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Rage and revenge, then dialogue and understanding

Posted by on November 5th, 2018 at 12:22 pm

Kiel Johnson (L) and Mark Holzmann.
(Photo: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

Last Thursday, local advocate Kiel Johnson and I met with Mark Holzmann. Yes, the same Mark Holzmann who made headlines a week prior for his role in a sordid tale about road rage and revenge.

In an opinion piece published by The Oregonian, on his Facebook page, and on local TV news, Mark said he was victimized by a man on a bike who yelled at him and pounded on his car after the two were involved in a close-call near the Moda Center on October 22nd. Then a few days later Mark said he woke up and realized all four tires of his car had been slashed and someone had left a spooky and threatening note on his windshield.

Unfortunately that’s the full extent of the story most people heard. As such, it probably only served to perpetuate existing biases people have about each other.

But it’s what happened after the initial news cycle that I think is worth remembering about this story.

When I first heard about what happened to Mark, I was sad. I figured the narrative it would promote would only entrench people further into their worldview — the exact opposite of what we need in the country right now. It turns out I’ve been pleasantly surprised with what has happened since our story was posted on October 25th.

The first sign of hope was that Holzmann began posting in our comment section. I’ll often encourage news subjects and writers to participate in the comments because it can give much-needed depth and improve the dialogue around stories. But Mark started commenting before I even mentioned it to him. And he commented well. He was open-minded, tactful, and even a bit humorous with his replies. He entered “The belly of the beast” (which is how he referred to it at our meeting last week) and came out unscathed.

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“The silver lining for me, this motorist, has been a heightened awareness of safety and regards to rules and regulations of the Portland roadways in general.”
— Mark Holzmann

The next twist in the story was that Kiel Johnson started a GoFundMe campaign to reimburse Mark for the damage to his tires. Kiel, who owns the bike valet and bike shop under the Aerial Tram, is known for his thoughtful and creative bicycle activism. From earning national attention for his work on school bike trains to organizing around SW Barbur Blvd and the human protected Better Naito event, and his most recent effort to spur dialogue around the Lloyd-to-Woodlawn greenway project

Last week Kiel asked me to put him in touch with Mark so he could buy him a beer and give him the $190 he had raised. Mark suggested I join and I jumped at the chance.

We met near the scene of the crime at Dr. Jack’s on the Moda Center campus.

We had a great time and chatted for well over an hour. Kiel and I laughed when Mark said he, on a whim, jumped on an e-scooter for the first time to retrieve his car from the tire store (he loved it!).

We spent most the time talking about our lives and experiences, without a focus on the issue that brought us together. When we did focus on that, we talked a lot about the power of perspective. I did my best to share with Mark an explanation — and my concerns — about the way people reacted to his story. Kiel and Mark discussed what to do with the money. Mark said he wanted to donate it to a group that educates drivers about how to more aware of bicycle riders.

The thing Mark said I’ll remember most is how much this experience has broadened his understanding of cycling and people who ride in Portland.

Mark has updated his Facebook page to share our meeting with his friends (some of whom shared unkind feelings about bike riders upon hearing the initial story). “The silver lining for me, this motorist, has been a heightened awareness of safety and regards to rules and regulations of the Portland roadways in general,” he wrote, “I’ve made some great new friends in Jonathan and Kiel and who knows maybe I’ll be convinced to ride my bike to work a few times this next year!”

In a perfect world, a meeting like this would be the norm, not the exception. Or better yet, it wouldn’t have to happen at all. But since our world is far from perfect, I hope we’ve learned something from this episode. It’s a good reminder that the way things begin is often beyond our control; but how they end can be entirely up to us.

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

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NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, 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. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

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Justin
Guest
Justin

Totally impressed by Mark and Kiel, glad to see it

Corbin Dallas
Guest
Corbin Dallas

Good to know that all you need to do to gain the respect of drivers with two ton weapons who don’t give a shit about cyclists is raise money for them and buy them beers!

Ryan
Guest
Ryan

So glad to see this all had a positive outcome. Thanks for sharing Jonathan! It’s too bad that the majority of people who saw the initial report on the news will likely never hear about this part of the story, but hopefully it can be impactful for those who do.

curly
Subscriber
curly

Cool heads and conversation win in this episode. Thanks for sharing the story.

Matt S.
Guest
Matt S.

! 🙂 !

chezztone
Guest
chezztone

We need general, collective solutions to the problems of bad streets, bad drivers, bad laws. Sorry to rain on the party but these kinds of one-on-one kaffeeklatsches aren’t going to fix the horrors on our streets.

Pat Lowell
Guest
Pat Lowell

I completely disagree! While we’re waiting for the budget and manpower to completely revamp our transportation and legal systems, a little empathy from everyone would go a long way towards improving things.

Middle of the Road Guy
Guest
Middle of the Road Guy

I saw the Horrors at the Wonder Ballroom several months ago. They were great. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sJQk0jDZx8o

Glenn
Guest
Glenn

Way to be pro-active Kiel!

And beer! The universal lubricant!

Fred
Guest
Fred

Way to go, Kiel! In the meantime, I hope the police will identify and bring charges against the tire-slasher. We’ve all been shaken up by right hooks and close calls, but the level of premeditation it took to carry out that act puts the guy squarely in the criminal category, IMO. It is not typical of cyclists I know.

Q
Guest
Q

Sure, as soon as they’re done identifying and bringing charges to all motor vehicle operators who menace and threaten vulnerable road users. You know, the kind who think they’re entitled to do such until activist members of the community sit them down and hash out in person why they shouldn’t act this way, which is in fact a typical mindset of most motorists.

Bjorn
Guest
Bjorn

There is still absolutely zero evidence that the person who he had the altercation with was in any way involved in the tire slashing. Continuing to treat his hunch as fact is not really helpful in my opinion.

Middle of the Road Guy
Guest
Middle of the Road Guy

#believevictims

SimmerDown
Guest
SimmerDown

You are so bad at this. Who doesn’t believe Mark? I believe him when he says he doesn’t know who slashed his tires, but he thinks it was the cyclist. Having trouble parsing this out? It’s literally unknowable with his own statement. If Mark said he saw the cyclist slash his tires, that would be different testimony now wouldn’t it? Still having trouble parsing out eyewitness testimony vs speculative?

soren
Guest
soren

The way this vandalism was immediately associated with someone that bikes without any evidence smacks of respectability politics and its cousin bikestockholm syndrome.

Gary B
Guest
Gary B

Fred stated that police should IDENTIFY the perp before bringing charges.

Glenn
Guest
Glenn

Phenomenal. Kind acts like this have a way of spreading. It’s inspired me to do my own. Thank you, Jonathan, for sharing.

Glenn
Guest
Glenn

Shoot, there are two of us Glenns! I’ll change my moniker so you can remain Glenn.

9watts
Subscriber

That explains my recent confusion about some Janus-Glenn-comments.

Naomi Fast (Washington County Correspondent)
Subscriber

What an encouraging turn of events! Just like the rainbow after a big storm.

Andrew Kreps
Guest
Andrew Kreps
joan
Subscriber

I’ve been thinking lately about how folks on bikes express this kind of rage. Specifically, I’ve been thinking about how and when white men on bikes express rage. Sure, sometimes women and non-binary folks and people of color express rage vocally and physically when someone endangers us… but as people who may feel vulnerable even when we’re not on our bikes, we might not feel like we can express that sort of rage in the same way.

I often wonder if their acts of aggression make bicycling more dangerous for me.

Resopmok
Guest
Resopmok

I would say that whatever contribution there has been as you suggest, it should pales in comparison to the inherent danger motor vehicles present on the road, and is probably exponentially lower than the distraction caused by phones, in-vehicle entertainment devices, children, and make-up compacts. I think there is a lot of momentum in our public speech which aims to put blame on dominant groups for societal problems, and while there may be truth here for some issues, when it comes to bicycle safety I do not think white male cyclists are your political enemy.

joan
Subscriber

Yeah, I didn’t say that white male cyclists are my political enemy. At all. Or even anything close to that.

What I said was that I do have concerns that folks on bikes who are shouty and aggressive at folks in cars are creating a climate that might be more dangerous for those of us who aren’t as shouty and aggressive.

B. Carfree
Guest
B. Carfree

It can work the other way too. When my wife and I pick up our youngest granddaughter from pre-school, we ride on a rode that has no center stripe, though the location of the center of the road is made obvious by the dark asphalt patch over the old trolley tracks. One must ride on the left side of the lane in order to stay out of the door zone.

If I hide out of sight behind them (they’re on a tandem), oncoming motorists tend to drive well over the center line, pushing them into the door zone. When this large white (entitled, privileged, etc) male stays out slightly to their left, in plain sight of the oncoming cars, motorists tend to stay on their own side of the road and even yield a foot or more of the middle.

Is it because I appear to be more likely to scratch their car? Is it because I have more social standing? Is it my old man scowl? Beats me, but we pick our granddaughter up together precisely because of this observation.

Gary B
Guest
Gary B

Thanks for sharing your thought. While not inclined to resort to “rage,” I’ve had my moments. You’ve given me something to think carefully about.

Wylie Dulmage
Guest
Wylie Dulmage

I have to admit, it’s been so easy to give in to the contempt you feel after near loss of life and limb that occurs when people drive dangerously. The logic feels so simple “they got away with hurting or almost hurting me, and will never be punished, so why shouldn’t I retaliate?”

But when you see something like this, and stop to consider how obviously effective the outreach is and how much it matters when you build community and invite people into the fold, you have to admit that retaliation is wrong. Cheers to Kiel, Jonathan, and Mark for doing so much to change my mind on this. I will be thinking about you next time I feel my blood boiling and wanting to give in to rage. It’s impossible to deny the positive effect this kind of action has.

I wear many hats
Guest
I wear many hats

Be nice to people. Its as simple as it gets. Thanks Mark for being open minded in the face of the blatant vandalism.

B. Carfree
Guest
B. Carfree

Having a beverage with new friends is great. I have made a point of doing this when my community organizing efforts run afoul of someone. It’s yielded some great results locally. I’m blessed to live in the middle of a neighborhood with an abundance of brewery pubs and awesome coffee roasters, so I’ve got it easy.

People are basically good-hearted. Most folks just need an embarrassment-free way to do good and kind deeds. That said, we’re also a wee bit lazy and don’t always operate at our top end, which explains a lot of our road problems (at least that’s the model I operate under).

bendite
Guest
bendite

This story has Portland all over it from start to finish.

Susan Kubota
Guest
Susan Kubota

Dialogue & silver lining, things that are so desperately needed in these trying times. Kudos to Mark, Jonathan and Kiel. Sadly there really isn’t an organization to educate all regarding the rules of the road and safety for everyone who needs to use them. Sadly, it’s something a scattering of grassroots groups and community advocates have been striving for for years. Our work continues but it’s been an uphill battle.

Buzz
Guest
Buzz

Darn, when I read the headline I thought you had found and had a beer with the Terwilliger pickup truck driver.

mark smith
Guest
mark smith

We need more beer summits with people who drive badly.

Greg Spencer
Guest
Greg Spencer

What an inspiring and pleasantly surprising story! It sounds like Mark’s viewpoint has evolved in a very positive way. I look forward to hearing how his bike commute goes. Maybe a new feature for BikePortland: “Evolution of Homo Commuterus”??

columbo
Guest
columbo

And still: zero evidence that the man who yelled at Mark slashed the tires.