This story is part of our Collision Chronicles, an ongoing series to shine a light on the steady stream of scary street interactions we hear about but that you probably won’t see covered in the news.
I never thought I’d be emailing anyone about something like this, but it finally happened to me.
I was assaulted by a driver on my short morning commute, Monday 8/29, around 7:20 am. I was following a driver from the MLK/Skidmore light west down Skidmore and he was driving erratically, slowing as if he was going to turn right several times. I thought he might be a uber/lyft driver, after the 2nd time I tried to go around him and he sped up, obviously taunting me and yelling, “Why the F are you riding my bumper?!”.
I should have turned off the block at the point, but didn’t (oncoming traffic), I figured I’d slow down more and give him space, when all of a sudden he slammed his brakes to a stop and jumped out of the car to grab me (this was between Cleveland and Williams on Skidmore). I reached for my u-lock to defend myself (I had no where to go oncoming traffic, again). now that i was in front of the car I was spooked he would try to run me down so I got off my bike. Big mistake.
He came at me yelling “I won’t have you impose your will on me with that fucking bike, I’m sick of you people” and we yelled at each other for a few seconds and then he punched me in the eye and side of the head quickly, I dodged a few other punches and backed up to try to take his photo and he tried to rip the camera off me. I kept saying “buddy your assaulting me, get back in the car, you’re fucked” etc, he grabbed my lock from me and started swinging that at me, finally was able to break away. I never got a punch in edgewise. he threw the lock at me and he sped off and I picked up my bike. I pedaled to my office, called non-emergency and cleaned myself up. My eye was cut.
I talked to the police, the officer was polite but fairly nonchalant about the whole thing. I got a plate and they ran in, but the car was recently sold and not re-registered, so it sounds like that was a dead end. the officer said these things often don’t get resolved, but said they may see him out driving, etc. The car was a Black Volvo wagon circa 2000 or so, no tint or rack, a few stickers in the window, OR Lic. Plate YAA548
There were bunch of witnesses at a machine shop across the street and a few contractors loading up for their work day, but the majority of my interactions with these types of guys hasn’t been great the past few years in this neighborhood, bike or not, I’m hesitant to go knock on their door.
OK, that out of the way, the true reason I was emailing, what do people do in this situation? I really don’t feel like the police will be much help. I am pretty spooked that the guy lives in my neighborhood as we are both leaving my neighborhood at MLK and Skidmore (the car seemed familiar, but there are a zillion Volvos around). I’m pretty spooked and looking into small devices for self-defense, etc. people are nuts. I won’t stop riding (obvs.) but do feel the need to be able to defend myself better.
For the first time in my life I’m looking over my shoulder a lot. very unsettling feeling, especially in my own neighborhood.
— Jonathan Maus, (503) 706-8804 – firstname.lastname@example.org
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Happy to check around your neighborhood for the car. We can report it’s location to the police when we find it.
Interactions like this in your own neighborhood are terrifying. Just the other day on Clinton St. someone completely blew the stop sign on my morning commute and when I tried to get his attention, he shrugged at me and thought nothing of it. On my way home that night, the stop sign had at some point, been entirely run over and ripped out of the ground, along with the signs and notices that bike traffic doesn’t stop going east.
There’s an assumption growing among motorists that we’re all a part of one big gang against cars and against rules. The demographic of bicyclists is huge, and the only reason these things happens is the ignorance of the lack of acceptance that automobile drivers adopt.
I bet you none of them remember or are even aware that bikes were on the roads before cars existed.
So you comment that drivers view cyclists as one big gang but then you go on to suggest that all automobile drivers are ignorant. Sigh.
Some drivers are actually very good around cyclists…especially those of us who cycle.
Yeah it’s truly weird how polarized things have gotten. I’m sure we could swap stories from bike or car POV all day, but I need to add another just to get it off my chest: My partner and I were driving yesterday on Fremont, had just turned out from Whole Foods, when a bike flew out from one of the side streets (next to that bird shop) right in front of us, without stopping. We had to jam on the brakes to not get hit by her. She then pointed at us and got really aggressive “slow the *%$! down!” We laughed, kind of, since it was so agro. We were perplexed, as we were doing all of like 12 mph and she didn’t seem to feel the need to obey her stop sign. Seems to be a some delusional entitlement going out on there.
“Imposing will” is such a fancy concept to express in un-premeditated anger. Scary to have any unresolved conflict like this near home or anywhere in the city.
Especially when the motorist flatlines a cyclist and has the lame excuse “I didn’t see him/her.” After chasing the cyclist for a block or so.
that’s happened when?
October 21, 1998 for one. On Gardenhome/Multnomah. Me. Karma got the motorist.
It seems to me if the car was recently sold, there has to be a record of who it was sold to. The seller would probably have some info if nothing else. Otherwise, the vehicle will have to be registered, title signed over, etc. I don’t understand why this would be an obstacle at all.
if the cops know it was recently sold then they know whose name is on the paper they received from the seller as being the new owner…
Yes, any info you can get on who the car was sold to may eventually help hold this guy accountable for whatever he’s done wrong.
“…There were bunch of witnesses at a machine shop across the street and a few contractors loading up for their work day, …” anonymous
If you think your actions were defensible, contact those witnesses ASAP, while their memory of whatever they saw is fresh. If the person driving the car is tracked down…and that is possible…you want all the help you can get to support your story.
Understandable in a tense situation, but swearing is to be avoided if at all possible, because it can be seen of as an invitation to respond in kind, even escalate. Swinging things that could be used as a weapon, also is to be avoided unless maintaining distance isn’t possible.
Years ago, when I was naive about how to handle such a situation if it had gone really bad, while biking, I had a nutcase behind the wheel of a car, harass and threaten me. Winter, mid-morning. He pursued me, but fortunately, there were witnesses outside near the Fred Meyer sidewalk I got up on after leaving the road, thinking this guy would just drive on. But no, he had to get out of his car, walk over, approach me on the sidewalk and beller away, red faced. By this time though, behind him, was an audience of three or four people, watching his every move. When he realized this, it was ‘gotta go’ time for him…got back in his car and left.
I got lucky, but consciously made an effort to take the completely defensive approach…no swearing, no aggression on my part, attempted to get away, when the person went off the deep end. I think because of the way I handled myself, and the way the aggressor handled himself, the witnesses there, clearly were ready to back me up if he’d decided to make physical contact.
Hey John, I guarantee you the cops would investigate this if the writer had connected with that ULock.
If you were wearing anything distinctive or there’s anything that pops out about your bike, wear something else and go for a more generic look. Right now, you don’t him to recognize you again. Fortunately, to him you are probably just a cyclist and you’ve given us an area, description, and time to help identify him.
There is a very decent chance he’ll appear in roughly the same place at about that time. If you don’t already have a mirror, get one and keep an eye out for him.
Don’t bother with the self defense devices — you’ll never get a chance to deploy them in a real attack.
The previous owner knows who he sold the car to, the cops know who that is, and they should be willing to talk to that person — you should push them a bit on this. You might be able to get the DMV to release this information to you if you give the reason.
If you don’t already use a mirror, get one. You’ll want to be ready for this guy before reaches you.
BTW, quick internet search makes it appear that you’re looking for a 1998 V70 GLT, but the cops should have already told you that.
I’d stand out and make myself as available as possible. Remember- he f’ed up and committed assault so he’s got to know the police may have been informed and are already looking for him. Carry pepper spray and let him come right up to you, he won’t. He exploded and crossed the line and he knows he can’t do it again. I’d ride around and look for the car and leave a note on it. Our friend here got hurt we shouldn’t encourage him to hide. This is our town not theirs. I won’t give it up to the hateful. When I moved here in ’92 there was ballot measure to allow discrimination against gay people and when it was defeated I knew that I had made a good choice by coming here. F**K that guy. If you’ve got to run, then run if there’s time, but don’t ever hide.
Since I am too lazy to read all of the responses, if what I am about to type has already been mentioned, please disregard.
I would suggest two methods of defense. One not lethal, the other lethal.
The non lethal method would be to acquire some pepper spray. A national chain hardware store with a location on N Mason St & Interstate Ave with a name ending in Tools has this at a relatively inexpensive price. Put one on a lanyard around your neck & either tuck it into your shirt or your coat. Practice using it. The next time you feel you are about to have another confrontation like this, pull it out, point it at your assailant & suggest he/she back off. If he/she doesn’t, spray the crap out of him/her. When the assailant has been immobilized & is writhing on the ground in extreme pain, pull out your cell phone, take several pictures for evidence & call the police emergency number to report the incident. I am sure a police officer will arrive shortly.
The lethal method would be to acquire a handgun. Make sure the caliber is big enough to do the job of immobilizing your assailant. Again, practice using it. Make sure you also acquire a concealed handgun license from the Multnomah Co Sheriff’s Office. Conceal it someplace on your body or bike that is easily accessable. Again, if you feel you are about to have another confrontation, pull it out, point it at your assailant & suggest he/she back off. If he/she is stupid enough not to back off, pull the trigger. If they don’t survive, one less idiot in the gene pool. Again, take pictures & call the police emergency number. The police officer will arrive even quicker with lights flashing & siren wailing.
I am sure this post will go over like a like a lead balloon & will be deleted. Until bicyclists have had enough of this nonsense from idiot motor vehicle operators & finally stand up for their rights, it is going to continue.
if you’re going to carry a gun while biking might as well make it overtly visible to avoid the confrontation in the first place…
Yeah, cyclists shooting motorists. That’ll work. Because people driving cars NEVER carry weapons.
I thought the car WAS the weapon.
Dude had a U lock taken off him. He may not be the ideal candidate to carry a gun.
In a situation like this pepper spray is a pretty bad idea. You’re just going to escalate the situation. If you’re going to use a weapon, only use it in a situation where you need to get away immediately then retreat as fast as you can. If you try to escalate the situation with pepper spray and don’t completely incapacitate the person you might be in for a much more violent confrontation and you could get badly hurt.
“Your honor, he intentionally swerved at me with his vehicle multiple times then got out of his vehicle to continue his assault in person. I honestly feared for my life. With no weapon I was left trying to keep him from killing me by any means necessary. How was I to know that I could rip out his windpie with my bare teeth? ”
In reality I look more evil than that but am only harmful in my klutziness.
But we don’t have to let them kill us….
13 likes for carrying a gun around?
Is this bikeportland or the NRA website?
Plenty of cyclists own guns. Why do you think they are exclusive?
I understand your point, but killing people as your method of standing up for your rights is a bad idea for all kinds of reasons, even if your only interest is in how things turn out for yourself.
Absent a change in our culture I don’t see the Portland Police Bureau taking harassment of vulnerable road seriously. If you want this to change, get involved in active transportation advocacy.
It wasn’t just harassment, it was assault; the police should always take that seriously, especially with a license number and a good description of the car and driver.
In fact, if ding someone’s car intentionally with your ulock, YOU can be charged with assault, and not just a property crime, as if you had attacked the motorist’s person directly.
Considering these two situations, which one do you think the police are going to take more seriously in today’s society?
For example, NYPD still has yet to file any charges against a driver they believe intentionally hit (and killed) 35-year-old cyclist Matthew von Ohlen in early July; yet they have video of the incident, a license plate number and reportedly have located the car itself.
It went from harassment to assault when the first punch was thrown.
Buzz, I’m not defending this in the least but in OR people who beat up other people are often charged with harassment if injuries are minor.
(I personally believe even minor physical violence should be treated as a felony and all non-violent drug offenses and crimes against property (below a certain $ amount) treated as misdemeanors.)
This guy assaulted you, is driving around an unregistered vehicle, and the police say they can’t do anything? Wrong answer, PPB.
I have had a lot of negative interactions with people driving on this stretch of Skidmore, which sucks because it is a really important connection to a bunch of really great bike routes. I really wish PBOT would complete the buffered bike lanes on Skidmore from N Michigan to NE 7th, or paint sharrows at a minimum.
Skidmore connects commercial districts along N Killingsworth, Interstate, Mississippi, Williams, MLK and Alberta. It also connects the following bike routes: Concord, Interstate, Michigan, Vancouver/Williams, 7th and Going. To effectivly link these routes into a network, we need Skidmore to be developed into a street with some real bike infrastructure on it; bike lanes would be great, but sharrows would at least get the people driving to back off a bit. Skidmore is the only route that connects all of these bike routes and commercial destination with controlled intersections at Interstate, I-5, Mississippi, Vancouver, Williams, MLK and 7th.
Does anyone know of anyway to pressure PBOT into accelerating plans to develop bike facilities here? They must have the SDC funds!
Not a fan of these collision chronicles. Don’t see what the point is apart from making folks not want to bike. I guess it does get an quick article on the blog written by someone else.
I see it much like I see stories from other marginalized victims…
people need to know that this just doesn’t happen to them and they’re not alone in their fear and suffering…
the public needs to know that these things really happen frequently and aren’t just anecdotes from the past…
without visibility to a problem there’s essentially no problem… people need to know this happens so we can have their support to take actions against it…
if we can villainize the perps then other drivers will think of those perps as the “other” and will be willing to pass legislation to take action against those “other” types of drivers that aren’t them but endanger others…
people need to know…
Spiffy, the same kind of thing happens on O-Live…just in the other direction. I’m not sure creating a group of villains will have the intended effect .
I’m usually the first to say I think this place can have too much of a whiny anti car vibe. However, I think these articles provide a useful reminder of what we’re up against.
One thing you’ll notice is that when it comes to dealing with nut jobs and dangerous drivers, small choices often make a huge difference in the trajectory events take.
Your feelings are why I’ve been conflicted about doing this for many years. But as I explained when I introduced this series… I think we’ve reached a point where we have to acknowledge more publicly what’s going on out on the streets. I can’t sit back and see this stuff come across my desk and hide it any longer. That just leads to more complacency and a sense that, “things aren’t really that bad.” I think that for us to start making the radical changes we need to make to change our broken street culture, we must be honest with ourselves about the threats we face — and part of that is knowing what we’re up against and knowing what is happening to innocent Portlanders all across our city every day.
This is one person’s account of an incident. I am wondering if any attempt was made to verify this story before sending it out to the winds of the internet?
A lot of this story does not make sense to me as it is written…I too don’t know how this person got from slowing down behind this car to be suddenly in front of it? How do the police know the car was sold if it was not re-registered? I am not aware of any “machine shop” on Skidmore anywhere near Williams.
If these events did occur, then its an isolated incident of a citizen being assaulted by an irrational/mentally ill person. How does that connect with anything larger?
Yes, there are crazy people out there and if you encounter one that is angry at you…get away.
“If these events did occur, then its an isolated incident of a citizen being assaulted by an irrational/mentally ill person. How does that connect with anything larger?”
I think Jonathan’s rationale in starting this series is precisely because from his vantage point as someone who (apparently) hears about these sorts of things a lot, this is precisely an instance of/part of something larger.
What sort of thing? One person being violent towards another? What is the point being made? The world is a scary place and we all should be afraid? How is that helpful?
“What sort of thing?”
unsolicited driver violence aimed at vulnerable road users…
To so narrowly define this incident you make it very small in the grand scheme of issues that plague the citizens of a large American city. While I get that this issue is near-and-dear to the followers of this blog, to think think that the issues like this interaction require the full attention of PPD, I feel, shows a lack of regard for the on going issues of this or any other city. There is a term for what happens on this site…
self-indulgent or excessive contemplation of oneself or a single issue, at the expense of a wider view.
self-indulgent or excessive contemplation of oneself or a single issue, at the expense of a wider view.
Ohhhh… so that's what it is. I always thought it meant checking out the sailors during fleet week.
Ted–First, you can’t know that this is an isolated incident. One of the values of this series is that it publicizes the incident, so others know it happened. This incident didn’t turn up in any other news media, so the same guy could be assaulting people regularly, with this series being the only way other victims could find out they themselves weren’t “isolated incidents”.
Second, nobody knows what patterns will emerge as this series continues. Maybe it will show that half of the incidents people report involve similar angry/irrational people who assault bikers. Maybe it will turn out this is the only one of its kind that will be reported over the next year. Either way, it’s good knowledge to have.
“I too don’t know how this person got from slowing down behind this car to be suddenly in front of it?”
not to be rude, but isn’t it obvious that once a driver stops and gets out of the car that it’s incredibly easy to pass the stopped car?
And keep going?
There IS a machine shop on the corner of MLK & Skidmore. I would recommend the cyclist get to Williams via Shaver (if you’re going south)– Skidmore isn’t very bike friendly from MLK to Williams.
As for the incident, I would recommend making a flier (WANTED or WARNING) with a description of the car and post it in the hood. Have anyone with info contact the PPD officer who took your report. At least the jerk will know his behavior has not been forgotten.
And for goodness sake, don’t carry a gun.
I guess my point of view is that most fearless cyclists have an incident every now and then. It’s the 1,000 people moving here each month that I want to focus on. Some of them may be cycling for the first time or trying out bikeshare, etc.. When they want more news about the Portland bike scene, it would be unfortunate to have them see frequent articles about hit and runs, being punched in the face, etc…from an unverified source. For every 1 article about an unfortunate bike incident, I can think of 20 bike incidents that were positive.
Eh, I’ve lived here for 20 years and right now is the most unsafe I’ve ever felt biking or walking in Portland. Someone just died AGAIN on outer SE Division yesterday…a different death than the one three days ago out there.
I honestly do not feel comfortable recommending bike commuting to a newbie here.
Is it the stories that make you feel unsafe, or did something happen?
Speaking only for myself, I’ve never felt safer. The facilities keep improving, drivers act WAY better than they did in past decades, and driver awareness is light years ahead of what it was. For example, many Portland drivers specifically look for cyclists when turning right to avoid hooking them — this behavior was unheard of only a few years ago.
That the events in the chronicles are considered newsworthy is a positive sign because no one cares about anything that is too commonplace. The message I get from all of these reports is that people need to be cognizant of the threats out there and act accordingly.
IMO, once you leave a fairly small geographic area near downtown Portland the level of harassment and intimidation of cyclists goes up exponentially. On the east side I’ve noticed this regularly as you go further north, south and east from the city core.
My experience consistently confirms this — there is absolutely no comparison between the drivers or infrastructure in the areas you speak of and the core.
Some of the downtowners who think they get a rough time should spend some serious time riding just about anywhere else where bus service is hopelessly infrequent/inconvenient/slow. I often wonder what percentage of them would convert to the car culture types they seem to dislike so much.
I lived in the Bay Area for five years prior to moving to Portland five years ago. Down there, I was a daily bike commuter and occasionally did grocery trips by bike. Here, I’ve ridden my bike maybe three times, because I just do not feel as safe as I did in the Mission District and in the Piedmont/Oakland/Emeryville area. Motorists here seem much less understanding and accommodating of bikes and it’s put a huge damper on my desire to ride.
I did sign up for Biketown, but I’m mostly using it to get between the station at Clay & Water and the base of the Tram, which is a route that isn’t shared with cars.
I agree. I moved here in 2008, full time bike commuter, no car. 2014 I purchased a car to commute to Vancouver. Did this for little over two years. I’m now back on the bike and I find it drastically different. A lot more stressful.
I moved here in 2003 and let me tell ya, it was way worse back then. So much more comfortable and safe to ride a bike in this town than it used to be. Doesn’t mean it couldn’t get better. Just wait for when gas prices get back to $5 per gallon, then the roads will mellow out again.
I hate when things like this happen. The early stages of this has happened to me once but I was able to get out of there quickly on a path through a park (then listened to the guy swearing away as I went.)
Another time a driver of a big macho-complex truck kept slowing down and trying to get my attention. I feigned that I didn’t see him and after repeated attempts he eventually drove off. I don’t know what it was about but I wasn’t going to let anything start.
I have a friend who’s driving is awful. He knows how to operate the vehicle and thinks he’s an excellent driver but he is really erratic in how he moves around. Changing lanes without signalling, zipping around corners, going through red lights, etc. Yet he gets bent out of shape when someone in the next lane inches over slightly towards him. He swears away and declares that the city is full of bad drivers. That he’s the only good driver there is. Fortunately a mechanical problem with his car that he can’t afford to fix as gotten him off the road for awhile.
In recent years the anti-cyclist propaganda has become very pervasive. If being a cyclist was actually a type of person then I wonder if there could be a class action law suit directed at the media for what they’re doing.
I think that potential new drivers should be informed that people are entirely permitted to cycle on the streets when they are taking drivers education and getting tested for their drivers license. One of the roles of government is to balance the influence of business. They should be dong that here. Without actual information otherwise, things are left up to corporate media propaganda and to car culture folklore.
“I think that potential new drivers should be informed that people are entirely permitted to cycle on the streets ”
I think all existing drivers should get that reminder. 😉
I got hassled by a driver when I was on the Ronde 3 weeks ago. I pulled over into the parking lot to correct his statement that ‘bikes don’t belong on the road’. He seemed angry and uninterested in listening.
This is assault pure and simple, if you do manage to find out where he lives and the cops refuse to pay him a visit, you may want to consider leaving a polite note in his mailbox asking him to consider driving in a more considerate manner. Even if he dismisses said note, it should make him uneasy that you know where he lives, (and that a good chunk of the bike community is now aware and watching for him) and you will not have broken any laws. I don’t advocate visiting him in person since he’s obviously got anger issues and you may provoke him even further. Too bad the cops can’t be bothered to do their job and take care of this for you.
Actually, you don’t want to leave the note in the mailbox unless you mailed it. That would be a violation of the law, albeit a trivial one.
Leave it neatly wrapped in a brick, gently placed on the hood of his car.
To be clear, the purpose of the brick is to prevent the note from blowing away. I am NOT advocating using any sort of implied threat. But, you know, it gets windy around here.
What I want to know is how do you get the brick to fold?
Special Hello, Kitty powers.
I was wondering the same thing. in – around
If Salem ever makes it harder for Portland to boot and tow parking scofflaws maybe parking tickets could be placed on the hoods of cars with a brick on top to keep them from blowing away.
i dont understand at what point you got in front of the car. you tried to pass. then you slowed to give the driver space. driver brakes. now you are in front of the car and get off your bike? how did that happen?
im just curious. thanks
it’s not hard to pass a car once the driver has exited it…
Can the police be sued to act on a crime in a case like this? If they won’t do it of their own volition can there be an action that binds them to their legally required public duty?
I believe one can go to court and get a writ of mandamus to compel the PPB to do its job. The public shaming of being instructed by a court to get off their hind-quarters might have long-term positive effects.
“what do people do in this situation?”
what they do and what they should do are usually not the same thing…
call 911 on the spot!
I’ve done the same thing, continued on with my life until it was more convenient to report it… by then the perp is long gone… but you feel fine with the adrenaline, and the confrontation is supposedly over…
anytime you think a crime is in progress or has just happened it’s ok to call 911…
the response will be swifter and you’ll be taken more seriously… the responding cop will also be able to interview witnesses at the location…
in this case it seems you could have called 911 when you noticed the erratic driving…
always call 911…
And sadly if you don’t mention you’re on a bike they’ll respond much faster..
yes, I’ve had this problem… when I report things I try to leave out the word “bike”… it’s a bit awkward when reporting vehicles parked in a thru traffic lane as they ask for more specifics…
I have had a lot of negative interactions with people driving on this stretch of Skidmore, which sucks because it is a really important connection to a bunch of really great bike routes. I really wish PBOT would complete the buffered bike lanes on Skidmore from N Michigan to NE 7th, or paint sharrows at a minimum.
Skidmore connects commercial districts along N Killingsworth, Interstate, Mississippi, Williams, MLK and Alberta. It also connects the following bike routes: Concord, Interstate, Michigan, Vancouver/Williams, 7th and Going. To effectively link these routes into a network, we need Skidmore to be developed into a street with some real bike infrastructure on it; bike lanes would be great, but sharrows would at least get the people driving to back off a bit. Skidmore is the only route that connects all of these bike routes and commercial destination with controlled intersections at Interstate, I-5, Mississippi, Vancouver, Williams, MLK and 7th.
Does anyone know of anyway to pressure PBOT into accelerating plans to develop bike facilities here? They must have the SDC funds!
Sharing the road undoubtedly falls under the umbrella of “things that annoy” that are labeled as politically correct.
An anti-pc stance is all but codified in the platform of one of the major political parties in this country. And it’s being reinforced with millions of dollars worth of air play every single day in this country.
Somewhat ironically, that party and the anti-politically correct world view also views violence as a valid way to impose your will on members of society who are weaker and have less power than you do. “might makes right”
It will get worse before it gets better.
Riding in North Portland has taught me that it is never a good idea to assert my rights with drivers. Even a friendly smile can be misinterpreted. I have had close calls on Shaver (would never attempt Skidmore) travelling in both directions. I have decided that being deferential and proactively yielding my right of way, particularly with drivers who come up behind me (even if I am queued ahead of them at a stop light!) is the only way I can ensure I get home safe to my family. It feels humiliating and wrong to take that posture, but PPB isn’t sympathetic to car-on-bicyclist violence; even if they were you can still end up severely injured. It’s not worth it even if it hurts your pride to act as though your life has less value like a 2nd class citizen.
In my neighborhood and perhaps now for many other parts of pdx, it seems that by merely travelling by bicycle I am targeting myself as someone making an affront to motorists and “just asking for it”. Hope you recover soon and continue biking. You’re not alone I was intentionally assaulted by a motorist a year ago and it made me feel very vulnerable since then.
and for me, these pieces only strengthen my resolve to resist bullying on our roadways.
While I wouldn’t suggest learning self defense, or even carrying a u lock with the intent of defending yourself against a potential attack, the thought of carrying a can of mace sounds more and more like a realistic method to stop an attacker. Does anyone do this already?
Using Mace could worsen the situation incredibly, as I’ve mentioned elsewhere. You might just enrage the person more, or, if you spray them while driving, kill or badly maim them. Best to beat a hasty retreat if possible. Deescalate. Escalation is a bad idea: Mace and other weapons aren’t phasers on “stun” like in star trek, after all. I don’t know why people think they are.
Just finished helping my son move from his old apartment in Washington Heights in NYC to another area of NYC, and noticed that in this multi-generational Dominican Neighborhood the old folks and little kids have no fear or hesitation of crossing or walking in the street. This is not due to laws or strict enforcement by the NYPD. I think in this tight knit ethnic community everyone on the streets knows the penalty for hitting someone’s grandma with their car. They know that justice for such things will be swift, efficient and permanent.
You asked what people do in situations like this so I thought I’d throw in my two cents. I avoid confrontation if at all possible. I back off and turn away if at all possible. I usually use my brake more than my mouth or my middle finger. I try hard to look for an out and retreat to safety. I may be missing out on an opportunity to educate a driver on how to be a better, more respectful person but it’s a risk I don’t take in the heat of a moment. I do like the idea of public shaming via stories like you are sharing and even posting video recordings of drivers and their aggressive behavior towards bike riders. I’ve heard of a situation where a video recording of a driver honking and driving recklessly right on the tail of a couple of cyclist led to police issuing citations to the driver.
And now I know why some cyclists in the south have top-tube holsters.
Simple. Go up the chain of command with the cops, until if necessary, you’re talking to the mayor.
I agree, but with a variation. Go straight to the Mayor. Your complaint will work its way down, instead of up, but you may be likely to have it end up higher than if you started low and went up, and you’ll probably get there sooner.
The incident started with a problem caused by a citizen. But the police didn’t seem to take the assault seriously, and the mayor oversees the police, so contacting the mayor is the next logical step.
If that doesn’t work, go to the Ombudsman (in the Auditor’s office).
Correct, and if necessary remind them that addressing situations like this is part of their commitment to Vision Zero.
Pepper spray. the guy was slightly unhinged. the mentally ill have drivers licenses too.
Whoa. Let’s be a whole lot more careful here, please. Anger management issues, assaulting other people in public, are not themselves indicative of mental illness.
“Public opinion surveys suggest that many people think mental illness and violence go hand in hand. A 2006 national survey found, for example, that 60% of Americans thought that people with schizophrenia were likely to act violently toward someone else, while 32% thought that people with major depression were likely to do so.
In fact, research suggests that this public perception does not reflect reality. Most individuals with psychiatric disorders are not violent.”
“The vast majority of people with mental illness are not violent, not criminal and not dangerous.”
>>> Most individuals with psychiatric disorders are not violent. <<<
I think you point is an important one, but this is not the critical question. Rather, it is are most violent people mentally ill. I suspect not, but really have no idea, and may depend somewhat on your definition of mental illness.
“are most violent people mentally ill. I suspect not, but really have no idea”
My understanding is that the propensity to commit a violent act among people who are/are not suffering from mental illness is about equal.
Personality disorders and mental illnesses are different things. Axis I and Axis II.
People blame violence on mental illness the way they blame traffic problems on cyclists. Nobody likes to look in the mirror and realize that they, and people like them, are the problem.
ok, so he has separate violence issues and mental issues that are unrelated… he’s still insanely violent…
I’m insanely smart, but that doesn’t make me crazy!
Pepper spray is a problematic. A whiff of wind and it can blow back on you. Plus, you have to be close. A small squeeze bottle of ammonia is better. Shoots a narrow stream about 20 feet out. Aim for the eyes. Works on dogs and crazies. Easy to carry in a breast pocket.
Never engage. It ends poorly. I’ve had two yelling matches with drivers result in PPB showing up to stop an assault. Luckily I can run faster than motorists that leave their vehicles. I’m sorry you were assaulted. A deep breath helps in those situations, as does out of context politeness.
i’ve been engaging for over 40 years and the vast, vast majority of my interactions have been positive or neutral.
From another thread:
Dude, not too many people consider it positive or neutral when birds fly…
There is something that doesn’t make sense here though. Flipping people off so many people normally guarantees you’d trigger the wrong person. This means you have the ability to read situations well enough to know when to hold back, are confining your riding to places where the people aren’t that bad (which would make you the one to watch out for), or are lucky enough that you should be buying lottery tickets.
i consider flipping someone off to be a neutral interaction — it is simply a way to communicate displeasure at someone’s behavior (and in my case i almost always use this gesture when someone endangers others).
i rarely have conflict with drivers when riding on my own. in fact, i probably average ~1 incident a year and often go for several years without a single incident. however, when i ride at a slow pace with others conflict is far, far more common.
Motorists tell me the exact same thing when they flip off cyclists. They often yell “GOOD RIDING TO YOU!” as they pass by as they do this. At least that’s what I think they’re yelling — it’s hard to make out the exact words….
Love this – next time I get the unintelligible remark from a car zooming past, I’m going to choose this translation.
You flip off someone about every other day, but only have a ‘conflict’ about once a year?
This must be why drivers always look surprised when I give friendly waves or nods for yielding, waiting to merge, stopping from pulling in front of me and the like.
I’m clearly in the minority- but my rules of the road are to ride defensively so I’m watching that car that might pull out in front or across me and be ready to react when it does. I’ve been lucky enough that it has resulted in some close calls, but no hooks.
My other rule is to ride friendly, the same way I try to drive friendly. There has been debate on this forum of whether we should feel obligated to way or nod, etc. We aren’t — but honestly, what does it hurt? I do it because i’m trying to crate a friendly space where it feels like we share the road. Perhaps for every spirit finger wave i give, i can undo someone else out there flipping the bird.
The reality is that drivers do such things for each other all the time. They also do these things for cyclists who play that way.
Being considerate and polite gets you a long way wherever you are, even on the road.
Good advice, Kate. I think our energy is better used in recognizing and thanking other road users for courteous behavior than in escalating a bad situation into a fight by being rude ourselves. That said, it’s hard sometimes to be cool and level-headed when you feel threatened.
Someone elsewhere in this thread recommended deep breathing and “out-of-context politeness” (great phrase) – these are much better defensive weapons than pepper spray, etc.
Sorry, but I have no desire to be friendly to drivers that buzz pedestrians or plow through very stale reds. I also believe that this kind of bike stockholm politeness is unhelpful in that it validates dangerous driving. People who drive in a way that endangers human beings do not merit smiles, thumbs up, or “spirit finger waves”.
I’m not talking about giving drivers doing dangerous behaviors a pat on the back. I’m talking about thanking polite driving, even if whatever they are doing is what they are required to do by law- e.g. – yield.
Anyway, ride on giving the bird every day if you think it’s helping us bridge the us vs them culture of the road. But I hope the next vehicle that encounters my loved one on a bike has just had a interaction with someone like me rather than someone like you.
i have absolutely no idea where your rude comments about me are coming from. I thought I was being very clear in my comment above:
and in my case i almost always use this gesture when someone endangers others
In fact, much of the time when I give a person driving the finger I am doing so as a pedestrian. In my experience, drivers in Portland are incredibly callous when it comes to respecting pedestrian right of way.
i am a huge proponent of courtesy and enthusiastically support drivers who yield to vulnerable traffic even when they have right of way. And when I drive I go out of my way to yield. Ironically, i have received a lot of grief on bike portland because i believe people biking should always yield to peds regardless of their fears of being rear ended. IMO, many people who bike are incredibly rude when it comes to respecting pedestrian right of way.
Is there anyone here who does not think cyclists should stop for pedestrians in a crosswalk?
Or rather NOT stop?
a person defend their right to ride through a crosswalk at 20-25 mph while buzzing to pedestrians on bike portland several years ago:
the majority of comments supported this position.
my comments appear as “spare_wheel” and i stand by them completely.
“i consider flipping someone off to be a neutral interaction — it is simply a way to communicate displeasure at someone’s behavior (and in my case i almost always use this gesture when someone endangers others). …” soren
Maybe your line of thinking is what one of the candidates for U.S. president is thinking when speaking before a national audience about, whom I don’t know, he says…”…they can just go ‘….’ themselves. …”. See and hear this on a presidential campaign spot running on tv of late.
Someone opens their big mouth and lets fly what many people would definitely not consider to be a neutral remark, and maybe imagines the person or persons it’s directed to, will be sufficiently intimidated, or wise enough not to escalate stupid behavior, that they’ll just passively sit there and take it.
I hope the future of better condition for biking, won’t require increasing numbers of people to take up the practice of mouthing off at each other as a means of sorting out their differences as to questions they have about the safety of each other’s use of the street.
if you get flipped off, do you interpret it neutrally?
Perhaps Soren looks like such a bad-ass that none of the cowardly bullies are willing to take him on.
I happen to be a bit on the large side and obviously athletic. I’ve had yo-yos get out of their cages when I’ve signalled that they’re number one, only to frantically hustle back in when I approached.
Road cycling is like backcountry skiing. If you repeatedly put yourself in dangerous situations, there is bound to be an avalanche that buries you. There is a false sense of security from repeated interactions that end in success (not getting beatup or killed). I’d rather save my good luck for not getting flattened by a car, rather than for avoiding physical altercations. I say this as a hot head with short temper. This doesnt come lightly. No good comes from escalating the situation. Some people get off on spreading ill will. Dont let it infect you while riding, its supposed to be fun after all.
No matter how tempting, barking at dogs rarely leads to anything good.
Same goes for wacko motorists.
Somebody punching you is a civil tort as well as a crime. You should be able to track this guy down through the car license plate though it may take a little detective work. Hire a personal injury attorney and sue the SOB.
Yep. You file the suit without naming the defendant, then use the court’s subpoena power to track down the owner (and/then driver). Those witnesses will be crucial, though.
I find it noteworthy how often we hear of folks who remembered most of the license plate being rebuffed by law enforcement, suggesting that the plate is an all-important piece of evidence (and I can see that argument). But here we have someone who remembers the whole plate, and we hear a variation on the excuse for inaction. Kind of makes you wonder, doesn’t it?
It’s because the cops are failing to act that I suggest taking civil action. The plate number can be used to find out who the prior owner is and from there who the current owner is. I did say it would take some detective work to get to the perpetrator.
with an understaffed police department, this just doesn’t rise to the priority level other crimes do.
not saying that is right…just saying that they consider it an inefficient use of time.
It was assault, pure and simple. You need to take ownership and and chase the cops up about this some more.
Did you get the name and badge number of the officer who essentially blew you off? If not, why not?
I would echo what others have said here – chase it up. If the person your’e talking to blows you off, ask to talk to their boss etc etc. Be a pain in the ass. It’s only pain in the ass people that get taken seriously, unfortunately.
I personally would also forward this story to the Portland Mercury, Willamette Week etc. They love a good story like this, and it would make finding the driver one hell of a lot easier.
Just FYI, I know of somebody that was assaulted riding their bike earlier this year. He was in court last month, and pled guilty, and is getting prison time.
Assault is a serious crime. Don’t let this mentally unstable person get away with it.
What can you do in this kind of situation? Report it to the police, right at the time and place it happened. This person waited until they got to their office. Now the police have 1 side of the story and no witnesses to corroborate it. Not a high priority for them, since the rider’s story could be complete bullshit. If this rider had stayed at the scene, the officer could’ve walked right over to these machine shop witnesses. If they said it went down just like the rider says, now you have a case that might stand up in court, and with minimal extra effort by the officer.
Or – wear a go pro.
Agree – I would call the police every day until they find and arrest that dude. That is their job
Victim blaming. Awesome.
asking for clarification is not victim blaming.
So many thoughts running through my head after reading about this, and I’m pretty sure not a one of them is particularly sensitive to the victim.
I thought about this frequently in years past. One of my commutes seemed to incite a lot of road rage against me. N/S commute on arterials. When I moved and switched to an E/W route it stopped. That’s why I attribute it to the route and the interactions it created.
Anyway, lots of screaming and vehicular intimidation. Somewhere along the line, I learned that taunting the drivers, particularly their manhood, relieved all the stress. I arrived home/work happy instead of angry. That said, I knew that if anyone ever actually left the car someone was going to the hospital; Good likelihood it would be me, since only an actual bad-ass would get out of the car when being asked to; begged to. The closest anyone ever got was one foot out in a clearly feigned attempt at intimidation.
I tell that to say this: If someone gets out of their car, your reaction should be an immediate fight or flight. No fumbling for a lock. No trying to take pictures. Please think about it and know what you’re going to do ahead of time.
Bingo. And remember folks, if you choose brandish a weapon (U lock or otherwise), be prepared to use it.
Big problem, is that some people do want to fight. They’re looking for an opportunity to fight, and if the opportunity is ripe for it, they will go ahead and clobber someone that isn’t prepared to play knock ’em sock ’em robots, and really wants no more than a barking session.
Maybe the most difficult thing about biking, isn’t the tough climbs, or the cold and wet weather, but being well enough rested, fueled and composed to be able to think clearly through tough traffic situations with cantankerous and absent minded people out there on the road.
People being subject to fatigue and irritability they allow to affect their fitness to drive, or ride bikes, is something that licensing and enforcement as is, isn’t much prepared to manage.
Hate to say it but you have two distinct avenues:
1: helmet cam, pepper spray, lawyer, change route.
2: Wait a couple months, use any of a number of websites, pay a fee, find legal name and addresss of car. Ensure he gets the message.
If the police aren’t going to enforce the law, you should help them.
While thinking, keep in mind that there are quite a few people who are mentally ill, high on powerful drugs, and/or who carry weapons.
I deem 99.9% of drivers to be mentally ill (you’d have to be to drive to work every day in this road climate) and they’re all driving weapons…
just another day on the streets…
“all driving weapons”?
Strange, when I bought my car I did not have to get a weapons license.
It’s an object dude…and just like any other object can be used as a weapon. But that does not mean it was designed to be a weapon.
I think simple, rampant narcissism and the related poor impulse control may be a more plausible diagnosis. Is narcissism considered a mental illness now?… I definitely worry about all the people driving high. I suspect their numbers are greater than anyone realizes, esp. in Portland.
Interestingly enough, the only time I’ve had someone get out of their car and come at me was while driving. I honked at a guy for mounting the curb and turning north from Burnside onto NE 53rd (via the DO NOT ENTER bike-only lane). He stopped his truck and got out to start something. I told him off and drove away, rather than engage someone who was clearly out of their mind.
Fleeing is usually the best option in these cases.
All this anti-police invective has me scratching my head. A car sold 8/29 might not show up in DMV databases for weeks or months with a new owner. The cop was probably just acknowledging this reality, not blowing the guy off. Just keep in touch with the officer; it might take months to track the guy down and you will have to be persistent. Why does everybody just assume the worst about the police?
I hear you, Steve, but why should the responsibility for following up be with the individual? Why can’t we expect the police officer to have said something like what you said: right now we can’t track down the new owner, but this is what we can do and when we’ll get back to you…
I don’t get the impression the officer was that keen on “keeping in touch” with the victim. Just a hunch.
when you sell a car you put the new owners info on the current registration and mail it to the DMV… so if the DMV knows it was sold then they know who it was sold to…
also, the current driver has no registration to show if they’re pulled over, only a bill of sale…
the police know who the new owner is…
I think because the police officer doesn’t have to wait for databases to be updated (and didn’t indicate they are going to check back); if the officer was interested they could track down the owner right now (e.g. by interviewing the seller).
So, I’m putting myself in the cop’s shoes. I get a call from someone who says they were punched by a driver. I would need to spend several hours finding out the perp’s addresss, tracking him down, interviewing him, and he is going to say it was mutual combat, of course. Is that really a good way to spend his time? Uh, No. Unless, there are witnesses to the whole thing, then you have a different situation. There is what we want from our police department, and there is reality about what is realistic. Oh, and btw, the fact that our complainant had a weapon (the u-lock) out BEFORE the alleged punch, puts the onus on him in a he said/she said situation. I would say our complainant should walk away, lesson learned.
Probably because PPD is completely ineffective. Countless reports of them not responding to non-emergency calls regarding dangerous drivers, homeless campers violating Hales’ policy, etc. I have little faith in them sadly
I agree. I feel for the PPD–they’ve been whittled down to nothing and are overextended, frustrated and exhausted. But I don’t feel like I can rely on them any more, should I ever need them.
The get a gun/pepper spray, get his address and send a message memes have all seemingly been darkly covered (even origami brick work)…would like to ask a general question:
How much space is appropriate for the rider to have given the car? His “erratic” driving (pumping the brakes i’m decoding) and “why the f_ are u riding my bumper?” shout all would seem pretty simply to indicate he thought the rider was up his a__. I’ve had this a few times with bikes on city streets (outside of stop/go traffic) to the point where I’m wondering if its just a psych out on my part…
> no i’ve never gotten into an assault over it
> yes, i’ve had cars on my bumper before too.
> no, i’m not even passive aggressively attempting to victim shame, i’m just wondering if the lack of an engine block between rider and driver makes drivers prone to think riders are more aggressive (tailgating) than they are, or if as cyclists, you just feel comfortable riding 5-6 feet off the bumper.
fully agree with anyone saying you have to force thru a police report in case this license plate shows up again in a similar situation so there is something on the books.
I used to ride through Irving park, Failing, Mississippi, etc during the pre-gentrification area. Lots of aggressive dogs, drug deals, sketchy s***. I carried pepper spray just in case. Would have taken this guy out quick.
How can you say this with any confidence? Do you have experience “taking out” your enemies with pepper spray? Suppose you pulled it up and sprayed and missed? Suppose the pepper spray can misfired or was a dud? Suppose you were disarmed and found yourself in a messy street fight instead? Suppose you only partially sprayed the assailant, getting them angry so they attacked you for real? Suppose you did spray the guy and he went into anaphylaxis and died? Suppose he’s got a knife and stabbed you in self defense, because you escalated the conflict? Suppose you were able to “take him out” but then he comes back for revenge with his friends at a later date?
I’m saying this to illustrate that pepper spray enthusiasts don’t seem to think through the decision to “pack” – and gun fans even less so. I know it looks really clean cut and effective on TV but real life is a lot messier.
The best thing to do is, de escalate. Get out of there. Don’t complicate the situation or make it worse.
These were crimes, and they were serious crimes.
Based on your summary, any competent Deputy District Attorney would likely charge some variety the following:
Attempted Assault 1
(a Class B felony)
Attempted Assault 2
(a Class C felony)
(Class A misd.)
(Class B misd.)
(Class C felony)
They might even throw on a charge of Coercion. A Class C felony.
There’s another legal issue here, which is you’re a victim of a violent felony, and by refusing to investigate or take any action, the police are violating your Constitutional rights. (see Oregon Const. Art I, sec. 42).
Often the District Attorney’s office has no idea about these type of incidents, because when the police refuse to take action, the DA’s office never gets a “report”. These cases never get into the regular pipeline (where a person is arrested, cited to court, and the police give the District Attorney written reports).
However, the District Attorney is a politically elected official, and they can exert pressure on the police to follow up. They also have their own investigators who can actually follow-up (to some degree).
This doesn’t sound too hard to investigate. Find the former owner, find out who s/he sold the vehicle and what contact information they have (if any). Sure, it might be a dead-end, but they should at least TRY.
how many times has the vulnerable road user law been used by DAs in this state?
In most motorist confrontations I usually holler out “SORRY BUDDY” and ride off. Just get the hell out of there.
If it’s a toe to toe confrontation I’d make eye contact, put up my hands, palms forward and say “Sorry Dude! My bad!” and back off. Even if I’m in the right and they’re clearly in the wrong. Just doing that has saved me from more fistfights than I can count. Works really well.
For myself the number one priority is to avoid getting hurt, and to just get away from there.
Then maybe call 911 and report the guy as a drunk driver. Take photos from a safe distance and publish the info on this blog so we know who they are. Or mail em a brick. Or something. But fighting or arguing on the spot isn’t a good idea, IMHO. It’s just gonna escalate the situation, and as we all know the law isn’t exactly on our side…
I wonder how many of these driver escalation incidents could be suddenly derailed by the vulnerable road user uttering the phrase “you are being recorded”?
It’s truly amazing how quickly people behaving badly in cars will stop and flee if they see only the briefest flash of a smartphone camera flash. It works even better with 3 successive camera flashes in 1-2 seconds as if you took 3 quick photos .
The 1st catches their attention, the 2nd happens as their eyes locate the source of the camera flash. With the 3rd flash they have the the sudden bovine realization that their face has been captured “on film” at the scene of the crime. People drive away quick.
Cameras are awfully small these days and there are so many of them: can anyone in public be certain that they aren’t being recorded right now?
Weaponize Surveillance Paranoia to prevent violence.
That would resolve most cases, and there is extensive Youtube evidence showing how drivers change their behavior once they realize they are being recorded. In a very small number of cases, however, it seems to enrage the person more.
OFOT’s advisement on dealing with Road Rage:
“If you see an aggressive driver, stay out of the way. Do not challenge them by increasing your speed or trying to outmaneuver them.”
I thought there was another passage in there, but don’t see it on my phone version, that said not to confront them, and under what circumstances to call the police.
Ted Buehler, Tartu Estonia
Are you suggesting that provoking an enraged individual who can unleash a couple hundred horsepower to direct a few thousand pounds of steel your way might not be a great idea if you have no protection whatsoever?
Some of the BP badasses may beg to differ… 😉
I tend to think people fantasize about having more agency in conflict situations by producing weapons… the BP “badasses” really just live in a fantasy world in which their weapons are magic neutralizers and they emerge victorious from these confrontations. Maybe tough talk on this website helps people feel empowered, I dunno.
I can think of SO MANY ways pepper spray, threats, U lock brandishment, etc. can make a situation WAY WORSE but I really can’t think of any way backing off and producing a camera or even a completely disingenuous apology can actually worsen a situation. Just get people to calm down and we’ll all be a measure safer.
so 152 comments and I don’t see anyone challenging the guy’s biased statement of witnesses as “those types of guys” (blue collar) who he just assumed would not offer any assistance to him. He didn’t even ask them. Really dude? You’ve been watching too much TV. Half those guys probably rode to work on a bike.
He probably meant “people at work” of any type – unfortunately since about 93 % of Portlanders commute by car or bus or max and probably rarely ever bike on the streets, it’s not unreasonable to assume most folks wouldn’t go the extra mile for a cyclist. Perhaps in the author’s experience very few people who aren’t on bikes are willing to help out in the situation like that. Whether they be machine shop workers or Intel execs.
That’s how I read it, anyway.
I enjoy a 25+ mile daily round-trip bike commute and have something like this happen to me at least once a week. Though normally they just try to hit me with their car or swerve into the bike lane and slam on their brakes in front of me. The handful of times a driver actually got out of their vehicle to escalate the situation (often for the high crime of being slightly inconvenienced), they usually changed their minds for “various reasons”.
I now ride with a camera on my helmet because I am not safe on our streets.