(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)
I hate to do this.
I get a lot of emails, Tweets, and sometimes even phone calls about collisions, close-calls, and other scary incidents involving people on bicycles. The vast majority of the time I just take in the information in and do nothing about it. After all, there’s a lot of traffic out there and I don’t think every time a person on a bike has an unfortunate experience it merits a blog post.
Not only that, but I constantly debate with myself whether posting about these things will only create more fear among readers, when overall, riding a bike is not dangerous.
However, earlier this month I received three emails in less than one week that shared three different and equally troubling road rage incidents. Given that, I felt that the community should know. I’m sharing the emails verbatim below in hopes of raising awareness that intimidation and harassment remains a part of Portland’s transportation culture:
From Bryan P. on March 1st:
“Normally I have a few inconsiderate drivers but this past week I have had a rash of them, from the 1930’s truck that passed too fast/too close, the FedEx truck that sat behind me and revved his engine and honked, to the guy last night that passed me while speeding on 21st Ave, then pulled in front of me cutting me off with only a foot to spare, then jumping out and threatening me for getting too close to his vehicle.
This last episode has made me very upset and wanting to know what to do about the problem. I wish that Portland had the road rage law that Los Angeles put in.
I think the funniest one that I had was a driver that yelled at me on 21st Ave again, must be Conway employees, that called me “You Obama lover” as he sped past me at well over the 20 mph speed.
As a disclaimer, I take the lane in most circumstances given the right hook problem and the parked cars on most streets in Portland. Unless I have a bike lane I tend to ride toward the middle of the lane so cars have to go into the other lane to pass me. I feel that this action, which many bicyclists do not do, irritates drivers who feel that they have the right to go at any speed on any street.”
From David S. on March 5th:
(Photo: David S.)
I live up in the Woodlawn area and I was riding home from work downtown this evening. I had just turned off of Williams and on to Dekum. A few blocks after I had turned on to Dekum I was hit from behind by something. I thought at first it was a glancing blow on from a car rearview mirror because I heard a car approaching me at the same time. Then I saw something fall in front of me (See attached picture) and a white Ford F-150 pass me with it’s passenger window open. For a split second I thought it had fallen out of the car, but as soon as I realized that was very unlikely. Since I hadn’t fallen over or was not hurt my next reaction was get a license plate number (looked like a WA plate).
The truck had slowed down a bit, but as soon as i started riding faster towards it, they sped away. I gave chase around the block as they tried to lose me, annoyingly they had enough of a head start that I could never get a plate number.
I’ve been commuting to work for 5 years, racing and training around Portland for 3 years and I’ve never had anything like this happen. It’s not going to stop me from riding to work tomorrow. But it really is frustrating.
I would be interested in seeing if more riders in that neighborhood have had something similar happen especially if it’s been a white Ford F-150.”
From Aixe D on March 6th:
“[Subject line:] Warning to cyclists – dangerous, malicious driver
If you have a way to pass this on to Portland cyclists, please do: beware of a white Ford Econoline panel van, Oregon plates VBC-162, Newberg on the license plate frame, “Cornilles for Congress” bumper sticker. On my commute through downtown this morning the driver tried to intimidate me by gunning motor and screaming out the window, then edged into my lane and squealed away moments before I was going to ditch my bike. We’re lucky not to have that many idiot drivers in Portland, but this one seemed furious for no reason (I am a ridiculously law abiding cyclist), and his behavior was dangerous.”
Again, I hope these incidents do not paint the picture that it’s always a war-zone out there. It’s not. But it’s worth noting that our reputation as America’s most bike-friendly city often contributes to the myth that things are always kumbaya out there. Even I’ve dismissed those anti-harassment ordinances that are popping up in California as not necessary here in Oregon. Maybe I’m wrong.
What do you think? Should we consider these three incidents anomalies? Or should Portland — where it’s hard to go anywhere in town without driving next to someone on a bike — do more to deal with road rage?
NOTE: As pointed out by Ted in the comment below, if you experience something like this, please call 911 (if you’re able to do so as it’s happening). Or, once you’ve had time to catch your breath, report it to the Police via their non-emergency number (503) 823-3333. It’s important for the Police to hear about the incidents and tally them up in their database. Also, if you call something in, and the offender does something else further down the road, your call will help the Police build a stronger case against them.