Today’s installment of Ask BikePortland deals with a problem I wish wasn’t so common. More often than I’d like to report, I get emails from people who have been harassed by someone driving a car. And many of them wonder the same thing: “Should I report it?”
Reader Eugene G. said he was “just an average bike commuter going to work” yesterday morning when someone cut a curve too close and veered into the bike lane. When they met at a red light a few blocks later, things got ugly.
Here’s more from Eugene’s email:
“I was riding southbound over the 20th/21st Street bridge [over I-84] when a car nearly clipped me off the road by cutting the curve through the bike lane. Putting up my hand so they can hopefully recognize what just happened, I was immediately flipped off by the passenger.
I knew I would see them shortly because the light is guaranteed to be red on Stark. As I roll up to let the driver know what just happened, her son was already up in arms cussing me out and many other nasty things about riders and my bike. Letting them know what happened was not on the breakfast menu for sure. He kept trying to get out of his car while I was pushing the door back shut, finally I said screw it and grabbed the plate number (066-CTT) knowing this was going no where except downhill. The kid got out kicked my bike a few times with more awesome words and as I was riding off decided to throw his drink on me.
I realize there is a good amount of irritation towards bikes and vice versa, just curious if this should be reported or should I let it go?”
“If someone calls in a road rage and an officer is in the area, they can pull that person over and investigate further.”
— Capt. Dave Hendrie, PPB Traffic Division
Let it go? Heck no Eugene! But don’t take my word for it. I asked Portland Police Bureau Captain Dave Hendrie what he would do.
“They should call that in,” Capt. Hendrie says. “If there’s injury or damage to the bike it’s a hit-and-run, it’s a crime.”
Hendrie says it’s up to each individual to decide whether or not to call 911 or to call the non-emergency line (823-3333). Either way it’s very important to call things like this in, because the dispatcher will broadcast the information citywide. “If someone calls in a road rage and an officer is in the area,” Hendrie says, “they can pull that person over and investigate further.” He added that, while the report won’t always result in action or a consequence, the information itself is important.
It’s also important to report incidents so the Bureau has a record of how often this type of behavior happens. Another thing to consider is that, while your interaction might seem minor in the grand scope of things, the person who road-raged you might do something more serious a few blocks later. If that happens, and your call is on the record, it will help the police (and perhaps eventually the DA) build a successful case against the suspect.
Back to the question of using 911 or the non-emergency number, or whether it should be reported at all, Hendrie gave me some examples to help guide your decision. If you’re just verbally harassed or flipped off, it’s probably not worth reporting. If the person yells and crowds the bike lane and/or revs their engine you should call the non-emergency line. If the person does all that repeatedly, and goes further to threaten you such that you feel endangered and/or makes contact of any kind, it’s time to call 911.
Hopefully you’ll never need to know this stuff. But if you do find yourself in this situation, stay calm and consider calling it in (it might be a good idea to keep 503-823-3333 on speed dial).
Have you ever been in a situation like this? Please share your experiences.
— View past Ask BikePortland columns here.