Trouble in Paradise.

The unsettling road rage phenomenon in marin county

Almost everyone in Marin has a story.  From the pick-up that zooms past your bike screaming expletives out rolled-down windows to the quiet guy living down the street who totally loses it at a four-way stop, Marin County can be a simmering hotbed of tension when it comes to "sharing the road."  Hoodvibe talks to Central Marin Police and Corte Madera CHP about road rage in Marin, why driver/biker frustration seems to spiral out of control, and how to stay safe.

West Marin police are looking for a pick-up who has routinely knocked cyclists off the road on purpose.

West Marin police are looking for a pick-up who has routinely knocked cyclists off the road on purpose.

 

The fact that road rage (and bike aggression) is such a common issue in Marin is an unseemly contradiction to the peaceful, lush, socially liberal attitudes that the county is otherwise known for.  In 2014, a Corte Madera doctor was arrested for shooting (like, with a real gun) his Tiburon neighbor on Paradise drive after a road rage incident over lingering at a red light.  A year later, a Mill Valley couple with three children purposely braked in front of cyclists who slammed into the back of their car after an altercation, and then drove off.  Not exactly great examples of the peace, love and understanding Marinites like to pride themselves on.  

But does Marin really have a higher rate of road rage than other counties? Officer Andrew Barclay of California Highway Patrol (Corte Madera office) thinks not.  "It's a matter of traffic congestion.  Marin isn't any worse than anywhere else, but the higher the rate of congestion, the more incidents of road aggression you'll find."  

Hmmmm.  Sounds rational.  Then again, the very beauty that surrounds us in Marin is a magnet for road bikers from all over the Bay Area, which seems to cause plenty of frustration on both sides.  Police in West Marin are actively on the lookout for a pick-up truck driver who persists in intentionally running cyclists off the road.  It's hard to imagine personal frustration getting to the level where lives are put at risk, all because of a perceived slight or inconvenience.    

According to Margo Rohrbacher of Central Marin Police, the key to avoiding this kind of disturbing situation is a delicate combination of keeping stress levels in check and avoiding engagement after any type of entanglement.  "Using a car as a weapon to inflict damage is a crime," said Officer Rohrbacher.  "Sharing the road can be a challenge, and frustration occurs for both drivers and cyclists. The most important thing to remember is to dis-engage from perceived aggression.  Don't make eye contact, don't respond or retaliate in any way, and if necessary drive to a lighted public place or police station."  

In the case of the Paradise Drive shooting, the aggressor followed the 70 year old doctor and his wife of 30+ years all the way to their house and down their driveway, where he rammed their garage door when they tried to close it. Yikes.

One of the scarier situations is being stuck in traffic or a parking lot where it's difficult to safely remove yourself from the situation.  Officer Barclay's advice?  "Stay in your car!  Even if they're getting out of their car, remain in yours.  Call 911 if you're able, then take out your cell phone and start videoing.  Increasingly we see larger numbers of motorists with personal dashcams.  Having video of this kind of incident removes the, 'he-said, she said' aspect of these kinds of events." 

Above all, be a good person.  "If you cut someone off, give them an 'I'm sorry' wave."  

Sounds easy enough...