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A surge in bike ridership spurs a new kind of road rage

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  • A surge in bike ridership spurs a new kind of road rage

    When gas prices surged above $4 per gallon earlier this year, it didn't take Nostradamus to predict that there would be a resultant rush to carbon-free commuting options—especially in a place like Portland, which is known for its ample network of bike lanes. Cyclists in "Stumptown" are spinning their spokes here in unprecedented numbers, trading in their fuel-guzzling SUVs for stylish 27-speeds.

    But the cycling surge has created conflict, as the new breed of commuters bumps up against the old, oil-powered kind.

    First came a drunk cyclist repeatedly smacking the driver of a car with his bike July 6, before a passerby stopped the melee by knocking the pedaler to the ground with one punch (the driver happened to be a longtime cycling advocate, who'd kicked off the altercation by chiding the biker for blowing through a red light.)

    A week later, a drunken motorist drew a tirade from a cyclist who thought the car was driving too fast. The driver tried to run Jason Rehnberg down, only to have the biker land on the hood, hanging on by the windshield wipers for the next block—a surreal scene captured on video by a resident who heard the shouting and brought his camera out to see what was happening.

    The very next day, a cyclist blew a red light and slammed into a pickup truck, which sent the biker to the hospital. The day after that, Adam Leckie and Patrick Schrepping wound up in fisticuffs over Schrepping's admonition to Leckie for riding around helmetless. Leckie allegedly responded by keying Schrepping's car, according to police (Leckie confirmed the keying episode; Schrepping wound up decking Leckie with his own bike lock. Both were arrested on assault charges (neither has a court date yet).

    Finally, on July 18, a man carrying his bike ran a red light on foot to catch a city bus, blocking four lanes of traffic. The driver motioned for the man to get out of the way so the bus could pick him up; the man responded by punching a hole in the bus window and taking off.

    An escalating war between two-wheelers and four-wheelers, brought on by sky-high gas prices? Absolutely not, insist cyclists, city officials and the local newspaper, which has called the hoopla "a war of anecdotes." Injuries to cyclists remain steady even as ridership surpasses record levels, according to statistics kept by the city. Portland was recently named one of two "platinum" U.S. cities by the League of American Bicyclists, and most agree that there's safety in numbers; more pedestrians and cyclists on the road means more awareness and greater caution on the part of drivers.

    But there's also clearly plenty of tension on Portland's streets, and the strange two-week spate of clashes this summer that has people wondering whether the incidents are a sign of further trouble to come. "In 26 years as a cop, I've never heard of a string of facts like this," said Portland Police Sgt. Brian Schmautz. "It's pretty easy to draw the conclusion that there are some unusual influences at work in Portland."

    The numbers of new cyclists on the road are staggering. City officials track the growth on four bridges that cross the Willamette River, connecting the east and west sides of town. Last year, 14,500 cyclists crossed the bridges, an increase of 21 percent over 2006. In May, the number of cyclists who crossed the Broadway Bridge was 24 percent higher than the peak in 2007. Eighteen percent of the vehicles that crossed the Hawthorne Bridge last year were bicycles.

    The surge has by and large been safe. Last year, 29 people died walking, driving or riding a bike in traffic accidents in Portland, said Greg Raisman, traffic safety specialist with the city. In 1996, the number was 59. Injuries to cyclists has remained flat even with double-digit increases annually in their numbers over the last several years.

    In part, that's due to a range of improvements on city streets to make bike trips safer, says Karl Rohde, government-relations director for the 5,000-member Bicycle Transportation Alliance. The Oregon Legislature passed a landmark bill in the 1970s that set aside one percent of state highway funds for bicycle lanes and paths. Portland has 40 bike shops and 150 bicycle-related businesses, plus 270 miles of on-street bike lanes, bike boulevards and paved trails, and 400 bikeway destination signs throughout the city. An estimated 16 percent of Portland residents commute on bicycles.

    Motorists who hit bikers face tough penalties here. In April, a Multnomah County grand jury indicted Johnny Jerry Eschweiler of attempted murder, after his vehicle allegedly ran down two cyclists who were in his way last August (Eschweiler pleaded not guilty). Attorney Christopher Heaps found a rarely used state law that allows citizens to issue citations to drivers after his client, Siobhan Doyle, was struck by a car and hospitalized last October. The police didn't issue a citation to the driver, Lisa Wheeler, but the citizen complaint led to a $180 fine. Wheeler pleaded no contest.
    All this infrastructure and enforcement adds up to a fairly safe environment for cyclists, most agree. So why the recent road rage?

    link, page 2

    http://www.newsweek.com/id/149224/page/2

    Goddamn cyclists, GTFO of the way!

  • #2
    Moon would kick their asses.
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    • #3


      Easier with a Corvette.

      --Bob Novak

      Moon

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      • #4
        I fully admit to being annoyed by cyclers because they're so much slower than cars, and if I can't get around them, well, it's annoying. But I also understand that they are within their rights to bike there, and I just have to patiently wait until I can pass them.

        However - those that ignore the same rules we drivers have to live by? They need to be issued tickets. No, I don't necessarily expect a bike to come to a complete stop at a stop light/stop sign. But they need to at least slow down and make sure there's no cross traffic before crossing - just because you're on a bike doesn't exempt you from having to stop to cross traffic if they have the right of way, dumbass.
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        • #5
          Stay the fuck out of my way and they won't die under my wheels. Fairly simple.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by ChiTownBluesFan View Post
            I fully admit to being annoyed by cyclers because they're so much slower than cars, and if I can't get around them, well, it's annoying. But I also understand that they are within their rights to bike there, and I just have to patiently wait until I can pass them.

            However - those that ignore the same rules we drivers have to live by? They need to be issued tickets. No, I don't necessarily expect a bike to come to a complete stop at a stop light/stop sign. But they need to at least slow down and make sure there's no cross traffic before crossing - just because you're on a bike doesn't exempt you from having to stop to cross traffic if they have the right of way, dumbass.
            I think they should be required to fully comply with stop lights and signs. Yhey want the right to be on the road, they need to comply with the rules.
            Make America Great For Once.

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            • #7
              And then there's this...New York's Finest!

              http://www.cnn.com/video/#/video/us/...ks.cyclist.cnn



              Hey, if he can skate, the Rangers should give him a look.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by Moon Man View Post



                Easier with a Corvette.

                --Bob Novak

                Moon
                Stay classy, professor.

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                • #9
                  The most annoying thing to see is a biker chuggin' away on the fuckin' road when there is a sidewalk right next to him he could (and should) be riding on instead. That shit is notorious in Winghaven.
                  Photobucket

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by STL JA View Post
                    The most annoying thing to see is a biker chuggin' away on the fuckin' road when there is a sidewalk right next to him he could (and should) be riding on instead. That shit is notorious in Winghaven.
                    Riding bikes on the sidewalk is illegal in the City of Chicago.

                    Just saying.
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                    • #11
                      27-speeds.

                      For those who just can't make do with 26.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by ChiTownBluesFan View Post
                        Riding bikes on the sidewalk is illegal in the City of Chicago.

                        Just saying.
                        And in at least 95% of the other cities and towns.
                        Make America Great For Once.

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                        • #13
                          Beats me. I see the normal bikers riding on the sidewalks out of the way of traffic all the time.
                          Photobucket

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by STL JA View Post
                            Beats me. I see the normal bikers riding on the sidewalks out of the way of traffic all the time.
                            but it is illegal in St Louis. doesn't mean it doesn't happen, just that they are wrong for doing it

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                            • #15
                              Saw a bike rider in rush hour the other day on the way home who was a pudgy novice. They were trying to go up a decent incline and weren't strong enough to keep their bike straight and they were swerving all over the shoulder-less lane at a snails pace. It looked pretty dangerous because there was a crap load of traffic on the road at the time - it was the peak part of the hour. I'm surprised she didn't get squished or cause an accident.
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