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I-5 bridge crash highlights safety concerns

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Aftermath of bike crash on the I-5 bridge Saturday.
(Photo: Todd Boulanger)

On Saturday afternoon, a Vancouver man crashed while riding his bicycle across the I-5 bridge. The rider has been identified as 43-year old Matthew Vilhauer. Friends of Vilhauer say he suffered multiple lacerations requiring stitches but that he will make a full recovery.

Todd Boulanger was riding by at about 3:45 Saturday afternoon when he snapped the photo above. Boulanger says Vilhauer was traveling southbound (on west side of the bridge). EMTs told Boulanger that Vilhauer’s body was found on the ground after the crash by passing riders and EMTs are not sure how long he was unconscious before being found.

“I’ve kind of gotten used to the proximity of the path to the cars and how narrow it is, but I still get jolted a bit by trucks with their brakes or honking and stuff… That’s just the way it is.”
— Matthew Vilhauer

Boulanger adds that Vilhauer was found next to the very narrow spot at the southern bridge lift warning gate on the Washington side. EMT crews closed the southbound vehicle lane on the bridge for about 20 minutes.

I spoke to Vilhauer this morning. He has no memory of how the crash happened. “I remember getting my gear on and leaving the house… But I don’t remember riding… The next thing I remember is my brother standing over me at the hospital.”

Although he doesn’t remember what happened, from what the bike looks like — a damaged right brake lever and many cuts on his right hand — Vilhauer said he must have “clipped one of the concrete support posts for the handrail.”

Vilhauer told me he’s crossed the bridge “thousands of times” over the past 20 years and that this is his fourth crash. He’s gone down to avoid someone walking, he’s crashed into a man who was drinking and sleeping on the bridge, and he’s tangled handlebars with a rider coming in the opposite direction.

As for the safety of the pathway, Vilhauer says he’s become “resigned” to the dangers. “I’ve kind of gotten used to the proximity of the path to the cars and how narrow it is, but I still get jolted a bit by trucks with their brakes or honking and stuff… That’s just the way it is.”

Plans to vastly improve the non-motorized path are included in the Columbia River Crossing project, but the future of that project is still up in the air.

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