Photo of airborne bike lock in cyclist-driver road-rage incident sparks public advice

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An Oregon woman, her teenage daughter and two bicyclists have different perspectives about what went wrong during a Tuesday evening road-rage incident in Portland, Oregon.

One thing, however, is clear, thanks to a cellphone photo snapped by one of the participants: A u-shaped metal bike lock went flying through the air at one point and the two male bicyclists look backwards at it as they are riding toward a stop sign. An Oregonian article featuring the photo has generated over 1,300 comments.

Janet Lee, whose daughter was at the wheel of the family’s BMW, said she took the photo and has made a police report about the incident. She told the newspaper it began when she objected through her open window, at an intersection, as a man on a tall bike repeatedly shouted at a fellow motorist who was seemingly about to make an illegal right turn. The bicyclist spit at her, and she spit back, Lee said, before rolling up her window.

The man on the bike then kicked a side mirror on the car before riding off, but returned a few blocks later with another bicyclist, according to Lee. Both bicyclists slowed down to force the BMW to a crawl and Lee’s daughter blew the horn at them. That’s when the man on the tall bike threw the lock, which hit the front of the car, Lee said. She got out to pick the lock up, but the man who threw it got there first, she said, and then kicked her arm, forcing her to drop her phone, as she tried to photograph him and the front of the car.

After the original Oregonian article ran, the other man in the photo, David Robinson, contacted the newspaper to provide the other side of the story. He said he happened onto the other bike rider, who he knows but declined to name, who told Robinson the women had been harassing him. The BMW, at that point, began tailgating the two bicyclists with the horn honking, Robinson said.

Robinson said the other bicyclist didn’t kick Lee but rather simply “put out his foot” to protect himself from being attacked, the newspaper reports. Asked about the airborne bike lock, Robinson said: “I agree that it wasn’t the best course of action.”

It isn’t clear from the article what, if anything, city police intend to do about the incident. However, hundreds of commenters have provided a response from the court of public opinion and helped delineate the political nuances of the battle for road dominance between young men on bicycles and seemingly privileged motorists in an upscale, albeit 15-year-old vehicle.

While it is clear that both sides could have done more to stay out of the fray, a number of commenters wanted to see an example made of the man on the tall bike. Many also expressed concern about the obvious safety issues and pointed out that the result could have been much worse.

“Bad behavior all around, but one of the people involved was not a child. That would be the mom riding shotgun and at the very least, not preventing her daughter from honking the horn,” wrote one. “I grew up in rougher city than Portland. My parents always lovingly reminded me that even a 14-year-old crackhead might be packing.

“Of course, the guys felt safe harassing the mom and daughter, and the women felt safe because, well, look at those guys. The bike, the socks … I mean, c’mon.”

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