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Portland Police arrest woman after she bragged about road rage assault online

Portland Police arrest woman after she bragged about road rage assault online

pj-mugshot

Chrissy Shoaff mugshot.

Roadway assaults between motor vehicle operators and people on bikes and foot happen all the time. They usually don’t end well. This one did. At least for the victim.

On August 27th, Portland resident Paul Jeffery and his friends were trying to cross SE Division near 48th when he was assaulted by a woman driving a car. Jeffery says that about mid-way across the street the woman, “swerved around me close enough that my hand come into contact with the passenger side mirror.”

After that close call he says the woman — who is employed by Uber — turned around and approached him. The two had a heated back-and-forth about what happened and then, Jeffery says, the woman accosted him. She walked up to him, yelled loudly, then tore the $400 prescription glasses off his face, crushed them to pieces, threw them into the street, got back in her car and drove away (despite Jeffery and his friends sitting on her hood to prevent her from leaving).

Paul Jeffery.(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

Paul Jeffery.
(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

Jeffery, who goes by “PJ”, happens to be a citizen activist (we published a ride-along with him in 2012) who helped lead the community response to the death of Fallon Smart and spoke at a neighborhood panel on road safety earlier this week. Smart is the 15-year-old who was brutally run down and killed just a few blocks away by a man who was going twice the speed limit.

Given that, you can imagine how heated his words were with this woman whose dangerous driving nearly cost him his life. However, while Jeffery doesn’t deny using strong language during the exchange, he contends that unlike the woman in the car, he never got physical. He also denies causing any damage to the woman’s car, despite her assertions otherwise.

After the incident Jeffery immediately call the Portland Police and a few minutes later gave his statement to Officer David Arnold.

The next morning Jeffery emailed Uber to report their driver. He also shared several photos with them to serve as evidence of his story (a portrait of the driver, her Uber decal, the lack of damage to her mirror, and his broken glasses).







“I will be pressing charges against her,” he wrote, “and I require your cooperation to discover her name, and to remove her from your list of drivers.” (The police officer couldn’t immediately find the driver’s name because her car had temporary tags.)

Jeffery wanted to make sure the woman never drove for Uber again (or drove anywhere for that matter, “until she understands how dangerous her behavior is”). He also wanted to be compensated for his wrecked glasses.

Meanwhile, Jeffery posted about the incident on Twitter (he uses the platform frequently). He shared photos of the woman and asked the community to help him find her. Sure enough, a few hours after posting the information, Jeffery connected with someone who found the woman’s Facebook.

Her name is Chrissy Shoaff and she boasted about the incident to her friends.

“I ripped an old man’s glasses in half today,” she wrote. “I bet he didn’t see it coming.”

Here are the screenshots:

pj-fb

pj-fbcomments

pj-lmao

With her identity known, Jeffery grabbed screenshots of her Facebook account and sent them to Officer Arnold.

“He was really thankful [for the screenshots],” Jeffery shared with us via email. It was a strong lead. Officer Arnold then met with Jeffery one more time to talk about the case and collect the broken glasses as evidence.

After meeting with Jeffery (now eight days after the incident), Officer Arnold arrested Shoaff. She was charged with Criminal Mischief and Harassment.

Jeffery is now awaiting a court date. He plans to testify and feels confident that his case is strong. And Shoaff will have to pay for his glasses through the victim compensation program.

Shoaff, who bragged on Facebook that Jeffery “didn’t see that coming” before assaulting him, has taken her page down.

Jeffery says it’s a lesson that bragging about illegal behavior on the Internet is not a good idea. “And I bet she didn’t see this arrest coming,” he added.

UPDATE, 4:50pm: We’ve been contacted by Jon Isaacs, Uber’s public affairs manager for Oregon. He says Shoaff was immediately suspended and is permanently banned from driving for Uber.

Here’s his statement:

I want to clarify that Ms. Shoaff was not an employee of Uber. She is an independent Uber Driver-Partner. Driver-partners are not employees of Uber.

As soon as we received the incident report Ms. Shoaff was immediately suspended from accessing the Uber platform. She has since been permanently banned from driving on the Uber platform.

Driver, rider and pedestrian safety continue to be our top priority when supporting Uber driver-partners. We have a zero tolerance policy for any reckless or dangerous actions by drivers or riders.

— Jonathan Maus, (503) 706-8804 – jonathan@bikeportland.org

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The post Portland Police arrest woman after she bragged about road rage assault online appeared first on BikePortland.org.

Collision Chronicles: Roadway assault on North Skidmore near MLK (8/29/16)

Collision Chronicles: Roadway assault on North Skidmore near MLK (8/29/16)

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This story is part of our Collision Chronicles, an ongoing series to shine a light on the steady stream of scary street interactions we hear about but that you probably won’t see covered in the news.

 I never thought I’d be emailing anyone about something like this, but it finally happened to me.

I was assaulted by a driver on my short morning commute, Monday 8/29, around 7:20 am. I was following a driver from the MLK/Skidmore light west down Skidmore and he was driving erratically, slowing as if he was going to turn right several times. I thought he might be a uber/lyft driver, after the 2nd time I tried to go around him and he sped up, obviously taunting me and yelling, “Why the F are you riding my bumper?!”.

I should have turned off the block at the point, but didn’t (oncoming traffic), I figured I’d slow down more and give him space, when all of a sudden he slammed his brakes to a stop and jumped out of the car to grab me (this was between Cleveland and Williams on Skidmore). I reached for my u-lock to defend myself (I had no where to go oncoming traffic, again). now that i was in front of the car I was spooked he would try to run me down so I got off my bike. Big mistake.

He came at me yelling “I won’t have you impose your will on me with that fucking bike, I’m sick of you people” and we yelled at each other for a few seconds and then he punched me in the eye and side of the head quickly, I dodged a few other punches and backed up to try to take his photo and he tried to rip the camera off me. I kept saying “buddy your assaulting me, get back in the car, you’re fucked” etc, he grabbed my lock from me and started swinging that at me, finally was able to break away. I never got a punch in edgewise. he threw the lock at me and he sped off and I picked up my bike. I pedaled to my office, called non-emergency and cleaned myself up. My eye was cut.

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Man says he was doored intentionally on NE Tillamook this morning

Man says he was doored intentionally on NE Tillamook this morning

Riding on Alberta-1

(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

There’s a reason bicycle operators are legally defined in Oregon as “vulnerable roadway users.” We use the streets without all the steel and glass that protects others. And that’s why we take harassment and road rage so seriously. Even when people think they’re just pulling what they think is a harmless stunt like revving an engine or “rolling coal,” they often have no idea just how much their actions hurt and scare us.

BikePortland reader Reed Andrews says he was the victim of a “prank” last night that left him trembling with fear and the aggressors laughing in delight.

Here’s his story:

I got doored by a car intentionally. Just a teenage prank most likely.

Around 1:20 am Thursday I was heading home from work. I checked to see if anyone was behind me as I turned from NE 21st to Tillamook.

A block or two down I sensed this car was super close to me and I wanted it to go away. Someone then got in the back and opened the passenger side door on me. It knocked me off my bike, not particularly violently. And then I yelled at them as they sped away.

I called 911, and as I did they turned around after experiencing the diverter on 16th. I feared for my life in that moment, thinking they were coming back for me. The car then went up 19th, its hissing go-cart like engine haunting me as it drove off. Police came and took down my info. All they said they could do was arrest him for harassment. The car was a beat up and old teal Honda Civic/Accord sedan, I know the difference but the car was so old I am not familiar with the differences in those models. They were from Washington, standard license plate, I think it was AHJK141 but I’m really only certain about the A & the 141 in that sequence.







I’ve never felt so vulnerable, and I guess I’m lucky in that I’ve never been the victim of a heinous crime, just a prank where someone took their car and tried to scare me with it. I wasn’t hurt and other than my chain going off after it hit the street my bike is fine.

I got hit by a car last spring when it turned in to a gas station and didn’t see me. This feels worse if only because whoever those teens are think they can get away with it. The woman who hit me felt bad, she apologized, those teens probably thought it was hilarious that the lame biker yelled and cursed as they drove off. And that sickens me. Hopefully these people are caught, hopefully it never happens again. And if any good can come from this it’s that drivers need to better realize people on bikes are on there, and are vulnerable to any movement their massive car makes, so be careful.

I wrote this in part just to feel better, and it’s at least calmed me. Thanks for everything you guys do.

When I followed up with Reed to ask if we could share his story, he said he won’t let this incident stop him from using his bike. “I’m riding to work tonight,” he wrote, “I’m not letting the bastards stop me.”

— Jonathan Maus, (503) 706-8804 – jonathan@bikeportland.org

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Road rage erupts on Williams Avenue after woman gets called out for distracted driving

Road rage erupts on Williams Avenue after woman gets called out for distracted driving

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Woman accused of road rage on North Williams last night.
(Photo: Jessica Roberts)

An interaction between road users on North Williams Avenue during rush-hour last night turned ugly when a woman driving a car physically threatened a woman who was cycling by swerving her car into the bike lane and then chasing her into a nearby restaurant.

It started around 5:15 pm when Piedmont neighborhood resident Jessica Roberts saw a woman in a white sedan using her cell phone. Roberts told us this morning she first saw the woman on her phone when her car passed her while she was biking in the bike lane near North Stanton (Dawson Park). As usual during the evening rush Williams was completely backed up with auto traffic. Upon passing by the woman’s vehicle a few seconds later (near Fargo Street) Roberts looked at her and yelled, “That’s illegal!” In response, the woman, “Looked up and just exploded with rage,” Roberts says.

“She flung her car door open and left it running in the middle of traffic. I was terrified.”

Roberts doesn’t remember the exact string of expletives that came from both of their mouths but she remembers the woman in the car saying “I’ll get you!” According to Roberts the yelling continued for about three-to-four blocks. During that time Roberts claims the driver of the car swerved into the bike lane she was riding in multiple times. Roberts was screaming the woman’s license plate number. Then, worried that she might forget it, Roberts pulled out her phone and snapped a photo of the car. “That was really what made her super mad,” Roberts recalls.

After Roberts snapped a photo she claims the woman in the car stopped and came running after her. “She flung her car door open and left it running in the middle of traffic.”

“I was terrified,” Roberts says. At this point Roberts claims the woman was yelling something akin to, “You fucking delete that picture you goddamned bitch!”

Seeking refuge, Roberts ran away from the woman and sought refuge inside a nearby cafe. At this point a small crowd had gathered. Roberts says a cafe employeed told her to leave and didn’t want the fracas to impact business. “I refused to leave,” Roberts says, “because I was afraid if I went back out there I would get punched.” Just as the woman entered the cafe Roberts says a woman from the crowd came in and told the woman to get back in her car and threatened to call the police. The driver of the car went back to her vehicle (which had small children in it and was still idling in the middle of rush-hour traffic) and drove away.







Roberts isn’t sure what she’ll do next, but she’s hoping a few witnesses come forward in case she needs to corroborate her story in court. Roberts Tweeted about the incident last night. After posting the license plate number she received a response from a Portland Police officer. 45 minutes after her Tweet was published, Portland Police Officer Dave Sanders replied from the Portland Police Bureau’s Bike Theft Task Force Twitter account. Sanders said he ran the plate number and said he “Would pay her a visit.”

“How do we hold people accountable [for using phones while driving] without endangering our lives and with precipitating a totally pointless screaming match?”

Officer Sanders told us this morning that he stopped by the woman’s house twice last night but she wasn’t home. He has since spoken with her on the phone and is planning to meet with her in person today.

Roberts says Williams is her preferred route home and — before last night — she felt like the recent redesign of the road had calmed traffic down a bit. Her main concern is the larger question of how to deal with all the people she sees using phones while driving. Roberts, who sees people using their phones while driving “every single day” says she knows calling strangers out for their behavior almost never leads to a positive outcome. “I feel really strongly that being silent on this [people using phones while driving] is complicit,” Roberts says. “That makes it acceptable and it’s not acceptable to me. How do we hold people accountable without endangering our lives and with precipitating a totally pointless screaming match?”

Another piece of this story is the underlying tension about race and gentrification in the Williams corridor. The area used to be home to a thriving black community that has been dismantled, disrespected, and displaced after decades of systemic racism. In the past decade the corridor has changed dramatically as old buildings and homes have been demolished for new apartments and businesses that cater to — and attract — a much different, and whiter, demographic. These tensions are what bubbled up during the debate around the Williams Avenue Safety Project. In this road rage case, the woman in the car was black and Roberts (who is white) recalls that during the yelling match the woman said something about the “hipsters that have moved into my neighborhood.”

“She was so mad,” Roberts recalls, “And I bet she drives Williams every day and I bet she’s mad every day. That’s kind of scary.”

— Jonathan Maus, (503) 706-8804 – jonathan@bikeportland.org

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The post Road rage erupts on Williams Avenue after woman gets called out for distracted driving appeared first on BikePortland.org.

Road rage assault leaves man feeling helpless, frustrated and scared

Road rage assault leaves man feeling helpless, frustrated and scared

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Image of the altercation taken by a witness.
Watch video below.

Menacing behavior from motor vehicle users is something that happens all too often. It can take many forms and has varying levels of severity — from annoying and almost comical (like yelling, revving an engine or “rolling coal“) to serious and life-threatening behaviors like aggressive passing and throwing objects at another person.

Reader Jason K. just shared his experience. And we’re sorry to report it was the latter. Jason says he was passed so closely by a man driving a car that the rear-view mirror might have made contact. After that unsettling experience, Jason caught up to the man at a train crossing, tapped on his window, and tried to talk with him. It went downhill from there. Fast.

It all happened this past Saturday afternoon at the intersection of SE 11th and Division.

Jason shared a video with us that was taken by someone in a car who saw the situation unfold.

Here’s the video, followed by excerpts from an email Jason shared with us (emphases mine):

“… The driver in the video buzzed me (intentionally, I believe) so close that his mirror (nearly?) grazed me. I was far enough from the right side of the right lane to avoid being doored, but I wouldn’t say I was taking the lane. Not that it should have mattered as there was very little traffic. When he passed me, there were no cars in the left lane. He scared the shit out of me.

15 seconds later, I rode up to him while he was stopped at the train crossing while a Max train passed. I tapped on his window and gestured to roll it down. He did. I calmly, politely (I only mention that because I was/am proud of myself for keeping my cool and not blowing my top, which I have done before, sadly) told him that he passed me very close and it scared me and asked him to please not do that anymore. He looked at me and said, “You know what bitch? Fuck you.” at which point he punched me in the face through his open car window. I staggered back (I was straddling my bike) and may have fallen into his car mirror (which you can see is broken in the video). Then I punched at him through the open car window…

So at this point he rolls his window back up and starts flooring the accelerator (there are cars and a train in front of him) to smoke his tires and he’s yelling something inside his car and he holds his phone up and I say, “good, let’s call the cops.” I walk to the side of the road and start calling 911 and then the gate goes up and he drives off… I continue on my way to work and after crossing the tracks I notice that the guy is stopped ahead in the middle of the road. He’s waiting for me. Once he sees me he points his car right at me and floors the accelerator and charges at me! Luckily there were other cars on the road that impeded him, and I was able to get to relative safety in the parking lot you see in the video.


He drives into the parking lot, screaming incoherently (I’m calling 911 again at this point), and he spins his car around and hops up on the sidewalk to try and hit me again, then drives the wrong way back towards Milwaukee from the little Powell on-ramp and the circling begins. He keeps doing this for a while. I felt like a bleeding man in a life raft while a shark circled around me. Meanwhile I’m trying to scream my location etc to the 911 operator who can’t figure out where I am. She tells me that there are officers on the way, and finally the insane driver leaves and I tell her where he’s going only to see him come back two minutes later, now going the other direction.

rager-car

Note the broken mirror.

… I see the guy coming back again, he makes a couple more passes, then heads off in a third direction. I call 911 back and update the operator and then finally the officers show up. This is the worst part of the whole thing. I give my statement, honestly. I tell them about the earlier altercation before he flipped out, and one of the cops says, “I’m a bicyclist too and I gotta say you’re lucky; I always want to punch these jerks.” That gave me a laugh, and I thought he’d be on my side, but it turns out that maybe he wasn’t. He asks me what I want to do, as far as pressing charges. He starts telling me how there is no way they could get any charge to stick other than maybe a reckless driving misdemeanor ticket. I ask how can this be, when he was clearly menacing me and trying to use his car as a weapon, and the fact the he punched me totally without provocation. He says something like, “you’re probably thinking of like attempted murder charge, but there’s no way that would ever happen. Gangbangers who walk up and shoot other gangbangers who don’t die don’t get charged with attempted murder. You can’t press an assault charge because you’re not injured. So basically this guy is a jerk and you shouldn’t have tried to talk to him and probably nothing is going to happen.”

I wondered at this point if maybe they were just not wanting to do the paperwork, and asked if that was it and was told that there were there, and going to do the report, but just don’t expect anything to really happen. The second officer makes a “parallel” to what happened by saying how a couple days ago a driver hit a parked car and drove off and a bunch of people called and they eventually caught him and they gave him a reckless driving ticket, to which I questioned how that applied to what happened to me where this maniac was trying to run me down? Then they got kind of irritated with me and I could tell that communication with them wasn’t going anywhere so I made my statement and then they left me there. I had no idea if they had caught the guy, what would happen next, or what to do.

I have been hit before, I have been threatened and harassed before, I have crashed and had bikes fail while riding before, but I have never been afraid to get back on my bike before. After the officers left I was just standing there, in the same spot where the maniac had been trying to kill me, and I felt like a target. Every red car I saw was his car. I felt like I was swimming with the sharks and all I could think was how this guy was waiting for me right around the corner. My wife won’t have a husband anymore. My son won’t have a father anymore. Or worse, he’ll find me, he’ll run me down when my son is on my bike with me. I walked back to the Max and rode that to work. Later that night, after my shift at work (which did a lot to calm my nerves and return me to normalcy) I started to panic when I was riding home, and I couldn’t concentrate on riding because every single car I would see in the dark was his, and they were all coming right at me. I don’t know what willl happen when I need to get on my bike for work tomorrow, but I am pretty sure I’ll be terrified and taking a different route. I no longer feel safe riding a bicycle. I hope this doesn’t last long.”

This stuff really bugs me on many levels.

I forwarded Jason’s email to Portland Police Bureau Sgt. and Public Information Officer Peter Simpson to confirm the incident. I also asked if he could comment on what the community’s expectations should be when something like this happens.

“It looks more likely to be Harassment (misdemeanor) than an assault, due to the victim not having any injury.”
— Sgt. Pete Simpson, Portland Police Bureau

Simpson said the police report is similar to Jason’s account and that the responding officers looked for the vehicle at the registered owner’s address but were unable to locate it. “Based on the report,” Simpson said, “it looks more likely to be Harassment (misdemeanor) than an assault, due to the victim not having any injury.” At this point Jason hasn’t pursued any charges, so Simpson says the case will be dropped. “We can’t prosecute a case without a willing victim,” he added. If Jason ultimately decides to press charges he can follow-up with the responding officers.

As for the road rage itself, Simpson said the PPB strongly discourages people from engaging and/or arguing with other road users in situations like this. “More often than not, emotions are too high to have a rational conversation,” he said. “Seems like there is a general lack of civility when it comes to these kinds of things and nobody ever wants to admit fault.” If you find yourself in this position, Simpson recommends getting as much information and evidence as possible and file a report.

I also showed the video to Charley Gee, a lawyer with Swanson, Thomas, Coon & Newton. He said the driver is clearly violating laws, including careless driving. Gee thinks the police response should have been stronger. “I’d imagine that if it was a police officer that was the person being driven around like that there would be some enforcement.” He also said if Portland is serious about Vision Zero, police need to take this type of menacing behavior much more seriously.

That being said, Gee also said Jason didn’t do himself any favors once he retaliated. “If I were Jason, I would tread a little carefully given his mutual combat role,” Gee said. “I have seen situations where the cops are pressured to investigate and charge and they end charging both parties and let the courts sort it out.”

Another thing hurting Jason’s case is that he wasn’t actually hit with the car in the first place. Sgt. Simpson told us it’s difficult for police to devote resources to “I-was-almost-hit scenarios” when there are numerous other cases of actual contact and crimes in progress they also must attend to.

In the end, there’s no an easy path toward justice. Nor are there easy answers to the many questions this brings up. The thing I focus on is the initial behavior that sparked the altercation — a dangerous pass. Whether the man in the car was aware of how dangerous and scary his driving was, the fact remains that it happens all too often. That’s what bothers me.

— Jonathan Maus, (503) 706-8804 – jonathan@bikeportland.org

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Police investigate after road-rager is caught on camera

Police investigate after road-rager is caught on camera

On Friday around noon a woman in the Montavilla neighborhood was the victim of road rage and now the police are investigating the incident thanks to the quick thinking of a passerby.

Jodi Cullen saw the incident unfold and had the presence of mind to pull out her phone and start recording. Cullen shared video of the alleged road rager on her Facebook page.

The incident involved a man driving a small SUV and woman riding a bicycle at the intersection of SE 76th and Yamhill. In an account of the incident shared by the woman on the bike, the man in the SUV allegedly became upset after she made a rolling stop through the intersection.

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From a message posted the Montavilla Neighborhood Association’s Facebook page, the woman who was riding the bike said the man driving the SUV was approaching the intersection after she had already passed through and, “began honking at me well before he made it to his stop sign.” Then she alleges that he got more aggressive and tried to ram her off the road while screaming at her. In the ensuing moments, the woman admits that she slap the wheel wells of the SUV several times (a fact you can hear the driver mention in the video as his rationale for becoming upset, as in, “she hit me first”).

After several attempts to run into her with his car (“he was relentless in his pursuit of me”), he allegedly tried to pin the woman against his car and a parked car. At that point she jumped onto the sidewalk. The man then continued to scream at her and called her a “slut,” she claims.

Cullen also saw the events unfold and has vouched for the woman’s story.

The woman says “This was clearly a misogynistic, violent act” and added that she has contacted the police and has already pressed charges.

Cullen says she is meeting with the police this week to share a copy of the video and give her official statement.


The post Police investigate after road-rager is caught on camera appeared first on BikePortland.org.

Man claims he was victim of intentional smoke screen from passing truck

Man claims he was victim of intentional smoke screen from passing truck

A tour of East Portland-5.jpg

(Photo by J. Maus/BikePortland)

Getting hassled on the road for no other reason than simply being on a bike is unfortunately relatively common here in the United States. Usually it involves someone yelling at you, or honking, or revving their engine, or all of the above.

But yesterday we heard of a disturbing new method of anti-bike road rage: a smoke screen that sends a huge black cloud from a truck’s tailpipe. We’re not talking about someone intentionally revving their engine and sending a bunch of exhaust into your face (that’s bad enough, and yes, it’s all too common) — what happened to reader John M. Tuesday night was worse.

John says the incident happened while riding near the Mt. Tabor reservoir. Here’s his account:

“I had a weird biking incident last night and I’m wondering if you’ve ever heard of this before.

I was biking southbound on 60th Avenue, near the Mt Tabor Reservoir at about 6:15. Because of the snow everywhere I was taking the lane, but was still pretty far over to the right, and when the oncoming lane was clear (most of the time), southbound cars were going past me with no problem.

This one big burgundy pickup truck, however, swerved aggressively around me and then all of a sudden his tailpipe lets out a huge plume of black smoke. I couldn’t see a thing for a couple of seconds, and almost wiped out, by which time he was a couple of blocks away. I tried catching up to snap a pic of his license plate but there was no way…

… This was a newish pickup. And the smoke belch had a discreet beginning and end, after which his exhaust went back to normal/invisible. I had no doubt at all that this wasn’t just a car belching smoke because of a mechanical problem.

After John got home he did a bit of research online and was surprised at what he found. He said a smoke screen, like the one he experienced, is a weapon used by U.S. Military Humvees in Afghanistan and Iraq. Even more surprising was that aftermarket kits are available to the general public and there are lots of website with advice on how anyone can attach a smoke cloud creator to their tailpipe.

The AutoLoc Smoke Screen Kit is $186 on Amazon.com.

“At a push of a button you can have a huge billow of smoke emerge from your exhaust pipe,” says the product’s manufacturer.

The company behind it says it’s a great way to “add a little more spice to your burn outs.” “Just think,” reads the product description, “at a push of a button you can have a huge billow of smoke emerge from your exhaust pipe. Ideal for car shows and special effects.” The company says their product is for off-road use only and that it’s “not intended for use while the vehicle is in motion.”

While smoke screen products exist, it’s also common to have people in trucks purposefully rev their engine as they pass to accomplish the same effect. I’ve had this happen to me and always wondered if it was being done on purpose or not. Given John’s story, as well as feedback about the issue this morning on Twitter, it seems like common anti-bike behavior. Here’s a forum posting about it that John dug up during his research:

“…The Bicyclists use to just run right down the middle of the lane and not in there Bike Lane… so when the on-comming [sic] traffic would clear I would accelerate let off the gas and build up the compression not to mention all that extra fuel and then punch it right before I would pass them… They (the bicyclist) would completely vanish in a cloud of black soot!… I would watch them emerge from the black cloud of death coughing and hacking all while trying to wave the remainder of the black cloud away from them. All the while trying to stay upright on the bike. I even had one crash. That was the BEST one.”

John thinks what happened to him was nothing short of an assault. I agree; but like many of these type of interactions, proving it to law enforcement and to a judge is much easier said than done.

Have you ever been smoke-screened? Have any ideas on what can be done to prevent it?

Man claims he was victim of intentional smoke screen from passing truck

Man claims he was victim of intentional smoke screen from passing truck

A tour of East Portland-5.jpg

(Photo by J. Maus/BikePortland)

Getting hassled on the road for no other reason than simply being on a bike is unfortunately relatively common here in the United States. Usually it involves someone yelling at you, or honking, or revving their engine, or all of the above.

But yesterday we heard of a disturbing new method of anti-bike road rage: a smoke screen that sends a huge black cloud from a truck’s tailpipe. We’re not talking about someone intentionally revving their engine and sending a bunch of exhaust into your face (that’s bad enough, and yes, it’s all too common) — what happened to reader John M. Tuesday night was worse.

John says the incident happened while riding near the Mt. Tabor reservoir. Here’s his account:

“I had a weird biking incident last night and I’m wondering if you’ve ever heard of this before.

I was biking southbound on 60th Avenue, near the Mt Tabor Reservoir at about 6:15. Because of the snow everywhere I was taking the lane, but was still pretty far over to the right, and when the oncoming lane was clear (most of the time), southbound cars were going past me with no problem.

This one big burgundy pickup truck, however, swerved aggressively around me and then all of a sudden his tailpipe lets out a huge plume of black smoke. I couldn’t see a thing for a couple of seconds, and almost wiped out, by which time he was a couple of blocks away. I tried catching up to snap a pic of his license plate but there was no way…

… This was a newish pickup. And the smoke belch had a discreet beginning and end, after which his exhaust went back to normal/invisible. I had no doubt at all that this wasn’t just a car belching smoke because of a mechanical problem.

After John got home he did a bit of research online and was surprised at what he found. He said a smoke screen, like the one he experienced, is a weapon used by U.S. Military Humvees in Afghanistan and Iraq. Even more surprising was that aftermarket kits are available to the general public and there are lots of website with advice on how anyone can attach a smoke cloud creator to their tailpipe.

The AutoLoc Smoke Screen Kit is $186 on Amazon.com.

“At a push of a button you can have a huge billow of smoke emerge from your exhaust pipe,” says the product’s manufacturer.

The company behind it says it’s a great way to “add a little more spice to your burn outs.” “Just think,” reads the product description, “at a push of a button you can have a huge billow of smoke emerge from your exhaust pipe. Ideal for car shows and special effects.” The company says their product is for off-road use only and that it’s “not intended for use while the vehicle is in motion.”

While smoke screen products exist, it’s also common to have people in trucks purposefully rev their engine as they pass to accomplish the same effect. I’ve had this happen to me and always wondered if it was being done on purpose or not. Given John’s story, as well as feedback about the issue this morning on Twitter, it seems like common anti-bike behavior. Here’s a forum posting about it that John dug up during his research:

“…The Bicyclists use to just run right down the middle of the lane and not in there Bike Lane… so when the on-comming [sic] traffic would clear I would accelerate let off the gas and build up the compression not to mention all that extra fuel and then punch it right before I would pass them… They (the bicyclist) would completely vanish in a cloud of black soot!… I would watch them emerge from the black cloud of death coughing and hacking all while trying to wave the remainder of the black cloud away from them. All the while trying to stay upright on the bike. I even had one crash. That was the BEST one.”

John thinks what happened to him was nothing short of an assault. I agree; but like many of these type of interactions, proving it to law enforcement and to a judge is much easier said than done.

Have you ever been smoke-screened? Have any ideas on what can be done to prevent it?

PSU researcher delving into “multimodal road rage”

PSU researcher delving into “multimodal road rage”

Traffic observations- NE Alberta St-8

Could road rage tell us something
about the gender gap in bicycling?
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

Tara Goddard, a PhD candidate in Urban Studies at Portland State University (PSU), is devoting her thesis to a subject that gets a lot of traction in the media but so far has received scant attention in academia: road rage between people who drive and people who bike.

According to Goddard, her research will focus on the “interactions between drivers and bicyclists,” an aspect of “transportation psychology” research that is largely untapped (most major studies have focused on driver-to-driver rage). Goddard plans to delve into the mechanisms and predictors of driver-rider road rage. “For example, as drivers, we experience (and sometimes perpetrate) law-bending/breaking all the time,” she shared via email. “It is socially acceptable, in many ways. But any scofflaw behavior on the part of a bicyclist suddenly condemns the entire bicycling world.”

Why does that happen? Goddard has a few hunches:

“One likely reason is the view of a bicyclist as a very visible “other,” which stereotype theory tells us makes us want to justify our “in-group” (in this case, cars and drivers,) and vilify the “out-group” (like bicyclists). Another explanation is social dominance theory – a bicyclist represents not just a person in that instance, but a threat to the norm of driving (or driving as a “right,”), and thus the desire to vilify it. The whole “bicyclists don’t pay taxes” argument helps bolster the social dominance idea.”

Another phenomenon Goddard plans to analyze is the psychological concept of “deindividuation” — the loss of feeling like an individual when in a group (Tom Vanderbilt, an author and major inspiration for Goddard’s research, wrote about this concept in his groundbreaking book, Traffic (2008)). Deindividuation, says Goddard, results in a lack of inhibition. “At the extreme, think mob mentality. The relative anonymity and perceived protection (social, not physical) of our cars can can lead to behaviors we would never think acceptable in almost any other situation.”

“Can you imagine tail-gating someone at the grocery store with your cart? Or yelling at someone that vegetarians should stick to the produce aisle? I believe this deindividuation also plays into the reporting of crashes — the whole “a van hit a pedestrian” problem,” says Goddard.

“Before we can fairly tell people to “share the road,” we need to understand why it is that we currently don’t.”
— Tara Goddard

Adding another interesting layer to Goddard’s research will be taking what’s known about why road rage happens and applying it across different types of bike riders. “In the eyes of drivers, not all bicyclists are the same,” says Goddard, “and this leads to different, potentially dangerous behaviors like reduced passing distance (Goddard will look to build on research by Ian Walker). Going further, Goddard will even consider how the appearance, gender and race of a person riding a bike plays into how people behave behind the wheel.

Tara Goddard
(Photo: James Newman)

Why does this type of research matter? Goddard sees road rage — whether just the fear of being a victim, or actually experiencing it — as a deterrent to bicycling. “We experience many micro-aggressions from other drivers when in our cars, but we keep on driving. But one or two bad experiences as a bicyclist or pedestrian, when the mass/speed/power differential is so big, and we may not walk or bicycle again, if we can avoid it.” She feels some of the gender gap in bicycling is a direct result of women being more likely to be “conflict-averse and more cognizant of being endangered.” Goddard says women aren’t necessarily afraid of riding in traffic in general, but that it’s the aggression from people inside the cars that scares them.

If cities and engineers understood what spurs certain people to lash out against other road users, only then, Goddard feels, can we figure out which type of interventions might mitigate those behaviors and improve road safety for everyone:

“We know that interactions between drivers and bicyclists are sometimes, even frequently, negative. The anecdotal evidence is extensive. Yet we do not have a good understanding of the social and psychological processes that explain the relations between drivers and bicyclists, and what that might suggest about infrastructure or programmatic solutions to improve those relations. But before we can fairly tell people to “share the road,” we need to understand why it is that we currently don’t.”

We’re looking forward to Goddard’s work because she isn’t your typical graduate student. Before moving to Portland in 2011, Goddard was the bicycle/pedestrian coordinator for the City of Davis (California) for four years. She also holds a Masters in Civil Engineering from the University of California, Davis and a Bachelors in Mechanical and Environmental Engineering from UC Santa Barbara. Goddard’s mix of real-world experience, training as an engineer, and education from PSU’s vaunted urban studies program could produce some very important work.

Follow Goddard on Twitter at @GoddardTara.

Slapping of car leads to road rage incident in North Portland

Slapping of car leads to road rage incident in North Portland

Bike lane in action

(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

Vancouver resident Don Joling claims he got an unwanted surprise after he slapped the body of a car on North Interstate Avenue this morning. The person in the car became enraged and, according to Joling, it almost led to a shooting.

Here’s what Joling just posted to the Oregon Bicycle Racing Association email list:

I almost got shot on the way home. Literally. I was rolling down Interstate between New Seasons and Fred Meyer and some car came over almost putting me in the sidewalk, so I slapped the rear quarter panel just hard enough to get his attention.

So at the next stop light, at Fred Meyer, I’m que’d [sic] up with a couple other cyclists, and he comes up on my right, and goes ballistic. Tells me that he’s got a gun and is going to shoot me in the leg. I stay super calm, not reacting at all. I tell him I was just letting him know he almost hit me. I can see in his car and the glove box is open with his hand in it. He settles down a little telling me he rides too, but I’m lucky I didn’t dent his car (he had gotten out to look apparently). A couple more standard issue cuss words (ya I’d say them, but trying to keep this family friendly) from him and we went our separate ways.”

Joling said the car is a mid-2000’s VW wagon with Washington plates.

The timing of this incident is very interesting. Just yesterday, a similar road rage story from Seattle caught our attention. In that story, a woman in a car “pulled a stun gun out of her bra” and attacked a man walking across a crosswalk. The man yelled at the woman and kicked her wheel because he felt she came too close to him. (Note that police and media reports claim the man was a “bike messenger” but in a comment on Seattle Bike Blog the messenger himself says he was actually walking in the crosswalk at the time.) The Oregonian then picked up the story and wrote a blog post titled, Pregnant woman vs. bike messenger in Seattle: One more reason why cyclists slapping, kicking cars isn’t smart.

The issue sparks debate because people have different ideas about who’s at fault. There are those who feel it’s never excusable for someone to slap another person’s vehicle and that if road rage results than the person had it coming. Then there are others who feel that sometimes, when you’re vulnerable on the road (not in a car), slapping the car is the only way to warn the driver of your presence. Of course, there are times when the slapping goes overboard and is accompanied by obscenities and other mean things (like spitting).

From my experience, everyone tends to overreact a bit out on the road when they feel threatened. It’s not a pretty sight; but the more you’re aware of how your emotions can get the better of you, the better off you’ll be in these situations.