior.

    No doubt that road rage directed at people on bikes is a problem, but I bet it wouldn’t be too hard to come up with a road kindness roundup.

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  • bike-max-bike March 20, 2013 at 2:31 pm

    We absolutely need a road rage law to give vulnerable road users recourse after the fact.

    A complete rewrite of the Oregon Divers Manual and Drivers Test to include extensive education on driver duty to non drivers, and an empathy generating cycling and walking on busy streets/crossing component would help.

    Long over due changes, if we wish to confront the death and injury toll generated by autos and auto culture.

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    • SilkySlim March 20, 2013 at 3:00 pm

      As someone who just studied for (and passed!!) the Oregon Driver written test, I can vouch for how well the manual did in referencing vulnerable road users (bikes, pedestrians, motorcycles even). Not only was there an entire section dedicated to these folks, but they were mentioned through out the manual in regards to intersections, passing, school zones, and the like.

      I was pretty impressed. Definitely don’t remember that treatment from the first time I studied for the test, nearly 15 years ago.

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      • Chris I March 20, 2013 at 4:09 pm

        This is one of the reasons we should have mandatory retesting (written and driving!) every 10 years or in case of a ticket for reckless driving or DUI. It’s absurd to think that someone that took the driving test in 1950 could still be driving without having gone through any retesting or education.

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  • jeremy March 20, 2013 at 2:33 pm

    I am not surprised by this. I ride everyday from the SE to downtown (SW) and I experience plenty of ragers. I never thought to write you, so I imagine the number of people that experience rage is much higher than your email box would indicate. In fact just last week I experienced some rage…a car pulled up behind me on SW 4th in between Main and Salmon. He revved his engine at me (I was in the far left lane, as I was turning left on Taylor, the next block) and then when the light on Salmon changed, he sped up, passed unsafely/too close and then cut back in front of me–only to come to a stop at the light. I know how the lights downtown are timed, so I followed him up taylor, knowing he would have to stop at 5th for the light, but he instead pulled into the parking garage on the block. I was able to get a photo of his plate and later I wrote him a note explaining that his behavior was dangerous and had life altering/ending consequences for me…AND MY 7 YEAR OLD DAUGHTER who rides on the back of my bike on the way to school. I later delivered the note to his car…which was easy to find in the parking garage since I had the license plate.
    Unfortunately, I think this happens too often. I will say, with 2 4+mile commutes each day, I only get nearly hit once every two weeks, and I only get intentionally raged at once every two months. Not bad…right?

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    • sbrock March 20, 2013 at 2:47 pm

      Did you get any response from the driver ?

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    • bike-max-bike March 20, 2013 at 3:01 pm

      This level of intimidation matches my own commute expeiences. Just add things being thrown at me and you have my more typical experience riding in Vancouver or Clackamas on Friday or Saturday nights.

      We have a long way to go.

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    • Nat March 20, 2013 at 4:20 pm

      Same here, the part of my commute along Barbur from Terwilliger to 217 4-5 days/week produces a, usually unintentional, close call about every few months and some level of harassment every week or two.

      Something I think is interesting: the harassment is always during my evening rides, never in the early morning. The harassment also seems to stop once I get to the east side of the river (through Sellwood and up Woodstock).

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    • rebecca March 20, 2013 at 10:57 pm

      I feel like there’s been an uptick in the rager cagers I’ve encountered of late and I wonder if it could be related to any influx of seasonal riders — more riders on the road making drivers feel more put upon. Twice last week I had encounters where cars purposefully passed very closely, honked, and yelled at me for deigning to be riding along Ainsworth. And twice is a lot for me given the fewer trips I take now that my commute consists of padding downstairs in my jammy pants.

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  • Ted Buehler March 20, 2013 at 2:36 pm

    Relevant info

    “WHEN TO CALL 911
    “In an emergency, call 911 or your local emergency number immediately from any wired or wireless phone.
    “An emergency is any situation that requires immediate assistance from the police, fire department or ambulance. Examples include:

    “A crime, especially if in progress”

    An assault with a vehicle, thrown object is a crime, but if you don’t need medical assistance, do you still call?
    Is “suspicion” of DUI a crime?

    Anyone know the answers to these?

    Best to get them answered now, so in the heat of the moment we know what the appropriate response is…

    Ted Buehler

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  • encephalopath March 20, 2013 at 2:38 pm

    And if you can afford it, ride with a camera. A Contour ROAM is a little over $100 now.

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    • Spiffy March 20, 2013 at 4:08 pm

      except that I keep forgetting to charge mine so it’s never ready when I want to ride… and I hate to keep it plugged in 24/7 leeching power…

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  • Stripes March 20, 2013 at 2:43 pm

    Is it really true that if you call up the police and report a driver almost hitting you, that information will be used in other cases down the line? Can somebody who knows anything about the police, and the law, chime in?

    I got hit by a glass bottle thrown from a car’s window as I was biking on the Historic Highway near Crown Point once. There was no way I could have caught the license plate in time, after they sped off. If I had had a Go-Pro mounted on my handlebars, it could have been a court case. Asking Santa for one this Xmas, for real.

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) March 20, 2013 at 3:09 pm

      It’s definitely true Stripes (I wouldn’t have written it if it wasn’t).

      I have heard this from both the police and the DA. When going after bad guys, it’s always about building a case against them. If they harass you and then further down the road do something else illegal and end up getting caught. The police can then attach your information to the case, thus allowing the DA to go for more severe charges because they can more easily paint a picture of malfeasance.

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      • q`Tzal March 20, 2013 at 10:19 pm

        Just like reporting an aggressive dog in your neighborhood.
        If Animal Control shows up for a dog bites man incident if there is no prior history the dog goes free on the word of the owner that “my innocent little snookems wouldn’t hurt a fly”.
        It’s sad that, like with dogs, it will likely take a death for law enforcement to take decisive action. We can be assured that with the rap sheet of a suspect who acts more like an angry gorilla than a human that the accused at least stands a chance of not being a repeat offender.

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  • pixelgate March 20, 2013 at 2:49 pm

    I apologize if I’m overlooking something but the 2nd letter says something was thrown at him. He says he has attached a picture but that picture is never shown in this article and reference as to what that item actually is was never mentioned in the article so I have no idea what the driver/passenger threw at him?

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    • David March 20, 2013 at 3:00 pm

      That was me in the 2nd letter. The driver threw what I think was a large thermos at me. Might also have been an electric kettle.

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      • Spiffy March 20, 2013 at 4:13 pm

        I’m wondering if you could have turned it into police to have it checked for prints…

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  • Joe March 20, 2013 at 2:57 pm

    Outside of Portland on Hall Rd riding home last Friday car thru a coke can at me and sped off. I was ok but this was uncool. Today in Portland Car stopped in the green bike box on Oak st. let a passenger out and stayed in the green bike lane along with the light green, I did a friendly yell of move and he got mad.

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  • Babygorilla March 20, 2013 at 3:06 pm

    Odd picture to associate with this article. Blatant illegal passing by either the person in the Jeep or the person on the bike.

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    • Spiffy March 20, 2013 at 4:17 pm

      my money is on the Jeep, since it happened to me on Lovejoy a couple weeks ago… I didn’t mind because I was turning left within a block, but they should have stayed behind me until I signaled just in case I wasn’t turning…

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    • Alan 1.0 March 20, 2013 at 11:07 pm

      What’s illegal about a bike splitting lanes in Oregon? (ORS#, please)

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  • GlowBoy March 20, 2013 at 3:07 pm

    Ted, my response would be that if you’re not hurt but you know the direction the driver is headed and there’s a chance the police could imminently apprehend him/her, then you would still call 911. If the driver is long gone and you don’t know which way they went, then the non-administrative number. Not legal advice, just my 2c.

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  • bike-max-bike March 20, 2013 at 3:08 pm

    Wasn’t there a “close calls” mapping project on this site at one time? I recall an above-the-fold, front page, high profile link, not the passive entry in the forum.

    It was a good place to vent about being nearly killed/assualted when I got home after my commutes.

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    • Dan March 20, 2013 at 8:27 pm

      I’ve put in a lot of time with Google Map Maker, highlighting bike routes & preferred bike roads that weren’t marked. I think it would be useful to be able to have people mark dangerous car/bike interactions on a map, so we could have an idea of where the real trouble spots are. Portland Maps has a crime map that shows all reported crime locations. You could do something similar with bike/car accidents, road rage incidents, etc. In my commute I’ve noticed some areas are much more ‘touchy’ than others, but it would be useful to identify patterns, which I think are more than just coincidence.

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  • jeff March 20, 2013 at 3:18 pm

    I’ve noticed anecdotally that the roads have gotten a bit less friedly the past few weeks. I went probably 10-12 months without any sort of interaction with a motorist and have had 3 instances in the past 2 weeks with people shouting something stupid out their windows.
    I’ve started carrying pepper spray again after the second one…

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    • John Lascurettes March 20, 2013 at 3:50 pm

      It always seems to come with change in weather and/or ridership.

      I notice when the weather gets clearer or warmer and fair-weather riders come out, not only do tensions rise between motorists and cyclists, but between riders.

      We’ve also had a change in DST recently and AAA has reported in the past that accident rates go up for the first few weeks following. I bet crankiness does too.

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  • Bill Walters March 20, 2013 at 3:35 pm

    Jonathan: You’re right that you’re wrong. We need anti-harassment ordinances.

    Until then, consider a helmet-cam. I perceive an unexpected benefit with a helmet-mounted GoPro visible from front, sides and back: Motorists behave better. People point and ponder whether that thing really is a working camera. Some smile and wave.

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    • Bill Walters March 20, 2013 at 4:01 pm

      Perhaps no coincidence that such behavior upticks on the heels of “bad press” about bike taxes and such–stories trotting out the old lie that “bike riders don’t pay.”

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  • Scott March 20, 2013 at 3:36 pm

    Welcome to earth. Don’t be scared.

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  • Zaphod March 20, 2013 at 3:42 pm

    I notice what Jeff is noticing anecdotally. Not sure if it’s the energy of springtime but something feels different out on the roads. I roll with a huge amount of caution.

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  • michael downes March 20, 2013 at 3:54 pm

    I have had mixed results from using the Portland Police non emergency number. I used it the other day to alert them to the fact that somebody had been driving their vehicle around Brooklyn Park at night (and tearing up the baseball field as a result). The dispatcher said: “Are they driving around the park right now?”. When I told her no, that it must have happened at night she replied that there was nothing they could do about it and hung up. Awesome community policing.

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  • e2pii March 20, 2013 at 4:09 pm

    State-wide anti-harassment laws would be great. A while ago, biking in Corvallis, I was harassed by a car (engine revs, too-close passing, etc). After leap-frogging at stoplights, a passenger threw and hit me with a glass bottle. I stopped by the police station directly afterward. Even with a plate number the police couldn’t search non-local plates, and told me they could do nothing with a plate number unless there was another incident tied to that plate number. Maybe with a new law, they could.

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    • Spiffy March 20, 2013 at 4:25 pm

      every police station in the country can do a search on out of state plates… they’ve had that ability for at least 20 years… it’s not very difficult… and it alerts the other state that you’re looking, in case they already have something in the works…

      I discovered this when my mom was a dispatcher in Kansas and I had her run my friend’s plates when we were bored… soon after running one of the my friends in the computer a cop from their local station called and asked if they could offer more assistant in our search for info… yeah, we stopped doing it after that…

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    • Scott March 20, 2013 at 4:29 pm

      A perfect example of cops not caring one bit. They lied to you so they wouldn’t have to do anything.

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  • Scott March 20, 2013 at 4:27 pm

    It is absolutely ridiculous to think that any type of anti-harassment law would reduce harassment in any way.

    Cops couldn’t care less about everybody and people on bikes most of all. They prove it time and again. So even if there is a small percentage of cops that do care about something other than derailing a logical conversation and talking you into a circle with tactics designed to frustrate, they have better things to do than to find someone who scared you.

    Give it any name that you want, that is all that we are talking about. Getting frightened. Cops can barely even be bothered to do their job when there is injury involved or property lost.

    Even if you switch to a car based lifestyle and get the biggest SUV known to man and have Xzibit put spikes, guards, bouncers, lasers, water cannons, and a Nintendo 64 in it, there will still be moments when something startles you.

    Situations that you can’t control are life. Sometimes they are scary. There is no need to pass laws to try and keep you from being scared. It will cost money, and serve no purpose.

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    • e2pii March 20, 2013 at 4:52 pm

      Scott- Interesting point. Do any laws, and their associated penalties, then, prevent or reduce the actions they are intended to? Do all laws do nothing- or just some?

      Of course an anti-harassment law would not in every case prevent people from being harassed- but hopefully it would cause the harassers be held accountable for their actions when such actions do take place. And I think that harassment, especially when it involves physical, bodily harm/assault (as in my bike-harassment case), is something that shouldn’t happen to anyone- on a bike, on foot, in a house, etc.

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      • Scott March 20, 2013 at 5:15 pm

        Laws serve to generate revenue in the area that they are enforced. If a cop feels like enforcing one, it will be enforced. Any reduction in the frequency or amount of the infraction I would assume to be imperceptible.

        Any real reduction in things of this nature would have to be corrected in a systemic way that has nothing to do with case by case punishment. Really and truly; can you imagine reducing anger on one end and fear on the other by telling people that it’s illegal to have those knee-jerk reactions in certain instances?

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    • Bill Walters March 20, 2013 at 5:05 pm

      Throwing heavy stuff at people (and hitting them)? That’s not just scaring; that’s potentially assault or some similar charge. Likewise, swerving your car at someone must merit some kind of charge involving words like “reckless” and “endangerment.”

      Maybe we don’t need an ordinance. Maybe we just need a campaign defining such a-hole behavior in terms of the charges and penalties it could bring. BTA, you listening? Bike lawyers, are you in?

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      • Scott March 20, 2013 at 5:34 pm

        It is indeed. There are lots of laws against all types of assault. How many of them have reduced the amount of assaults? I am not excusing the perpetrators at all, just encouraging that people take in the reality.

        New laws, lawyering up, marches, and anything else is not going to stop the crime and will likely serve to strengthen the feelings of animosity between cars and bikes. Keep on cycling like you do. Cops and laws will keep on be selective as they are.

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        • Shoalolo March 20, 2013 at 6:47 pm

          Interesting that much of your comment might work in the context of the 1960s dawn of the civil rights movement. And of course those folks *didn’t* just keep on; they *also* lawyered up and so forth. And it worked out pretty well, by some measures.

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          • Scott March 21, 2013 at 10:26 am

            Please tell me you are not equating cyclists with the plight of black people in the United States.

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            • Bill Walters March 21, 2013 at 10:54 am

              You’re right: Nobody’s equating. But much of the civil rights movement is not a bad template for anyone who wants to effect change.

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              • Scott March 21, 2013 at 11:13 am

                The fact that this is even being used in this discussion is case and point for me that cyclists feel special and entitled. It’s a transportation choice. With all choices come consequences.

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              • El Biciclero March 21, 2013 at 12:16 pm

                Exactly. Just as when I choose to go to a movie theater, I might get shot and killed. Comes with the territory. Really?

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              • sbrock March 21, 2013 at 12:31 pm

                For many it’s not a transportation choice, it there only transportation.
                I know a few people that ride just to reach public transportation because it’s not available in the area.

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              • Scott March 21, 2013 at 2:59 pm

                El Biciclero. It will not let me reply directly to your comment. My reply is: Are you kidding? You think that Civil Rights, mass killings, and getting hit with a thermos are all in the same category?

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              • El Biciclero March 21, 2013 at 3:58 pm

                “Are you kidding? You think that Civil Rights, mass killings, and getting hit with a thermos are all in the same category?”

                I never said anything about civil rights; I was responding to your glib assertion that “with choices come consequences”. I was using a slight bit of hyperbole to illuminate that fact that there are reasonable consequences, and then there are unreasonable consequences. If I choose to go the movies, I might expect that I’ll be out ten bucks, the movie might be bad, my date might think I’m weird, whatever. I don’t expect that getting punched in the face because people are fighting in the ticket line, or–yes–getting shot because a lunatic went to see the same movie would be reasonable consequences of my choice to go out; those things are consequences of somebody else making bad decisions. Your statement makes it sound like anybody who chooses to ride a bike deserves what they get because they chose unwisely.

                I get that you and others take offense to comparisons to civil rights issues because you can’t choose your skin color, but you can choose your transportation mode. Would religious persecution be a more apt analogy? If people beat you up for being Hindu, then why not just renounce? Or become a Catholic? No? Then just shut up and take it; that’s what you get for choosing Hinduism. Doesn’t sound quite right, does it? (No offense to Hindus or Catholics; just examples!)

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              • Scott March 21, 2013 at 4:31 pm

                Your attitude leaves out, getting that first kiss on a movie date, having your popcorn butter be just right, or discovering your version of god through whatever religion moves you. Consequences are the part you deal with for doing something you want to do.

                So please excuse me if I don’t bite on the dead horse of “you could die crossing the street” argument. Thanks for trucking it out in this thread though.

                My point remains that saddling us with more ways for police to harass who they want to harass while continuing to ignore what they want to ignore remains the same. We don’t need laws, marches, or anything like that. Just keep doing what you like and don’t let anyone spoil it.

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              • Bill Walters March 22, 2013 at 9:54 am

                If you ride to work, a reasonable undesired consequence is that you’ll get a flat or wash out on some gravel. But if some random idiot harasses and endangers you, that’s *not* a reasonable consequence–not in any other mode of transportation and not on a bike either. It’s a pretty strong sign that what you’ve got has done been spoiled already.

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    • are March 20, 2013 at 9:27 pm

      if it is given the status of a traffic violation, you could go citizen initiated

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  • Joe March 20, 2013 at 4:37 pm

    I’ve been passed by cops at high rate of speed on my bike. makes me think a bit, some feel driving make you more responsible or worthy.
    nah, its a lifestyle that is win win 🙂 be safe and most of all enjoy the ride

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  • Bob March 20, 2013 at 4:53 pm

    It is a natural reaction to get mad first and then process the situation. I have tried to train myself to react by looking for a license plate number first, before letting myself get mad. Unfortunately incidents I have had have been at night and there was no way to get a license plate.

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  • disastronaut March 20, 2013 at 5:15 pm

    Even with the odd belligerent driver experience I have here on the streets of Portland it is heaven compared to to some of the downright assaults I have happened to me on my bicycle in southern Oregon.

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  • RH March 20, 2013 at 5:23 pm

    An article like this make new cyclists not want to bike…out of fear. Then everyone else adds their comments about a ‘close encounter’. Then folks start saying you need to ride with a video camera (really!?!) . Then the ‘O’ does a story. Folks, it’s part of life…no need to document it, life is way too short.

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    • Shoalolo March 20, 2013 at 6:35 pm

      No one is saying you *need* to ride with a video camera. It just helps, is all.

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  • JNE March 20, 2013 at 6:03 pm

    FWIW — I’ve cultivated a pretty mellow route that takes longer, is more roundabout, but covers a mile of waterfront park (not Naito Parkway), back streets on the east side (not Broadway), lower deck of the steel bridge (not the Broadway bridge), and my close calls are very few, my ride is chill. Can’t work for everybody, and the haters are going to flame me for refusing to “own” the avenues, but I’m just sayin’ cultivate a mellow route and you’ll be happier for it.

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    • spare_wheel March 22, 2013 at 10:14 am

      “and the haters are going to flame me for refusing to “own” the avenues, but I’m just sayin’ cultivate a mellow route and you’ll be happier for it.”

      its amusing to see how many of those who choose a supposedly safer route (or a slower pace/bike) have to be passive aggressive about it. ride where you want to ride but don’t assume that you know what will make me “happy” or safer.

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  • sabes March 20, 2013 at 6:33 pm

    I’m sure that everything that happens between a cyclist and a driver is the drivers fault. The cyclist is never at fault, especially on this website. God forbid that a cyclist deserves a reprimand. Calling out a cyclist in the wrong isn’t bad, as long as it doesn’t escalate into something physical and dangerous. There is nothing wrong with a driver calling out a cyclist’s dangerous behavior.

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    • Shoalolo March 20, 2013 at 6:38 pm

      Behavior dangerous to whom?

      And if you hadn’t noticed, all the incidents above escalated toward something physical.

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    • ExileFromFlorida March 20, 2013 at 8:08 pm

      The funny thing is that out of all the mistakes I’ve made as a cyclist, I have never been reprimanded by a motorist for them. Every single time I’ve been on the receiving end of someone “teaching me a lesson” I have been completely lawfully riding down the street. You probably imagine all those times a cyclist broke a law as the impetus for these stories, because, surely no one would react like a maniac to the mere presence of slower moving traffic. But they do. You probably don’t. You also don’t bear the responsibility of nutjobs because they happened to drive a car just I like don’t bear the wrongs of other cyclists because I happened to be riding a bike in front of you.

      “There is nothing wrong with a driver calling out a cyclist’s dangerous behavior.” Why don’t you stick with calling out “illegal” behavior since it will remove your judgment and subplant it with knowledge of traffic law. We could probably cut down unpleasant interactions by at least 50%. I’m sure all the self-righteous “teachers” in my encounters imagined my behavior as dangerous too, and thus gave them carte-blanche to harass me.

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    • Sean March 20, 2013 at 10:52 pm

      I’ve see plenty of poor choices made on both sides but I don’t see the point in being a loud mouth to the offending party. If I did that I’d be hoarse at the end of each ride. Focus on paying more attention to your surroundings no matter what your mode of transportation is.

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  • Aixe March 20, 2013 at 7:05 pm

    I’m one of the three people Jonathan quotes in his article. After I got to work that morning I called the non-emergency police line. They politely took down the license plate and vehicle description and said they would broadcast it to the officers. I think it is a good idea to report these things. Can’t hurt to have a record of drivers who harass others on the road. Generally speaking, my experiences with Portland drivers have been very positive. Most are quite considerate.

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  • Kevin Wagoner March 20, 2013 at 7:35 pm

    I wonder why Bryan states, “must be Conway employees”? I am a former Conway employee. I worked there for years. It was an awesome place to work as a cyclist. The company was very supportive in my efforts to commute to work. I still cycle with current and former Conway employees. Personally I associate the NW Conway office as a very friendly and supportive place for cyclist.

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  • spare_wheel March 20, 2013 at 8:55 pm

    i’ve had only a handful cases of cajah harassment in the past 3 decades. the last one happened a couple of years ago when some fellow in a pickup truck buzzed me and cussed me out while i was in the lane avoiding the clusterfrack that is the broadyway cycle track. well this dude messed with the wrong cyclist. i sprinted after him and watched him blow a light trying to avoid me. hilariously, i caught him at broadway and 405 ramp where he could not escape due to oncoming morning commute traffic. he tried to ignore me but i got in his way and very very loudly explained to him that in oregon i am allowed to take the lane if i am cycling at the prevailing speed of traffic. i did not think he would respond but he actually rolled down his window and apologized. although the other motorists likely thought i was freaking lunatic this interaction still made my day week.

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  • Sean March 20, 2013 at 9:40 pm

    I get the usual verbal abusers every week that like to remind me that I’m not a car ( so glad to know that, I’m not a bike either). I have had enough close calls intentional and otherwise and I’ve been witness to enough collisions that I’ve added the gopro brick to my helmet. It captures quite a bit of silly human tricks on foot, bike, and car with the best being saved. It does seem to help with the verbal abusers stopping them mid sentence when they see the camera. It also has helped with a recent complaint filed with the city revenue office regarding a local cab driving recklessly. The camera does not change my riding habits as I still ride defensively and as if no one sees me.

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  • dbrunker March 21, 2013 at 12:32 am

    Remember this:

    You’re not a real cyclist until you’ve been yelled at by a driver.

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  • Daniel March 21, 2013 at 12:50 am

    I bike, I drive, I skate. All methods of transportation I use day to day. I do everything within my power to stay away from main thoroughfares if I’m on my bike. I don’t know why so many cyclists absolutely insist on using them to be honest. Avoid the motorists who don’t want to share the roads with you as it is. I’m often irritated by cyclists when I drive. When I bike I’m safe, calm, relaxed, and enjoying myself on side streets. I just know all the ones on my routes that have the least intersections so I don’t have to stop as much. If more people did that we would have a whole lot less accidents!

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  • Paul Tay March 21, 2013 at 6:45 am

    The only thing to stop a bad motorist with a car is a cyclist with good aim, packing a gun. ~~~Confused, da cuz. Oklahoma has Stand Your Ground statute. Does Oregon?

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  • Wiffle March 21, 2013 at 7:31 am

    Nat that has been my experience too as we use the same route we have probably ridden by eachother a dozen times lol

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  • John Landolfe March 21, 2013 at 8:39 am

    Your letter writers are exactly right. We do need better laws to protect everyone. I have called 911 on a driver and, even with a plate and physical description, the police do not follow up.

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  • Joe March 21, 2013 at 9:24 am

    How about some cars that ” jack rabbit ” take offs and get mad at riders. hmm lets get ppl to slow down

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  • andy March 21, 2013 at 9:29 am

    I live in Los Angeles for 3 more months and I picked up a Contour helmet cam simply because I was getting honked at nearly every time I rode in Pasadena / Los Angeles area. After attaching the camera to my helmet if there is a confrontation I simply point to the camera and they usually stop as I can only assume I know have video proof of there aggression.

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    • Bill Walters March 21, 2013 at 9:42 am

      The thing I don’t like about the Contour is that it looks so much like a headlight–which means it might lack the pre-emptive, deterrent effect of the more obvious GoPro.

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  • random_rider March 21, 2013 at 9:51 am

    I called the police once to report a woman cursing at others and driving in a threatening and reckless manner. The dispatcher was very polite, asked me for all the info I could give her and said they would send a car out to the area I saw her heading. I may have neglected to mention I was on a bike, which may or may not have made a difference in the police’s attitude or action. It really was irrelevant since this woman was acting the same to other people in cars as well as towards me and my family on bikes.

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  • jim March 21, 2013 at 10:49 am

    The last 2 riders I feel sorry for. The first rider seems to piss off a lot of drivers so he gets no sympathy. If Bryan doesn’t want this kind of behavior against him he should probably change his attitude on how he rides himself.

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    • El Biciclero March 21, 2013 at 12:36 pm

      “…he should probably change his attitude on how he rides himself.

      You mean to something other than “I’m going to ride safely and legally”? Perhaps he should know his place and have an attitude more like “I’m an inferior citizen, so I should put myself at risk and inconvenience myself so the superior citizens may operate without care or attention.”

      Getting angry and raging at a cyclist legally taking a lane of traffic makes as much sense as yelling at the person in front of you at the grocery store because they have a bigger cartload than you do.

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    • Are See March 22, 2013 at 10:30 am

      re:jim: Seriously? Yeah he pisses people off but that’s their personal problem, they shouldn’t take it out on him. All these are true stories that have happened to me but I must agree with Bryan. It’s important to see and be seen on a bicycle, that how you save your life. I’ve been a Beav-Hillsdale commuter for 7+yrs and have been hit by turning vehicles, people not aware of a bicyclist on the road, & the aggravated pissed off raging motorist . When maneuvering through traffic my best defense for counteracting other peoples actions in their vehicles is to make sure they see me coming instead of hitting me, swerving, or suddenly stopping right in my path. Sure you may piss people off but you are being seen and those people shouldn’t attempt to slaughter or hurt you for that fact (verbally or physically.) I can’t tell you how many times because a vehicle saw me and stopped a pedestrian avoided being run over by a vehicle blowing through a yellow/red light. The real issue is that there are some crazy people out there who, no matter what you do, will act out with some intense insane energy. The best thing you can do is be vigilante, aware of your surroundings, & report what has happened to you. It sucks to interact with people who are ignorant to the reality of bicycling with motor vehicles “sharing” the road; & it is my theory they are just upset that they are paying for gas to get somewhere and we are having tons of fun between our legs going somewhere.

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  • Unit March 21, 2013 at 10:56 am

    It would be useful to do a post on helmet cams, including which ones are good and affordable for the average rider. Cameras capture the license plate and the violation, when a rider often will miss the license plate in the heat of the moment.

    Cameras allow people to report incidents to the police along with video evidence and the license plate. If more bicyclists had cameras, drivers might learn this and be less likely to be aggressive for fear of being caught on camera.

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    • Mabsf March 21, 2013 at 2:17 pm

      I have seen helmet with cams in them for less than $100.00 on the last interbike…

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  • Minister March 21, 2013 at 12:43 pm

    I too, have witnessed an upsurge of driver rage going through Ladd’s lately. It basically boils down to impatience which is a cultural problem. The American, time based system fosters a culture of impatience and being inside a steel box with windows can cause people to behave much worse than they would face to face.

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    • Dan March 23, 2013 at 12:50 pm

      Totally agree that impatience is a cultural problem, but remember, that applies to cyclists as well as drivers. Many cyclists could do better at yielding the right of way to pedestrians and other cyclists and not making choices that snarl traffic for other road users just to save a few seconds of their own time…because that’s what motorists do, right?

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    • Robert Burchett March 23, 2013 at 3:07 pm

      Minister wrote:

      I too, have witnessed an upsurge of driver rage going through Ladd’s. . .

      It’s really hard on some of the car-using public when you actually make use of a stop sign. Kinda breaks up their flow, steals their momentum. There weren’t any stop signs in the commercial!

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  • PorterStout March 21, 2013 at 1:04 pm

    I wonder if there’s any correlation between the noted uptick in rage incidents and rising gas prices? Some guy sitting in his truck he just pumped $80 into watching you over there getting to work for “free.”

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    • lyle w. March 21, 2013 at 9:13 pm

      There might be something to that. That would be interesting to dig into some past ‘Road Rage’ reports, cross-reference it with car v. bicycle harrassment/assault police reports, and see if there’s any correlation. Would probably be pretty easy to do, if you had access to the right stats.

      I also wouldn’t be surprised to learn there was an uptick around political/election events, particularly surrounding events that don’t go the way a particular, unnamed political party prefers.

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  • exportlander March 22, 2013 at 11:03 am

    I’ll give my thoughts on this from the last 25 years or so of riding in various cities from the midwest, south, and recently Portland for six years. Now I’m in Anchorage, with good off-street infrastructure, but positively terrifying on-street riding (even compared to Dallas in the 90s).

    I agree that reporting to police has mixed results. I’ve been harassed and run of the road by police and sheriff’s deputies on a number of occasions. Portland police seemed pretty responsive when I was assaulted by a driver for pushing off of his car when he turned into my lane as I was making a left on a green arrow. The assailant was actually wearing clothing that identified his employer, so after calling the police, I called the guy’s boss. He was a little disturbed that someone would represent his company in such a way.

    The Portland police officer kindly offered to go to the assailant’s place of work and “embarrass the hell out of him,” noting that he has called DUI offenders’ mothers with good results. Also of note is that these offenders were men in their 30s.

    Another example situation: after nearly getting run over by a Legacy employee in NW, I called their security office with the plate number. Legacy was very responsive and noted that they want to be good community members in NW.

    The point is that in addition to law enforcement, take every opportunity to use social engineering and peer pressure. Business owners do not want their employees harassing other citizens. It’s not always possible, but I think it helps.

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    • Nate March 25, 2013 at 2:54 pm

      I don’t think you can stress this enough – when folks are behaving badly ON THE CLOCK, you have inordinate power to alter their behavior. I filed a formal complaint at the Post Office Dist.Ctr. a couple years ago and participated in several followup discussions with them afterwards. Likewise, a carpet company was deeply dismayed and distressed that their driver (with a phone number on the side of the van) was trying to run me off the road. Get a vehicle number and call their company (even before the police if it’s a non-emergency call).

      If peoples’ jobs depend on them driving, they shouldn’t do it aggressively or unsafely. If they do, they should no longer have that job. Any company that is paying attention would agree; even if they don’t care at all about cyclists or their public image, they should know that their insurance rates are at risk, and a lawsuit could do serious financial damage.

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  • drew March 23, 2013 at 7:23 pm

    My friend who is a bike shop owner gave me a GoPro dummy camera that he used for display at his shop. It’s lighter, needs no recharging, and is “on” all the time! It is like a Beacon of Justice on taped on top of my helmet! I would like to install a blinking LED light in it to add to the effect. I also carry a smartphone with me that I would put into video mode as soon as I am able, in the event of a crash.

    In 40 years of biking well over 5K miles/year in LA, SF, PDX, and all over the country, I can count on 2 hands the serious close call/road rage incidents I have had. Remember, those drivers who rage against you can SEE you. If you need to worry, worry more about those who claim they cannot see you.

    Statistically speaking, driving will not improve your odds of ending up at the dinner-table in one piece, compared to biking. As a pedestrian, the odds are even less positive. Health experts are expressing concern about couch time (or bucket seat time) contributing to the explosion of diabetes and other chronic illnesses we see way too much of today.

    So have fun and go ride your bike; it’s good for you!

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  • resopmok March 23, 2013 at 7:38 pm

    Not to discount the actions of those few bad apples that probably have psychological problems which cause them to act out violently, here are a few tips to consider that seem to help keep things amicable for me on the street.

    1)Eye contact – this is a vital form of communication on the roads where we have little or no other. If you don’t see their eyes, you must assume and act as though they have not seen you at all.

    2)Turn your head and look behind you. Even if you wear a mirror, drivers approaching from behind will understand that you know they are there, and won’t fear you doing something irrational or dumb that they see from others. See tip #1, it works in reverse too. It takes practice to do this and maintain a straight line. Take the time to learn, it’s worth it.

    3)Smile and Wave – People always respond better to friendliness. The middle finger, though you may feel it, incites in others (with bigger, more dangerous vehicles) the same anger that you may feel. You must assume an error was made because tips 1 + 2 were not followed by at least one of you. If you recognize you made a mistake in traffic, wave at the person you offended. This is how you apologize without being able to say you’re sorry out loud.

    4)Have fun – In traffic and elsewhere, nobody wants to be around a Miserable Molly. Also, it’s good for you.

    Stay safe out there guys!

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  • Momonabike March 29, 2013 at 4:47 pm

    OK, so let’s blame my tardy response on spring break, but the incident I relay below is still sitting heavy on my mind.

    There must be something in the air that is causing drivers to be extra aggressive lately. Last Friday (March 22) at 9AM I was on my way to Beach School to volunteer with Safe Routes to School. I was making a left hand turn onto N. Humbolt from N. Denver and was in the center of the lane signalling. A woman with a small child in the car gunned her engine behind me, sped up (definitely faster than the 20 MPH posted speed) and swerved towards me. She screamed obscenities at me, telling me I had no right to be on the road. I stopped my bike, got her license plate (513 FTH) and with a heart beating loudly in my chest I called the non-emergency phone line. An officer Dixon met me at the school and I told him what happened and that I had her license plate. He told me that she didn’t do anything illegal (her speeding could not be proven) and there is nothing I could do. He did not take my contact information, did not write a report and told me the best he could do was inform the police officer that is assigned to the school. IF only I had read your article before this incident I may have been more insistent.

    So, my concern is that I believe police officers are not adequately trained or educated about how to deal with road rage. Is there a city policy? If there is no clear and effective policy, we need to change this. I normally ride with my two children and this sort of raging behavior is dangerous and potentially deadly.

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