So, this is downer news. There are two different reports from the past week of people riding bikes being assaulted by people driving.
The most recent report comes from Nina Shapiro at Seattle Weekly, who happened to be on the scene yesterday on Alaskan Way:
SW happened to be on the scene, and saw the driver after he had gotten out of his car and was in the process of throwing the biker–a 40-year-old bell captain for the Westin Hotel named Brooks Groves (pictured above)–against the wall. Then Mr. Bike Rage picked up the bike and hurled it at Grove. Bike Rage jumped back in the car, which had an older man in the passenger seat, and sped off.
The victim, Brooks Groves, described himself as “OK, but a little shaken” after the incident. He later emailed SW with more details of what happened:
So, I am as close to the side as possible, not taking up a whole lane, like some other cyclists do. The car came close to me once–like six inches away, which was way too close, and clearly unnecessary. Then, at the next light, it changed from red to green, so I passed them on the bike. Then the car sped up, and did the same thing again. Clearly, these people have a problem.
So, at the next light where, we met, I came to a stop, and they were there. There where words exchanged between us, and that’s when the driver said, “That’s it–you are done!”
Just as disturbing, he said he reported the incident to a nearby police officer who “only seemed vaguely interested.”
The second assault this week was in Belltown after the Sounders game May 14. Seattle Crime reports that the driver of a black sedan assaulted a man riding a bike at 4th and Lenora shortly after midnight following Saturday’s Sounders game.
From Seattle Crime:
The man told police he riding his bicycle back from the Sounders game just after 12:30 am, when a black sedan drove past him. The cyclist heard someone in the car yelling at him, but couldn’t understand what they were saying.
When the cyclist stopped at 4th and Lenora at a red light, the sedan pulled up next to him, and the driver—who the cyclist described as a “handsome man” in his mid 20s, 6’0, 170 pounds short blonde hair, and clean shaven—got out of the car and punched the victim in the face four times, knocking him to the ground.
The driver then got back in the car and drove off. The victim went to the hospital for stitches.
After the shooting of cycling congresswoman Gabby Giffords in Arizona, there was a lot of talk around the country and within the cycling community about the effect of violent rhetoric in the media on the actions of people on the streets. We shared our thoughts on the topic, too. When you have people on the radio shouting about the “bike nazis” and framing the request for safer streets as a “war on cars,” you can’t help but be concerned about how some already hot-headed or unstable people might react.
The streets of Seattle are not war zones. The media in this city needs to stop using such outrageous metaphors for what boils down to debates over safe and efficient road design standards (and I’m not just talking about Dori Monson). Groves was not biking down Alaskan Way to make a statement about the rights of cyclists on the roads or to make drivers feel guilty for burning gas. He was headed to the ferry to go on a ride around Vashon Island and enjoy the sun.
This type of violence is completely unacceptable. However, I would like to see Seattle bicyclists exercise some common sense when sharing the road with drivers. An example: I drive to work everyday and cross the BG trail, it is the EXCEPTION that a bicyclist stops before crossing, even though there are stop signs clearly posted. Ridiculous. If you can’t follow the rules of the road (on your bike, or in your car) stay off it!
Which point of the trail are you talking about? Is there a crosswalk? The law states that a cyclist in a crosswalk is to be treated the same as a pedestrian in said crosswalk (meaning: Person on the bicycle has the right of way). That said, I certainly encourage anyone on a bicycle to exercise caution and be courteous.
Further reading from: http://www.washingtonbikelaw.com/amicus_personae/printer_layout/printer_bike_law_washington_state_different.html
Seattle’s SMC 11.44.100 gives bikers using crosswalks “all the rights and duties applicable to a pedestrian under the same circumstances”, meaning that motor vehicles must yield to bikes.
Bicyclists shouldn’t be too bold with this law, however. SMC 11.44.100 also requires bikers to yield to pedestrians in the crosswalk and says “No person operating a bicycle shall suddenly enter a crosswalk into the path of a vehicle which is so close that the driver cannot yield safely.”
The BG crossings are tricky (thinking of 70th and 65th here, as most others have lights, and the rules are more clear, or they are glorified driveways and the rules are the reverse of common sense). 95% of the drivers slow at the crosswalks and wave bikes and peds through, often getting a bit impatient if a bike does come to a complete stop, and that slows everyone down. 4% speed up, and act like the cross walk doesn’t exist, and 1% floor it while laying on the horn, catching air on the crosswalk and flip off anyone who looks sideways at them (like the lady in the Audi did in front of my boy’s preschool 2 weeks ago).
90% of bikes slow to see if it’s clear, and then proceed if a car is slowing to let them through. 5% come to a complete stop, and 5% blow through without touching the brakes.
Clearly, the consensus is cars should stop and bikes should slow then proceed through, once they make sure it’s clear. This also makes the most sense for all involved, and keeps traffic on both the road and the rail moving smoothly. I wish it were codified as such.
For what it’s worth, the BG crossings throughout the UW favor cross-traffic. All the ped crossings adjacent to the Montlake/Pacific overpasses are marked such that bike traffic is to yield. The road crossings just east of the University Bridge are bikes-yield. And the 2 street crossings not at intersections (PendOreille & Brooklyn) have stop signs for the bikes on the trail. I’ve seen cyclists ticketed for not stopping at Brooklyn by UW police a few times.
I don’t assume any car will ever stop for me regardless of the law. I think bikers who put themselves in danger in defense of abstractions like rights-of-way are naive. I can always spot these newbies smarting off with their lane positioning, speed, and deference to the car regime.
I won’t take a large lane if I have an alley, sidewalk, urban trail, or bike lane. I don’t want to inhale asthma-inducing exhaust. I won’t trust any stranger piloting a bone-crushing cage of metal.
I don’t think bike rage drivers understand that biking gives me adrenelyn. I won’t stand stunned when Mr. road rage comes for me. He’s driving a weapon. My primary plan is to hoop him with my frame and knock him to the pavement and neutralize the attacker. Or just drive at him leading with the crank. I’m vulnerable and will attack to survive. I will defend others as well.
The point that the streets aren’t a war zone and that most cyclists aren’t out riding to fight anyone’s political battle is lost on so many of the news outlets that cover these stories. In most news outlets it’s a story about a mayoral appointment, which is plain silly. An assault like this doesn’t happen against the backdrop of bike-vs-car tension, it happens against the backdrop of a person trying to get somewhere. That’s such an important part of this post, thanks for it.
The reason these stories are a rallying point for cyclists is that so many of us have been targets of deliberate aggression on the roads. I certainly have. Of course, it’s also true that our adrenaline is going and that some perceived acts of aggression are really mistakes. It *feels* really personal when a car gets in your space, and the outrage doesn’t diminish when you knock on the window and the driver says she didn’t see you (this happened to me). Our demand, ultimately, is not just that drivers refrain from outright aggression, but that they drive responsibly and take absolute control of their vehicles. But how many people are so expert at driving that they really have the sort of control we have over our bikes? One of my friends refuses to own a car for this reason — he doesn’t feel he can meaningfully take responsibility for its maintenance and operation. Few will go his route. I haven’t. If I drive daily for a while I start to gain this sort of mastery over my car, but I don’t usually drive daily. The mastery we demand of them is part of what’s at the heart of the conflict between the perfectly reasonable drivers and the perfectly reasonable cyclists.
But here we have stories of a couple of drivers that aren’t perfectly reasonable. It’s a completely different danger than most of the ones we face daily. Most of the drivers getting riled up on the Internet aren’t these guys. Most of us aren’t the dude that will break any and every law of traffic on a bike just because we can. We’re all just people trying to get around.
I cross the BG at Brooklyn every day. Cyclists are supposed to stop before entering the crossing (the stop sign has flashing LEDs embedded into it). I frequently see cyclists bomb right through without slowing even, which is a bit scary given that cars do not always yield to users in the crosswalk. It’s not just oblivious college kids – the Freds on their carbon bikes are a problem too.
Brian: my understanding is that the University of Washington installed those flashing stop signs without consulting city traffic engineers (the UW administers that part of the trail). So they’ve created a no-win situation for cyclists: you either abdicate your right of way–and have a driver wave you through 90% of the time–or take your right of way and violate the sign. It’s frustrating for everybody.
I agree that all of us are simply trying “to get around”. But I continue to be baffled, frustrated and sometimes angry at the lack of etiquette shown by some cyclists. (BTW I ride more often than I drive). Commuting home on my bike last night, I saw riders run reds, pass on the right (which is nearly inexcusable), and taking cuts in line in front of cars at a stoplight. Why is it so hard to consider yourself someone who is operating a vehicle? Ride like you would like cyclists to ride around you if/when you are driving a car. Make yourself visible. Assume that drivers do not see you. Give a wave to those drivers who are kind and courteous. Riding in the city has different rules than the Tour de France.
@Harriet D, Brian: These stories have nothing to do with many cyclists’ suicidal notion of road etiquette, nor with the negligent oblivion of many drivers. These stories are about a couple of maniacs with serious anger issues who are fortunate not to be awaiting trial. They happened to be driving cars; well, most people on the road are driving cars.
The stories feel more connected than that for a number of reasons, so we get comments about bad driver and cyclist behavior. But it’s just not the point. Nobody got beat yesterday up over the completely baffling right-of-way situation at Burke-Gilman crossings, or that cyclists run red lights sometimes. I could write a novel (or at least a novella) about right-of-way issues on rails-to-trails projects and running red lights but it’s just not the point here.
ulocks – not only a great investment for keeping your bike from being stolen, but also a handy self-defense tool.
I had a guy on a harley yell at me, ‘Drive a f&*king car’ as I was stopped at a light waiting cross traffic. Thought that was kind of funny coming from someone else on two wheels that has to deal with cars. Guess it’s all kinds.
it’s sad to see the double standards people apply to cyclists. First, people are saying “i can understand the random attacks because the other day I saw a cyclist not stop at a stop light.” I think that’s a disgusting perspective lacking in human compassion or intelligence.
The hypocrisy is that motorist blatantly break rules constantly, and people could list ad infinitum all the times when they saw a motorist breaking rules, and were a much higher danger to people in terms of risking injury and death. But people want cyclists to be perfect, as if motorists would start treating cyclists with respect at that point. It’s laughable.
It’s pretty clear to me from a lot of these responses that “perfectly reasonable” drivers feel attacked when articles like these go up. They feel cyclists use them to say, “Hey, look, we’re the ones in the right here!” They feel they have to circle the wagons and say, “We’re not all in the wrong, and you’re not all in the right.” Though the cyclists in these incidents weren’t riding to address anyone’s politics, the stories written do address people’s politics (with the exception of, say, this blog post, and similar), and elicit the predictable, ugly responses.
Personally, as a motorist, I’m just scared to death I’m gonna hit someone on a bike. I think other motorists are scared about this as well, and that fear is perhaps turning to anger. All I ask is that cyclists stop at stop signs and lights. I’m sure it’s a pain in the ass, but is it worth getting run over for?
I need a bicycle for two people paddling
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