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Slapping of car leads to road rage incident in North Portland

Posted by on April 5th, 2013 at 11:27 am

Bike lane in action

(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

Vancouver resident Don Joling claims he got an unwanted surprise after he slapped the body of a car on North Interstate Avenue this morning. The person in the car became enraged and, according to Joling, it almost led to a shooting.

Here’s what Joling just posted to the Oregon Bicycle Racing Association email list:

I almost got shot on the way home. Literally. I was rolling down Interstate between New Seasons and Fred Meyer and some car came over almost putting me in the sidewalk, so I slapped the rear quarter panel just hard enough to get his attention.

So at the next stop light, at Fred Meyer, I’m que’d [sic] up with a couple other cyclists, and he comes up on my right, and goes ballistic. Tells me that he’s got a gun and is going to shoot me in the leg. I stay super calm, not reacting at all. I tell him I was just letting him know he almost hit me. I can see in his car and the glove box is open with his hand in it. He settles down a little telling me he rides too, but I’m lucky I didn’t dent his car (he had gotten out to look apparently). A couple more standard issue cuss words (ya I’d say them, but trying to keep this family friendly) from him and we went our separate ways.”

Joling said the car is a mid-2000’s VW wagon with Washington plates.

The timing of this incident is very interesting. Just yesterday, a similar road rage story from Seattle caught our attention. In that story, a woman in a car “pulled a stun gun out of her bra” and attacked a man walking across a crosswalk. The man yelled at the woman and kicked her wheel because he felt she came too close to him. (Note that police and media reports claim the man was a “bike messenger” but in a comment on Seattle Bike Blog the messenger himself says he was actually walking in the crosswalk at the time.) The Oregonian then picked up the story and wrote a blog post titled, Pregnant woman vs. bike messenger in Seattle: One more reason why cyclists slapping, kicking cars isn’t smart.

The issue sparks debate because people have different ideas about who’s at fault. There are those who feel it’s never excusable for someone to slap another person’s vehicle and that if road rage results than the person had it coming. Then there are others who feel that sometimes, when you’re vulnerable on the road (not in a car), slapping the car is the only way to warn the driver of your presence. Of course, there are times when the slapping goes overboard and is accompanied by obscenities and other mean things (like spitting).

From my experience, everyone tends to overreact a bit out on the road when they feel threatened. It’s not a pretty sight; but the more you’re aware of how your emotions can get the better of you, the better off you’ll be in these situations.

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

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Esther
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Esther

I’m thoroughly against victim blaming – but one thing to think about, Ray Thomas has come out pretty strictly against slapping cars (as seen in Joe’s article) just for the reason that it’s unsafe to distract yourself while controlling your vehicle (your bike), and I also wonder if slapping or kicking cars could be considered harassment or menacing (see pp. 130 in his Bicycle handbook: http://www.stc-law.com/pdf/pedal-power.pdf ).

Regardless, threatening to shoot someone (which is definitely menacing and harassment!) and/or tasering them with a stun gun is not OK either and are definitely worse/scarier crimes.

As a frequent Sandy rider, I have my fair share of drivers who pass too closely, or even commit harassment and menacing. I’m still working on it, but my m.o. is becoming to get all up close to their car (no touching) and smile in a VERY, VERY friendly and sort of creepy way and shout “HI!!! HAVE A NICE DAY!!!”

Eric in Seattle
Guest
Eric in Seattle

If the driver is really that worried about denting his car, he should give bike riders a bit more room. Hitting a cyclist can leave a nasty scratch.

KJ
Guest
KJ

Considering the timing, I can’t help but wonder if the driver was “inspired” by the recent sensationalized victim blaming (instead of crazy tazer wielding blaming), media around the Seattle case. =/ -Jaded.
Glad you are ok Don, I ride that stretch all the time, recently switched to concord, but it’s the most tense stretch and people drive for shit between Kworth and Lombard. ugh.

Dave
Guest

Slapping, kicking or hitting other people or other people’s property is never the ideal solution, but it by no means is ‘asking for’ serious injury or death in return, especially when it was initially instigated by being threatened (intentionally or not).

RH
Guest
RH

I say slap someone with words (or a loud bike horn) versus slapping their car. Folks are waaaay too protective over their cars. Imagine if a car cut you off while you were driving your car…would you go up and slighly bump their car?

Andrew K
Guest
Andrew K

I have only kicked a car once I my life and it was a situation where I would have been hit if I didn’t. The driver was floating to the right while looking to their left and was about to sandwhich me into the curb. When we both got to the ne t intersection I knocked on her window and said, “sorry for hitting your car, I just didn’t want my leg broken!”

The driver actually ended up apologizing to me.

In general though, it’s not a practice I recommend unless you need to get a driver’s attention or risk physical harm. Much in the same way I don’t recommend drivers honk unless you need to get someone’s attention to avoid an accident. Too often it just serves to enrage people, regardless of who was in the wrong first.

Marid
Guest
Marid

Guns make us safer. Or so they say.

Schrauf
Guest
Schrauf

I call BS on there being an actual gun. If someone is going to threaten like that, and they have a gun, they will also most likely flash the gun. Not necessarily point it, of course, since that takes things to a whole new legal/criminal level.

Moderately smacking a vehicle that has just been controlled by the driver in a life threatening manner is indeed risky, but sometimes difficult to avoid. It takes a decent level of self-control to be attacked, and respond with absolutely no anger. Very possible, but sometimes difficult.

Nik
Guest
Nik

I only strike vehicles that attempt to run me down in while walking in crosswalks. Nobody has yet had the nerve to get angry about it.

John Liu
Guest
John Liu

I wouldn’t like someone slapping my car. Remember the driver has no way to know what you hit his car with, whether you dented or scratched it, and that the sound is magnified inside the car – to the driver, it sounds like a bigger impact than it sounds like to you. Use a loud (compressed air) horn or (Crane) bell, instead.

John Lascurettes
Guest
John Lascurettes

Only time I’ve kicked a car was after the car knocked me down. Without signaling the driver cut across the bike lane on nw broadway going for a parking spot, while I was next to him. We had both been doing 20-25 mph. I only didn’t get pinched to the curb or go under the car because of my own diligence in watching his front wheel when he started to slow – I broke hard but still couldn’t stop completely before he cut across the bike lane. I tumbled down as his quarter panel touched me and came up kicking at his rear tail light – I really, really wanted to break it (but they’re tight). It’s kind of hard not to take the flash of your own life due to someone else’s carelessness lightly.

Last of the Mohicans
Guest
Last of the Mohicans

Several years ago was coming back from an awesome MTB ride with several friends 2 of whom are law enforcement. During the course of the ride had an altercation with a car and 2 occupants, they got too close and one of our group responded with the car slap. Things escalated to the verbal “I’ve got a gun” this from the driver, worst day of his life. Sometimes the police are there when you need them.

Gasper Johnson
Guest

Cars have become extensions of the self. This is a dangerous precedent if it results in being run off the road and then feeling justified for vehicular assault or worse.

We shouldn’t coddle drivers who have become so obnoxious in their behavior.

John Lascurettes
Guest

That’s what devices like AirZound are for: http://deltacycle.com/airzound-horn

spare_wheel
Guest
spare_wheel

ignoring bullies only encourages them!

this guy was another walter mitty in a cage. when someone starts cussing at me the first thing i do is snap a pic and tell them that i just mailed it to my partner. (if you don’t have time to take the pic…just hold up your phone and pretend.)

i also strongly believe that these kinds of blog posts and media articles sow fear uncertainty and doubt. there have been millions of words and gestures exchanged between cyclists and motorists and…yet…somehow 99.9999% of these interactions do not result in assault or murder. just because someone somewhere once placed a razor blade in an apple does not mean you should live in fear of your neighbor.

Racer X
Guest
Racer X

Its good to double check the rear plates of an aggressive or bike lane transgressing car driver:
– OR (Portland) = sloppy driver with less bicycling experience /novice share the road skills
– WA (or OR State outside of Portland/ Eugene) = sloppy driver with less bicycling experience / no share the road experience and a concealed gun permit

pdxpaul
Guest
pdxpaul

I say don’t back down from a bully. I slap, kick, and dent cars regularly when they cut me off. I’m not above flopping, either. The world is driven by conflict. Life is boring without it.

And I’m always ready to throw down with the fool. But I’m dumb that way.

100th Monkey
Guest
100th Monkey

I know that section of Interstate VERY well myself, living in Kenton and shopping several times a week at Arbor Lodge NS and have had many close encounters myself.
My usual response is to yell ” It seems you don’t need your right mirror, would you like me to remove it for you?”, said in jest and with a smile of course!

Actually, for Oregon and the states around us the law governing the safe distance for a motor vehicle to pass a bicyle as “safe distance” not 3 feet, as a few states have. Leaving the distance VAGUE and not delineated is something that was argued in Salem, with the “lets-keep-it-vague” crowd winning out.

Oregon: 811.065
Washington: 46.61.110
California: VC21750
Idaho: 49-632

Here is the link to all state’s related laws:

http://blog.bikeleague.org/blog//blog/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/Safe-passing-laws2.pdf

dwainedibbly
Guest
dwainedibbly

Bump the car, fall down, claim they hit you.

Livellie
Guest
Livellie

I always ride with this feeling that car drivers don’t like me or any other bicyclist sharing “their” road. I go out of my way to stay out of their way. But I have to say, I admire riders like Don who are willing to confront drivers who endanger them. I’m just too big of a wussy and way too concerned about my own self preservation to risk an unhappy ending.

dan
Guest
dan

Agreed that it’s totally inappropriate to ever slap a car. Unless they threatened your life, a simple yell / horn / bell suffices. If they did threaten your life, it’s much more appropriate to respond with a corresponding level of force. Or, you know, getting them to threaten to shoot you on camera could be pretty good too.

Hart Noecker
Guest

Bikeportland comments section: Where cyclists yell at other cyclists for not behaving exactly the way they think cyclists should behave.

Carter Kennedy
Guest
Carter Kennedy

I don’t think you would like another cyclist slapping your bike to let you know you were in their space. To many, touching their car is like touching them.

It is not your job to enforce the law or even to remind people of what the law is. Drivers are going to do stupid and inconsiderate things and you should regard them impersonally as traffic rather than personally as drivers.

David
Guest
David

I’m surprised the Oregonian piece wasn’t titled, “MILITANT BIKER DROPKICKS PREGNANT WOMAN IN THE [READ MORE>>] car tire.”

maxadders
Guest
maxadders

Ignore the “road rage” / slap nonsense for a moment– there’s a man driving around THREATENING TO SHOOT PEOPLE. Only an unstable and dangerous man makes those kinds of threats. Get plate numbers, get the cops involved, press charges. It’s for the good of everyone.

Redhippie
Guest
Redhippie

Here is a point that has been missed. Interstate Ave. is the major bike route into North Portland and the bike lanes end just before ainsworth and don’t reappear until North of Lombard. The road in between is very conjested and there is not a great alternative. Yes there is Williams but that is also pretty far away. So when is PDOT going to figure the planning out for this and put in a viable alternative or stripe the lane?

Sunny
Guest
Sunny

Ever belled someone’s head with a pot and “gonged” it? It’s kinda like that.

Pete
Guest
Pete

I cannot believe the O would publish an article with a title like that. I won’t even waste my time checking it out because I have an idea what to expect. And to think there was a point in time I actually subscribed to that so-called newspaper…

Sunny
Guest
Sunny

If someone threatens with an invisible gun, call his bluff and continue tirading until he brandishes(after noting the license plate). You’ve won until he shoots you.

Mark
Guest
Mark

I think the headline for this story is misleading. It should read:
“Inattentive operation of a motor vehicle leads to road rage incident.”

The slapping of the vehicle was in response to the driver’s careless operation. It is also not permissible in Oregon to use, or threaten to use, deadly force to defend property. Deadly force can only be used to defend a person. The driver would never convince a jury that he thought his life was endangered by a hand slap to the outside of his heavy steel car. Even if the cyclist had kicked the car hard enough to cause damage, the driver would not be justified in using deadly force.

Martie
Guest
Martie

Yeah, I’ve been in this situation quite a few times where I felt wronged as a cyclist and slapped a car mirror or quarter panel. However I did that to the wrong guy one time and he followed me for a few blocks and then hit me with his car… intentionally. Then he drove over my bike with his car. Fortunately I wasn’t really hurt. I got his license plate. There were witnesses. He got in trouble with the law, went to jail, and I prevailed in a law suit against him. I don’t blame myself for his actions against me. He was way out of line. But at the same time, I don’t slap people’s cars anymore, because I might have been in the right, but I could have easily lost my life in the process.

pdxmechanic
Guest
pdxmechanic

If you’re driving so close I can kick your car, you’re too close. Easy and simple.

are
Guest

keeping a gun in the glovebox is concealed carry for which you need a license. if your report results in actual contact with this guy, remind the police to check into this.

Jeff
Guest
Jeff

I would have told the guy “shoot me in the head or don’t shoot at all, because if you only shoot me in the leg, I’ll nuke you and your family”

Zaphod
Guest

The trouble with all of this is that a motorist can put cyclists into real danger with zero effort and it’s impossible to discern intent. So when placed in danger, never mind the sort of danger, all creatures (Honey Badger excepted, of course) get pumped with adrenaline. It takes an epic amount of self control to be dosed with this powerful drug to not do something with it.

Peter.
Guest
Peter.

I slap cars but only when really necessary. In the 20k miles and 7 years I’ve been commuting by bike I think I’ve done it 3 times. Once was a kick with my carbon road shoe. That one left a mark…

just joe
Guest
just joe

I have had my car slapped several times, usually by a cyclist coming up behind me in a bike lane while I was stopped. I suspect it is a ‘heads up’ to not right hook them.
I never took offense, nor will I. An individuals safety, driving or riding is a primary goal . Inflated ego about my precious car isn’t.

Skid
Guest
Skid

Washington drivers….just sayin’

I think I will pursue a license to carry concealed.

Skid
Guest
Skid

Also if I am close enough to slap or kick a car, it is way too close to me.

Steve Scarich
Guest
Steve Scarich

I live in Bend and rarely (maybe once a year) have a ‘close call’ where I really am in danger. That said, I have pretty much given up riding inside city limits of any city. It’s just seems like there are too many risks that are unavoidable (getting doored, cars pulling out of blind alleys, distracted drivers, etc.). If I did have to ride in a city (and I know many people really have no other viable option), I would use a GoPro. A friend of mine just caught a violent interaction (involving a close call, stopped driver who threatened him, etc.) on his GoPro. He called the cops, showed them the incident on his GoPro, they immediately drove to perp’s house, and his behavior toward them, and the video, got the guy arrested. This was in Orange County, California, where riding your bike on a public street is always a life-threatening adventure.

John Liu
Guest
John Liu

One more thought. If you have time to slap a rear quarter panel, you have time to touch your brakes. One action “might” get the driver to notice and stop moving into your space – or it might not, and you might end up sandwich filling anyway. The other action “will” drop you back out of harm’s way in a fraction of a second, no driver’s reaction required.

Sure, one can imagine a scenario in which touching the brakes is not possible or won’t protect you. But most of the time, the choice to slap instead of brake is because the cyclist wants to keep their momentum, defend their real estate, or assertively push back at a numbskull driver. If you’re a “best defense is a good offense” type, then slap away. Personally, I tend to choose the action that most reliably and rapidly takes me out of harm’s way. I’m pragmatic that way.

That said, maybe I should start carrying my Glock on rides. If only it didn’t weigh so much. The world needs a CF frame, Ti slide G26. Maybe they can license it to Campagnolo.

Skwirlyo
Guest
Skwirlyo

Joseph Rose would swear up and down that he’s pro-bikes and I’m sure that he sincerely believes it, but his writing for the Oregonian has the exact same deleterious effect as concern trolling. “I agree that bikes are great, but shouldn’t we be really worried about the horrors of car slapping?!? Car slapping: The scourge of our times!”

Uhm. No. We shouldn’t be worried. It’s not news. It’s maybe something of interest internally for bicycle culture to debate. If Mr. Rose is paying attention, he has to know full well that he’s airing the most inconsequential dirty laundry of one culture and he also knows full well that the majority culture is quick to sharpen pitchforks at the sign of just one reason to beat down the bicycling subculture.

He also knows full well that if he wrote proportionally about the tens of thousands of traffic deaths attributable to automobiles every year, he’d lose his audience. Fine. But just admit to yourself and everyone else that this is not objectivity and it is not equality. It is entertainment.

The funny thing is that hearing from others that he is not a good ally to bicycle culture is clearly a pretty painful thing for him to hear. But being a good ally is about more than feeling guilty and then continuing to do the same old ‘cars VERSUS bikes’ bullshit muckraking story.

jim
Guest
jim

That’s a lot of comments. Didn’t read them all.
Was the guy in a bike lane when the car cut him off?

DK
Guest
DK

I’m glad this didn’t escalate any further. I, personally, would never slap anyone’s car.

Figuratively, I’m happy they didn’t hit me, regardless how close they came. I’m not really into “telling them about it”. I’m alive, the car passed, let’s “move on”.

YMMV

Joe
Guest
Joe

Got right hooked on Stark yesterday stayed up didn’t tap the car but lucky I stopped in time. downtown drivers are getting bad.

esther c
Guest
esther c

I was riding south on Williams yesterday just south of Russell and there was a car parked and blocking the traffic lane. Another car decided to get around it by swerving into the bike lane in the exact spot I happened to be occupying at that moment without regard to that fact. My husband was riding behind me and saw what was going to happened and yelled at me. I swerved to the right and there was a driveway entrance there allowing me to ride up onto the sidewalk.

It was a really close call. The guy in the car who almost creamed me was oblivious. If I had slapped his car, which I didn’t because I had no opportunity, it really would have been quite a minor insult considering that he had just almost caused me major bodily harm. If I wanted to discuss it with him how else could I have gotten his attention since he had his windows rolled up?

El Biciclero
Guest
El Biciclero

I slapped a school bus once because it was making a right on red (which I believe is prohibited for school buses) across the bike lane as I was stopped (for those who will wonder: I was stopped at the red light before the bus arrived. I didn’t roll up beside it after it had stopped; it rolled up beside me). No amount of hitting the brakes could have helped me, since I was already stopped, and backing up isn’t a very quick maneuver to make on a bike. My slapping didn’t appear to have any effect–probably because the driver was too distracted by the noise of middle-schoolers inside the bus. As it was, I nearly got my toes run over by the rear wheels of the bus. Seriously; I had to pull in my elbow to keep it from getting brushed by the top of the rear tire. When something so unbelievable happens suddenly like that, and we feel cornered, we often react with the first instinctual thing (attempt to fend off the predator) rather than evaluating options (I could have hauled my bike up onto the curb, but that is about as fast as backing it up). I don’t think we can say that slapping a vehicle is never advisable. I know somebody will say, “but your slapping didn’t have any effect, and you didn’t actually get run over, therefore, your slapping was pointless and you should not have done it.” Well, hindsight is great, isn’t it? At the time, I had no idea whether the bus tires would clear my foot or whether the bus would have shoved me over; I was taking the only immediate action I could muster at the moment in any attempt to wake up the driver.