You know the drill. A provocative photo and/or incident illustrates the long-running “bikes vs cars!” narrative and then all heck breaks loose. Comment sections light up, the BikeSnob takes his cut, then the story gets piled onto our collective mental legacy about how we get along — or don’t — out on the streets.
Over the years I’ve gotten tired of these types of stories. The fact is, people yelling at each other and doing emotionally-charged things to each other is not news. It might be worth publishing if you’re in the content business, but if you ride a bike everyday you’ll know that jerk behavior — on both sides of the windshield — happens all the time.
Given how much attention the recent U-lock throwing incident got (over 1,600 comments on OregonLive!), I didn’t even plan to post anything about it.
“Here we had two people acting very poorly to each other, yet given the photo and the way the article was written most of the scorn tends to land on one side.”
— David Robinson, witness
Then I heard from the other guy in the photo. The guy who wasn’t on the tallbike. His name is David Robinson and he posted his version of the story on Facebook last week (and some of his comments were retroactively added to The Oregonian story). Robinson just happened to innocently ride into the situation and now he’s forever tied to it.
Robinson is disappointed how the story was framed by the media and he’s annoyed he even has to speak out about it. “My thoughts are that here we had two people acting very poorly to each other,” he shared with me via email, “yet given the photo and the way the article was written most of the scorn tends to land on one side.”
He was reluctant to even let me to post this, hoping that the whole thing would just go away. But we both wanted to share his version because it shows the importance of perspective and it can help us further understand the nuance and context often lacking from these road-rage fueled interactions and the media stories that result from them.
Here’s what happened according to Robinson (the man on the right of the iconic u-lock throwing image):
I’m in the lovely position of having ridden into the middle of a road rage incident immediatly [sic] as it boiled over (what lovely timing). I am not a spokesman for bikes, but as the only person involved who wasn’t livid — on the contrary, I still had very little idea what was going on at the time the photo was taken — I want to at least share what I can.
My understanding is that tallbiker had yelled at a car performing an illegal (and marked as such) turn, and that the passenger (Mom) in the BMW took offense with this, and decided to share her take that this was why people hate bikers. Both parties claim that the other spat first, but as I was still blocks away at the time, I cannot confirm one way or another. Despite the article stating that the tallbiker turned and then came back to taunt her- my understanding is that they both continued straight (down Clay St, a neighborhood greenway, marked with sharrows, with stop signs turned to the side streets, one block over from the primary thoroughfare). This all started at what is essentially 4th, and I happened to turn onto the greenway and into the middle of this at 10th. At this point, I was caught up by the tallbiker, who yelled while passing that the car behind was being aggressive and acting crazily.
At this point, the gold BMW was exceedingly close behind us, blaring its horn. As I looked behind me, the lock was thrown (if I had to guess where it connected, I’d say license plate). As the tallbiker pulled a u-turn to retrieve his lock, he effectively cut me off, and I stopped. At this point, the car swerved onto the sidewalk and both passengers exited. I asked the driver (daughter) what was going on as the passenger (mom) charged the tallbike (it appeared to me as though she was ready to knock him off of the bike). The tall biker defensively extended his foot as he passed, neither party seemed to suffer any damage (though mom’s phone dropped), and the tallbiker continued on his way. At this point, mom’s attention turns to me, and the first thing she asks is if “this is what [I] represent”. I tried to explain that I was just riding around my neighborhood, but it became clear that I was being yelled at by an extremely angry person, who was predictably less-than-reasonable. I left after mom started accusing me of being complicit, taking my photo, and denying all culpability- though she made sure to mention that she occasionally rides to work, lives between two greenways, and has friends in the “cycling community.” As mother is yelling at me, daughter has retreated to the car, visibly and extremely upset.
The u-lock toss is a reaction to several blocks of aggressive driving and heckling from an agitated passenger, who (I have to assume) was encouraging her teenage daughter to antagonize the tallbiker (and eventually, myself) with the vehicle which to me is the saddest part of the ordeal, and a nuance that very few people reading the story (written based on an email about a facebook post) seem to pick up on.
I don’t think either party behaved particularly well, but the pictured moment is more a reaction to antagonism than a direct antagonism in and of itself.
All I know is that the weirdest three minutes of my day yesterday have become a thing I have to talk about, and that’s really fucking annoying.
At the end of the day, Robinson told me the two saddest things about the incident were, “That the daughter got such a close view of such poor behavior, and the tribalist hate that has resulted from the story.”
Let’s all try to do better next time.
Only one odd thing- the Oregonian article mentioned that Robinson knew the tallbiker. Robinson’s narrative above doesn’t mention that.
Noticed that. I’m not sure BikePortland got the same exact story they the O did. Take from that what you will.
It’s sad all around. It’s sad that this happened, that people get so worked up in their sense that somebody did something wrong that they lose control of their own actions. It’s sad that we all do that—me especially. It’s sad that the media see a thrown u-lock as something more deadly than an aggressively driven car. It’s sad that the knowledge we wish to share with a stranger is not the one the stranger hears. It’s sad we have to talk about this when what we should be talking about is how to fix our streets so we won’t have any more people in the hospital figuring out how to get around on one leg.
I firmly believe 1) in treating others as we want to be treated 2) that most of the frustrations on both sides of the windshield stem from the dual legal status of cyclists: Legally, we are pedestrians in some situations and vehicles in others.
it is time to change the structures by which we ride.
I have been the crazy mad cyclist. It is hard to control one’s emotions when you have been put in danger by an oblivious or hate filled driver. Drivers have no F’n idea how vulnerable cyclists are
It happens to me much less now, I am a very defensive rider (and old too)
It’s amazing what 3+ years of professional driving a big slow truck has done for my defensive driving.
I’m almost always going slower (not the same speed differential as bike to car but close) so I have lots of time and mirror to try and plan to encounter impatient or angry drivers when it will be least hazardous.
The model of vehicle, gender, ethnicity: none of these is as telling as watching how that fast car reacts and dodges around others on their way to me. If slowing down 1mph means that they will pass me unsafely 200 yards before a busy intersection or school zone I’ll slow down.
I still want to get to where I’m going at Warp 9 but it makes no difference how fast I was going if I have to give an accident report describing how fatalities happened.
Angry social interactions, yelling matches, dealing with police and local journo-hacks: all of these are the speed bumps that ultimately help me control my temper when I might actually be imagining a finishing move from Mortal Combat.
I’ve seen the dunce on the tallbike more than once, before this happened. I watched him blow a red light and then start yelling bloody murder at a car that honked at him. I doubt this is an isolated case of poor judgment.
“The u-lock toss is a reaction to several blocks of aggressive driving and heckling” and “Let’s all try to do better next time.”
Spare us the apologism, please. There is no excuse for choosing to maliciously assault someone. The moment you choose to physically attack someone because you don’t like their words, it becomes about the fact you chose to attack them.
Let’s all try to not attack people with u-locks and not become a real-life version of the “bicycle rights!” guy from Portlandia.
Let’s also try not to aggressively drive near people on bikes while honking. Because that’s actually more dangerous. Until this is recognized, a lot of people on bikes are going to seem like the aggressor and not the retaliator in these conflicts.
You are rationalizing assault. When you let your hurt feelings get the best of you and resort to physical attacks, you are the perpetrator.
If they are still coming at you, it’s still defending yourself.
Bravo-Sierra. Oregon has very clear limitations on the use of force. You can use force to “rebuff or contain a person”. Throwing a u-lock would have done neither. The law also says if you are the initial aggressor (as the tallbike rider was), justified use of force does not apply unless you withdraw from the encounter.
Where do you get that the tall-biker was the “initial aggressor” in this case? He was yelling at someone else (in a different vehicle, not the “gold BMW” mentioned in the story), who he thought had made an illegal turn, and the passenger in the BMW took exception to that and decided to yell back and (supposedly) encourage her daughter, the driver, to honk and tailgate. That sounds like the first two acts of aggression, yelling and honking/tailgating between the two parties in the story came from the car. This may well be the same tall-biker you have observed behaving poorly on other occasions, and perhaps yelling at another driver was a bad idea, but he reportedly did nothing directly to the driver or passenger in this story until after the passenger yelled at him first, then the driver tailgated/honked.
Bicyclist and Driver should switch vehicles and let the bicyclist tailgate while honking at the mom in the passenger seat of BMW. That’d would have been good role playing to defuse the situation without all those comments that are unnecessary — and give the BMW passenger and driver, each person a U lock to throw at the bicyclist’s car who is now on the wheel of BMW.
Or BMW passenger and driver to push the BMW by human force on flat surface, while bicyclist honk and yell at the BMW moving every slowly.
OR hire a slaver driver with whip, and turn both driver, passenger, bicyclist to pull a BMW on rope while people chanting and honking portable horns behind them.
Why didn’t bicyclist stop his bicycle and let a police person hash it out. Oh, because, Police would not have shown up even if you called them because there was no physical injury from a collision even if there was one.
Even better, give bicyclist and driver to hash out their differences in a duel for pink slips.
throwing a u-lock will certainly rebuff many people…
the passenger was the aggressor because they initiated contact by yelling at the cyclist…
the cyclist withdrew by continuing on their way but the driver and passenger continued to menace them…
George, not sure how you are concluding that TallBiker was the original aggressor. He threw the lock after the car began tail-gating aggressively. Before that it was just back-and-forth words. Read the witness’ account again and you’ll understand.
There was the alleged spitting in the face of the passenger during the initial confrontation by the tall bike rider. That might just be a bit of escalation right there.
When people threaten to kill me by roaring up behind me in a 4,000 pound car and endanger my life, when I don’t know what they are going to do next, getting “emotional” is a perfectly natural reaction. Certainly, best to control it but we all know as a matter of biology and brain chemistry that stress, fear and anger shut down the rational thinking part of the brain.
Plain fact, if you endanger someone and then follow them and threaten them, yelling at them and honking at them it is going to be very predictable that they will be irrational and angry and aggressive in response.
It is not rationalizing when we recognize a fact of nature. Rationalization requires first that we can actually expect that the person involved ought to be ‘rational’ at the time the behavior occurred. When there is every reason to expect that many people would naturally and understandably be irrational after having been chased by a car, threatened, and cursed for several blocks, there is not need for rationalization.
On the other hand, when the tall cyclist yelled at the driver and started the interaction, assuming he was not actually endangered by that maneuver, we could expect him to have made better choices. The people in the beemer, who were safely ensconced in their steel shell with 16 air bags and 200 horse power capable of either killing the cyclist or readily escaping can not be excused at all. They were bullies and should be off the road.
As a personal note, I will admit I’m biased and prejudiced here. If people threatening me are spoiled brats driving a beemer – that’s not going to be a calming influence on my thinking.
And you are ignoring a whole class of assault. Aggressive acceleration, close passing, tailgating, cutting off, and continuous honking are actually assault, especially considering the size/weight/momentum disparity.
You are completely wrong about the definition of assault. Your responses is just hyperbole. None of those things apply under the Oregon Revised Statutes definition of assault. Everything you listed is a traffic violation, none of which are grounds for use of physical force against a person.
OK, I was going to come up with a snarky response, but instead I don’t see any point in engaging with you further.
Jonathan or Michael, please consider whether George H needs to be posting to this thread any longer.
In other words: “I disagree with this person, please silence him.”
Not at all. He said multiple times that he does not feel menacing and dangerous behavior by a driver is worthy of consideration. I gave him more than one chance to take it back. He’s entitled to his opinion, but not to poison this comment section.
Well that pretty much sums up the progressive agenda lately.
OK then, “menacing”.
The difference is a technicality. The exact same behavior can be assault or not-assault, depending only on whether contact is made between a motor vehicle and a bicycle. So a driver who is a careful road-rager (or a bicyclist with good bike-handling skills) can avoid assault while honking, tailgating, engine-revving, passing closely, what-have-you, as long as they avoid contact. A more careless perpetrator of menacing becomes guilty of assault if they misjudge distance a tiny bit.
contact still doesn’t take it from menacing to assault… there has to be damage or injury for it to be assault…
I guess you’re right; for vehicular assault “physical injury to the person operating the bicycle” is a requirement. I guess in Oregon, all assault requires physical injury, or it’s just menacing.
One minor point, though, is that on re-reading the definition of “vehicular assault” and “fourth degree assault”, no mention of “property” is made, so it would appear that even throwing a U-lock at a car, as ill-advised as it may be, would not be considered assault unless you threw it through the window and hit someone inside the car with it, or maybe caused the driver to crash and be injured.
In gun terms, the difference between illegal discharge of a firearm and attempted murder is a fraction of an inch.
It is absolutely civil assault, not criminal. And just as I could defend myself if you point a gun at me, I can defend myself from fear of imminent serious bodily harm posed by a aggressive car behind me. Now whether this was an effective choice of defense is a different question.
my understanding of assault (legally) is that all there as to be is the perception of intent to physical harm…I would perceive tailgating a bike in a car while yelling and honking intent to physical harm…
“You are completely wrong about the definition of assault. Your responses is just hyperbole.”
You are wrong: An assault is carried out by a threat of bodily harm coupled with an apparent, present ability to cause the harm. It is both a crime and a tort and, therefore, may result in either criminal or civil liability.
that’s a much better description that was posted here in the “get legal” article about assault…
You failed to look up the Oregon Revised Statutes definition of “assault” which is has zero similarity to what you posted. Assault in Oregon is equivalent to what is commonly defined as battery.
I feel like many people that post here have little understanding of the law and get completely carried away in emotional negativity. If you can’t control your rage and be even slightly rational, then you belong neither in a car not on a bicycle. Probably not Trimet either.
Was the physical force against the person, or the car?
That’s the part that gets me. I read many of the comments on O’live (guilty pleasure, I admit), and there were a lot of tough guy commenters who were basically advocating for deadly force to defend against the u-lock attack. The attack was an attempt to damage property, not an attack on a person. It would be nearly impossible to chuck the lock with enough force to fully penetrate the safety glass and strike a person inside the car. Oregon law allows one to defend with deadly force only if a person’s life is in danger. You can’t shoot someone or run them over because they dented your precious car. If anything, I would say that the bicycle rider would be entitled to defend with deadly force, as he was actually vulnerable and being threatened with serious injury or death by a rolling mass of 3000 pounds.
Throwing a lock at a car is not assault. You need to relax.
Everything that the driver did is assault. The response of the bike rider was understated if anything.
clever user name.
That’s why I like bike-mounted video cameras.
George, if this was Florida, the driver could have been legally shot with the “Stand your ground” law. In addition, the biker was retreating while the motorist continued to pursue aggressive behavior.
Perfect illustration of two very common fallacies.
1) “A car is not a dangerous or threatening weapon.” Apparently, the bike lock in the air appears more threatening and dangerous to many people than the car that is being driven menacingly.
2) “Any act against a car is an act against the actual driver.” In this case, a U-lock hitting the front of a car is an assault against the driver.
A car is not a weapon but it can be USED as one if the intent is there. Just like a lock is not a weapon but can be used as one.
Someone posted a link to the original story to a friend’s Facebook page. I almost responded with something about how I was looking forward to the increase in hostility I was due to experience on my bike because of it.
On my way home only 2 days later, I had someone in a car run a stop sign as I was turning on to my street. This put him directly on my wheel, clearly upset about me impeding his progress, As I and started to move left toward my driveway, he pulled along side of me, shouting something through the window.
Already irritated about him running the stop sign and speeding on my street (while using it as a cut-through), I “tactfully” screamed, “slow the ‘f’ down”; and was threatened with a firearm for the second time in two years.
Now obviously there are two sides to this story. Should I have stopped when it became clear that he was going to run the stop sign? Should I have moved off the street when it became clear that he was driving aggressively?
Maybe so, but that depends entirely on your perspective.
Ya never know who’s packing heat. and you can’t know how eager someone is to exercise their second amendment rights
You have to assume that everyone is packing heat. I understand your point, but the second amendment absolutely does not give you the right to threaten people in road rage incidents.
I hope this story ended with you calling 911 and the driver being arrested…
You need to move. Seriously.
or call the police to show that gunfights won’t be tolerated…
Why do drivers consistently think that you can hear them when they yell at you through closed windows?
License plate? Police report?
Pulling a gun on someone is most certainly assault.
Only cowards carry guns. Let him know he’s a coward.
Someone following too close, blaring their horn, and screaming at you is very threatening behavior. You don’t know how crazy they are and at any moment they could accelerate into you, causing severe injury or death. If you’re going to threaten people with a deadly weapon, there is likely going to be a reaction.
And in a BMW to boot!
I wonder what they say about tall bike riders or Surly owners.
Silly. Drivers think all bikes and bikers look alike.
Now that is a silly statement. Making sweeping generalizations is intellectually lazy, but hey…have at it.
>Let’s all try to do better next time
Equivocating. Yelling, honking, and following someone is risky and uncalled for. Spitting, kicking people, and throwing u-locks is violent and criminal. The two are not the same.
Following with less than 2s gap is criminal. That’s 10yd per 10mph.
Yesterday a pizza delivery guy making a delivery on my street followed behind me respectfully, then passed me safely when there was a clear opportunity to do so (line of parked cars broke up so I was able to get over a few feet). I caught up to him as he was putting together the order and thanked him for not driving like a crazy person.
Wow, that’s unusual. Most pizza guys I see drive like dummies.
Funny how when we comment about the danger people in cars put us into, some people think we are condoning boneheaded retaliatory acts.
That is interesting. How can an appeal be made for perspective without giving the appearance of condoning bad behavior?
The same thing happens when comparing the relative risk of running stop signs on a bike vs. in a car. Just because it is a fact that a car will more easily injure or kill someone than a bike doesn’t make it OK to break the law. It does, however, inform as to what is worth really getting worked up about.
It seemed pretty unrealistic to me that someone on a tailbike followed someone in a car for 10+blocks by riding in front of them. Sounds like what I suspected was much more accurate which was the people in the car were clearly following the cyclist and not the other way around…
I wonder if the person trying to make the original illegal right-on-red caught any of this going on in the left lanes next to them… or maybe they were focused on finding a gap to make that illegal turn into and didn’t notice anything…
I always treat angry motorists as if they had a gun on the dash and were ready to use it. Pull over; get away; de-fuse. If they hit you, the law is not designed help you; it is designed to help them. And you may be injured, which could affect the rest of your life. You cannot teach an angry motorist anything by responding with anger; it only escalates things.
It is a wonderment to me how a motorist equates the behavior of a certain bicyclist as influential to the way how society looks at anybody using a bike. Should we judge all motorists using our impression of the distracted driver who blows a stoplight, killing people or putting them in the hospital? That kind of thing happens every day in this country, and the penalty (if any) rarely exceeds anything more than a small fine.
Absolutely!! This is something I’ve learned. If you play the escalation game with a person in a car, you have much less of an idea what’s in their car, than they do what’s on your person. The great thing about a bicycle is that you can accelerate it and turn it pretty quickly, as well as choose routes that a driver cannot.
Some of my roadway experiences have forced me to contemplate the value of self control. One such event included recognizing the name “Norteños” tattooed on a particularly angry drivers arm.
I will first try a rational discussion, if that doesn’t work I ignore.
If that picture is for real two things pass though my mind. The first is by throwing object such as a large bike lock could be considered as assault with doing bodily harm (slammer time). And two if the bike lock just did a glancing blow off the car, I think a very enraged driver will run over him and give him a world of pain. So if you plan to be dare to be stupid make sure you have a plan B.
Same advice for the driver – if she responds by running the cyclist over to “give him a world of pain” she had better have a very good Plan B. She’ll need it while serving jail time and paying for his medical expenses.
It depends on how good your lawyer is. The car driver could plead temporary insanity do to the circumstances. Or trying to stop a violent person from harming others.
In our dreams. In the real world, we all know that she would get off by claiming it was “just a little accident”.
Throwing a bike lock at a car is not assault. It’s property damage.
If the lock shatters the windshield and causes grievous body harm or causing the car to loose control to crashing into something or to roll over, then you have your assault with a deadly weapon.
“…assault with a deadly weapon.”
“Dangerous weapon”; a U-Lock is not a “deadly weapon”:
From ORS 161.015:
So throwing a 5lb U-lock at a car is assault on the driver, but driving dangerously close behind someone on a bike is not?
Can you point me to the law in Oregon that makes cars people? I don’t recall that one.
Corporations and cars are people, and cyclists are objects. God bless America.
I think the driver was engaging in illegal behavior. Having said that, in most states throwing an object at a moving vehicle is a felony. Often ignored unless injury results. It’s probably a good thing.
Got a reference to the Oregon law for that? From some quick searching, I can’t find anything specific to vehicles.
I don’t believe the story from the car and I don’t believe David Robinson either. The whole thing is just sad…….
I can relate to the feeling of intimidation from a car following too closely, both as a bicyclist and a driver. There’s an adrenaline rush and instinct to turn on your survival mode. But that’s what road rage does to people. It’s a loss of control over their emotional response to an outside threat. I also can understand the frustration of being on a bike and having to share the road with motorists who either lack good driving skills or disregard the safety of non-motorists also on the road. The inclination is to speak up and point out to them when they’ve endangered someone else’s life. At the point where the tall biker tossed his U-lock, the motorist was clearly disregarding the safety of both bicyclists, which is reckless endangerment. Judging from how he lobbed the U-lock, it doesn’t appear that he was maliciously trying to harm the motorist or passenger, but was trying to fend them off from driving too close. In hindsight, I’m sure the tall biker would probably admit it wasn’t the best course of action, however, it is difficult to know just how intimidated and fearful he may have felt by the driver’s reckless endangerment of his life. If he truly felt his life was in danger, his action of tossing the U-lock could be considered an act of self defense. If bicyclists started carrying firearms and exercising their right of self defense, this situation could have ended a lot worse. I’m not advocating that bicyclists carry firearms, but just like all other citizens, they have a right to defend themselves, which can be a difficult task when you’re in the act of riding a bicycle. I don’t know the answer and ideally, pulling over and letting the motorist pass is probably the first option, however, at one point should bicyclists be able to exert their equal protection under the law when a motorist deliberately endangers their life?