Didn't I just blog about this very thing?

T.A. Barnhart

When people hear the words "I was in a bike accident," they expect the worse — and how sweet and sensible of them do so. Bike accidents are to feared, because they can, and too often do, result in the worst. And if they only create a small amount of that worstness, as in my case, it's still plenty bad.

t.a. in the ERBad, as in lots of pain. Which it pretty much comes down to: a car hit my bike and I suffered (and continue to suffer) lots of pain.

Details, with profanity removed; simply throw in an f-bomb here and the s-word there, and it'll be as if you were there. I handled the accident fairly well, keeping good humor throughout — although laughter continues to be a not-so-good thing, what with cracked ribs and all — yet I did not abandon my constitutional right to express my reactions as I saw fit: ie, cussing and joking. I'm just weird that way. (If you're already bored, adios. Catch me on a less-personal rant another time.)

It was approximately 8:20 pm, last Tuesday (Dec 9th); I had just been at a meeting at DPO Headquarters and was heading home. My bike had front and rear lights — the front lights having been charged just that afternoon — as well as side and front reflectors; my Bell Citi helmet had reflective tape; and my clothing that included reflective materials. In short, I rode defensively, doing my best to be seen by anyone on the road that night.

I started home by going south on Sandy Blvd where it swings south-west below Burnside. At SE Washington, Sandy becomes SE 7th, and this is a route I frequently ride. There is a bike path all the way to Hawthorne, traffic lights and decently lit (for non-downtown Portland) intersections. And by this time of night, the street is little-used by automobile traffic, another attractive feature (MLK and Grand taking the brunt of traffic flow). So this part of my ride has everything a rider needs to avoid an accident. In fact, to have an accident, you have to work pretty hard and make it an "on-purposement."

I make it a point to avoid both.

But on that evening last week, all my attempts to stay safe proved fruitless. And not that I am glad for an opportunity to emphasize my point with my own experience — sweet jesus that is about the last thing I wanted — I will take this opportunity to say: I told you so.

my accident route, or the highway to hellHere's what the intersection looks like courtesy Google Maps & their very useful "street view".

I was in the bike lane on the right, moving at a fair clip thanks to the long descent I had just come down, but I was well within the bounds of safety. The road was wet but not slippery; my brakes were new and in good condition (Corey, at 7-Corners Cycles, had just seen my bike the week before, a Surly Long-Haul Trucker that came through the ordeal almost completely unscathed). As I was approaching two intersections with cars present, I was ready on the brakes, prepared to slow or stop as needed.

Facing me, in the left-turn (for her) lane, was a woman a small car; she was waiting to make a turn onto SE Morrison heading towards the Morrison Bridge — a turn that crossed over the bike path I was on. I saw her approach and then enter the intersection, so I got ready to slow down or even stop. Big-time warning sign: car not actually stopping to yield right-of-way. But then she did stop, some ways into the intersection; how far, I can't tell you — and I assumed she had seen me and I was good to go.

Wrong assumption. It was a classic deke, and I fell for it.

Accident sceneAs I approached and entered the intersection, she began to move again. Not just forward, but into her turn — into my lane. I wanted to slam the brakes, but I didn't have time. I would have just gone into the front of her car. Had I swung to right to completely avoid her, I would have been aiming at the cluster of poles and other obstructions at the intersection (to the left, the options I was faced with: hit or be hit). I was already riding pretty far to the right, so I had very little maneuvering room. I suppose I could have hit the breaks, pulled a hard right, and gone into a slide, hoping that the scraping of my bike and body against the rough concrete would slow me before I went into the lamp post. I'm not trained for Hollywood stunt riding, however, so I did the only thing I could.

Slowing as much as I could while not going out of control (pull the brakes hard, and you just follow your inertia where it takes you, kind of like jumping off a cliff), I tried to ride around the front of the car. Which kept coming at me. She did not stop! The car just kept turning into my line of travel. I think at some point I let go over the brakes so I could go around her as fast as I could. Whatever I did attempt — and please, be my guest to make the right decision in the space of two seconds or so, while terror is rushing into your face — it fell just short of working.

Literally, just short. I was almost past the front of the car when the front end of the car caught the back few inches of my bike wheel. I know that's all she hit because there were no marks on my bike after and I was not flung sideways 200 feet in the air. Instead, I lost control, wobbling but still upright. I may have grabbed the brakes hard at that point; I can't tell you exactly, because that's when full-fledged panic hit my consciousness. I know I fought to stay upright and on some line that would keep me safe.

Whatever. I failed.

When I first began to fall, my thought was that I'd be doing a face-dive into the concrete, breaking my wrists, arms and possible losing most of my face. And then somehow, I was smashing hard into pavement — on my back. I'm pretty sure I did fly off my bike, and my trailing left leg hit the top tube; the scrapes and dents in my left shin show it got dragged across something. I think that probably is what flipped me over. However it happened, I came down on my back, hard: the right side of my back below the shoulder and the back of my skull took the full force of the landing.

Let me say this right now: I am home and functional only because I had a helmet on. If I had not been wearing the helmet, I am not sure I would have survived. The crack of helmet-on-asphalt was appalling, yet I never lost consciousness. I suffered zero brain or head injury. To trot out the old joke, they did a CAT scan of my head and found nothing. Given what the rest of my body suffered as a result of the crash, I cannot for a moment believe my head would have suffered less than massive trauma. I had little tolerance for excuses for not wearing a helmet before; I now have zero tolerance. Sen Floyd Prozanski, bring on your mandatory helmet law. I think about the pain to my friends and family had I chosen to go topless: how could I justify the unnecessary additional damage, perhaps even death, to my kids or father? You say you have a right to no forego the one item most likely to help you survive an accident like mine? I say you have a right to be responsible to others in the world. The woman who hit me made a stupid mistake, but she did not deserve to be saddled with my possible death.

I'm sure there will be more to say on that subject in later days, especially as the self-righteous and sanctimonious voices of "personal liberty" chime in. They are wrong, selfish and stupid, but that's only my opinion following my accident.

I have several cracked ribs, my right lung was deflated about 20%, the afore-mentioned scraped shin, and a lacerated liver. Yes, I hit the ground hard enough to lacerate my goddamn liver. That still freaks me out. Given that I had no hip, buttock or other lower-body injuries, and nothing to my left side, not even a bump to my elbows, obviously my right ribs and my headbone took the full force of the crash-landing.

That was bad enough.

I know I freaked people out at first. I was in pain, of course, including a temporary loss of breath (whump). I was screaming out, kicking my feet against the ground — but not in pain. I was scared of how bad I might be hurt, and I was pissed! I was freaking angry. Jesus, I just could not believe this had really happened; I was really mad. But not only was my stomping of my feet not good for my body (really, it was like a temper-tantrum; not a moment of which I am proud, but jesus: a goddamn car just ran me down!), but I could tell it was scaring the people who were hurrying to help me. They thought I was in some kind of mortal death throes. So I calmed down and focused on catching my breath. Which proved a bit hard, considering my ribs were now cracked and my right lung was in the process of losing 20% of its functionality. Oh, yea, I was about to go into shock.

The people who stopped to help were magnificent. I wish I had all their names so I could thank them. Several were versed in what to do in these emergencies, so not only was 911 called almost immediately, one man worked with me to check my condition. Other people collected my bike and other items. The driver who hit me stopped, and I could tell she was overcome with shock herself. (Her insurance agent contacted me first thing the next day, which was very cool. She has taken full responsibility for her actions, and that's tremendously admirable.) She apologized profusely, holding my left hand for a while. I did not want to respond, which was understandable, I think; but I squeezed her hand and tried to say something comforting from my own end.

The paramedics got there within minutes. They, too, were terrific. They worked quickly to get me in a neck brace, onto a backboard and into the ambulance. Between the shock and cold, I was starting to shiver almost convulsively, which did my ribs no good at all. The police showed up and took some initial statements; they did their job while not impeding the paramedics, demonstrating the kind of professionalism we hope for from the cops in our city. All my gear was loaded into the ambulance and after confirming I had no preference in hospital — I have no medical insurance of any kind, so I only wanted the nearest — they chose Legacy Emmanuel. The only negative of that was riding the horribly corroded streets of northeast Portland, an ordeal I don't think I could avoided no matter where we went. Portland streets, for the most part, suck.

Once at the hospital, the work was fast, professional and careful. They did all they could to avoid discomforting me, something I truly appreciated. They did x-rays, CAT scans, blood tests and all the other procedures needed to see how I was doing (including, for the police, a urinalysis, which was clean; I hadn't even had a beer that evening). Every person who took care of me was efficient, professional and extremely careful of causing me more pain. Given that my chest was damaged, that was hard to do, but they sure tried hard.

Garrett DownenAt 12:30, Garrett Downen showed up to collect my bike for me. When I'd called him earlier, I thought I might be going home. However, that was before they discovered my partially collapsed lung. Given that it could collapse all the way and kill me, the doctors thought I should stay overnight for observation. So Garrett stayed with me for nearly an hour, listening to my horror story and keeping my spirits up. He collected my bike and busted helmet, and he got phone numbers for my kids and my boss; he called them that night and let them know what had happened and that I'd be alright. If you've met Garrett, you know he's the person you want making these calls on your behalf. It was wonderful to have a friendly face around for a while, even if it meant suffering through some laughter. Also, he took some pictures of me lying there in my distress; priceless. (Please show Garrett your gratitude for being a Great and Benevolent Human Being by donating to the Bus Project: get on the Bus.

I got to sleep around 2:30 am. They had to poke me and test me further, of course; I estimate I was stuck with a needle of some kind over 3 dozens times during my stay — and that's not including the two needles fixed into my arms or the catheter they finally had to insert to let me pee (and let me tell you, nothing builds self-esteem like strolling the halls of a hospital carrying a big bag of your own pee). The next morning, after the ritual blood draw (every morning began with blood being taken around 5 am, which is still more tolerable than most FM radio stations), I had my morning chest x-ray. Which is when they learned my lung was collapsing more. Goody. It just keeps on getting better.

When they first told me I'd need a chest tube inserted, I had pictures of it being like on ER: a quick incision and then the tube is slipped into my chest. Not even.

The incision was quick, but the insertion was anything but "slipped." I have broken my thumb in a car accident, had my left hand crushed, taken a waterski full-speed into my forehead. Nothing in my life — nothing — comes remotely close to the pain of that insertion. Not only did they have to push like hell to get the tube through a tight space held resolutely together by connective tissues million years of evolution have worked hard to make as impenetrable as possible; they had to push very hard against my cracked ribs. I swear, if they had threatened to push my ribs one more time, I would have told them the location of the secret lab and what the combination to the lock was. I would have sold my children to make it stop. I would have re-registered ... Constitution Party.


The phrase to remember at times like those — ok, the time after the times like those, because thought disappears in the fire of physical agony — is "this, too, shall pass." And while the tube in my chest continued to cause me severe distress — especially in the morning, after my nighttime meds had worn off and before the morning drugs kicked in (didn't Bill Murray make that movie?) — the tip of the chest tube against whatever the hell it was making contact with was excruciating. Vicious burning pain. Like watching a Bush press conference, only there's no off switch. But by Friday, my lung had recovered; on Saturday they removed the chest tube (and yes, that, too, hurt like hell); and on Sunday, after a final chest x-ray confirmed my lung was holding up, I left for home.

In the middle of the blizzard. Of course.

incentive spirometer, not a bongSo here I sit, trying not to cough because that causes its own version of hell for my ribs. I have to be careful to breathe deep so as to avoid the onset of pneumonia (that gizmo is an "incentive spirometer" which helps me breathe deep and long to ensure full inflation of even the furthest, teeniest brachia in my lungs — and for some reason, the measurements are not recorded in units of "agnews" which I found hugely disappointing). (And no, it cannot double as a bong. I'm guessing. I would have no way of knowing, man.) I'm weak, woozy when I get up, have no desire for a beer (ah, cruel fate), and will not be able to ride my bike for at least a month of more.

Yes, I am still going to ride my bike. I can't live scared any more than I can live angry. I was having an enjoyable ride home last Tuesday; the rain had stopped, the air was pleasingly cool and I just love to ride. It took nearly fifty years in the saddle to have an injury accident, and it was, at the end of the day, a relatively minor one: some busted ribs and other damage that will heal fully in a short time. Even my bike is almost unscathed (although I'll let the good folks at 7-Corners Cycles verify that for me). My helmet worked, I was cared for by good people, and my boss is demanding I take my time and only come back to work when it's safe for me.

No long-term injury, and I have no fear of riding. I do intend to contact Sen Floyd Prozanski and tell him he needs to move forward on mandatory bike helmets, however. Why the hell are bike riders privileged to not take the one safety precaution that is the difference between a minor accident and possible death? Without my helmet, I'm likely not writing anything again. Without a helmet, the driver who hit me isn't left with a big feeling of relief that it turned out ok; instead, she has to live with having killed someone. My children lose their father; my father, his son. BlueOregon loses a progressive visionary with a near-poetic voice (ok, I may have suffered some brain damage). No, bike riders are no more privileged than motorcyclists or car passengers — and we are exposed to as much danger, and often more, than any of them. We have a responsibility to be as safe as possible, and the irresponsibility of too many riders makes it necessary to mandate that responsibility.

But that's a post for another day.

For now, kids, ride smart and ride safe. But ride. Hills have their down side, winds have your back, and rain has its end. Any ride can be a good ride, even if it ends in the hospital. I'd rather gain perspective in less painful ways, but I see more clearly what is true and good in life. Simply being alive and functional: that's good. Being healthy, happy and taken care of: that's really good.

Love: that's the best, of course. That's the reason everyone, so to speaks, rides. Or, in the words of 'verse-famous philosopher Mal Reynolds:

Love. Can know all the math in the 'verse but take a boat in the air that you don't love? She'll shake you off just as sure as a turn in the worlds. Love keeps her in the air when she oughtta fall down...tell you she's hurtin' 'fore she keens...makes her a home.

Just translate "bike" for "boat" and you get the point.

doing ok, don't worry about me, i'll just lie here and try not to die

  • giggle peep (unverified)

    Glad you survived...AND with your sense of humor intact.

    Visibility is so poor from automobiles when it's this cold outside, especially if the driver doesn't know how to operate the defrost/ventilation system. On top of that, consider roughly 10% of the driving public is drunk, high, or half asleep, and another 20% that are talking on their cell phones, and you will quickly realized that IT IS VERY DANGEROUS TO RIDE YOUR BIKE ON BUSY STREETS, ESPECIALLY AT NIGHT.

  • Henry Kraemer (unverified)

    You're a saint, Todd.

    Lots of love from everybody at the Bus.

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    Well, I'm one of those "personal liberty" people and it's neither wrong nor stupid. But that's not what I want to say here.

    I've read your bicycle rants in the past and have criticized you for some of them. But those were all about what happened to other people. Somehow, this being about you and your experience fundamentally changed the tenor of your writing. It's good. Exceptionally good. In fact, I'm drawing a blank in trying to think of something else you've written that was better.

    There is a definite "graceous" quality to your candor here. Both about yourself and about others with whom you interacted.

    I don't know what the solutions are. I just know that this was an exceptionally well written post and I enjoyed reading it very much.


  • joel dan walls (unverified)

    Glad to hear you are OK. Cycling in the dark has always creeped me out. I recall feeling OK about it when in college and riding on deserted side streets in a not-too-large town, but in Portland...let's just say it's not a risk I'll take.

  • joe adamski (unverified)

    Glad to hear you're ok and plan on keeping riding. I envy this 80 year old guy in my neighborhood,and want to stay in the saddle as long as he has. I agree with you on the helmet thing. I too am a 'saved' rider. Closed head injury aint nothing to sneeze at. Comes the discussion of taxing/registration for bikes. I am all for it. Same as cars. About a $1 a pound seems right to me. For bikes and cars. Call it parity.

    Looking forward to seeing you on the streets. Probably around March. We old buzzards don't heal THAT fast!

  • Dima (unverified)

    My father used to tell me. Cycling is like running naked on a highway! I always remember his words when pedalling among cars and buses. Bikes are so much better then cars in the cities but they are dangerous too!

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    Was the driver ticketed, do you know?

    They usually aren't in PDX unless there's a fatality as far as I can tell.

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    Glad to hear you're all right, Todd. We've had plenty of disagreements in the past, but I certainly wouldn't wish anything like what you went through on my biggest enemy. I wish you a speedy recovery.

    One thing I learned after going through a c-section is that holding a pillow against you when you cough can sometimes make it at least a little less painful.

    I'm not surprised to hear that Garrett was so wonderful in the situation. He's definitely a great guy in an emergency. My annual Give Guide donation coming up as soon as payday comes, so there will definitely be a donation coming from me.

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    Jamais, yes she was cited. worse for her will be the ding her auto insurance in gonna take. she's not a bad person, i can tell that, and there's a lot of "there but for the grace of..." in this. i was becoming a bad driver, especially in the city, which is one reason i bagged it. i know i could have been her, or worse, any number of times. there is absolutely no finger-pointing from me on this.

    (this is not true for all drivers... needless to say!)

    Kevin, thanks for the good words. and you're right: personal writing is better writing. it's a drag i now can right so much better on this subject! but i'm serious about contacting Sen Floyd: we bicyclists have to join the ranks of those who use the public streets and not merely pay our fair share (something i've not thought about before but am inclined to support) but accept a few laws not merely for our good but society's as well. and i promise this: i won't enter that fray calling you & others "stupid" -- just wrong! no, i have a case to make & i'll make it. we'll let the democratic process sort it out.

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    T.A. ~

    Glad you're gonna recover.

    Portland is above average in urban density and above average in our rate of having bike commuters, yet the trend continues to show we have a decreasing rate of car vs. bike collisions.

    That said, your personal story serves an important reminder that we all have to do a better job of sharing the roads. We owe it to each other. There's too much at stake to be careless out there.

    Ride safe. Blog-on.


  • rw (unverified)

    TA -- Eloquent post. Odd how folks often only respect key informant point of view - sorry you had to have a wreck for any growth in respect for your common sense take on the extended parameters of social and personal responsibility as ranged up against life's chances.

    As a onetime avid rider pre-car crash debility, I've always asserted that the vulnerabilities of bike and motorcycle riding remove our right to pretend we have control or pure autonomy. Our continued wholeness and safety are up to elements beyond our control. It is up to us to protect ourselves with ALL gear available - watching idiots ride without protective pants and sleeves and heavy shoes or boots on motorcycles just gets me every time. Seeing potentially invisible riders not even minimally geared-up seizes my gut. I know that organizations exist out there that nearly give away the gear. I know that if a starving student went to the Legacy Trauma nurses, they would GIVE that student a five dollar light, a fourteen dollar helmet. How could they not? And if they do not, I hope I hear of it!

    If I'm hit, I want to stack the deck that I shan't be some vegetable lying in a Home somewhere draining my son's money and heart till I cease.

    I expect we shall hear Karol or someone from this blog's core liveblogging you Telling It to the legislature when that law comes up for discussion, eh.

  • SCB (unverified)

    Really great to see you survived!

    I'll bet you $5 that the driver said, "I didn't see him."

    Last time around Pat Ryan and I talked about gorilla suits. Whether you knew it or not, you were wearing one, and therefore you couldn't be seen no matter how lit up and reflective you were. You were the wrong shape.

    Sorry to hear all this. But as long as auto drivers don't expect bikes to be on the road, then auto drivers will be hitting bike riders. Unfortunate, unfortunate, unavoidable.

    It will take a generation.

  • truffula (unverified)

    Glad your injuries were not too bad and that you are recovering, TA.

    I've been a bike commuter in Helena MT, Chicago, Columbus OH, Maryland just outside the beltway, and Portland. While it is true that I've had more accidents in Portland than anywhere else (one hit & run; one bad situation where somebody was gonna get hit thanks to a reckless driver who sped away as the freaked out driver collided with me; one painful interaction with the new MAX tracks in SW, thanks helmet!), I still feel better about riding here than those other places. Helena was fine but motorists really didn't know what to do about bikes (at least not in the 80's). Chicago was just a pain so I gave up, rode recreationally, and walked to work instead. In Columbus, bus drivers had a tendency to run bikes off the road and motorists were oblivious. In Maryland, ya-hoo drivers spit, threw objects (like half-consumed cans of beer), and shouted obscenities and racial slurs (this did yield a certain sense of solidarity with other cyclists).

    Despite the problems, bike commuting in Portland is idyllic compared to my previous experiences. TriMet drivers, in my observation, usually treat cyclists with respect and more than a few go out of their way to give us a break. Motorists are at least generally aware and not openly hostile. Oh, and I love riding in the rain at night when the traffic has died down, it can be such a quiet, easy time. The evening commute can be tense but I seldom leave the office that early.

  • ws (unverified)

    Congratulations on surviving the encounter with big metal! In spite of it all, you got lucky. That's always a good thing...could of got hit directly and been thrown 120ft like that fellow this summer(miraculously, he had relatively minor injuries...a rare occurrence under those circumstances). Older bodies don't take the crash as easy a as younger ones do, either...my own experience tells me that.

    Despite a story like yours, I'm still not sure I'm ready to call up Prozanski and have him push for mandatory adult helmet use. Why? You didn't need such a law. You were smart enough to understand the benefit of wearing one. So, are the numbers of people that are smart enough to wear one, but don't, added to those that aren't and don't, significant enough to put in place a mandatory law? More people seem to be thinking so, even as I continue to be a holdout (though I personally wear one).

    I wish you a speedy recovery!

  • MeiLin Miranda (unverified)

    xxoo and a swift recovery, sweetie.

  • mamabigdog (unverified)

    Wow, TA- what an experience! It's great that you've come out OK on the other side. Do us all a favor and listen to your doctors- don't do the typical "man up" BS and push your recovery too soon. I'll be interested to hear your experience in dealing with the hospital and doctor's billing after all this. If you've never dealt with this before, you're in for a real treat there. Take care, keep writing, and rest up.

  • Lurline (unverified)

    I'm glad you made it through and will ride again! Rest up for another day.

  • Gregory (unverified)

    Save the helmet if still have it as a combat cyclist trophy. And to remind yourself why to wear the new one.

  • Daniel Liu (unverified)

    Yow! I count myself lucky that I have so far escaped such a fate; worst I've had is a fractured elbow, and those heal quickly. Anecdotally, the frequency of injuries seems to be abrasions, bruising, minor arm fracture, broken/snapped collarbone, then ribs. You totally got the worst of it. One of my former housemates was actually rear-ended once by an armored truck, and he managed to get away with some major road rash and a minor shoulder fracture! The impact was so strong that, on the laptop he had in his bag at the time, the screws moved forward and created a pattern of indentations in the case. How's that for perspective?

    And yet, I also know that, also being a fairly safe and careful biker, that we really do put our fates in the hands of drivers. On my tour down the coast, I really came to appreciate how careful (meek?) Portland drivers try to be around bikes, especially compared to San Francisco drivers (and SF pedestrians, for that matter).

    Here's to a speedy recovery! I'll see you around, I'm sure.

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    Sorry to hear about your accident. Stay safe out there on your bike and have a speedy recovery.


  • jrw (unverified)

    A horse person and skier here to add to the helmet discussion--bikes aren't the only situation where people SHOULD be wearing helmets. I have three helmets--riding, skiing and bike and I use them. The ski helmet is the fanciest (wired in speakers and warm lining).

    Sad thing is, the only serious discussion I hear about when you replace a helmet comes from the horse ranks. Replace an undinged helmet every 5-7 years--that lining compresses and deteriorates. And a helmet gets replaced after every fall where the head boinks the ground. Period. I'm a little more lenient about the ski helmet because of the nature of what you're landing on, but for horse or bike--if that helmet hits the ground when it's on your noggin, it's time for a new one.

    Also, don't interchange helmets between sports. The shape and padding between riding and bike helmets are drastically different, between riding and skiing, not so much.

  • dartagnan (unverified)

    You're VERY lucky. A friend of mine had a fall on his bike -- wasn't even hit by a car and wasn't riding at high speed -- landed on his head (he was wearing a helmet), injured his spine and is now a quadriplegic.

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    it's great to hear from a lot of friends; i appreciate all the kind thoughts.

    i also appreciate the thoughtful comments about riding, helmets, etc. it made me remember when car seats for infants were first made mandatory. at the time, car seats were, for the most part, horrible to use, especially if you had, as we did, an older car. but one thing that happened almost right away was that social service agencies, and Multnomah County i believe, made low-cost seats available for something like $35. and very quickly, decent seats hit the market at affordable prices. almost as soon as the law went into effect, any excuse to not comply was made inexcusable, including income level.

    a move to make helmets mandatory does not face such a challenge. they are already required for young riders, and if a teen or adult can afford a bike of any kind, they can afford a helmet. if we add a small bike permit fee of some sort, education and enforcement can be a part of a mandatory helmet program. anyway, thanks for the extra food for thought.

  • PirateJohn (unverified)

    Great story TA ... just a helluva way to get new material! Hang in there!

  • Taxpayer (unverified)

    So who is paying your medical bills? You say you have no insurance of any kind.

  • Eric Parker (unverified)

    Glad you are still with us, T.A.

    My only hope, seeing that you have no insurance, is that the other person's insurance pays for the majority of your medical bills and that you do not go into bankruptcy and lose more than your money because of this. I have seen and known way too many good people fall hard financially because of something like this.

  • Unrepentant Liberal (unverified)

    Get well soon, T.A. Thanks for a kind, understanding and non sarcastic rendition of what a person with accident trauma goes through medical wise. As an ER Nurse who deal with such accidents I appreciate someone who has an accurate understanding of their treatment instead of, "You can't believe what they did to me!"

  • Joanne Rigutto (unverified)

    Glad to see you're going to recover and get back on the 'horse'.

    The woman who hit you, in addition to her being ticketed for a dangerous left hand turn, which is what it sounds like she did, should be loosing her license to drive for 3 months, that's mandatory from DMV when an accident happens - been there, done that. Even if she gets a hardship permit to drive for work during the suspention period, it takes about a month and a half to get the permit. The suspention is automatic from DMV and once suspended, there is no way to reinstate before the end of the period, and then there is a fee to pay to reinstate as well, and if her driver license was or is seized, then she'll have to pay a fee for a new copy.

    (Just some other reasons for everyone who drives a motor vehicle to be CAREFUL! when driving. If you're not, you can cause yourself and family griefe and kill the person you hit!) My whole view of driving is that it's not something to do for recreation, it's an efficient way to get from A to B, and when you're dirivng you're in effect a 'heavy equipment' opperator and should act accordingly.

    My big hope is that the woman who hit you had sufficient insurance to cover your injuries and rehab. If she doesn't you'll have to sue her for the balance, and in the mean time you'll have the hospital, doctors, etc. harrasing you for the money.

    I increased my own auto insurance, about a year ago, to cover just such a situation, as well as paying for medical care etc., for someone if I hit them, it also covers me if I get injured in an vehicular accident.

    It might be helpful to suggest that bike riders get insurance similar to what auto drivers have, but I don't think I've even heard of such a thing. So even if a person wanted it, I'm not sure if you could get it.

  • Joanne Rigutto (unverified)

    I should have said that DMV automatically suspends driver licenses for accidents involving a dangerous left had turn where an injury occurs. At least that's the way things were in 1999 when I caused an accident that way.

  • Zarathustra (unverified)

    Posted by: Henry Kraemer | Dec 17, 2008 7:31:25 PM

    You're a saint, Todd.

    Lots of love from everybody at the Bus.

    Animated! I was working on it when I read the post if it seems a tad "cannibalized".

    BTW, no one mentioned "Rails to Trails" last post. Besides being flat, old rail lines are relatively isolated from the car culture and generally run between consumer relevant points!

  • (Show?)

    Wow TA. Close one indeed.

    Best of luck and a speedy recovery to you.


    As to safety mandates of all sorts that target adults, I'm clear that many or most are good ideas, and I've personally witnessed the life saving usefulness of helmets. I also know, that in my mind, statistical anaysis always trumps anecdotes, regardless of how true or personal.

    I've never argued against the situational effectiveness of various nanny state decrees, just whether (and or when) The State has a legitimate role in my personal life and behavior.

    On that issue, we will no doubt continue to disagree, and your side will no doubt continue to win as few people including legislators see the need to make the distinction between providing information and mandating behavior.

  • Bonehead (unverified)

    Get well soon T.A.!!! if you need a good attorney, try Mike Colbach, "The Bicycle Attorney."

    He got me $20,000.

    "(helmets) are already required for young riders."

    And on any street in Portland you can see kids under sixteen riding without a helmet. If authorities can't even enforce that, they're not going to enforce even more helmet laws.

    Besides, I'd rather have them stopping the scofflaws in cars and on bikes rather than wasting time ticketing helmetless cyclists who are operating their vehicles safely.

  • (Show?)

    Hey Todd, glad you are feeling better (well enough to type a long story.) I collided with a car on my motorcycle years ago, a young woman emerging from driveway on my right, looking to her right but making a left turn, and never looked left for approaching traffic. Like your new friend, she kept creeping... and creeping... so I never knew where she might stop or if she might accelerate. There was no way to avoid her - WHAM! Had my passenger and I (on our first - and only - date) not been wearing good motorcycle helmets we would most certainly have been killed. A huge chunk of helmet was lost when I flew across the road and landed on my head. I feel anyone who participates in locomotion that does not include at least a steel enclosure and seat belts should wear an appropriate helmet, to spare themselves, their loved ones and the community at large from unnecessary suffering. And I'm sending a link to your story to my 22 year old daughter, who cycles in Portland and sometimes "forgets" to wear her helmet. Feel better, see ya 'round the DPO soon I hope!

    JRW: "I'm a little more lenient about the ski helmet because of the nature of what you're landing on" Aren't there mountains, boulders and trees in, around and under that soft snow?

  • Garrett D. (unverified)

    Thanks for the kind words, T.A. (not to mention the thorough write-up... you're a trooper).

    Y'all might also want to know that T.A. didn't need my goofy self to keep his spirits up... the medical pros at Emanuel each showed a little smile whenever they came into his room that night... he'd obviously been cracking (no pun intended) jokes for quite a while before I showed up. No surprise there; T.A. always lights up the room (even if he's strapped to a gurney, apparently).

  • (Show?)

    So sorry to hear about your accident, T.A. As a fellow bike commuter, I winced a lot while reading your account, having had a handful of near-misses in the last 3 years of riding.

    Your post further strengthens my belief that bike boulevards restricted to local car traffic only are the answer to many of our car-bike collisions. We need our own dedicated streets, and we need traffic signals triggered by bikes at intersections where we come into contact with lots of cars. I'm hoping the update to Portland's Bike Master Plan includes just that so we can all ride--and drive--more safely.

  • jrw (unverified)


    replacing the ski helmet is the factor to take into consideration. Most of the time if the head contacts plain vanilla snow with no trees, boulders, etc right underneath--it's good to go. Not so when the head hits the ground from horseback or bicycle. Ski helmets are also considerably more expensive than bike and riding helmets--at least the good ones are--and should be, when you think about the speeds potentially involved.

  • (Show?)

    Glad you're OK, T.A. -- and keep biking!

    For those afraid of biking, or biking at night, remember: you'll live longer if you bike. Serious crashes are very rare, and get lots of press, causing misperceptions about danger. Car crashes are routine, causing 13,000,000 injuries and 40,000+ deaths each year in America (bike deaths are around 700, FYI, pedestrians about 4000 I think).

    In short, you're more in danger from routine health problems caused by not exercising than from crashes. So go bike!

    And T.A., unless you're calling for mandatory helmets for pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorists, you've got a logic problem.

  • JJ Ark (unverified)

    I don't get it.

    The solution to the problem here is NOT more styrofoam. No amount of styrofoam on YOUR head is going to change a driver one bit. Indeed, certain studies have shown that styrofoam makes drivers LESS careful around cyclists.

    the solutions is driver education and seperation from the bicyclist.

    It was not your head that hit the driver, and it wasn't your negligence that you were hit: it was the driver's fault.

    Why do we keep covering up the symptoms of the far greater problem here? SOME drivers tend to be irresponsible, and there are next to zero repercussions for their irresponsibility. Sadly, a 35$ piece of styrofoam isn't going to change that one bit.

    Oh, and please don't write me off as an anti-helmet zealot...I ALWAYS have my helmet with me, and most of the time the helmet is on my head.

  • KC Hanson (unverified)

    When I started this comment, I was interupted by the critical need to attend to errands. During that time away (about 2 and 1/2 hours), I observed more than a few acts of idiocy on 2 wheels. During the last of which, a young man on a bicycle with suit jacket flailing darted between the southbound lanes of stopped cars waiting at Burnside and 39th.

    Into the intersection he slid as north to westbound traffic turned with the light in front of him. His screaming brakes failed to stop him as he both slid on the slush and as his brakes didn't fully grab his wheels. Fortunately, the driver of the truck in line to clobber him saw him and managed to stop in time. The last I saw of the bicyclist, he had maintained his balance and continued southbound, popping up on the west sidewalk of SE 39th.

    I wondered to myself if this was business as usual for him, or an aberration that scared the holy bejesus out of him. Unfortunately, I suspect it to be the former, since he started the commotion by flying down the street between lanes. He really may not have realized how close he came to becoming a hood ornament. Had it been the car behind the pick-up that was in the vector for the collision, that driver's line of sight could have been obscured by the pick-up until it was too late.

    My point is this: this idiot got lucky, and my pal, Todd, who did all the right things, still got nailed. (And believe me, I can personally attest how attentive Todd is to his illuminating outerwear, reflectors and lights - I was at that meeting he left on the night of the accident, and you bet he was road-ready.) The sad reality is that accidents do occur, and for every accident that occurs, and almost occurs, we can put together a wide range of causal factors - some which we can address, some which we will have to accept and adapt to as best as possible.

    Todd did everything right, but the visual reality got him. His protective gear, attentiveness, and riding ability made the accident severity less than it could have been. Odds are the young driver that hit him will display greater caution in the future, but she fell victim to that age-old road wisdom: "Ya don't see things smaller than you." As a motorcyclist, this is a reality I always lived with - folks that looked straight at me would pull out in front of me, anyway. This visual reality is why motorcycle lights became permanently "ON" in the 80's.

    If we are going to co-inhabit the roads, we're all going to have to give a little to "the other side". Bicyclists need follow traffic laws and not abuse the fact that they're nimble, narrow, and often darn hard to see; motorists need to realize that bicyclists have a lawful right to the road.

    Bicycle/car accidents are wanted by neither motorist or bicyclist, and regardless of fault, it's the bicyclist who gets injured or dies. To dimimish this type of accident, we all have to take a little responsibility and recognize what its like to work the other person's pedals.

  • (Show?)

    KC, thanks for your words. if people think careless or stupid cars piss me off, you haven't heard me go on about idiot bicyclists, selfish twits who think the rules of the road apply to the cars so they can play like an amusement park. nope. once we hit the road, we're little different than cars. the exceptions that exist for bikes are for safety only, which means we stay off the sidewalks, we don't zip between lanes, we don't blast thru stop signs, etc.

    if i'm for mandatory helmets and (possibly) bike fees, believe me, i'm for a crackdown on renegade bicyclists. these infants have to be removed from the streets not merely for their own protection, but because they are the bad apples in the barrel of bicycledom. if we're going to add more ways to ride safe -- blvds, bike-only stop zones, etc -- then lets add harsher punishments to the jerks who think they are outside the law.

    the most insane version i saw of this was recently in NYC: he had a helmet but other than that, was frikkin suicidal, first going cross-wise into traffic and then rolling between lanes and around cares -- against the flow of traffic. downtown Manhattan at rush hour. i'm guessing he was late for something that mattered more than life itself. a "Friends" rerun?

  • Zarathustra (unverified)

    It's odd in the other discussion that the practical last comment was posted just hours before. Out of pure curiosity, had you read it when you went out?

    I agree about the renegades. Though I would plead guilty to being a "sanctimonious biker" I find I get just as po'd by rude cyclists, well, rude anything, as irresponsible drivers.

  • AimeeG (unverified)

    Blogsters, personal liberty is about wearing a helmet, not the fact that if the toxicology had shown a joint from three days earlier he could have lost most of his innocent position? More and more accident investigations are like dorm spot checks. Yeah, we came in here because there was a small fire, but now that we're here, let's see how you've been living...

    I'm very glad you survived. You have a lot to offer and have a lot to show for your life. Can you see why, on the other hand, young people that have little accomplished yet in life might just decide it ain't worth tryin' very hard in the first place? Was it like this 30 years ago? When we look at doing the same, we're starting at this low point!

  • KC Hanson (unverified)

    BTW, Todd, I'm picking you up tomorrow for the meeting in a nice, safe, warm car.



  • (Show?)

    Zara, by "practical last comment" you mean ann's? ann who is terrified of "every" bicycle, who called me "sanctimonius", ann who assumed i did not pay attention to others on the road (when my post demonstrated clearly that was what i was doing: paying attention)? how was she practical? ann who knows nothing about me so is ignorant of the fact that i am doing much to bring change? ann who is so into her own perspective she is completely unable to understand i may have been ranting from a bicyclist's pov but understand what it means to drive -- having spent over 30 years behind the wheel? Z, not only do i rarely get back into a comment thread days later but that's exactly the kind of post i ignore. where my "attacks" were generalized and stylized, hers were specific and personal. why should i waste my time with that shit?

    gimme a Pat Ryan anyday: vocal, voluble(?) and always trying to make a positive point. you, too, for that matter, as i've learned to recognize slowly.

  • (Show?)

    a number of people have raised the question: the driver has taken full responsibility, and her auto insurance policy will cover everything. i feel bad for her, actually, because she's one of those good people who make the wrong small mistake. it's gonna cost her. what she learns from this, i don't know. i hope it's good, as those kinds of goodness go.

    if the insurance company plays it right, we should be able to stay lawyer-free. i love me my lawyers, but i'd rather keep this simple.

  • (Show?)

    Leslie, thanks for pointing me to the Master Plan (i love the sound of that: Master Plan bwaa haa haa!!!). i'll also keep my eye out for ways of citizen involvement; i assume there'll be a public comment period.

  • Gil Johnson (unverified)

    Todd, I'm sure glad you survived and are okay. I've had a few scary experiences recently, but so far, most of my major injuries have been self-inflicted and happened long ago.

    Fortunately, from practicing martial arts for two decades, I've developed, no, not necessarily a sixth sense, but just a really strong diaphragm from which I can project a booming voice. So when I see a driver coming at me who doesn't appear to see me, I shout "Hey" or "Stop" and I get the driver's attention.

    Helmets should be mandatory. The statistics I've seen from hospital trauma wards is that in 80% of all bike fatalities in Portland the bicyclist was not wearing a helmet.

    Don't get me started about bike anarchists. In fact, I ranted about giving up the term "bike friendly" on this post: http://unconventionalfolly.blogspot.com/2008/07/all-latest-rage.html

    I've figured out where most of the bike boulevards are on the inner east side and use them as much as possible. I would like to see limited auto access to these streets--perhaps seal off the bike boulevard every two or three blocks so that cars won't take advantage of the relatively few stop signs on these streets.

    Anyways, TA, I hope you have a quick and excellent recovery and are back in the saddle soon.

  • Rose Wilde (unverified)

    Did anyone tell her that trying to kill Todd is only cool in Werewolf?

    I'm glad you are okay, buddy.

  • Zarathustra (unverified)

    gimme a Pat Ryan anyday: vocal, voluble(?) and always trying to make a positive point. you, too, for that matter, as i've learned to recognize slowly.

    Perhaps you should cut back on those pain killers!

  • (Show?)

    At the Naito onramp to the Hawthorne bridge one time, my truck was hit by a bicycle driven by someone who thought he owned the bridge and the right of way and was oblivious to danger. It was a hit and run -- he put a dent into my left fender but kept on going. Probably was quite ashamed of himself as he should have been. Not that TA is that careless but so many bike riders have only themselves to blame.

  • Rose Wilde (unverified)

    A few more smart alerty comments:

    1) the nudie cutie photo of Todd should be all the marketing bicycling needs to attract hordes...

    2) while requiring helmets might result in fewer head injuries, it wouldn't have changed a thing about your accident (cause you are smart and wore one anyway). But, what about passing a law that all new roads and major repair jobs should be designed with much greater priority on bike safety? Or even slowly changing side streets into "bike only" and having cars only to get to the access points for several blocks?

    Now I know that's a way out there idea, but my point is that we could do a LOT more to promote bike safety AND conservation/prevention of climate change.

  • (Show?)

    Todd, glad you came through the initial crash and hope the recovery continues smooth.

    As others wrote, you've made some lemonade by giving us a moving and thought-provoking essay.

    Re something Evan Manvel said, in cars of course seatbelts now are mandatory, plus engineered to make them much harder to avoid. When I was about 20 (and yes AimeeG, 30 years ago life when young could look grim and pointless, fewer police-state drug tests but other stuff sucked worse than now) I was in a car wreck, my car got hit side on just behind my driver's side door by someone running a flashing red, something wrong with regular traffic signal, anyway, point is I wasn't wearing my seat belt, hit the windshield with my head and suffered internal damage to my left eye due to sudden movement of eyeball fluids tearing the retina. Since that day I have never ridden in a car without wearing my seatbelt.

    One of the things I have learned from all that is the effect of habit. Now if a car starts moving and I don't have the belt fastened, it feels weird. This became true before seatbelts were mandatory & would be if they weren't. Also no one rides in my car without a belt on and I don't believe that in insisting on that I'm either infringing on their liberty unwarrantedly or acting like a "nanny."

    I'm not much of a cyclist & when I rode a lot when I was a kid I didn't wear a helmet, so at least once recently when riding to meet my daughter in a hurry I forgot it. She's never ridden without a helmet and has the habit, and also was on me like my little brother was on my parents shortly before they stopped smoking about the absence of mine.

    On the personal liberty vs. public health and safety stuff on bike helmets I don't think I have a consistent position worked out. But I do think that laws interact with habit, one reason why the fact that some people may not obey rules always seems a particularly unconvincing argument that they shouldn't exist. Social phenomena never are 100% but shifts in social habits make big differences.

    I agree with those looking to structural solutions.

    Again, best wishes.

  • Ms Mel Harmon (unverified)


    So sorry to hear about this and I'm glad you're home and on the road to recovery. If you need a ride to any Dem meetings/events (including the Jan 20th opening day in Salem), give me a call. Heck, give me a call if you need anything (I'm back in town Jan 1). Take care!

  • Nelson Mandela (unverified)

    TABonehead, you dumbass stupid fuck, I've never laughed so hard in my life! Maybe you should buy a tricycle and ride around town on that?? You could put an Obama sticker on your tricycle and ride around town giving motorists the finger. "F-You you grinning Idiots"! LOL! You could ride your tricycle at night in the rain, and go down steep hills really fast - cruise into intersections and hope people see you and stop in time. (Visions of the tricycle guy in Laugh-In come to mind) Wear a helmet cam next time and post the video.

  • Zarathustra (unverified)

    Sure hope those last two weren't from the same person! I get those kind on my little rag blog all the time, but BO? Sheesh, what's the blogosphere coming to...

    There are norms. You don't use S F without mentioning Dick Cheney! OK, or Saxby Chambliss. (Or Ricky Ponting, but we'll keep this political).

  • Ms Mel Harmon (unverified)


    "Sure hope those last two weren't from the same person!"

    Were you meaning the last two comments? If so, let me assure you, I don't post anonymously, EVER, on any blog or site---so, no I'm not "Nelson Mandela". And I'd never be so rude anyway.

    If that's not what you meant, my apologies for misunderstanding, but I wanted to be sure you knew I wasn't "Mandela".

  • rw (unverified)

    Ms. Mel - I too was that brave, did it on purpose, until I heard at professional conferences and meetings put on by my own company that HR people are absolutely using google to decide who they will allow to interview or not, and whether to work on getting rid of someone. I no longer can afford a web presence, in the sometimes highly conservative/judging field I am in, to allow my creative and advocacy oriented side to be discovered unknown and used against me. I had to go back and get my name covered.

    Sickens me that HR people are unabashadly discussing this right out in the light of professional public arenas - somehow I'm thinking it is NOT legal... but it's going on now in my profession.

    I hate it to have to pull a thin cloak over my name. But I've moved to a different phase of life now, and have to consider the entrenched "I have a right to assert my beliefs - on everyone!" dogmatism of radicals Left and Right.

    Good for you to be able to post with a full name, kind of. It would be more useful maybe if you used your name, not your husband's, but if someone wanted to find you, they surely could, eh.

  • Ms Mel Harmon (unverified)

    I'm not married. MEL HARMON is MY name. And yes, I'm female.

    Assuming, much?

  • rw (unverified)

    Revealing choice, little Mel. You could take a proffered hand of freindship or be a bitch.

  • Ms Mel Harmon (unverified)

    Sorry, RW, didn't mean to come off as a bitch. But your comment frankly hit me wrong in tone as well. I'm sorry you've had problems using your real name while blogging and respect your right to use a pseudonym. Maybe I'll hit that point someday as well, maybe not. But the tone (at least as I read it) in your comment was along the lines of "I learned and you will too".

    Also, as far as my name goes, your comment indicating that you thought I was hiding behind my husband's name rankled, especially when I stated clearly above that I don't use any name but my own.

    We appear to be having a communication issue and I apologize for my part in that. But I saw nothing in your post that offered "the hand of friendship" as you wrote and besides, how can I be friends with you when I don't even know who you are? We're both commenters on this blog regularly and I'm always interested in your view. But I think we're off track here (certainly off thread) so I'm leaving it at that. If that makes me a bitch in your view, okay.

  • rw (unverified)

    THe hand of friendship, Mel, was in saying, yep, using your real name IS the right thing to do.

    And, sadly, I had to have Kari remove all of mine going as far back as he could find them to protect me from what I think is a quasi-legal practice now in HR.

    COnversation is friendly. That was conversation.

  • rw (unverified)

    dang typepad. Dang typepad.

    Mel is a typically male take on a name, forgive me for not seeing it as a woman's name. And from the regions I inhabited way too long, MIZZ or MS is not always a woman's moniker.

    As to friendship, ummm... part of me wants to snap at you for that. It's like, "being friendly", Mel. Just being friendly.

    This business of working from home is an open invitation to pettishness I'll tell you. I gave in more than twice over this past week, and I've been working to discipline that. It's lazy and self-serving, and also only stirs the energy around, does not make things go anywhere.

    Shall we move on in a "friendly" fashion again? I also don't think that it's going to attract the Thread Cops if two posters are working something out up here. At least I've never seen that... my bet is that it is nice to see when two tooth-chattering skunks calm themselves and sniff each other's whiskers instead.

  • Ms Mel Harmon (unverified)

    Agreed. Moving on in friendly fashion, thanks.

  • spa soil screening (unverified)

    Hi, On the personal liberty vs. public health and safety stuff on bike helmets I don't think I have a consistent position worked out. But I do think that laws interact with habit, one reason why the fact that some people may not obey rules always seems a particularly unconvincing argument that they shouldn't exist.

  • Max (unverified)

    What you forgot to mention was how much of a better person you are for deciding to ride your bike rather than drive in the first place.

    Although I guess that was and has been implied in every mention of the Portland bikng community by you and anyone ever.

  • tin whiskers (unverified)

    Hi, I'm sure glad you survived and are okay. I've had a few scary experiences recently, but so far, most of my major injuries have been self-inflicted and happened long ago.


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