Home > Complete Streets, Cultural Movement, Guest Writer, Public Anecdotes > Sharing Streets With Angry People: The Front St. Incident

Sharing Streets With Angry People: The Front St. Incident

NOTE: If you are harassed while sharing the public right of way, call your local non-emergency police number and report it. In Traverse City that number is (231) 995-5150.

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Sharing Streets With Angry People: The Front St. Incident

Hi gang,

I was in a bike-car, angry driver incident last Friday on Front Street as I was finishing up a ride and I’m looking for your input….Here’s what happened:

I had just ridden past Running Fit on E. Front St. and was riding in the right tire track of the right side car lane. I was going the same speed as the rest of the traffic–around 18 mph if I remember correctly. All of a sudden the car behind me starts laying on the horn. HONK!! HOOOOONK! HOOOOOOONK!!!!

I looked over my shoulder and the driver was waving his arm to tell me to get out of the way. I couldn’t have gone any faster, as there was a car in front of me. Again, I was travelling at the same speed as the rest of the traffic. I wasn’t slowing him. I turned my head back around and continued riding, knowing that I was not doing anything illegal, inconsiderate or dangerous.

When we got roughly in front of the State Theater, that car behind me comes right up next to me and begins to pass me. It seems to me that he is really trying to be a jerk and show me who’s boss. If I recall correctly, I initially placed my left hand on the passenger window of his car to protect myself in the case that he were to swerve right and try to shove me off the road with his car. I then gave a solid “bang, bang, bang, bang” on his window as he continued to pass me, again leaving almost no room between us. He was so close that my left arm was bent as I was touching his car…it’s not like I was stretching out to touch it.

As he pulls past me, he moves right a bit, so he is now in front of me. He then slowed down, then sped up, slowed down, sped up a few times as if to try make me run into him. At this point I am staring at his license plate and trying to remember his number. He then comes to a stop, in the middle of the right vehicle lane and gets out. I un-clip one foot from my bike and I’m standing about 4-feet behind his trunk.

Dropping F-Bombs Ain’t Helping Anyone

FYI: Cyclists have the right to all 3-lanes on the one-way Front St. The left, right and bike lane. (photo GLHJR)

He comes right up to me and starts dropping F-bombs left and right, telling me not to touch his F-ing car, to get the F-out of the road and how I didn’t belong in the road, etc. I calmly responded that I had a right to be there and that I wasn’t doing anything illegal, and that I’d stay right there. He kept yelling at me and I just kept repeating myself saying that I had a right to be there. I was very calm in my responses and never once raised my voice.

Then, suddenly he shoved me. I had my right foot clipped in the pedal (left foot on the ground) and he shoved me from my left. I must have clipped out as I tried to catch my balance, because I didn’t fall over, but it was close. He continued to ream me out and finally started walking back to the driver’s side door to get in. As he walked away, I started repeating his license plate number aloud, as to not forget it and he kept yelling at me.

He pulled away, and I pulled off the road and called the cops. The police came, recorded my story, and said they would try to contact the driver.

Initially, I wasn’t inclined to press charges. The guy was an A-hole, but I’m over it. There are lots of jerks in this world, and I can deal with that. BUT, many folks have encouraged me to press charges. Personally, as I already mentioned, I’m over this. But I also feel that, as a member of the cycling community and the broader community in general, that I should do something.

What are your thoughts on this?

Have any of you been in similar situations?

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Thanks – Joel

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EDITOR’S EXTRA: Joel original sent this out to a few of us via email, and I asked him if he’d mind sharing it as a guest contributor to MyWHaT because it is a timely story as we approach the peak season for active transportation. We could use a reminder that the streets are a shared space that we have a right to as people in automobiles, on bicycles and other wheeled tools and, in many cases, on foot–regardless of how angry and hostile someone might be who doesn’t understand that reality. It can be stressful out there, and we should all pledge to try harder to be better; more considerate.

The Pledge:

“I solemnly pledge to behave as considerately as possible no matter how I get around.”

Again, if you are harassed, call (231) 995-5150 (TC) to report it. You may recall last summer’s story by Bill Palladino that was very similar that didn’t result in a ticket or anything, but no one likes getting a home visit by the men and women in uniform. _

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* Graphics by Gary L Howe

  1. Jennifer
    May 19, 2011 at 8:15 am

    Yes you need to press charges. Wouldn’t it be great if the punishment were bicycle training classes and a mandatory bike-to-work for a month!

  2. Will Havill
    May 19, 2011 at 8:20 am

    Press Charges…We need to set the tone downtown..We are a friendly city..to walk in..to ride and to drive. People have to learn to be accountable. You were in the right. Lets reinforce it

  3. M. Hazard
    May 19, 2011 at 8:22 am

    Press charges – Assault is assault
    and hope the judge gives the guy anger management course for punishment.

  4. June Thaden
    May 19, 2011 at 9:46 am

    Definitely, press charges. At a number of points in your account, serious injury could have occurred. Someone, someday, will be hurt by this guy.

  5. johnrobertwilliams
    May 19, 2011 at 10:02 am

    This happened to me on Washington Street last year. Male driver, 60-ish, rotund and dishoveled, turned right (east) onto Washington from Boardman. I was east bound as well, and waited for him to make his right turn. He drove very slowly (under 15MPH) in the center of the street, as though he was looking for an address on a house. I passed him on the right, after watching this for half a block. Then, he sped up, honking his horn and he pulled up along side of me, rolling down his passenger window, yelling & swearing and then swerved directly in front of me to his right to cut me off into a parked car. Then he got out of his truck, leaving his car door open out in the lane. This is in the 400 block, all houses. I had been shopping and my backpack was full…he starts pushing me and yelling. I asked him if he was a police officer, he laughed and said no. I asked him what his complaint and concerns were. I said he was driving in the center of the street, and that I wanted to go faster than him, that’s all. He blew a cork! He tried to push me over, then got back into his truck and tried to run me over. No way did I get his plate number…it was fight or flight time and I was fleeing! It was attempted vehicular assult, if you ask me. I was shaken and spent the balance of the day upset that such a jerk ruined my shopping trip.

  6. nate
    May 19, 2011 at 10:04 am

    i agree the guy should not have touched u…but, i also dont agree with touching, tapping or knocking on a car door , window or what have you…..dont go there, think about it – when you get road rage driving do you knock the other guys car with your bumper….thats probably what pissed him off so bad…

  7. Bill
    May 19, 2011 at 10:14 am

    Please report this incident. A couple years ago a driver slammed on his brakes in front of two cyclists, both hit the car, and one flew through the car’s rear window. Upon investigation, it was discovered that this driver had had run ins with cyclists before, but it hadn’t been reported. That driver is now serving 2-5 years.

    http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-bikers12-2008dec12,0,147065.story

    http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/lanow/2010/01/cyclist-sentenced.html

  8. May 19, 2011 at 11:19 am

    If necessary, we can unsheathe the Tweed Hammer on such scoundrels.

  9. May 19, 2011 at 11:21 am

    The full name of which would be “The Tweed Hammer of Courteous Justice”.

  10. May 19, 2011 at 12:29 pm

    Ugh! Not cool, John.

    Unfortunately, I have the feeling, and am now hearing evidence, that these types of incidents are more common that one may think.

  11. May 19, 2011 at 12:34 pm

    I agree, Nate, the banging on his window was probably not the *best* move I could have made, but, I needed to make my presence known. As he drove by me, intentionally only inches away, I needed to say, “Heads up! I’m right here.” Not to begin a “who started it” argument, but in my view, he initiated the incident as he drove so close by me, and I was merely defending my space, which he had already imposed himself upon.

  12. May 19, 2011 at 12:38 pm

    I’ve “reported” the incident (I think?) when I spoke with the police officer afterward. However, I’m still waiting to hear back from the police (I asked them to get back in touch with me after they followed up with the driver.)

  13. May 19, 2011 at 2:48 pm

    I’ve had the same thing happen on Front Street, and on more than a few roads around town recently, including cars coming well over the white line, forcing me into the gravel before speeding away. Just the other night a red Saturn Ion drove by on the Peninsula and threw a Burger King wrapper with ice and french fries in it at me. Joel, there is something about tapping on the window that wakes people up. Suddenly, you go from being a faceless ‘cyclist’ on the side of the road to a person. As long as you don’t do it angry and don’t do it aggressively, it makes people realize you are there and have a right to your space on the road. Equating that act to ramming a 2,500 pound car into another 2,500 pound car is not entirely accurate. Press charges if at all possible.

  14. Ian
    May 19, 2011 at 3:06 pm

    Hey joel.

    Based on the comments that were sparked on facebook about your incident i would press charges if and only if you can get someone to donate legal counsel. Without a lawyer it will merely be a drawn out battle between you and this guy and the process will consume much of your time and energy. If you get a lawyer to represent you, the guy will probably be scared into behaving better around cyclists even if you don’t win the case.

  15. Jennifer
    May 19, 2011 at 4:30 pm

    Friend just had a bottle thrown at him from a moving vehicle on old mission. Didn’t get the license plate, unfortunately, but we HAVE to press charges when we can if we’re going to educate the ineducable.

  16. Reed
    May 19, 2011 at 8:07 pm

    Bring on the Tweed Hammer! You also should have Pepper Sprayed him. If you still know the license plate….i know a guy

  17. May 20, 2011 at 12:14 am

    Hey Ian,

    From what I’ve been told, I wouldn’t need a lawyer in this case, as the prosecutor would fill that role. If I were to need a lawyer, I don’t think I have the cash for that, and that would answer this whole question right there.

  18. WTF
    May 20, 2011 at 9:45 am

    Drivers seem to be getting more aggressive around here in the last couple years. What is up with that? What amazes me is that they seem to be upset about nothing. They don’t get where they’re going any faster if they have to wait 20 seconds for someone to cross a street or whatever it may be.

    I’ve been in my car waiting to make a turn because someone is walking across a crosswalk and I’ve had people behind me getting angry laying on the horn and yelling out the window. I mean, wtf? So you have to wait a few more seconds to turn, I bet you get to your destination at the same time you would have if someone hadn’t been trying to cross the street.

    But I do understand, there is something about driving that brings out the worst in people. I don’t know what it is, but I do feel it too when I’m driving. It’s a type of stress and aggression that doesn’t make logical sense. I have to work to suppress it when I drive, it’s not easy. Someone having a hard time in their life in other areas I can understand the explosiveness, although in no way do I condone that behavior. It’s totally unacceptable and if you can’t control it you shouldn’t be driving.

    Start carrying cameras with you, take photos and videos of these jerks and put them online for all to see. I guess I’ll start carrying pepper spray too. Crazy that we have to do that in TC. This used to be a nice friendly town, what the heck has happened to us. Must be the terrible economy. Everyone I know is stressed about money and survival lately. Perhaps that is why we are seeing a rise in aggressive driving.

  19. jayson
    May 22, 2011 at 4:17 am

    My initial feeling was of hesitance at involving the authorities, because what good would it do, what would it solve…? And do you really want to involve the authorities? Seriously, for days I have been contemplating this. I have had dangerous run-ins with the heavier than thou vehicles myself.

    At this point I feel like any aggressive behavior should be reported. Most everyone’s got a camera on their cell phone. Even if you don’t, whip the thing out and act like you’re photographing their plate. Bust out a pen and (pretend?) to take their number down on your palm. Be heard, and don’t break the law yourself. And if they are close enough that you can touch them, they are too close. Go ahead and knock to see if anyone’s home. Good luck Joel. And stay safe everyone, whatever you’re mode.

  20. T. Werner
    May 23, 2011 at 9:05 am

    I’ve had to knock on cars several times during close calls. Not just as a cyclist, but also as a pedestrian crossing at stop signs with kids.

    So, has anyone ever talked to an attorney friend about “touching” cars in self defense? No damage is done, just noise.

    Joel – any bystanders involved?

  21. May 24, 2011 at 10:41 am

    Hi T.

    As soon as the guy shoved me, I looked around for witnesses, but in my state of shock, the sidewalks appeared barren, and I couldn’t find anyone to claim as a witness. I’m sure there were witnesses, but I have no idea where they are now.

    Not sure about the “touching of cars”, but I’d like to know as well.

    Anyone?…

  22. May 24, 2011 at 10:49 am

    I agree, WTF,

    There is something that happens when a person steps into the driver’s seat of a car. I notice a certain level of “stress” or “anxiousness” that overcomes me when I’m driving. Small things, like someone not using their blinker, or not proceeding as soon as the light turns green, sometimes create a feeling of, “C’mon!! What are you doing?!” toward others drivers on the road. Maybe it’s the physical confinement of being inside the car? Maybe it’s being confined between a white and yellow line? I’m not sure where it comes from, but I’d hazard a guess, that people might act differently if they were not in their car. I Know I feel MUCH less stress while I an riding my bike or walking through town. For me, it’s actually a stress reliever.

  23. May 24, 2011 at 10:51 am

    Thanks for all the feedback!

    I’m STILL waiting to hear back from the police (1.5 weeks later). And I’m still not sure what my next step is if I want to “press charges”. Do I go down to the police station and fill out a form?

  24. May 24, 2011 at 10:54 am

    Thanks, jayson.

    I agree, that we DO need to start reporting more of this type of behavior. If no one reports it, it will continue to remain a non-issue to the authorities. If more people begin reporting it, hopefully they will see that there are issues that need to be addressed.

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