Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on May 11th, 2009 at 9:01 am
24-year old North Portland resident Erica Rothman was on her way to get a tattoo on Wednesday evening when a collision with another bike rider on the westbound side of the Hawthorne Bridge sent her to the Emergency Room (read accounts from an eyewitness and from the man she collided with).
Fortunately, despite tumbling onto the bridge's coarse metal grating, Rothman sustained only scrapes and bruises. She was discharged from the ER Wednesday night with 17 stitches on her face, two staples in her elbow, and some major road rash on her shoulder.
"My final recollection is of a dude, a young guy on a bike, speeding by me very quickly... we knocked handlebars... I lost my balance and was trying to compensate... and then I saw the grate coming at me..."
-- Erica Rothman
On the phone Saturday she said her face was very swollen. "I look like a manatee," she said, and in an email she wrote, "It's so swollen my mom may not recognize me." Despite her injuries Rothman is in good spirits. "Day by day I'm getting better," she said, "It's traumatizing and inconvenient, but it will heal with time."
Rothman is thankful she'll make a full recovery and expects to be up and riding again in a few weeks, but she's concerned about her medical bills and the loss of her beloved bike.
Rothman says her memory of the incident is a bit hazy due to the painkillers she was given at the scene by EMTs, but from what she can recall, her crash was caused by one man's dangerous riding.
According to Rothman, she was riding along in the middle of the bridge pathway when she noticed some pedestrians ahead. "I like to give pedestrians a lot of space," she recalled, and so she started to veer over to the left. Before doing so, she said she quickly checked over her shoulders and saw a few bikers, "but no one that seemed to be coming up super fast."
"My final recollection," she continued, "is of a dude, a young guy on a bike, speeding by me very quickly...we knocked handlebars...I lost my balance and was trying to compensate...and then I saw the grate coming at me..."
Rothman said she didn't recall hearing any signal that the man was approaching, but that it's possible she just didn't hear it. "I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt that he did signal."
After she came to, she remembers that the man who caused the wreck stopped to check in with her and the two exchanged information. Rothman later called the other rider and the two spoke briefly about the incident.
Shortly after the crash, in an attempt to set the record straight after we published an eyewitness account of the crash, the man who collided with Rothman offered his side of the story. He said it was just an unfortunate "accident" and that Rothman, "turned her bicycle to the left and our handle bars slightly hit each other" just as he began to pass her.
At this time, Rothman is trying to decide her course of action. "For my part, all I want is my bills paid, my bike fixed, and an apology."
"It won't be easy, the first couple times I think it will be a bit of a shake-up... but you gotta do what you gotta do."
-- On riding across the bridge again
She said she isn't angry or vengeful toward the man, but she does feel that it's important that recognition is given that he was "biking very dangerously".
Even though she realizes the man did not intentionally cause her any hardship, she said, "I don't want to take this guy to court with the intent to take him to the cleaners or anything. These things happen, but at the same time there is some culpability here. I do feel there was some fault."
Rothman is an experienced bike rider. She does not own a car and she logs about 100 miles a week on her 11 mile, round-trip commute from her home in North Portland's Kenton Neighborhood to downtown Portland where she works as an administrative assistant in a residential drug and alcohol rehabilitation facility.
When asked what type of rider she was, Rothman said she's definitely an enthusiast and fits "somewhere between the hipster and the REI category."
Rothman has not yet talked to a lawyer and said she doesn't really know her options at this point. She plans to file a police report and then take it from there.
Rothman plans to start attending law school in the fall at Lewis and Clark College, a commute that will take her across the Hawthorne every morning. "It won't be easy," she said, thinking about confronting her fears of riding across the bridge every day, "the first couple times I think it will be a bit of a shake-up... but you gotta do what you gotta do."
One thing she knows for sure is that she'll never bike without a helmet again. She had one on during this recent crash, but told me she sometimes (used to) go without.
With medical bill stacking up, and the loss of her sole means of transportation, Rothman sounded quite concerned about what lies ahead. Rothman says her frame is straight and she can still ride it. However, she estimates damages to be about $300-400.
If you'd like to donate to help Erica with her bike and her medical bills, we've set up a little PayPal button (this goes through BikePortland and all funds will be forwarded to Ms. Rothman):
-- KATU-TV was out on the bridge Friday evening to cover the issue. They did a nice piece with interviews from riders and from PBOT employees: