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Family Biking: Beyond mama bear rage and toward healthier responses to bad drivers

Posted by on December 11th, 2018 at 11:51 am

Try “Wow, someone’s in a hurry” in place of “Slow the f— down!”
(Photos: Madi Carlson)

As the days get shorter, wetter, and colder it feels like more people are driving faster, less predictably, and more assholishly.

Our Family Biking column is sponsored by Clever Cycles.

➤ Read past entries here.

I used to get all heated-up about people driving unsafely around me and my kids. You know, like a protective mama bear. Grrr. I once angrily pantomimed hanging up a phone at a woman talking on her cell while running a stop sign in front of us and I’ve even thumped the trunk of a car after its driver barreled into the crosswalk against a red light, coming within an inch of my front wheel.

The thing is, reacting angrily just leaves me with a bad taste in my mouth, not to mention doesn’t set the best example for my kids. So I’ve drastically changed my reactions. I’m not perfect and slip from time-to-time (mama bears gonna mama bear), but keeping my cool has vastly improved my quality of life despite still sharing some roads with people misusing two-ton battering rams.

Some diverters divert better than others.

The idea to write this column came to me last week when I watched a man drive his minivan over the diverters at SE 17th and Clinton. He approached the intersection very slowly and without signaling, so I assumed he couldn’t decide which way to turn. But as I rolled up to the median (where bicycle riders can cut through, but drivers can’t) he forced his car over the cement “barriers” next to me. I couldn’t help myself — my eyes went wide and my mouth dropped open as we passed one another. It wasn’t the calm reaction I’d like to display for my kids (fortunately they weren’t with me at the time).

Now I have a few go-to responses that make me seem more like a well-grounded mom than a raging mama bear.


Smile and wave
Biking with my middle schooler four miles each morning exposes us to at least a couple people each day primed to skip their stop signs (usually crossing Clinton, which is a greenway for crying out loud!) until they notice us on the road. I smile and wave at them all as they belatedly stop and look chagrined. Initially this felt inauthentic, as if I was waving “Thanks for not killing us,” but it’s just so commonplace for people driving to ignore the right of way that I’ve accepted it as The Way Things Are. Now it’s a pleasant excuse to wave to someone who might wave back.

Speed bumps don’t really slow people determined to speed.

“Someone’s in a hurry”
When we see people speeding I’ve taken to saying, “Wow, that guy is really in a hurry.” I’ve gotten so good at it, I say it when I’m with other adults. I’ve even caught myself muttering it aloud when I’m all alone. It’s much easier on the soul than shouting, “Slow down!”

Making a game of counting red-light runners.

Tally the red-light runners
We bike out of our way to avoid using busy streets, but we can’t avoid crossing big ones. For the aforementioned four-mile middle school commute we cross three big streets with lights and two without. While waiting for our light to turn green we calmly count and comment on the people who drive through yellow and red lights. It really sucks how many people run red lights, but it serves as a good opportunity for me to remind my kids to always check the intersection, even when the light is green.

“That was scary”
I often think back to something Katie Proctor (co-founder of Kidical Mass PDX in 2010 and more recently proprietor of Books with Pictures comic book store) wrote years ago on Facebook. She presented the idea of saying, “You scared me!” as a way of sharing your feelings and acknowledging the severity of the situation without being so accusatory as to invite a defensive response. I checked in with her for an update since Facebook’s search function leaves a lot to be desired and I couldn’t remember exactly what she said back then. Here’s what she says now:

“These days, I might even lean toward ‘Wow, that was scary!’ over ‘You scared me,’ as a way to center your shared experience — whatever just happened probably scared the crap out of both of you — and that then gives you room to de-escalate: ‘Can we take a minute to catch our breaths before we talk about it?’ Which will make any following conversation more productive.”

I still love this sentiment, as well as her advice to train oneself to yell “You scared me!” — in place of what you might otherwise yell — to model good behavior in front of kids.

Obligatory word on safety
You know I don’t make a habit of talking about safety, but I do like to use appropriate opportunities to point out that intersections are The Worst. Two of the most common types of bike crashes are left hooks: when an oncoming car driver turns left into a person on a bike who was heading straight, and right hooks: when a person turns right, not noticing that there was a person on a bike to their right heading straight.

I love getting around by bike and feel carefree while doing it, but I also don’t trust anyone driving near me to notice me or to obey the law. I might look oddly suspicious as I check one-way roads for wrong-way drivers before I cross them and act stubbornly exasperated when I get into “you-go-no-you-go” hand waving wars with people who have failed to stop for me at intersections that I refuse to trust to now stay stopped.

Tl;dr: You can’t be too safe, but it doesn’t take any of the joy out of getting around by bike.

About that photo at the top of this post: It happened a week ago, and an hour after I’d nearly been plowed into in that very intersection. I’ve never been hit by a car, and this was the closest I’d ever come. Thank goodness the kids weren’t with me because I may have forgotten my collection of suitable reactions. I was only with my dog Pixie and I had to slam on my brakes to avoid being left-hooked by a woman I had mistakenly thought noticed me. I fumed for a while as I pedaled away. By the time my son and I got back and saw the aftermath of this crash I was able to take it in calmly with him. We surmised no one had been injured and I told him about my earlier near-miss. And then the subject switched to his latest hobby, making up titles for Avengers/Harry Potter mashup movies (“Avengers: Accio Wands!”) and things were the same as they ever were.

What about you? How do you react in these sorts of situations? Please share in the comments! Thanks for reading.

Remember, we’re always looking for people to profile. Get in touch if it sounds like fun to you. I’d especially like to feature families of color so please get in touch or ask friends of color who bike with their kids if they’re interested in sharing their stories. And as always, feel free ask questions in the comments below or email me your story ideas and insights at madidotcom [at] gmail [dot] com.

— Madi Carlson, @familyride on Instagram and Twitter

Browse past Family Biking posts here.

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  • dan December 11, 2018 at 12:22 pm

    You know what I have come to hate recently? People who don’t come to a stop at stop signs, but just slow way down and creep forward as you pass in front of them. I never know if they actually see me, or if they’re just making a pro forma rolling stop before hitting the gas and knocking me off my bike. It seems like this is pretty much how people stop at stop signs now though, even with my brand new “I’m pretty damn sure you can see me” 800 lumen headlight.

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    • Matt S. December 11, 2018 at 12:45 pm

      Pull in behind the car and you won’t have this problem. As bicyclists, I don’t think we’re entitled to the front because we can maneuver around. I know it sucks waiting for three or four cars to go ahead of you, especially if it’s heavy traffic, but that’s defensive riding. I understand it’s frustrating riding across town, riding a bicycle should eliminate us from having to wait in traffic, but stacking up at lights and stop signs is a place where I don’t mind waiting for traffic. I don’t like being in that situation where I ride alongside 5-10 cars stacked at the light, to get in the front, and then have to worry about all of them passing me while I try to squeeze between them on the left and cars parked on the right.

      But aren’t you still going to be passed by all the people behind you, so why does it matter?

      Because if you expect drivers to see bicycles as vehicular traffic, they’re going to expect you to queue up just like they are. We’re entitled to take the full lane, but I don’t think we’re entitled to ride around and cut to the front. You’re not allowed to do that when driving.

      Another reason why we need protected bike lanes!

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      • dan December 11, 2018 at 12:58 pm

        I’m talking about me riding straight through an intersection where I have the right of way and a car entering the intersection from the left or right creeping through their stop sign as I pass in front of them. Like you, I usually don’t pass stopped cars on the right unless there’s a bike lane.

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        • Matt S. December 11, 2018 at 4:23 pm

          Thanks for the clarification. I got on my soap box for a second.

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      • Father Against Rude Transportation December 11, 2018 at 1:01 pm

        Pretty sure dan was referring to cross-traffic at two-way stops, not about cars stopping ahead of him at a stop sign.

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      • Toby Welborn December 11, 2018 at 9:54 pm

        While you are sort of correct that bicycles should take the lane and wait in line at intersection, I the entitled comment really misses the mark. What is being called entitlement is either lack of knowledge or a safety issue. Bikes can stay to the right at intersections when there is a bike land but should take the lane on roads when there is not a bike lane [ Oregon Bicyclist Manual, p. 6]. The manual is available at As stated this is a “should” and not a “must” {making things confusing when safety is the main reason for taking the lane). Safety comes into question when drivers pass or attempt to pass immediately before entering or while in the intersection.

        People on bikes do just as many stupid things as people in traffic but why do cyclists seem to be referred to as entitled. I am not taking a dig at Matt but this seems like a very strategically placed term that has crept into the lexicon when describing cyclists and commuters that instantly divides a situation or scenario into an “them versus us” position. Conspiracy hat off in 3, 2, 1….

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      • mh December 12, 2018 at 9:57 am

        Bike lane leading to a bike box is for exactly that.

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      • Steve Smith December 12, 2018 at 12:31 pm

        ORS 811.415.2.c
        “Overtaking and passing upon the right is permitted if the overtaking vehicle is a bicycle that may safely make the passage under the existing conditions.”

        In other words, you may pass on the right rather than wait in the queue of stopped cars.

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    • Madi Carlson (Family Biking Columnist)
      Madi Carlson (Family Biking Columnist) December 11, 2018 at 1:22 pm

      I hate that, too!!!!!! Some people definitely notice the intersection isn’t clear and still creep, oblivious to how scary it might be. Ugh.

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    • billyjo December 12, 2018 at 7:16 am

      I hate walking into an intersection where I have the right of way, only to have a bike not even make an effort to stop for the stop sign.

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    • Thomas Lindner December 12, 2018 at 9:39 am

      I found a solution to this problem… I know it is controversial but ever since I started using a light on my helmet I found creeping cars come to a dead stop and all I need to do is shine a little light in their direction.

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      • mh December 12, 2018 at 3:30 pm

        At the driver, not just at the car.

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  • J_R December 11, 2018 at 12:28 pm

    Things will only get worse until society decides we need some enforcement. There is virtually no traffic enforcement in Portland today.

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    • Father Against Rude Transportation December 11, 2018 at 1:00 pm

      Agreed. Drivers can just do anything and park anywhere nowadays. I even saw a giant truck parked on the sidewalk this afternoon! Ridiculous. How am I supposed to push a stroller around that?

      People need to be made to understand that there are consequences for their actions.

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      • Middle of the Road Guy December 11, 2018 at 4:09 pm

        Thank you for your creativity. Made me laugh.

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      • John Lascurettes December 11, 2018 at 11:44 pm

        You’re trying to be cute, but I genuinely see this all the time — in the form of people parking in their “driveways” but straddling the sidewalk between the driveway and the planting strip or parking area; or in people parking across unmarked crosswalks at the corner. Every time I see this, I empathize with the trouble that people with mobility issues must face.

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        • Resopmok December 13, 2018 at 7:11 am

          In these situations I often just call parking enforcement. The exceptions are if I forgot my phone, it’s past hours, or I truly do not have the two minutes to spare.

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      • Johnny Bye Carter December 12, 2018 at 3:41 pm

        I remember having to push my stroller into the street because PFD Engine 25 thinks it’s cool to wash their firetruck on the sidewalk instead of in their parking lot.

        OH! I just checked and it’s on Google Street View!

        We should not have to deal with this from a city department focused on safety. This is car culture at its worst.

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    • Matt S. December 11, 2018 at 4:18 pm

      This happens all over the city, you can’t enforce every intersection. I think the behavior comes from people being frustrated with how difficult it is to drive in the city. It takes a good 40 minutes to get accross the city. By the time you’ve reached your friends neighborhood to park, you’ve had to go through dozens of lights, waiting at some for two and three cycles, gone through numerous stop signs, dealt with terrible drivers and cyclists alike, road construction, and etc. Us cyclists are getting our wish of making it super difficult for people to drive, the side effect is proving to be costly for us though.

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      • Madi Carlson (Family Biking Columnist)
        Madi Carlson (Family Biking Columnist) December 11, 2018 at 4:50 pm

        I don’t think that’s it at all. I see people driving their kids less than a mile from home to school rolling stop signs, too. I think the bombardment of commercials about cars being so safe and driving being so convenient leads to a false sense of security and entitlement that’s awfully hard to overcome. My wish is certainly not for driving to be made more difficult, but for driving to be made safer. Road violence affects a lot more people in cars than people on bikes and on foot.

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        • Matt S. December 11, 2018 at 6:15 pm

          You’re right, dealing with school traffic for half an hour before work doesn’t bother anyone, it’s all because they watched a commercial the night before…

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          • Ken S December 11, 2018 at 7:40 pm

            Matt S, are you trying to be obtuse?

            The point about car ads pushing an image of safety and carefree driving are pushing people to drive over taking other modes.

            Then this expectation is not realized, leading to cognitive dissonance.
            Most people react badly to cognitive dissonance.

            “Driving is supposed to be freeing and enjoyable! How dare you and your children slow ME down by 15 seconds!!”

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            • Hello, Kitty
              Hello, Kitty December 12, 2018 at 12:00 am

              Kind of the way hamburger chains push an image of a tasty and healthy meal. I get cognitive dissonance when I dine at McDonalds. Where is the f’n beef? I am so NOT lovin’ it.

              Give people a little credit.

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            • Matt S. December 12, 2018 at 8:51 am

              I’ve ridden thousands of miles as a bike commuter, I’ve driven thousands of miles as a car commuter. O

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              • Matt S. December 12, 2018 at 8:59 am

                Disregard this edit.

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            • Matt S. December 12, 2018 at 8:59 am

              I’m focusing on how our transportation infrastructure isn’t designed to handle the current traffic load. Not the ethos of car driving.

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              • J_R December 12, 2018 at 10:19 am

                Maybe that’s because the traffic load is wrong.

                For many years, we’ve been led to believe that more travel is better. Maybe we should be reconsidering that. The priority should be to accomplish something, not merely travel. For example, if the priority is to “work,” maybe that is best accomplished by tele-commuting, which does not involve travel, rather than commuting by auto, bike or transit, and accomplishing the work by sitting in a cubicle.

                Consider also that the “current traffic load” is predicated on very, very low costs to the traveler and there is virtually no differential for the time of day. Look at how we price other things, such as golf course fees. The prices vary by time of day, day of week, and season. The most popular times are priced accordingly. We could do the same with transportation with variable pricing to match demand with supply.

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              • Ken S December 12, 2018 at 11:05 am

                I’m looking at the intersection of the two and how they exacerbate each other.

                The transportation infrastructure can’t handle the current traffic load, and there’s probably not enough money to build the amount of new roads needed to meet the current and future demands.
                This is the reality, but most every car ad I’ve seen in years pitches the idea or image of someone tearing through a downtown, completely empty of cars.

                The other alarming trend in car ads is the guy driving through town, looks away from the road and nearly plows over a pedestrian, with the auto-braking car kicking in at that last moment, or the ads where someone does crash, but zero people have even a scratch.

                This gives the impression that if you have a car, you’ll be able to get places, at the speed you chose, and that it’s safe.
                Since most people don’t evaluate theirs lives with detached philosophical inquiry of the complex circumstances they’re wrapped up in, the typical reaction to reality not matching expectations would be anger or sadness.

                People want to believe the sales pitch that driving is fun and freeing and safe, and the problems are everyone else’s fault. Fault of the other drivers, fault of the govt for not building enough roads, fault of bicyclists for taking away money for their bike lanes when drivers deserve all the roads all the time. (note: last statement is sarcastic)
                We’re all trapped in a paradigm where you generally have to (or think you have to) drive to get places and it means being stuck in traffic all the time.
                And positive change takes time.

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              • Hello, Kitty
                Hello, Kitty December 12, 2018 at 12:13 pm

                The idea of accomplishing something without travel is one reason people like Amazon so much., much to the consternation of local retailers. And telecommuting is great. Among other things, it helps people live here without giving up their Silicon Valley salaries, making it easier to accumulate wealth and sustain higher housing prices.

                Everything has an upside and a downside, except maybe the elimination of smallpox, which seems pretty much like all upside, unless you are smallpox, then it kind of sucks.

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        • Middle of the Road Guy December 11, 2018 at 10:01 pm

          I don’t think it’s specific to cars. People seem more rushed and less patient. This expresses itself in a myriad of ways including poor decision making, anger, and aggression.

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          • B. Carfree December 11, 2018 at 11:53 pm

            That’s not my experience. Pretty much all of the people I encounter outside of cars, even if they just got out of one, take the time to smile back at me. On the routes between schools that I ride with my granddaughters, there are some pedestrians and cyclists who greet us daily and even a few motorists who recognize us and are accommodating (to the extent they are able). I’m finding similar levels of patience as in any of the other six decades of my existence. Maybe I’m missing something. Lucky me.

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            • Middle of The Road Guy December 12, 2018 at 8:39 am

              You should wait in line at a Starbucks before 8am.

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              • Q December 12, 2018 at 2:11 pm

                Barely qualifies as people outside of cars, that.

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    • Middle of The Road Guy December 12, 2018 at 8:36 am

      It would be great if citizens could hand out tickets. And from an entertainment standpoint, there would be a lot more fist fights.

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  • Father Against Rude Transportation December 11, 2018 at 12:36 pm

    I find drivers are more aggressive and honk more when I have my kid on the back of the bike. I don’t understand why; maybe it’s because I’m riding slower than usual? That being said, I usually ride assuming everyone is drunk and that usually works out well with the kid in town as well. Always put extra space between you and the cars – especially with those people who like to slowly creep into the intersection at stop signs (no idea why we can’t just ban parking at corners since that would improve sightlines immensely and end this problem)

    I find it’s best to just keep a cool head and ignore dumb drivers. Try to brush off the idiocy. Much better for your mental health than getting upset at the daily encounters with stupidity.

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    • Johnny Bye Carter December 12, 2018 at 3:46 pm

      Parking close at corners is already illegal, but the city will rarely cite unless multiple people complain.

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      • Opus the Poet December 12, 2018 at 6:48 pm

        The solution is not to involve law enforcement to prevent people from doing unwanted things that are still possible, but to make unwanted things physically impossible. This is the core of Vision Zero, to make wrecks physically impossible.

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  • grrlpup December 11, 2018 at 12:48 pm

    I tell myself that the time for justice is not while I’m on the bike. Don’t expect it, don’t pursue it: humans gonna human. I’ve still had a couple of adrenaline-inducing events, but this has made me a lot less angry and frazzled at the end of my commute than I used to be.

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    • Hello, Kitty
      Hello, Kitty December 12, 2018 at 12:04 am

      The time for justice is later that night when you find the driver’s vanity plate on twitter and pay him a little visit.

      Uh… I mean… not that I would.

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      • Middle of The Road Guy December 12, 2018 at 8:37 am

        Obviously just random chance, HK.

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  • Joe December 11, 2018 at 12:57 pm

    Awesome write up thank you, I was starting to feel like I was all alone with crazy things happening lately, oh on willams near freeway merge is pure nuts and someone is going to get hurt or killed, also anyone see the Natio stripping they just did that has all kinds of high sides and bumpy total shotty job.

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    • Father Against Rude Transportation December 11, 2018 at 1:03 pm

      Yeah, they definitely applied the thermoplastic way too thick. Portland streets are bumpy enough on their own without the city actively putting in more bumps!

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      • John Lascurettes December 11, 2018 at 11:47 pm

        I thread the 4″ bare pavement between the dashed bike lane marker and the dashed green lane in the intersections on the new SE Sandy improvements for that very reason. They feel like rumble strips.

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  • John Lascurettes December 11, 2018 at 1:00 pm

    I found out just how fast I could ride once when I went full “papa bear” mode on a guy that first tried to bully his way onto the westbound NW Klickitat greenway as we were passing nearly hitting me, who was in the front of my wife and our sandwiched child. I told him to chill out. Then at the next intersection went around me, my wife, and our sandwiched son at a stop sign (fully running the sign) to turn left. I went taking off southbound after him on NE 28th Ave. in top gear, spinning out because I was pedaling so fast. I was so incensed that not only had he put my child in danger, but he had deliberately done so. So, he and I were probably going somewhere in the neighborhood of 40 MPH (he was bottoming out on the speed bumps and my adrenaline was peaked). As he turned down some side streets to try and lose me (I was trying to get a positive ID on him), he sped past kids playing basketball on side streets and I peeled off because his fleeing was only putting more people in danger.

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  • Paul H. December 11, 2018 at 1:23 pm

    > So I’ve drastically changed my reactions.

    A good friend told me he consciously worked to change the one-finger salute to a peace sign, which came in handy one day when an acquaintance was the automobile driver who brought about the reaction. He was glad that bridge hadn’t been burned.

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    • rain panther December 11, 2018 at 2:03 pm

      I do the same, only with my thumb. I save the middle finger for when I absolutely and deliberately mean it (which turns out to be pretty rare), instead of using it reflexively like I used to.

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      • rain panther December 11, 2018 at 2:12 pm

        I also try, with varying degrees of success, to say something like “Be careful!” in place of the verbal equivalent of a middle finger.

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    • Chris I December 11, 2018 at 4:19 pm

      I flipped off my coworker’s wife once. It was actually a good conversation starter, since neither of them ride. We’re still friendly.

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    • I wear many hats December 11, 2018 at 4:31 pm

      While riding home from work I once suggested someone perform a sexual act on them-selves, only to see them at work in a professional capacity the next day. Provided that we both said and did things that we weren’t proud of, we elected to ignore the fact that we recognized each other. Since then, its been all thumbs ups and happy waves.

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    • Johnny Bye Carter December 12, 2018 at 3:50 pm

      If my friend brings that reaction then they’re not my friend anymore.

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  • julia December 11, 2018 at 2:08 pm

    I like the idea of a peace sign instead of a middle finger.

    My fear is that if a cyclist who is almost hurt by a dangerous driver is too nice about it, that the driver won’t realize that a terrible thing just occurred and their behavior needs to change or someone could DIE.

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    • El Biciclero December 12, 2018 at 9:38 am

      “…the driver won’t realize that a terrible thing just occurred and their behavior needs to change…”

      This is my issue. I’m all for maintaining sanity and peace, but I don’t feel comfortable brushing off the kind of driver behavior that may be “normal” for them, but that they may not realize is unnerving or outright dangerous for those around them Not-In-Cars. When a driver just doesn’t even realize that what they are doing is putting people in danger, or they figure “that’s your problem. I’m not the crazy one carrying kids around on that crazy contraption!” Or drivers that deliberately attempt to “teach me a lesson” (with or without kids on board)—complete with that “suck it” glare a few drivers like to use as they cut me off or pass within inches—there’s gonna be some anger. I guess I still have a ways to go to reach Smile-‘n’-Wave—it still feels too much like tacit endorsement. Maybe thumbs down would work for me in the interim.

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      • mh December 12, 2018 at 3:42 pm

        The loud and angry setting on my Orp horn, for as long as it takes the driver to realize that they royally pissed off a human being not in a car.

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    • chezztone December 13, 2018 at 12:19 pm

      Thumbs down, or wagging finger in disapproval, are other options. They’re not hostile like the middle finger, but unlike the peace sign they show that you object to the person’s action.

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      • Ken S December 13, 2018 at 12:25 pm

        The other crucial aspect of a thumbs down vs middle finger is conveying that you disapprove of the driver’s action and not the driver, as a person.

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        • sorne December 15, 2018 at 10:08 am

          The other crucial aspect of a thumbs down vs middle finger is conveying that you disapprove of the driver’s action and not the driver, as a person

          or maybe not.

          the idea that flipping someone off is “violence” or a “personal attack” is absurd. when the digitus impudicus is issued in response to dangerous behavior it’s unambiguously a way to communicate disapproval rather than a symbol of the antisocial desire to erase someone as a human being.

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      • Glenn Angry Glenn Ross December 14, 2018 at 6:58 pm

        I like to just point and stare at them, my whole arm stretched straight out, and not say anything. My “digital” accusation (SWITD) swings ’round to follow them persistently if either of us is in motion. If I’m angry as opposed to just disgusted I’ll just channel it into a blast of hate-chi that shoots out my fingertip. PEW! PEW!

        I imagine this to be quite unnerving for them but obviously I have no idea. It’s fun & therapeutic for me though. “J’accuse!”

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  • bikeninja December 11, 2018 at 2:25 pm

    When I experience this sort of thing I also try not and react angrily. Instead I contemplate the upcoming end of happy motoring and the grief it will bring these auto-addled scofflaws. I like to think of them in their driveways, little pink fingers clutching their steering wheel, twisting the key as the engine turns over and over never to start again as their days of being able to procure gas is over.

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    • Middle of the Road Guy December 11, 2018 at 4:10 pm

      Yeah man, we’ve been hearing that story for 20 years.

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      • Johnny Bye Carter December 12, 2018 at 3:53 pm

        Damn I’m old, I’ve been hearing it almost twice that long.

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  • Ken S December 11, 2018 at 3:39 pm

    I’ve had really positive experiences with using a thumbs down instead of 1 finger salute.
    Driver 1 buzzes within inches of me, I yell and stick out a big thumbs down.
    Car 2 passes, leaving more room, and I stick out a thank you thumbs up.
    All successive cars pass with an appropriate amount of room.

    Small change in gestures that communicates “I’m disappointed and you could do better” instead of “I hate you and want bad things to happen to you”

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    • Hello, Kitty
      Hello, Kitty December 12, 2018 at 12:11 am

      I sometimes use my thumb and middle finger to convey “I’m disappointed and you could do better and I hate you and I want bad things to happen to you”, along with my index finger to emphasize the “you”.

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      • Ken S December 12, 2018 at 6:21 am

        Lol. While all of your thoughts would be stated, some data may be lost in transmission due to signal noise…

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  • soren impey December 11, 2018 at 3:54 pm

    “Try “Wow, someone’s in a hurry” in place of “Slow the f— down!”

    I’m glad the alternative works for Madi but I personally find that saying “slow the f*** down” increases my quality of life.

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    • Brian December 12, 2018 at 6:01 am

      Same. I’m also frequently amused how riled up a sarcastic thumbs-up can make people. It pisses some people off as much as the middle finger, and just makes me laugh.

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      • Middle of The Road Guy December 12, 2018 at 8:40 am

        People love to be angry about something.

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        • soren December 12, 2018 at 8:53 am

          No, it’s not just people. The oppression and stress of our car-dominant culture is associated with rage and acting out.

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      • Lo December 12, 2018 at 9:01 am

        I like to blow a kiss. Keeps em on their toes

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  • pdx2wheeler December 11, 2018 at 4:10 pm

    I imaging these driving scofflaws as people in garbage trucks dumping their trash into others lives as they go. I try with every fiber in my being to not let them dump their garbage into my life. I anticipate them, recognize them, avoid them, and get home safe! Nobody is perfect, but there is a sense of pride you can take home with you when you’re the better person in a bad situation. Much better than stewing over it all night, being in a bad mood, and dumping that trash back onto your family and friends…

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    • Matt S. December 11, 2018 at 4:22 pm

      Yes, because bicycling is suppose to be more fun and less stressful than driving. If it’s not, we might as well all drive…

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    • El Biciclero December 12, 2018 at 9:44 am

      As much as the behavior of some drivers on some trips may cause me a little (or more) anger, outrage, whatever—the beauty of using a bike is that I am usually able to “pedal it out” by the time I get where I’m going. Plus, I might even get there faster.

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  • John Lascurettes December 11, 2018 at 4:25 pm

    I’ve taken to waving “thank you” to people who stay stopped at a 4-way stop sign, even though it’s their “turn” when traffic ahead of them is stopped up to the other side from them. Granted they’re supposed to do exactly that, and at first I hated effectively saying “thanks for doing exactly what is expected of you” but I really want to reinforce the good (and unfortunately exceptional) behavior.

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    • Johnny Bye Carter December 12, 2018 at 3:56 pm

      Some drivers will yell at you for being ungrateful if you don’t wave and smile at them for obeying the law.

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      • Hello, Kitty
        Hello, Kitty December 12, 2018 at 3:58 pm

        I have literally never heard of that happening in real life.

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        • Opus the Poet December 12, 2018 at 6:55 pm

          I have been literally sworn at for being 4th in line at a stop light and not pulling over to let cars behind pass even though I was almost running into the rear bumper of the car in front of me. IOW I was cursed at for existing between cars on my bicycle.

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          • Hello, Kitty
            Hello, Kitty December 12, 2018 at 7:33 pm

            That’s completely different than getting yelled at for not thanking someone for doing what they needed to do anyway.

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        • John Lascurettes December 13, 2018 at 4:59 pm

          I did see a friend post about the “ungrateful and indignant” bicyclist that wouldn’t go from his stop sign when she stopped to abdicate her right of way when driving on a main street to let him go from the side street. I wonder if it was me. I don’t play that.

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          • Hello, Kitty
            Hello, Kitty December 13, 2018 at 7:22 pm

            While I totally understand your point of view, when you spurn an act of kindness from somebody, it doesn’t always engender positive feelings.

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            • Matt December 13, 2018 at 9:50 pm

              The “act of kindness” may get me killed if I take them up on it, unless all the other people driving choose to follow their lead. So their feelings are not my primary concern in these situations.

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            • El Biciclero December 14, 2018 at 9:53 am

              Ohhhh. This is a real conundrum for me, especially when toting the kids to school and having to cross a major-ish road with a two-way stop. Frequently, drivers will stop on the main road to let us go. It completely drives me nuts because it most often causes needless delay on the part of everyone, including me. It creates a potentially dangerous situation as there are usually drivers coming from the other direction that we must wait for to be sure they will stop, and there are often left-turning drivers directly across from us that might also dearly love to take advantage of other people “being nice” and leaving a gap. I don’t want to “spurn an act of ‘kindness'”, and I don’t want to get into a wave-off with a driver who thinks they’re being “nice”—but I also don’t want to reinforce contra-legal behavior among drivers or instill it in my kids, and I don’t want to feel pressured to seize a sketchy opportunity to go just because now “people are waiting”. Why can’t we all just follow the law? Oh, that’s right—because we have to all know it first.

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              • John Lascurettes December 14, 2018 at 4:17 pm


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              • Hello, Kitty
                Hello, Kitty December 14, 2018 at 5:18 pm

                I dislike the pickle as well. However, since I understand the motivation is entirely positive, I’ve started accepting the yielded ROW, though I do proceed very cautiously. I hope that the driver, seeing my cautious approach, understands the full dimensionality of the situation. I find that approach is much less frustrating for all involved (including myself).

                I agree that yelling from 40ft away is unlikely to be productive.

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              • Hello, Kitty
                Hello, Kitty December 14, 2018 at 5:19 pm

                Hmmmm…. how did this end up up here?

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            • Q December 14, 2018 at 11:59 am

              “Act of kindness”, please, as if I need help riding my bike. People in cars don’t need to be “nice” they need to follow the rules that were put there in place for them to keep them from killing everyone.

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              • Hello, Kitty
                Hello, Kitty December 14, 2018 at 12:31 pm

                And yet, despite your protestations, some want to do things they see as being kind, generous, and helpful. Even if they sometimes drive cars and are therefore hateful and despicable beings deserving of nothing but derision and scorn.

                The key, I think, is to help people understand what actually is helpful.

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              • John Lascurettes December 14, 2018 at 4:19 pm

                H,K: it’s a little difficult to explain why their stopping (when other lanes don’t need to) puts me in a dangerous pickle. If I get struck, I’m at fault. It’s hard to describe the reasons why from 40 feet away through shouting.

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              • John Lascurettes December 14, 2018 at 4:22 pm

                I usually just point at the stop sign which is regulating my movement and then wave the person with the right of way through. Some drivers still get insistent about it.

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    • Pete December 14, 2018 at 12:55 pm

      Not only that but you’re introducing motion into your signaling mechanism, ensuring they better see you… just make sure they don’t mistake it for, “No, you go…”

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  • Peter Buck December 11, 2018 at 4:46 pm

    This is all good advice. We can’t always control the environment around us but we can control our reaction to it. My own experience – for a few years I was cycle commuting on 185th Avenue in Beaverton. Traffic is fast and there are lots of driveways and side streets. I found I was often almost in danger from cars entering 185th. I bought a Zounds air horn, figuring drivers would be able to hear me and thereby be alerted to my presence. Every time I beeped that horn represented a risky situation. Pavlov’s dog – I realized I was warning myself more than the drivers. This caused me to react defensively. After awhile, I realized I wasn’t beeping the horn anymore – I’d trained myself to avoid dangerous situations. It is a lesson I will always remember. Slowing down or speeding up a little was all it took for me to avoid the risky situation. I gave the horn to a neighbor who was planning to bicycle in Viet Nam – I no longer needed it.

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    • dan December 11, 2018 at 5:27 pm

      Having cycle toured in SE Asia, I would say there’s far more call for a Zounds here than there. There is certainly some exciting driving in SE Asia, but they lack the animus toward cyclists that we have here.

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  • Kittens December 11, 2018 at 5:08 pm

    These are all great tips.

    I have to remind myself daily that I am not the morality police and my enforcing traffic laws will make no difference.

    It will only end up with being stressed out and angry at the world.

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  • Daniel Amoni December 11, 2018 at 10:05 pm

    Not speaking violently is half the battle. Hopefully Madi’s next article will advise on how to avoid despair after daily witnessing so much lack of regard for human life by drivers. Being on the streets really challenges my attitude towards people.

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  • Alan 1.0 December 12, 2018 at 12:58 pm

    “Two of the most common types of bike crashes are left hooks: when an oncoming car driver turns left into a person on a bike who was heading straight, and right hooks: when a person turns right, not noticing that there was a person on a bike to their right heading straight.”

    Those definitions are ambiguous and seem to be conflating “hooks” and “crosses.” Hooks are where an overtaking vehicle turns across your path (you are on the inside of their turn). Crosses are where an oncoming vehicle turns in front of you (you are on the outside of their turn). On typical two-way streets in drive-on-the-right countries, right hooks are common but left hooks are rare, and left crosses are common but right crosses rare.

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    • John Lascurettes December 14, 2018 at 4:18 pm

      H,K: it’s a little difficult to explain why their stopping (when other lanes don’t need to) puts me in a dangerous pickle. If I get struck, I’m at fault. It’s hard to describe the reasons why from 40 feet away through shouting.

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  • rider December 12, 2018 at 3:43 pm

    I put a Go Pro on my helmet. Something about knowing I have the jackassery on tape calms me. I also notice, or maybe imagine, that fewer people pass me when I’m doing the speed limit, or 20 feet from a stop sign, or there’s oncoming traffic while I’m wearing the camera. When I have the kids with me I always exclaim, “That’s a very important person who’s time can’t be wasted!” to anyone driving too fast and dangerously.

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  • Dave December 12, 2018 at 6:57 pm

    Accept what is real-the driver is a lower species than the human

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  • Colin December 12, 2018 at 9:48 pm

    Matt S.
    As bicyclists, I don’t think we’re entitled to the front because we can maneuver around.

    I’d accept that if you accept the corollary: cars aren’t entitled to overtake people on bikes just because they can travel faster. If I have to queue behind them, they have to queue behind me. A queue is a queue whether it’s moving or stationary. All traffic is a queue.

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  • Brian December 14, 2018 at 6:21 pm

    I have at least a 30% success rate getting drivers (seemingly) to accept the importance of safe driving, by catching up to them and explaining why the maneuver was dangerous. Which, I’m fairly certain is about 30% better than would be the results of using the tips in this article. Smiling and waving for bad behavior? So, reward them for bad driving. I’m not opposed to a non-ragey approach, but if the end result is that the driver didn’t learn any lesson from the encounter then you have contributed to traffic danger by passively allowing it.

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