It’s Time To Get Past Rage

What happens when the hostile rhetoric we see in local media leaves the page and comes to life on the streets? I had the misfortune to experience it first-hand yesterday.

I was intentionally hit by a motorist, who used his car to push me and my bike out of the way while I was stopped at a light. The situation escalated when one of the occupants of the car got out and threatened me. Thankfully, nearby pedestrians intervened and the assailant got back in the car and fled. I was shaken and angry but otherwise unhurt; my bike was not so lucky.

This morning I discovered there were two other reported assaults-by-car yesterday (see here and here). UPDATE: Two arrests have now been made in the second incident. And we know there are lots of other acts of violence against bicyclists – we’ve all heard about them from friends or online.

How did we as a society get to a point where people find it acceptable to use cars as weapons, not only against other drivers, but against bicyclists and pedestrians who are far more vulnerable? It isn’t even difficult to understand that what might be a minor fender-bender between cars can be life-threatening between a car and a bike, yet these incidents are more and more common. I urge everyone (drivers, bikers, and walkers alike) to slow down and respect each other as people – that is the single most important thing any of us can do to avoid danger, de-escalate conflict, and protect ourselves and each other from harm. Slowing down gives you time: time to spot potential danger and avoid it; time to think about the possible consequences of an otherwise impulsive action; time to realize that it really isn’t worth risking your life or someone else’s to get somewhere a few seconds faster.

The police are investigating the attack on me, and I expect that arrests will be made. I have no idea what motivated my attackers, but this was a crime, and I am committed to pursuing this to the full extent of the law. MassBike will keep working to ensure that the system works to protect bicyclists and that motorists who intimidate and endanger bicyclists are held accountable.

Many of us have experienced incidents like this to varying degrees, ranging from cars “buzzing” us too close, to things thrown at us, to physical or verbal confrontations, or worse. We cannot let these things slide – we need to report them, so that the community and the authorities know they are happening. If you are a victim of road rage or harassment, please call the police and pursue charges. If you need help, call or email us, or look here for more information.

, , , ,

15 Responses to It’s Time To Get Past Rage

  1. Patrick Allen September 14, 2011 at 6:06 pm #

    What scum! I hope they are prosecuted and have their licenses revoked. Could be a good argument for a helmet camera, in order to record the truth about road-ragers and capture license plate numbers.

  2. David September 14, 2011 at 6:29 pm #

    I did get a picture of their license plate. It’s a good thing to do, but you have to be cautious – when they saw me taking pictures, the guy got out of the car and threatened me. I was also lucky that there were witnesses who could confirm what I told the officers.

  3. Matt C September 14, 2011 at 8:37 pm #

    You’re a better man than me. I would have picked up my bike and thrown it through the car’s windshield. Self defense.

  4. matt September 14, 2011 at 10:30 pm #

    “You can’t fix stupid.” -Ron White

    Hope the bike is repairable at least. Glad you are OK.

  5. pocky September 14, 2011 at 10:46 pm #

    David: Not just two, I’ve got a third for you. Monday night, I was cut off by a driver who I then yelled at for cutting me off, and he then stopped in the road, exited his car, and actually physically attacked me. I got his plate, called 911, and charges are being pressed.

    Matt C: Throwing your bike through the car’s windshield is not good self-defense when the car could subsequently run you down.

  6. Charlie September 15, 2011 at 11:39 am #

    I don’t know if it’s a coincidence of not, but it’s interesting that a week or so after the Boston Herald published a slew of hateful articles against bicyclists, we are seeing what appears to be an increase of incidents where motorists are harassing bicyclists with aggressive driving and verbal and physical threats. I think free speech is great, but when you incite violence in people, that’s a definite problem.

  7. Mark September 15, 2011 at 3:43 pm #

    Assaults are indefensible, but in one of the cited cases, the cyclist was an innocent bystander who failed to get out of the way of the two fighting, Providence motorists who knew each other. I suggest getting out of the way of fights and enraged individuals, along with safety vehicles when they try to get through.

    “Traffic calming” devices and 4% expansion of roadway to meet 90% increased demand all produce frustration, fuel waste, and more greenhouse gas production, not tranquility for drivers or cyclists. Most of the advocated mobility impediments even show no accident reduction! Insufficient transportation facilities to move goods, services, and people efficiently keeps Boston from growing like areas in the south and west. Only Silicon Valley seems to defy the effects of clogged roads and high property costs.

  8. David September 16, 2011 at 12:15 pm #

    Mark, we welcome opinions about infrastructure, but your comment is somewhat off-topic to this post and verges on blaming the victims. Please see our Comment Policy at http://www.massbike.org/aboutus/comment-policy/.

  9. Joanne September 18, 2011 at 8:48 am #

    Nothing can excuse that driver’s behavior, but arrognace goes both ways — I’ve seen many cyclists who ride, almost defiantly, side by side on busy,narrow commuter roads, or in the road even where there are designated shoulders. I love riding my bike and cherish those rare stretches where I don’t have to be conscious of traffic, but where there is … I’m aware that I can’t depend on everyone to be courteou. Courtesy goes both ways.

  10. pocky September 20, 2011 at 3:08 am #

    Joanne, riding side-by-side (“two abreast”) is not only perfectly legal in Massachusetts, but is also frequently the safest option by far, even safer than the second-safest option of a single rider assertively taking the lane — EVEN if there are designated shoulders or bike lanes. This prevents the dreaded “right cross,” which is the most common way for a bicycle to get hit by a car, as well as a host of other types of collisions. Please inform yourself by going to http://bicyclesafe.com and reading about the right cross, the right hook (types 1 and 2), the door prize, the red light of death, and the rear end — ALL of which can be prevented by riding “further to the left”!!!

  11. Mark September 20, 2011 at 4:33 am #

    As a motorcyclist, a basic lesson taught in rider training is to keep an eye on your mirror for vehicles that might rear-end you at stop lights. Always stay in gear at lights. Let out the clutch and get out of the way if it looks like the vehicle approaching will hit you. This is an example of cross training that can save cyclists lives. I’m sorry if what is basic to me as a motorcyclist came off as critical of cyclists.

    I’m against road narrowing and excessive sidewalk widening as it removes road space for us to all get along. It also raises frustration and tempers that isn’t healthy for anyone. Sidewalk widening mostly benefits design and construction companies, landlords, and developers, not users or poor who can’t afford increased rents. Central Square was not made safe by such road removal.

  12. Adam Sacks September 23, 2011 at 1:37 am #

    I would like to encourage everyone to look at http://bicyclesafe.com that Pocky recommended. Some of the most sensible bike safety stuff I’ve read anywhere.

  13. baiskeli September 23, 2011 at 11:41 am #

    I ride to work (Arlington to Boston) most days in late spring, summer and early fall. I’m sad to say that while things are much better than they were 10 years ago, they’re still not perfect. I’ve been cut off in bike lanes, and last week a young driver, while on the phone, decided to do a high speed U turn on Beacon st in Cambridge/Somerville, and ended up driving into the bike lane on the other side and almost taking out a cyclist (I was right behind that cyclist and have to commend him for his quick reactions or he would have ended up pinned between the U turn car and a parked car). And the driver of the U turn car, not even fazed, didn’t even get off her cell phone.

    Last week, on Mass Ave (where it crosses approaches route 16, while approaching that intersection, I was in the right lane when a driver to my left in the left lane decided they needed to get into my lane. No signal, she just swerved into my lane, almost sending me into the sidewalk/parking meters. I caught up with her and knocked on her window, and politely told her she should be more careful and use her signal, and she gets belligerent.

    I’ve actually changed my route home a bit, I used to ride home over the Longfellow, but its under construction and down to one lane. Most drivers are fine waiting 10-15 seconds for me to get past that section (it’s narrow enough that only one vehicle can fit) but I’ve had others who honk and curse, and a few who essentially try to force their way past me and force me into the barriers. After a driver in a sports car decided to ‘teach me a lesson’ and buzz me (with 3 inches of space) at 50mph (I heard the car behind at quite a distance, heard him rev up and had to scoot over to the side to avoid getting rammed), I stopped using that route and now cut through Park St and go down Beacon St to Mass Ave in Back Bay.

    I want to see more enforcement from police against aggressive drivers (and of course, against cyclists who jump lights). THe bike infrastructure has improved, but I feel that the driver attitude hasn’t.

  14. Donna Janis September 23, 2011 at 2:39 pm #

    I question the wisdom of anyone on a bike, no matter aggrieved, knocking on a driver’s window to inform her of her apparent transgression (or, for that matter, by anyone yelling), whether driver or bicyclist.

    Car drivers usually “speak” their upset by sounding their horn. This is far less personal than an aggressive knock on a car window–an aggressive reaction guaranteed to quicken tempers. If a driver were to exit his car and knock on the other driver’s window to inform him of the error of his ways, an escalation of attitude would be inevitable. I wonder if you would have knocked on the window, Baiskeli, if the driver had been a man? It’s not surprising the woman driver reacted “belligerently”–she was probably scared, as any woman would be by an angry righteous man banging on her window. I do understand that she was initially in the wrong. So, get a horn or sound your bell to make your point, and keep going as most drivers do when confronted by stupid road maneuvers whether by cars or bikes.

  15. Rebecca Albrecht September 28, 2011 at 11:12 am #

    I use my air zounds air horn when cars do dangerous maneuvers around me. It has protected me from a car backing out of an alley into me, cars opening their car doors and cars pulling out of parking spots to name a few. It works every time.