Yes, it happens to kids on bikes too.
There was the usual anger and frustration when Rob Galanakis shared an incident of driver road rage with a group of bike advocates online last Wednesday. Portland bike riders have become numb to the bad behavior and disrespect shown to them by many drivers. But Rob’s story was different: He was not only raged at, but physically assaulted by a driver — and it happened as he led a weekly “bike bus” ride!
Bike buses are group bike rides to school where kids (and some parent leaders) meet at pre-determined spots and ride to school together. Rob leads the Glencoe Bike Bus, which swings by several schools in southeast Portland.
Last Wednesday Rob posted to the BikeLoud PDX Slack looking for advice. He wanted to know how best to follow up after experiencing road rage on his ride. “We had a driver tailing within a couple feet and honking… He was yelling he’s a special ed teacher and was late,” Rob wrote. “He got out of his car, grabbed my bike, threw it down, and tried to rush back into his car and drive past me.”
Rob, the kids, and a few other parents were riding north on SE 61st Avenue and were about to cross E Burnside when he first heard the honking from behind. He immediately swung into action and engaged the driver in an attempt to de-escalate the situation. Rob credits his experience doing “corking” (when riders stand in front of drivers at intersections to let large groups pass through intersections together) for giving him the training that led to a mostly positive outcome on Wednesday.
“I just cannot get over how absurd this whole situation is,” he shared in our conversation.
When asked if he’ll use this situation as a teachable moment for the kids, Rob said no. “I want to teach them to love being outside and being active and being a good citizen. And this is just teaching them to be afraid. And I don’t want to teach them to be afraid. And I do believe as long as they are smart and prepared, then they don’t need to be afraid.”
While Rob was sanguine about what happened to him, his experience at the hands of impatient/rude/dangerous river is something we hear about far too often. As bike buses have multiplied throughout Portland, a nascent advocacy coalition has formed to lobby the City of Portland for safer streets. They want more diverters to discourage cut-through traffic, more cameras to catch dangerous drivers, lower speeds on neighborhood greenways, and more.
I talked to Rob via video on Friday to learn more and I’ve shared an edited version of our conversation in the video above. In it, you’ll hear what happened and Rob’s advice for other bike bus leaders who might experience the same thing.
— You can also listen to a version of this interview on our podcast. Listen below or wherever you get your podcasts.