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?
Motorists sees right through several scams; atempts to warn cyclist.
This is what Trump gave us…Jesus… I think he left out a few Fox talking points though, he forgot to call him a Groomer and he left out Critical Race Theory.
Needed to accuse the biker of being one of those “transgenders” also to complete the whacko checklist.
I usually don’t engage with car drivers (other than yelling when they nearly hit me or something), because it just doesn’t feel personally safe. That doesn’t mean I don’t use the space I’m ‘entitled’ to — so I guess I do engage but more in a physical way than a verbal one.
That said, I do try to have ‘conversations’, not yelling exchanges, with folks who “wolf whistle” at me (I HATE that and will confront those who do, particularly if I’m in a public space & they are in a company vehicle) or those who comment about it not being safe to do X via bicycle. Because I do want to talk about safety, why it is real perception or just perception and maybe who is using the unsafe vehicle in the situation.
Anyway, in the reader’s position in this instance I would have kept on riding and not engaged, because there’s also so much misogyny wrapped into the conspiracy land that it generally doesn’t go over well on my receiving end.
in my experience the only truly positive interactions I’ve had with shouty motorists is when they almost or actually injure me unintentionally e.g. left hook, dooring, etc. Somehow we are able to turn that into a “we are in this together” situation. The best was when a young man working at a prestige auto repair place pulled out in a customer’s car w/out checking left first & smacked clean into me. I was only bruised/scraped but the car — expensive european thing — was scuffed. he was shaking with rage & fear & in the end we wound up hugging
Uh…. why did I watch this?
Summary: Someone woefully short of critical thinking skills repeats barely coherent Tucker Carlsonisms, deemed somehow significant because he was driving a car and the person he was talking to was on a bike.
I assume we’re intended to laugh at the guy, though mostly I felt sorry for him.
This in no way illustrates or illuminates my decades of experience as a cyclist.
And yes, the cyclist did comport himself well, though it was obvious from the first moment that a reasoned exchange of views was impossible and engagement was futile.
Why, yes! Sometimes it is a prolonged string of profanity.
“I’d like to talk to you about your extended warranty!”
My personal motto and advice to others when engaging with angry motorists is that you know how far you will go to express anger, but you don’t know how far the driver will go. You’re the vulnerable one in the situation, so if there is a confrontation, it’s best to end it as quickly as possible for the best outcome.
True that. One never knows who’s carrying a gun or how much hate or anger they are carrying
Man my blood pressure shot up just listening to that dude’s voice shake. He was some mix of furious or terrified, not a good mix
In my younger, angrier days I used to get into shouting matches with folks like this. I’m not sure it ever did any good.
These days when someone shouts at me from a car my usual go-to response is a cheerful nonsequitur. I don’t even have to think about it any more. “Jesus loves you too, brother!” and “Thanks for feedback, have a blessed day!”
Although this dude reminds me of that saying “if you can’t be RIGHT be LOUD” which would have been a pretty funny thing to say
Ultimately there is no point engaging on an “issue” using “facts” with screaming randos no matter how “right” I am because they don’t have a beef with my reality. Their beef is that I exist on a bike in a certain space. This particular dude’s beef was even bigger: that certain people exist at all anywhere. yeesh.
Yep. Lots of huge red flags here. I would have been riding in the other direction very quickly. Don’t get shot because you want to score points in a debate with some random nutjob
Someone this far down the rabbit hole is also potentially dangerous. I would recommend not engaging. There are almost no possible positive outcomes.
My two cents:
1) inappropriate to verbally demean someone because you disagree with their messaging;
2) if you are going to advertise a message which you know is controversial to some, expect confrontation.
Productive for neither, possibly dangerous.
Look for opportunities for constructive dialogue.
What about if you are rocking a “Bicycles Allowed Full Lane ORS 814.430(2)(c)” sticker on your bike?
That is the actual law, although many uneducated motorists will disagree with you.
I don’t know. There are no easy answers.
Betteridge’s Law of Headlines applies.
(“Any headline that ends in a question mark can be answered by the word no.”)
Personally I can think of no good reason to prolong an interaction with a driver as long as they didn’t actually hit me with their car. Sure, they might have done something truly awful and unpleasant (I’ve been run off the road, had fireworks thrown at me, been coal-rolled, yelled at, etc.), but if I engage it’s taking on an extra degree of unnecessary risk when we’re already the most vulnerable of users. I don’t like that.
Bad road users generally are entrenched in their POV, they don’t want to be reasoned with, and don’t want to de-escalate. The time it would take for me to bring the interaction to a reasonable place isn’t worth my time or energy. I prefer to save that for getting back to riding my bike and being happy. I’ll forget about whatever happened by tomorrow and move on.
True dat, Robert. Plus we all know how sitting inside a several-ton steel cage with 200+ horses under the hood gives some drivers an unbridled sense of power and entitlement.
Whenever I’m driving my car and I slow down for a bike or pedestrian – which I always do – I like to mutter a comment to myself like “What gives this cyclist [or ped] the idea that she can be on the road when I’m entitled to use it?” I do this to remind myself that others have as much right to the road as I do. But there is a clearly a faction of motorists (we all know who they are) who quite clearly think that driving a car entitles them and other drivers to ALL of the road, while cyclists and peds are clearly entitled to NONE of the road and in fact why are they slowing us drivers down??!!
I don’t think I’ve ever had a productive conversation with someone that endangers me with their vehicle or yells something at me. I’ve had some satisfying ones where I get to vent my anger and fear but that’s the best that’s come of any of them, even when I try to talk to them reasonably. Lately I’ve been doing my best to let it go because people are acting so crazy.
The last one was a month ago and the closest pass I’ve ever had. Just taking the lane on a narrow road with parking on either side. Heard the typical impatient engine roar from behind there was nowhere for me to go but I was turning left in half a block and signaling usually calms them down. Not this time had a split second to move to the right and even then the mirror nearly got my handlebars.
I was going to talk to that driver if I could because I couldn’t believe what they had just done but they went up a rather steep hill and stopped at a light. Since I wasn’t sure how long they’d be stopped I just sat there and stared at them. It was probably for the best in hindsight that felt less like a punishment pass and more like you’re going to move or I’m going to run you over. My typical response to people when they say “Ride safe” is “Only if drivers will let me” I feel like that applies well to this interaction. People are extra crazy lately.
As funny as this, no one should engage with these folks. Conservatives are extremely violent and paranoid and unfortunately a lot of them are armed. It’s not worth dealing with them.
Very true. It’s something I don’t miss about Oregon, where conservatives belong to the Democratic party, support concealed handguns, $5 Billion 20-lane bridges, and 75 mph interstate speed limits. Here in North Carolina life is much simpler – our MAGA supporters don’t commute by bike but only ride road bikes and mountain bikes on the weekends, whereas our Democrats are ardent supporters of freeway bypasses and freeways to nowhere paid for with sales taxes on food. Much more progressive.
I love how this kind of crap is perpetuated on BikePortland.
In the spirit of bringing some balance to this conversation let me self identify as being a conservative. I’m neither violent or paranoid and honestly if a bicyclist called me out for making an unsafe maneuver that gave him pause I’d probably apologize. If conservatives and opposing viewpoints gave each other the benefit of the doubt at the outset, there would be far fewer negative interactions. I attempt to expect the best from other folks and only sometimes I am disappointed . There’s only one planet earth. We all have to live here.
“Gimme a brake.”
Is this a response to the cyclist’s observation that the brake lights were out?
Without seeing the the person driving initially pass the person biking, it is hard to tell what started the whole thing. If a sticker about climate change is what prompted the person driving to pull over to wait for the cyclist, then go on a rant about antifa, stolen elections, and millionaires, I am glad no one lost their cool.
I wonder what the person driving would do if he saw a Trump for president sticker or a Biden for president sticker on a motor vehicle. Does one get a thumb up and the other get the bird? Does he pull up next to other motor vehicles and do the gray-poupon thing with anyone that has any political statement associated with their vehicle? I am fascinated to see what the person’s daily drive looks like…
With their slightly slurred speech one wonders if they put back a few before hitting the road. At least that was my impression when I first heard the driver talking/shouting.
I’ve had several extreme responses to my very calm, measured, reasonable requests or questions when dealing with people who are readily identifiable to me, outside of traffic situations–for instance, construction workers in company (or agency) gear or vehicles, on the job at a location where are working for weeks or months, or employees coming out of a building where they work. Often I even know their names from having dealt with them before.
When those people are willing to threaten me, drive their vehicles at me, etc. when I know who they are and have the leverage of complaining to their bosses or to their clients, possible even getting them fired, I assume confronting anonymous strangers who know (or think) I have no leverage over them could be even worse. So I don’t recommend it.
My favorite sticker on my commuter bike says “Mean People Suck”. I’ve never been challenged to defend that position.
When I was a kid you could go to the DMV and find out who owns the car associated with a license plate like OR 962 BZY, I understand why they stopped letting anyone just run a plate, but I think it also did give people like this a bit of pause to know how easily they could be identified.
That 114 degrees last summer comment response was gold… “It gets hot in the summertime”. People can be so dumb. Plus, it made it to 116 in Portland! Yeah…116 just happens every year here…
Jonathan – it would be more interesting and instructive – to show this video to a panel of three or four: mental health professional, a cult deprogrammer, and phycologist, etc. and then video blog the discussion.
The ICE motor vehicle operator was definitely ‘communicating’ a real state of disbelief dissonace …this may be the first time he has had more than a 1 sentence discussion with someone with a belief that challenges him….plus simple common anti-bike arrogance (reflecting his internal fear of inadequacy).
And if the driver had lived longer in the PNW / grown up here (or lived without continuous AC access) he would be better aware that these hot periods are abnormal…
I am very surprised that the driver did not have a bigger truck / SUV and smoked out plates.
Discussion was unproductive and needlessly provoked by both sides.
Having said that, the worst crime I saw committed beyond the initial provocation was a violation of the basic rule, “don’t bark at dogs.*
There was no genuine effort to communicate from either side but this was not dangerous and amounts to couple guys blowing off steam in a controlled manner. I say no harm, no foul, carry on.
Regarding the question in the intial post, I have only engaged a few times ever in my life. The roads are rarely the right place for that and interactions are generally kept as boring as possible.
I’ve seen this guy on his cargo bike in SW Portland. He wears T-shirts with in-your-face comments like “Cars suck.”
I’ve also interacted with this driver who also yelled at me from his car window. The guy is clearly nuts.
I don’t think anyone should infer anything from an interaction between a provocateur and a nutcase. Most of us just want to bike quietly and safely to our destinations.
A driver started yelling at me while I was running yesterday. I was on the sidewalk and ignored him until he drove off. I usually never engage with these crazies except I sometimes start repeating their license plate number until they leave.
After years of trying different approaches I’ve come to the conclusion that, regardless of what you say or how you say it, you’ll never change anyone’s mind and nothing positive will come from trying. Winning some petty battle of wits with an idiot isn’t worth the risk they round the block and run you down or shoot you where you stand.