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Road rage incident caused by unsafe cycling conditions on SW Terwilliger

Posted by on November 1st, 2018 at 3:55 pm

This is what the bike lane on SW Terwilliger Parkway looked like yesterday during the evening commute. Those two white lines on the left are a buffer zone, the actual bike lane is to the right, buried in leaves.
(Photo: Steven Mitchell)

On Monday morning we highlighted a Tweet from Portlander Steven Mitchell who rides regularly on SW Terwilliger Blvd.

“SW Terwilliger bike lanes are terribly dangerous right now,” he wrote, tagging @BikePortland and @PBOTInfo, “Piles of slick leaves and standing water. Be safe!”

Then yesterday he posted video (watch it below) that showed him trying to avoid the slimy accumulation of leaves, only to be the victim of an unsafe pass by a man driving a pickup truck.

After the man seemed to have scraped Mitchell during the close pass, he then pull over in a turnout, got out of his vehicle and approached him. The truck driver threatened Mitchell with an expletive-laced rant of insults and seemed to have gotten right up into his personal space. The good news about this interaction is that — as often happens when people get out of their bubbles and engage each other face-to-face — cooler heads prevailed. The driver went from calling Mitchell a “bitch” when he first jumped out of his truck, to referring to him as “brother” right before he got back in his truck and drove away.

The bad news about this interaction is that it happened in the first place.

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Why did it happen? Because the bike lane was so full of fallen leaves and other debris that Mitchell was biking in the adjacent lane that’s shared with auto users. The truck driver didn’t think he should be there.

“Leaving the leaves too long means an inch thick layer of caked leaves that are dangerous and slippery, especially going downhill in curves at 25 mph.”
— Barbara Stedman, Hillsdale resident

It was just one week ago today we featured another serious road rage interaction that happened near the Moda Center. What got lost in the drama of that story is why it happened in the first place: high-stress roadway conditions that lead to people taking out their frustrations on each other.

The situation on SW Terwilliger is especially frustrating because it stems from a problem that happens every year when leaves, mud and branches from heavily wooded area around the road (a major north-south bikeway) spill into the bike lane. (Leaves in bike lanes are a perennial problem all over Portland.)

Barbara Stedman lives in Hillsdale. I commuted into downtown with her and her family back in 2012. She was worried about the debris in the bike lanes back then, and she remains concerned today. She responded to our Tweet by writing, “They [PBOT] just don’t sweep often enough, especially in leaf season. After a storm like this weekend they should be out first thing Monday morning. Leaving the leaves too long means an inch thick layer of caked leaves that are dangerous and slippery, especially going downhill in curves at 25 mph. Yes, you can move into the full lane, but then you have aggressive people in cars who don’t like to slow down to the speed limit.”

That appears to be exactly what happened to Mitchell yesterday.

We’re glad that this incident ended without anyone getting hurt and we’re grateful that Mitchell has such amazing conflict resolution skills (listen to the full exchange for a master class at talking to other road users).

We’re also glad to hear that PBOT has dispatched a maintenance crew to the clean up the bike lanes. If you ride SW Terwilliger, please let us know what the conditions are like so we can make sure it has been cleaned up. Remember you can reach PBOT’s Maintenance Dispatcher by calling (503) 823-1700 or via email at pdxroads@portlandoregon.gov.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org

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Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

Steven: Excellent job keeping your cool when confronting this **personal insult deleted – come on, Hello, Kitty, you know better than that. – Jonathan**

jeff
Guest
jeff

Great job deescalating, but this should be reported to the PPD.

Dave
Guest
Dave

Wet leaves are no joke–my only broken bone on a bike was caused by hitting them. In motor racing they’re looked on as the equivalent of hitting an oil slick. So, since riders can be forced into riding on this slick stuff by lack of road maintenance, why don’t we quit wringing our hands about “entitled cyclists,” eh?

pixie
Guest
pixie

The problem with leaves in bike lanes is true all over this town, such as along Bybee/28th by the golf course, and I’m sure numerous other places. Poor bike lane maintenance is another argument against platinum status as a bike city. Maybe PBOT should be sending fact-finding missions to study leaf management in other locales.

9watts
Subscriber

Hard to imagine the conditions being reversed: the lane for cars dangerously unusable and the bike lane clear. Not to mention the person on a bike threatening the person in a car.

I wonder why?

BradWagon
Subscriber

While the conversation did cool down unfortunately this driver learned nothing and will absolutely do something like this again. PPD needs to issue driving citations at minimum, preferably criminal charges. Whenever drivers want to stop and talk I’ve learned it’s a complete waste of my time, do enjoy watching them standing in the road all by themselves after I’m long gone though.

SD
Guest
SD

Not unusual, the driver walks away thinking “it’s all good” not realizing that he almost killed someone, was breaking the law, and he escalated the situation to justifiable violence. He will do this again, and he will be the first to make the case that people on bikes are entitled and disrespectful of drivers.

Matddav
Subscriber
Matddav

This is scary stuff with actual violence (the car) and threat of escalation being very real. I always ride with a front and back camera. I think that being taped helps me with my anger management and I suspect that reminding the antagonist that a camera is involved may make them think twice about throwing a punch. If a crime is committed, the video will show the actual events. I wish I didn’t feel this was necessary.

BarbLin
Guest
BarbLin

“gave you a courtesy honk so you can pull over so faster vehicles can pass” Very confused person here. He’s thinking of the law about slow moving vehicles with more than 5 following behind…does not apply to bikes and there was nothing slow about that bike anyway. If he expected the bicyclist to pull over and stop in that crap he doesn’t know much about momentum and the amount of material on the side of the road. Adrenaline from riding on a busy street would have made me loose my head. I can’t believe how calm he was.

Tim Pfeiffer
Guest
Tim Pfeiffer

It is interesting that the rider was easily keeping pace with the car in front and appeared to be moving at a reasonable speed for the conditions if not at the speed limit. I had a similar experience where a driver threatened me for being in the lane when I was keeping pace with traffic and the bike lane was blocked by construction. I did report it and the police said they contacted the driver. The police offer suggested I use video because they would prosecute if I had video. The drivers actions clearly showed criminal intent. This is not a driving infraction and the DA should be reviewing this video. Don’t assume they won’t do anything if you don’t try.

I have to take the lane in several areas due to wet leaves, and I am worried that the sight of a bicycle in the lane will cause a homicidal rage. Interestingly, I don’t run into this when there is not a bike lane.

Johnny Bye Carter
Subscriber
Johnny Bye Carter

Driver should be cited for contacting the rider and parking in the bike lane. Then he can go yell at the judge.

But it’s a lengthy process and we’d rather just cower.

Dan A
Subscriber
Dan A

It sure would be nice if the driver received a visit from PPD’s community liaison, who could explain to him the relevant laws & rights around this situation.

Doug Hecker
Guest
Doug Hecker

I only hit vehicles when it is in my favor to do so and when they do something that warrants it. I don’t look up their license plate number and stab their tires though.

Also, where’s Chloe, oh that’s right, she’s in East co drumming up votes instead of fixing the streets.

Bstedman
Subscriber
Bstedman

We experinces some road rage as well yesterday. We went into the lane to avoid leaves, car driver passes us (although we were going at the speed limit), goes halfway into the opposite lane only to just narrowly avoid oncoming traffic. We caught up to him at the traffic light a minute later. Wonder if he felt better risking his life and the one of the person in the other car just to show us. Of course he was also on the phone at the light.

Mantra
Guest
Mantra

Bstedman
We experinces some road rage as well yesterday. We went into the lane to avoid leaves, car driver passes us (although we were going at the speed limit), goes halfway into the opposite lane only to just narrowly avoid oncoming traffic. We caught up to him at the traffic light a minute later. Wonder if he felt better risking his life and the one of the person in the other car just to show us. Of course he was also on the phone at the light.Recommended 0

I don’t know about you, but these kinds of passes always terrify me. There’s this sinking feeling in my gut that I’m about to witness two cars collide head on directly in my path and there’s very little you can do to mitigate this situation as a cyclist.

B. Carfree
Guest
B. Carfree

And this is what happens when infrastructure for bikes is poorly implemented and maintained. Yes, the motorist was waaaay out of line and clearly has an overgrown sense of entitlement and perhaps some anger management issues. Like rain in winter, this is to be expected (not to be confused with normal or routine, but the likelihood of such people driving around is pretty high).

Not all bike infrastructure is a good idea. Infrastructure that forces people on bikes to choose between the hazards of the “bike space” and infuriated motorists who get violently angry when a cyclist leaves those spaces is a failure. Sadly, such infrastructure is our most common way of building bikey stuff.

FRED TRAMPLER
Guest
FRED TRAMPLER

WOW ALL THAT RACIST ANTI WHITE BOGOTRY MUSTVE REALLY STUNG I WONDER IF THIS COULD BE CONSIDERED A HATE CRIME

mark smith
Guest
mark smith

Let’s see, attempted assault with a deadly weapon, threats, menacing…oh wait, it was a car, not a gun..right and the biker had it coming for daring to go the speed limit? That’s how it’s seen until the law is changed. In all the cities I have been in , Portland is the only one where I felt the need-and do carry a firearm. People get super up tight, especially in the rain and the dark.

El Biciclero
Guest
El Biciclero

Oh, man. I can’t even recall how many times this attitude has been evident in drivers I’ve encountered. Only one has stopped to “chat” and try to tell me what’s what, but the feeling that, as a driver, one has a “right” to pass any bicycle, anywhere, any time, regardless of conditions or whether or not the bicycle is being operated at or above the speed limit—it’s pervasive. Also the inherent entitlement in the drivers statement “it’s five seconds! What’s it gonna cost you?” Then the superbly calm response, “what’s it going to cost you?” But the feeling that absolutely nothing (except for traffic signals, other cars, construction, school children, etc.) should ever slow me down if I’m driving my car drives me nuts. Countless times I’ve heard drivers complain about how bicyclists “force me into oncoming traffic! It’s dangerous!” Why? Because slowing down is not even considered an option—even if, as in this situation, the bicyclist is exceeding the speed limit!! I could handle complaints about how bicyclists “force me to slow down”, that’s appropriate for short periods, but don’t tell me I’m “forcing” you into oncoming traffic. This encounter just highlights so many things that are wrong with how we view and use roads.

Oh—very nice job remaining calm, Mr. Mitchell. I do believe you might give bicyclists a good name, unless it doesn’t work that way…

Buzz
Guest
Buzz

The old ‘I own a bike too’ defense, LOL! Next thing, he’s an ‘avid cyclist’. WTF?

SD
Guest
SD

It’s a crazy world where a video of a woman reporting a car blocking a crosswalk inspires outrage, goes viral, and is picked up by multiple media outlets. While a video of an aggressive driver recklessly hitting a person on a bike in a manner that could have killed him will likely be considered business as usual and result in a collective shrug.

q
Guest
q

Just yesterday I got after a business near me for blowing all the leaves from its property into the street. It’s been an ongoing battle with them. I mention things like it being dangerous for bikes, clogs drains, etc. They have as good a reputation as any organization in Portland for being pro-bicycle, pro-environment, etc. but they just don’t seem to care.

Paul B
Guest
Paul B

When I commuted from St. John’s to Downtown along Willamette and Greeley, this manner of hostile driving happened to me nearly every other week between Oct and April. There is really no terror like being on a bike in the early morning hours of winter with a nice rain coming down, being forced to take the car lane because the bike lane is flooded and/or choked with leaves and/or containing piles of gravel, and a car driver comes up and presses on their horn for a solid 3-5 seconds while gunning their engine. Thankfully, I can only recall twice where the driver actually passed me and then came into the bike lane trying to intimidate me.

This is our Platinum Bike City.

rick
Guest
rick

Another case of forgotten SW Portland. A street that was built as a park.

J_R
Guest
J_R

That was a masterful job of remaining calm, Steven.

The pick-up driver should definitely be cited for a whole bunch of things. His sentence should include spending more time on a bike (after all he claims to be a bicyclist) so he can feel the unsafe conditions that motorists like him inflict on bicyclists. He should also be required to be featured in a PSA and do community service lecturing at schools and elsewhere telling how he put cyclists at risk.

We need more cops, DAs, elected officials, and the spokespersons working for cities, counties, and ODOT to ride bikes on Terwilliger and elsewhere to experience the conditions that bicyclists face. Unfortunately, few of them have a clue how bad things are out there for cyclists because of the decisions they make or don’t make.

I’ve been thinking about it, but I’ve GOT to get cameras.

Toby Keith
Guest
Toby Keith

Wow a road-rager and racist all in one. Glad it turned out as well as it did.

Steve Scarich
Guest
Steve Scarich

Seriously, ‘buried’ in leaves ‘slimy’ accumulation? If you don’t have the bike-handling skills and can’t get the proper tires to ride through this minimal amount of debris, then you should be on TriMet. If you really expect the bike lanes to be swept every day (which is about how much accumulation this is), then you are living in a dream world.

Beth
Guest
Beth

What can we seriously do about the leaves in the bike lane? I would contribute $ to have them cleaned up once/week in the fall.

Scott H
Guest
Scott H

There are always going to be dangerous conditions, today it’s leaves, tomorrow it might be a fallen branch, etc. The actual problem is that it’s still socially acceptable (and sometimes encouraged) to display anger when complete strangers delay your commute by a few seconds.

Alan 1.0
Subscriber

How about resurrecting the Disco Trike into a Video Velo with a big screen, and taking a group ride with that video looping for all to see?

Exemplary job of keeping your cool, @stevenrmitch !

Bald One
Guest
Bald One

City’s street sweeping program is so outdated. It’s time for PBOT to get a targeted or “smart” approach to street sweeping, with focus on safety, bike lane priority, hot spots, and seasonality, and less on same old conventions which drive current plan.

Bald One
Guest
Bald One

Biked by the Moda center last week, and noticed that their landscaping crew had used leafblowers to blow all of the leaves from the sidewalk and parking strip along Interstate into the bike lane. They created a nice and neat 4″ deep complete cover of the bike lane, hiding the strormdrains and other hazards underneath. Forced me to ride outside the lane. Outrageous practice now common that I see for many commercial landscaping crews – just blow all the leaves into the street and be done.

Liz Jackson
Guest

dang I gotta get me one (two??) of those cameras! I would have some spicy road rage footage pretty much day immediately of turning it on.

Johnny Bye Carter
Subscriber
Johnny Bye Carter

According to the city this is an immediate maintenance issue and you should call it in to 503-823-1700.

If it’s an immediate issue to the city I think that more than justifies taking the lane.

Report a Maintenance or Traffic Safety Problem or Concern: https://www.portlandoregon.gov/transportation/article/564769

Kittens
Subscriber
Kittens

Ive said it before and say it again. The anger and frustration on Portland roads today is out of all proportion to what it used to be and I blame a feckless and incompetent city/regional government for not addressing issues of traffic congestion, density and capacity in any meaningful way.

They have no solutions and just add fuel to the fire by installing diets and decorations (paint) which do nothing but instill a false sense of safety and insure conflict between users like this happen all day long -though not often captured in such vivid detail.

People who spend all day staring at computer screens and study years of the best academic theory, who have never spent a day in their life commuting by anything other than SOV are wasting tens of millions of dollars a year on idiotic token “solutions” like variable speed freeway signs and cutesy photo ops like bike roundabouts. Meanwhile people are at a breaking point.

We know that transit works. We know buses work. We know bikes work. Yet planners continue to delude themselves into thinking we can split the baby. Have it all. No compromises.

Not working!

emerson
Subscriber

I ride SW Terwiliger and SW Multnomah every day. Both were pretty bad, but thankfully have either been cleaned and/or have gotten paths worn through most of the leaves. Pretty slick in spots, though.

Mitch Gold
Guest
Mitch Gold

If anyone was wondering, the bike path was swept as of this morning. Myself and another rider stopped on Wednesday of this week and cleared out the larger downed branches to help out. But a positive shout to Portland Road Maintenance about the worn out bike lane stripping at the exit point for the car wash at Barbur and Terwilliger. The bike lane had turned into a turn lane for the cars heading into downtown due to being worn down. To their credit within a couple of days, they had laid down a fresh new strip. Still doesn’t prevent the cars from using the lane as a turn lane though unfortunately.

Tom
Guest
Tom

The reason why the city does not clean the bike lane is that the large vehicle they use to clean it is slow and would block the car lane while cleaning and thus generate a ton of angry emails and phone calls to the city, like from the guy in the video.

The solution is very simple. They already plan on adding a bunch of protected bike lanes. They will need one of those narrow bike lane cleaner vehicles, like other cities already use, or the protected lanes will become unusable. Just go ahead and purchase the protected bike lane cleaner now and start using it for some of the worst affected regular bike lanes. Then the cars won’t be held up by the cleaner, and thus no angry emails from drivers. Its not a difficult problem.

world's slowest mamil
Guest
world's slowest mamil

It was fascinating to watch the driver’s demeanor shift from murderous howling rage into being almost civilized over the course of the confrontation. I wonder what combination of Steven’s people skills and the driver’s slow realization that he was vulnerable outside of his box facilitated that? Of course, the driver went right back to being a jerk as soon as he got back into the truck, as a later tweet from Steven shows.

But what really freaked me out was when the driver went to the passenger side of his truck. It made me think he was going for a gun. Thank Lob I somehow manage to almost never get into confrontations like that. I’m glad Steven is safe!

Kevin Wagoner
Subscriber
Kevin Wagoner

Is there any consequence for the truck driver? I assume there is but maybe I’m wrong. What would it look like if he would have swerved into an auto lane impeding a car from moving forward and had that exact same thing with an auto driver?

storage9
Guest
storage9

I can attest I saw street cleaner trucks repetitively going up and down Naito , and also repetitively “cleaning” the same downtown streets over and over multiple times 4 to 5 days a week all summer long.
Now, when they are actually needed, they have ghosted. Are those workers ascairt of a widdle rain and scattered leaf piles??

Awwww.
Poor babies.

SD
Guest
SD

What makes this worse is that the driver works on the hill and probably drives on Terwiliger frequently.

MB
Guest
MB

Actually this guy works at the VA hospital. I recognize his voice and the barely glimpse of his face. He works in the custodial department and I”hear” him sometimes in the morning in the cafeteria. He is loud there too. I’m not surprised at all by his demeanor.

Holtz
Subscriber

When I rode Terwilliger earlier today (Monday), it looked like the bike paths had been swept recently… though several spots were filling again with slick leaves.

GlowBoy
Guest
GlowBoy

“I have the right to pass slow moving traffic.”

No, that is not a right. Even when the “slow” traffic is below the speed limit, which didn’t appear to be the case here.

I commend both parties for not allowing the situation to escalate further, but I can’t help noticing just how close that pickup came. It was clearly a deliberate act (as proven by the prior use of the horn). I’m going to keep harping on the point drilled into me by my (not in Oregon) Drivers Ed class that motor vehicles are deadly weapons.. There is no difference – morally or legally – between what this driver did and angrily waving a loaded gun in someone’s face.

And I have absolutely no confidence that he will be charged with assault, despite clear evidence. After all, what matters in the legal system (ask ANY lawyer!) is not what the law says, but what a jury will think.

Still tempted to get a camera. Last I looked into the ones compact enough to be suitable for daily biking were more than a bit fiddly for my taste. I wonder if they’ve improved recently.

Miguel
Guest
Miguel

Commenting separately from the interaction with the motorist…if you find it too challenging to ride on wet leaves in the Northwest, might I suggest taking the bus? This is a good note for Bike Portland readers: your safety isn’t always the responsibility of someone else. Personal responsibility is something that could use a lot more attention, especially on this site. And yes, I’m a cyclist. 35 years, 150,000 miles. Never been hit by a car (knock on wood).

Phil Richman
Subscriber

Jonathan, I’m not sure if Steven considers himself a Portlander, but as best I can tell he commutes via e-bike from Sherwood. I point this out, because it is pretty uncommon to commute those distances by bike regularly, but e-bikes make it possible. Pretty awesome if you ask me.

Jack C.
Guest
Jack C.

I think the cyclist didn’t have to be THAT far into the road to avoid the slick leaves. It was a case of excess on both of their parts, but people who use the word “pussy” as an insult tend to be sleazy, so the “brother” thing toward the end didn’t alleviate much.