Night Bike Runs

Hi all,

Have been reading here for awhile, but first time post here. Want to share some recent experiences with evening bike runs in my neighborhood and welcome thoughts.

So twice in the last 6 months have had potentially dangerous or confrontational interactions with these evening bike parades. Thursday was by far the most dangerous (another one a few months ago was less so).

Driving down 17th about 9 pm, and several dozen bikes (felt like close to 100 but really don’t know) come the other way. There was no posting that the road was closed of any sort that I could see . . . if the road was closed, I would have taken another way.

No biggy, kind of cool actually, but as I am proceeding in my lane in a little electric car, about 15 or 20 of the bikes decided to drive directly towards me in the middle of the lane I am driving in. Some were flat out adversarial, hitting my car as they ride by.

This is dangerous in the day time; but at night it was incredibly so.

So I am trying to understand the thinking about these night bike rides. I can’t really see these people until they are quite close to my car, they are riding on the wrong side of the street; there isn’t a particular safe way to get off the street; and some of them are hitting my car going by.

Does the group of bikers hitting my car think I am in the wrong somehow to proceed down the street? What gives them the right to ride directly in the middle of a lane going the wrong way (particularly in the dark when I cannot really see them)?
Do the bikers safely riding in their own lane condone these bikers riding in the wrong lane hitting my vehicle?

Honestly, it felt a little like the indiscriminate destruction by some protesters we have seen the last year in Portland - plenty of folks in the group doing what they are doing, not harming anyone; but a segment that is deeply adversarial and (I think) clearly violating the law by biking on the wrong side of the street.

For what it worth, I bike a fair amount (well I did until my bike was stolen this summer), and as the handle mentions above, I drive an electric car. Trying to do my (little) part to be responsible to the environment. So not really sure why I am getting targeted by this mob (meaning the 15-20 folks riding in the wrong lane and being adversarial), other than happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

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Sorry you’ve had this trouble. I don’t understand the attitude of those you experienced. Like you said, there was plenty of room for you all on the road. But if you truly couldn’t see them until they were nearly on top of you, then perhaps you were going a little too fast for the conditions (and this is what they were reacting to)? Of course, they should have had lights on the front of their bikes. Did they not – like none of them? If it’s any consolation, a bare hand or fist is never going to damage your car (except for maybe a sideview mirror hit in just the right way). It might make a loud noise, but generally it’s more bark than bite.

¯|_(ツ)_/¯ Next time, roll down your window and offer high-fives?

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Hi. Thanks for sharing your thoughts about this.

I definitely hear where you are coming from. To try and answer your questions:

  • I think some people on these rides get caught up in the revelry and excitement of taking over the street on bikes. As you know, bike riders are typically forced to stay in the gutter-lane and riders are often fearful of their lives - so being in a big group changes that power dynamic and it feels so good it can sometimes go to your head.

  • Nothing gives these folks the “right” to do it. These are unpermitted events. This is just a feature of living in a big city where there are a lot of big group bike rides. They aren’t thinking about safety, they are just having fun (see above).

  • Like all large groups, there’s like a vast difference of opinion among the riders. And yes, some people probably cringe when they see riders doing dangerous/illegal/disrespectful things. These groups are not monolithic.

Thanks again for sharing.

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Thank you both for the comments.

To respond partially to Squareman’s comments - it is possible I was traveling at higher speed when I entered 17th because it can be quite quiet that time of night and honestly not sure pay all that close attention, but I recall slowing down when I saw the group and how much of the road they were taking.

Visibility was difficult because the street has some dark spots and while most of the bikers seem to have lights it seemed some did not; + they are coming at you from different angles and on my right in some spots there are parked cars and some spots there are not, so my room for error varies as I proceed down the street . . . very difficult to perceive where the danger is as a driver particularly when some of the bikers are in their proper lane and then deliberately dart into yours.

Jonathan, your explanation makes sense. I am fatigued with the way the mob rules this town and felt like a portion of the riders were engaging in that kind of activity - really felt like a segment was just trying to bully - fortunately noone got hurt. It was definitely a minority of the riders, but was more than a handful.

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This sounds a lot like my experience encountering the “World Naked Bike Ride” earlier this summer. (Fun fact: there have been numerous WNBRs held throughout the summer). I posted about it here:

More than a few in the crowd were hostile and shouted shitty stuff at me. There was no effective way to express to these folks that I’m a cyclist too, and I barely drive.

I was actually looking forward to participating in some Pedalpalooza events this summer, something I haven’t done much since I was younger. But not if they’re going to be used to intimidate and provoke confrontations in the name of “activism”. In my thread I called this stuff toxic, and I stand by that assessment. It’s completely counter to what their movement claims to be working for.

Since outlets for discussing this stuff are limited, I wish Jonathan would do an article on this behavior. I’m sure he has ways of contacting the organizers of these rides and I’d like to hear what they have to say. Though I wouldn’t be surprised if they hide behind the tired old “there are no leaders!” excuse, rather than adopting even the tiniest shred of accountability for their group.

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Wow, that fits very well experience #2. Experience #1 (some months ago) was all about aggressive blockers, being well aggressive, not even attempting to communicate what they were doing (was in a parking lot, all of a sudden a biker is stopped behind me as a trying to backout; then blocks me again as a try to turn left out of lot while bikers are all going right), or offering a reasonable path for cars to safely escape.

Mob rules I guess and as a driver, if you are in the wrong place at the wrong time, you are powerless. Just shutter at what this means for Portland, but we got bigger problems.

I am curious: Have you ever called upon any strangers in cars driving unsafely around vulnerable road users to explain or justify their actions? I would like to know how that went for you.

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I have yelled at them to slow the fuck down, particularly when there are kids or other pedestrians around (and I say that as an imperfect driver, that occasionally drives too fast myself, although tries not to do so around kids, pedestrians, or bicyclists).

Sometimes it works.

Posted here not because of the one off actions of an individual biker but because of the mob rule of a group of them that is much more dangerous.

Some people believe there are good mobs and bad mobs, when really there are just mobs.

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