A BikePortland reader sent in a video clip that shows what can happen when a bicycle rider and car driver interact with each other out on the road. As you can see above, I’ve taken the clip and added captions to it.
The interaction happened in Tigard (southwest of Portland) and was caused when the driver of a Jeep SUV saw a “bakfiets” style cargo bike emblazoned with “This Machine Fights Climate Change” in large letters on the side. That was apparently enough to make the driver mad, and the bike rider was more than glad to engage and have a chat about it. (I’m keeping the rider anonymous by request because they feared being targeted online.)
Unfortunately the driver wasn’t ready for a productive conversation. Instead, he spouted off on a bunch of false talking points and was extremely rude and disrespectful to the bike rider.
To me, the interaction was a good illustration of a few things:
- Is it worth trying to engage with drivers? This is a timeless question among bike riders. Some folks think it’s impossible for anything good to come out of this context because both sides are often too emotional and heated. I’m personally more like the biker in the video (although often not as level-headed), and I am usually eager to talk to drivers. I find it fascinating to hear their perspectives and have had several experiences over the years where folks who are initially angry at me become much more moderate and friendly once we pull over and talk to each other.
- What we are up against: And by “we” I mean us as Americans. The mainstreaming of lies and conspiracy theories, the extreme divisiveness of our politics, and the inclination to quickly stereotype others based on a bumper sticker and/or a mode of travel — are all unfortunately very common among the body politic. And bike riders face this type of s*** all the time. We are easy (and vulnerable!) cultural scapegoats and are victims of a lot of biased treatment. People who don’t bike have no idea what we experience on a daily basis. We have a lot of work to do to as Americans if we want to achieve anything together. I think it starts one conversation at a time. Which leads me to my next point…
- He kept his cool!: The bike rider did an amazing job of keeping his cool. Despite a verbal lashing from the driver, the cyclist didn’t get rattled. Hopefully he landed some new ideas inside the driver’s brain that will last beyond this interaction.
- Your mileage may vary: The biker in this video is very lucky. This type of interaction can escalate quickly, especially with so many people carrying guns and hateful lies in their head while in control of a very powerful weapon. And it’s worth noting the bike rider is a relatively large, middle-aged, white man. People who don’t look like him would likely get a different response.
Have you ever engaged with a driver (beyond a few words of profanity)? How’d it go? Did you learn anything from watching this video?