“The woman driving the car proceeds to call me a ‘faggot’ and to ‘ride on the sidewalk.'”
— Reader email about a road rage incident in northeast yesterday
This story is part of our Collision Chronicles, an ongoing series to shine a light on the steady stream of street interactions we hear about but that you probably won’t see covered in the news.
The incident below was sent in by a reader via email and it happened Thursday, November 3rd:
Hi there. I had a crazy incident occur earlier today…
So I’m riding my bike on NE 16th between Tillamook and Thompson. To give you backdrop, this is a designated bike route that is usually spare of vehicles and the type of road where I often see people running on the street. It’s a very calm, residential side-street with friendly drivers. Most of the time.
In any case, I’m approaching the stop sign at NE Thompson and while I’m within 10 feet of the sign a speeding vehicle tries to pass me. Like at the intersection. She brakes HARD and slides uncontrollably for around 5 feet. This was a roughly 2000 green Dodge Caravan with the front passenger side window busted out.
The woman driving the car proceeds to call me a “faggot” and to “ride on the sidewalk” or the edge of the road which was actually piled up in slippery leafy sludge. On side roads like this, cyclists are encouraged to take the lane because bobbing in and out of parked cars is more dangerous and makes you less visible to other road users. And the irony is that I typically ride to the right side of the driving lane. If she had waited for me to pass the intersection she would easily have had enough room to pass me as countless other vehicles have before on roads like this.
Anyway, she calls me every name in the book, and then yells “faggot faggot faggot!” and speeds off driving WAAAAAY too fast for a side street. She stops ahead and leans out and yells more phrases that I couldn’t hear.
I am afraid she is going to kill someone. No joke. There is no way someone like that should have a license. I can’t believe she thinks she can go around harassing people like this. Do I have any avenue for legal action here? Would the police bother to visit her if I reported this? I don’t care if she doesn’t get a ticket. I just want her to know this type of action won’t go unnoticed. I have the license plate number and make of vehicle.
Since the victim asked, the answer is yes. You should always report behavior like this – especially if you have a license plate number. A photograph of the person driving helps as well. The reason to report this (to 911 if it’s in progress or 503-823-3333 if not) is 1) If there’s an officer nearby, dispatch might put them on the case, and 2) if the person ends up hitting and possibly assaulting/injuring/killing someone else down the road, your call will help the police build a stronger case against them once they’re arrested.
— Jonathan Maus, (503) 706-8804 – firstname.lastname@example.org
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Was this Dodge Caravan with a broken window – perhaps Bluish green? With lots of graffiti on it? There has been a similar van camped out in downtown Vancouver (in front of our office) for the week before with a well know Portland gang family.
Call 911 immediately when this happens. Report a dangerous, possibly drunk driver. Provide details of their erratic driving and the direction they are traveling.
Exactly; I’ve done this before and seen rapid response. “Appears to be driving under the influence of something and seems quite dangerous” is the phrase I use (without specifying that it’s probably just anger and impatience).
I had a very similar experience the other day in the same neighborhood. I was biking W on NE Knott. I had just gone through the intersection at 15th, and was in the lane due to a parked car and then large piles of leaves, but was honked at by a car tailgating me closesly. I literally had nowhere to go. This was a male in a newer Honda SUV.
This person seems like they might actually be mentally ILL. This does not seem like normal behavior for the average angry selfish motorist. Another example of my concept that a full 25% of all existing drivers must be removed from the streets.
Sadly, people like this have no concept of what a suspended or revoked license means. Just like the guy who killed a cyclist on the St. John’s bridge. Instead of informing people like this that they’re license is suspended, you might as well just mail them a package of grass trimmings or a spoken word compilation or a Egyptian cuisine cookbook or something. It’s literally meaningless to them.
In the absence of any meaningful traffic enforcement in this town, driver sense of entitlement is spiraling out of control. I’m less and less convinced that even extreme incidents of road rage like this one are exceptional or the result of ‘mental illness’ (in the clinical sense), based on what I see anymore. They seem to be becoming more and more the norm as drivers see every ‘impediment’ to their speedy progress as a personal affront and imposition. They act like all obstacles–living or dead–are out to get them.
If you know you won’t ever be called to account for your actions (i.e. reckless, self-centered driving), you will push every limit. The worst thing is, that kind of driving is contagious. What a mess. We need enforcement NOW.
By all means, get and report all of the information that you can. I was hit by a motorcycle on my bicycle, ending up with a concussion in the hospital, and some of the later litigation was hindered by lack of witnesses. The information that you have can be compiled with other infractions as well if needed ‘down the road’.
Several nights, probably a month ago, I had a similar incident on NE 7th. After muscling my girlfriend out of the way, the driver yelled at me for having been stuck behind us “for [several] blocks.”
These interactions are baffling because every bit of fault lies within the drivers’ decision to use neighborhood streets as a through route instead of obvious, logical alternatives.
No to mention they could have easily chosen another route.
Whenever I read about things like this, it just strengthens my resolve to ask for a GoPro for Christmas. Would eliminate the “he said / she said” cr*p that so often allows criminals to walk free.
I’m curious, is using the offensive term that was uttered repeatedly to the cyclist in this instance a hate crime? I’m not sure where the law stands on that.
Another option, maybe not as inexpensive though… https://cycliq.com/
(A different Adam)
Several cities in California have passed anti-harassment ordinances for bicyclists. Unfortunately they are civil rather than criminal, which makes them expensive to prove.
also wish for an extra battery… many of these things happen after my camera battery has died…
This is the next neighborhood over from mine, and I ride through it almost daily. I typically use 17th, because the surface is a little better. I’ve had harsh, screaming interactions in Irvington lately myself.
The increase in through-traffic on the side streets is appalling–and worse during the leafy season. Maybe it’s my imagination, but drivers seem to feel that, having been directed by an app off a congested main street and onto a side street, they should find no obstructions.
Unfortunately, on quiet side streets, “obstructions” include not only people on bikes, on foot, and on skateboards, but animals.
I’m sorry this happened to you. It’s getting scarier out there.
This is a case when technology is super frustrating. I can’t wait till your smartphone begins issuing tickets––-“to access the utility of this app, you relinquish all rights and are not allowed to arbitrate in a court of law regarding any citations issued via this traffic rerouting app.” You speed for too long while logged into Waze, you’ll be issued a citation.
We once banned Ubar which is entirely app based, I don’t understand why we can put restrictions on apps like Waze and only allow them to operate under the pretense that they monitor people’s speed. Right, aren’t there some apps that as soon as you leave the designated IP zone or whatever, the app stops working?
I moved to the PDX metro area in ’84 to work for Tektronix. I can recall incidents like this as I commuted back and forth from Aloha to Beaverton. Along with the comments like:
– get a job
– buy a car
– buy some pants
– various profanities
– angry horn blowing
I had pretty much forgotten about this type of altercation, at least on the west side. Because when I think about it I can’t remember anything like this on the west side happeing to *me* in the last ~16 years…
Until I worked for a client in downtown PDX in 2014 and 2015. Downtown PDX was fine, but the east side of the river… Wow!
I occasionally popped around to Universal Cycles, Sellwood Cycle Repair, Joe Bike etc… And to be honest, it felt like going back in time about 25 years sometimes. Verbal harassment, red light runners. The sound of a rapidly accelerating car from behind leading me to bail for the curb instantly… And then an instant later watching some guy in a big hurry blow by. Praise be for the helmet mirror…
It just feels *more dangerous* on the east side. ::sadface::
Stay safe out there everybody.
(This was my lived experience, yours might be different…)
I started riding again seriously in 2011, and that’s sadly my impression, too. So many road harassment incidents that I’ve just instantly forgotten. It’s depressing. And the further you get out– generally– the worse it becomes. That said, the vast majority of people are courteous and respectful, that has to be said. But that rotten 5% just eats up so much of the oxygen, and it’s impossible not to think about them when you’re about to gear up for a ride. It’s just a shame the police aren’t more proactive in making their lives hard… it’s just simply too easy to be an atrocious driver, and an atrocious human being.
It’s all those drivers coming in from Gresham to buy Little Big Burgers on Alberta st… “I’ll drive the neighborhoods because Division street sucks!”
Inner SE has gotten particularly bad–worse weekly, it seems. Always frenzied. You can feel it like fizz. Not a good excitement or electricity. Something sick. Frantic drivers, speeding from stop to stop, screeching to a halt, stepping on it to go go go again. This used to be a sometimes thing (only a year ago!). Now it’s early morning to the wee hours. LOUD vehicles, too–a whole slew of super noise cars and motorcycles. We get woken up frequently by noise drivers racing by, 1, 2, 3 in the morning, and there are many more during the day. I hate it. When I was up in NE recently it felt positively calm to me compared to my neighborhood (Hosford-Abernethy/Hawthorne).
Yep, can attest to the crazy drivers in SE. Living off a busy (and getting busier) street means constantly getting woken up by trucks and motorcycles. People who ride their loud-ass Harleys at 2 am by my house can go f**k right off…
Hear, hear. It’s shocking how quickly our street’s changed. Just sitting here listening to semis, buses, SUV after SUV, motorcycles, commercial trucks, hauling ass as though the very idea of 25mph is a colossal joke.
To be fair, pants-less bike riding is hazardous.
Great for summertime tho.
As several people have observed, part of the problem lies in the leaves piled in the streets. I still do not understand why the City of Portland allows people to put leaves in the street weeks in advance of the two leaf collection days.
The piles of leaves create huge problems for pedestrians and cyclists and cause drainage grates to clog up. The City of Portland should make it illegal to put leaves in the street more than 72 hours prior to leaf collection – and enforce it with some citations for creating hazardous conditions or littering or something.
If you go on the leaf day website, they state that you can rake your leaves in the street the day before your leaf day sweep. They provide a link to the law which requires property owners to keep the street free of debris. Unfortunately, this law is never enforced. To make it worse, in the printed pamphlet that was delivered this year, in one place they say to rake the leaves into the street the day before, but in another place in the same pamphlet, they say you can do it a few days before. No mention in the pamphlet of the law requiring one to keep the street clear.
Since the leaf day pickup is automatic opt in, the folks using the service don’t bother to read any of the details. They just rake and blow everything into the street, and eventually it disappears. I feel like opt out should be the default, and if you want the collection, you should have to opt in, which would include some sort of acknowledgement that you understand the law and know that you could be cited if you obstruct the street.
I wouldn’t hesitate to sue a property owner if I slipped in the leaf muck outside their house. I would also name the city in the suit, since they encourage these actions and never enforce the law against it.
I’d call that ‘white trash privilege’, but I’m kind of a snob, I guess.
Except for “kind of” that is an accurate guess.
No plate number?
I have also had interactions like this more and more often on SE 16th. The leaf mush does NOT help. Another troublesome spot is a stop sign on 22nd and Division SE just outside Nuestra Cocina– multiple instances of cars trying to zoom around me there, honking, screaming. And for what? To wait a million years to turn onto Division anyway, ignoring pedestrians.
Over the years I’ve been stuck by cars while cycling even once while walking my bike. There is no telling when or where this will happen and the best tactic is defensive. Yield even if you have the right of way if unsure what the driver is going to do, they outweigh you by 1000 times. Always, always wear a helmet securely fastened. Out of all the bicycle fatalities 90 % are due to head trauma. And many who don’t die are life time nursing home residents of TBI facilities. Have plenty of lights and use them 24/7. Finally use your ears and leave headphones or earbuds in your bike bag. Cycling is great fun but it is the most dangerous recreational activity you can engage in, bar none.
In Portland someone walking is 3.4x more likely to be killed than someone cycling (on a per commute basis).
What about per mile?
Well if a bicycle commute is 3.4 times longer than a walk commute then it would be a wash… I think?…
Yours is one perspective. My perspective is pretty much diametrically opposed. The health statistics including risk from cardiovascular illness say that biking, helmet or no, is not dangerous, indeed it is a veritable health boon for people who don’t get sufficient exercise daily (i.e. most Americans) than less-active pursuits or ways of getting around such as driving.
Literally everything you said is wrong:
-Disrupting normal traffic flow patterns makes cycling less safe.
-Cars don’t weigh 200,000 pounds.
-Your helmet claims are unfounded and inhibit cycling safety.
-24/7 light use is unnecessary fear mongering.
-Cyclists using head phones can still hear traffic better than most drivers.
-Cycling is ABSOLUTELY not the most dangerous recreational activity.
This mindset is what will keep cycling a minority in transportation options and thus keep it as dangerous as it is (which isn’t even as close to how dangerous you think it is). Thanks for doing absolutely nothing to promote cycling culture and general bike safety, Fred.
Eugene has an apt to photograph junk or leaves or parked cars in bike lanes. If you see it the city sends someone out to ticket the owner. Leaf litter is in bike lanes less an less common now.
I also wonder if this person was high on something. I was at NE Sandy and 72nd waiting at a red light in the left lane when a dumpy van sped on the wrong side of the road and passed around me through a red light. Then another dumpy car followed behind shortly thereafter, again on the wrong side of the road at a high rate of speed and through a red light. You gotta be high on something to be doing stuff like that! It’s amazing I didn’t witness a horrible crash just then.
Who is responsible for cleaning up the gaint piles of leaf mush. At the point were the whole usable road is narowed to less than a single usable lane, shouldn’t some code kick in to require a cleanup?
You have to complain about it. The pdxreporter app’s ‘debris in roadway’ category generally seems to get a streetsweeper out within a day or two.
app for android/iphone: http://www.portlandoregon.gov/transportation/article/405043
other safety concerns: http://www.portlandoregon.gov/transportation/69703
I think leaves are technically required to be swept by property owners, but code enforcement takes a couple weeks and is complaint driven, property-by-property. Many people seem to sweep their lawns off into the street and make it everyone else’s problem. (Green gardening note: earthworms will eat all of the leaves if you just collect them into compost and/or in your garden beds e.g. under bushes and shrubs.)
Good luck. I’ve used the app before and only got a response once. PBOT rarely seems to be checking the app anymore as one one of my cases were ever closed or commented on (and of course the comment was “we won’t do anything”). I’ve use the 823-SAFE hotline a few times. Parking enforcement came out once, the rest of the times they seemed to have ignored it, because the offending vehicle was not moved.
I’ve also used the hotline to report a street light that was out and PBOT somehow “lost” my request for three weeks until I publicly tweeted at them, then told me there would be a two week turnaround for the fix. I am still waiting on the street light to be fixed over a month later.
Ditto. Chronically obstructed 25mph signs on SE 26th, still obstructed. Critical bike merge sign just before (south of) Clinton? Still vandalized and unreadable. Good luck, cyclists! Good luck, neighbors.
I wonder if the person was called the n-word, would it have been censored? I guess using the f-word is ok on this site.
Please don’t use the p-word. It offends me.
Yeah? Well, your offense is a microaggression against my freedom of speech.
(Am I playing this game right? It’s new to me.)
NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we’ll take a look at it right away. Thank you — Jonathan
Not sure how this comment by Mike 2 was “productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives”
I was horrified to read of this incident, in my neighborhood, on my regular bike commute home. It would be hard to find a more benign cycling environment than NE 16th between Tillamook and Fremont. This individual doesn’t belong here.
I was particularly offended by the homophobic slur.
Tonight I was riding down to Division and 33rd Ave to meet my family for a dinner out. I was traveling east on Ankeny at 25th Ave when a Dodge Power Wagon pickup (two-tone paint either light gray/dark gray or tan and brown ) traveling south nearly pulled into the path of a cyclist to my left 10-20 yards ahead of me. It was like he was playing chicken with the cyclist.
As I passed By I turned and looked at him over my left shoulder – no focalization by me and no gesture – just a hard look to see if I could see a face – which triggered “Don’t look at me faggot I’ll fuck you up”.
I agree something sinister seems to be happening on our streets.
Of course coming home from dinner I was overwhelmed by the courtesy displayed by every motorist I encountered many stopping on major crossing arterials to allow me to pass.
Should say Ankeny at 35th.
I was just called a “faggot” yesterday while riding my bike on SE Foster (for like two blocks – because of no good, convenient alternatives to cross 82nd). Anti-gay animus is not dead in Portland!