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From mortality to mortification, 25 years of bruises on PDX streets

Posted by on January 17th, 2014 at 12:42 pm

lifestyle columnist Catherine Hastie

Lifestyle columnist Cathy Hastie.

Cathy Hastie is BikePortland’s lifestyle columnist.

What daily activity involves quick-twitch muscle action, practiced hand-eye coordination, thinking on your toes, hearty cardiovascular fitness and the ability to outwit competitors? It’s not kick-boxing at the gym.

If bike commuting were a sport, I would compete in the “masters” category. I have been biking to work for more than 25 years: approximately 7 miles per day, 240 days a year. With 42,000 miles on Portland’s city streets, you’d think I would have been injured by now. But I remain unscathed.

Well, almost.

There was that one time I stupidly rode parallel to the train tracks that cross SE 12th at Clinton Street. My mind wandered and my tire inserted itself in the rail without my permission, sending me careening to the ground. But a skinned knee hardly qualifies as an injury.

I suffered another self-inflicted wound back in the days when I used to ride the number 96 bus to my job in Lake Oswego. This was in 1998: TriMet had not yet installed bike racks on their fleet. We cyclists loaded our bikes inside the bus, usually in the handicapped seating section or by the back door, and hoped the bus didn’t fill up. I was 9 months pregnant, hefting my 2-wheeled urban beast up the stairs of the double-long express back home to Portland. Needless to say, I was a bit awkward. As I swung my recently expanded belly for momentum and lifted, my pedal banged me in the thigh full-force and ripped a hole in my pants. It left a small scrape and a bruise.

Small potatoes compared to the pain and suffering I endured the following day, when my first daughter was born.

My husband looked back at me wondering why I was biking like an old lady with hemorrhoids. His analogy was apt.

By far the most embarrassing biking injury I have incurred has to be the one most recently acquired. My husband and I were celebrating our 18th anniversary in a downtown hotel, just 4 miles from home. It made no sense to drive and pay for parking, and riding the bus seemed decidedly unromantic, so we biked.

I had chosen a green velvet dress for the evening ahead. With the elegant dress, my cleanly shaven legs and my easily-stained suede pumps, I rode more demurely than usual, but I still wore the requisite windbreaker and backpack. It worked.

But there was one fatal flaw to my outfit.

For obvious reasons, I had chosen sexy lingerie, of the lace variety – apparently very sharp lace. Mild discomfort on the saddle gradually turned to abrasive pain. I sat on one thigh to persuade the underwear not to rub, weakly pedaling mostly with just one leg. My husband looked back at me wondering why I was biking like an old lady with hemorrhoids. His analogy was apt. The lace edging had sliced a small gash on the inside of my thigh, leaving an unbecoming welt at crotch level. Just my luck!

With my ride.

These injuries are petty complaints, I know. I consider myself lucky. I have never pitched myself into a ditch, left shreds of flesh on the asphalt, picked gravel out of my face or slipped headlong into dangerous traffic on black ice. That is saying something, because, on top of these minor incidents, I have actually been hit by a moving vehicle – twice! It may come as no surprise that both accidents occurred on Southeast Powell Blvd.

The first car that slammed into me lifted me and my $119 Huffy clear up onto its windshield. I was 15 years old. We didn’t wear helmets back then. The driver, a young man without insurance, had turned quickly from Powell, heading north on 36th Avenue as I was crossing 36th from the sidewalk. Thankfully, his low-rider scooped me up instead of throwing me under the chassis. He was scared to death at what he had done. He literally folded my mangled bike into the trunk of his car and drove me home. The impact had cracked his windshield, but the only thing I suffered was an intense freak-out.

With no more than three steps on the asphalt, I heard a long, piercing screech, and instinctively knew trouble was imminent.

It is eerie how similar my second accident was to the first. Jump ahead to 2005. I was a full-grown, responsible mother of 2, and knew better than to ride my bike on the sidewalk. This time I was running to work, west on Powell at 8th Avenue. I approached 8th Avenue and checked both of the lanes where cars entered the intersection. The coast was clear, so I stepped out into the street.

With no more than three steps on the asphalt, I heard a long, piercing screech, and instinctively knew trouble was imminent. Blindly, I sprang up and backwards, never seeing what made the sound. Instead, my elbow connected solidly with something hard and metallic and my thigh reverberated from a hard blow, and I knew I had just been hit by a car.

I landed on my feet. Staggering backwards, I watched as shards of a passenger-side mirror clattered around my feet. I looked up to see a brown passenger van, driven by a woman who obviously valued time more than safety. She had turned, illegally, from eastbound Powell, across three lanes of traffic, to avoid the wait at the legitimate left turn one block away.

I screamed profanities at her and checked my body for holes and blood. Again, I realized, I had escaped harm.
Because I wasn’t lying dead in the road or bleeding profusely, the woman insisted she continue on her way. She was peeved about her side mirror. I didn’t argue. I was still in shock.

But as she drove away, my blood started to boil. She had made an illegal turn, actually hit a human being, could have killed me, but was free to go? I was outraged. I chased her down. Luckily, a train-crossing three blocks ahead had backed up traffic. Her time-saving maneuver hadn’t saved her anything. I easily caught up to her and knocked on her window.

“I changed my mind,” I panted. “I want to report this accident and I need your license and insurance information.”

She protested, but eventually she did the right thing and gave me her information. (I reported the incident to ODOT, and miraculously, 3 years later, a traffic barrier was placed at the median on Powell. Drivers can no longer repeat her stupid mistake.)

In the end, the bruise from the van throwing me backwards was no bigger than the bruise from my bicycle pedal on the bus. But I learned two valuable lessons:

    1. Even with the most careful riding and running, the lives of car-less commuters depend on smart, safe driving by everyone; and
    2. I can smash things to smithereens with my elbows! Good to know.

Correction 1/18: An earlier version of this post contained two incorrect intersections.

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. BikePortland is an inclusive company with no tolerance for discrimination or harassment including expressions of racism, sexism, homophobia, or xenophobia. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

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spencer
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spencer

Loved the article. As the husband of a cycling wife, I too have experienced (or more accurately, did NOT experience) the effects of the unspoken and dreaded mismatched undies to bicycle seat pairing.
I would disagree and call that injury severe however.

Bill Walters
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Bill Walters

Well at least it’s not overtly arrogant. But it continues the pattern of sole reliance on “I/me/my,” which does not represent the scope of a “lifestyle column” and *is* subtly arrogant toward so many others who comprise the lifestyle.

Rather, this is little more than the Cathy Hastie recurring public rant space. And now to mess with some kind of scripting to manipulate RSS and filter this “feature” out.

Paul WIlkins
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Paul WIlkins

Parry and riposte! Touche.

K'Tesh
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K'Tesh

A really hard slap on a passenger window has a fair chance of cracking it.

I was running from my job at the Rouge Valley Mall (Medford) to the Rouge Valley Transit Center (about 1.5 miles)(Summer in Medford is a B*****!), to catch the last bus of the week to Ashland (about 20 miles), just to watch it pull out and turn onto the street without me.

I ran another three blocks when it stopped to drop a passenger, and pick up another. Just as I’m about to catch it yelling to the passengers to hold the bus, it starts to pull away. I caught up to it and tried to get the attention of the driver, but he was in too much of a hurry to notice me… The slap wasn’t meant for the window, but that’s where it landed.
There was a beautiful web-like pattern of cracks around that window. The driver stopped, and I was allowed to board. I was very apologetic when I finally stopped wheezing, and the driver realized it wasn’t intentional.

Now I wouldn’t try the same thing, as I’ve since heard of people falling while trying that kind of thing, then going under the rear wheels. A water bottle thrown onto the roof however…

John Liu
Guest
John Liu

42K miles, that’s impressive! And looking good for every mile!

There are, I am told, activities in which one’s first year is the most dangerous. If you get through that, your chances of mishap diminish greatly. I wonder if cycle commuting is one of those?

GlowBoy
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GlowBoy

“This was in 1998: TriMet had not yet installed bike racks on their fleet.”

That doesn’t jibe with my memory. I moved to Portland in early 1997, and I seem to recall being pleased to know that all of TriMet’s buses had bike racks at the time. I also recall going down to Pioneer Courthouse Square, demoing the model bike rack TriMet had installed, and paying $5 (!) for my Bike Permit, without which I was not allowed to use the bus racks.

What didn’t please me at the time was the reason you needed a permit: TriMet’s buses still didn’t have the modern and easy SportWorks racks (which Seattle’s Metro bus system already had, and which I’d gotten used to). TriMet still had klutzy older-style Yakima racks that (I think) required you to spin a lever of some sort to clamp onto the bike’s downtube. Fortunately they upgraded to the better racks not too long afterwards, and did away with the permit system.

Stephanie B
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Stephanie B

I think it is interesting to hear about one person’s perspective of getting around on a bike in Portland. Seems relevant to me. Sure, I can see why it’s not some people’s cup of tea, but I don’t understand all the fervent hatred this column generates. The reaction Cathy always gets doesn’t make this blog seem very welcoming to women.

spare_wheel
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spare_wheel

cycling is nothing like kickboxing. it’s not a martial art. cycling is safe convenient and easy way to get from point A to B.

cycling is not a “masters sport”. it’s a safe, convenient and easy way to get from point A to B.

whether you have cycled for transportation 25 years (and 42,000 miles) or 1 day cycling is a safe, convenient, and easy way to get from point A to B.

John Liu
Guest
John Liu

I think urban cycling can be as “hard core” as you want it to be. One person rides at 10 mph on the MUP, on sunny days only. Another is sprinting between lanes of cars on a 30 mph street, in streaming rain and darkness. Those are all transportation cycling.

Charley
Guest
Charley

I loved reading this article. I thought it was funny and personal. If any of you have ever read anything by Joe Kurmaskie (well loved by everyone, right?), you’d find that it’s very similar. . . and maybe you’d wonder why you’re all giving Ms. Hastie a hard time. KEEP THESE COMING!

Jennifer
Guest
Jennifer

Dear Ms. Hastie, Have you found a good pair of gloves? The warm ones i’ve found don’t come in smaller sizes, and women’s gloves don’t keep my hands from getting so incredibly painfully cold.
Thanks!

Opus the Poet
Guest

I can also vouch that elbows can destroy door mirrors. A F-150 passing on my right in my lane went missing its driver’s side mirror after connecting with my elbow. Fortunately the hand associated with that elbow was not on the handlebars when I got hit.

TOM
Guest
TOM

well , of all things, I think she’s improving.

(couldn’t be any worse than the ones about naming the bridge for herself, or looking at asses or her arrogance or ?? )

OnTheRoad
Guest
OnTheRoad

I don’t think there are train tracks at 13th and Clinton.

Alan 1.0
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Alan 1.0

“quick-twitch muscle”..? Must mean fast twitch muscle. Does Cathy really commute in an anaerobic sprint?

Caleb
Guest
Caleb

I don’t gamble, so I wouldn’t bet on billiards. Also, I’d say your response is irrelevant, unless Cathy was the one who initially designated herself as a “lifestyle columnist” on the basis of writing these “lifestyle columns”. In your hypothetical situation, your designation is an integral part of the ill-claimed win, whereas my understanding of Cathy’s situation is that somebody else designated her a “lifestyle columnist”, and she didn’t even claim anything contingent upon that designation. Maybe I missed something somewhere, though?

Furthermore, I wonder if you perhaps misunderstood me, as I was not asking anything of you in my last comment. I ask rhetorical questions at times, but I do not disguise requests as suggestions and hopes. Please don’t think I was expecting anything of you, nor that those suggestions and hopes were even close to intended purely for my own benefit.

For the record, anyone can ask anything of me, and I’ll feel free to oblige or decline without any consideration of the idea of fairness.

Dave Thomson
Guest
Dave Thomson

I don’t know which is funnier, Cathy’s stories or the outrage they generate among the BP thought police. I look forward to her next column.

Joe
Guest
Joe

awesome reported a bad section of road and they fix it. cool 🙂

Alex Phillips
Guest

Loved this article. It could become a Sex and the City episode.. if the city is Portland.
Also good to read what other experienced bike commuters think and how they deal with issues. I love that the author was able to find the driver and change her mind about reporting the accident. So many of us are in shock after something like that it is hard to know what to do.

John Liu
Guest
John Liu

Cathy is a more experienced bike commuter than the great majority of this blog’s readers . . . so I for one am interested in what she has to say, even if it doesn’t fit Bill’s sel-declared definition of a “lifestyle column”. I am not impressed with Bill’s attempt to dictate what I may read or what BP/Cathy may post.

Craig Harlow
Guest
Craig Harlow

Cathy, I’m not sure what to make of this remark…


…I was a full-grown, responsible mother of 2, and knew better than to ride my bike on the sidewalk…

TOM
Guest
TOM

Craig Harlow
Cathy, I’m not sure what to make of this remark…


…I was a full-grown, responsible mother of 2, and knew better than to ride my bike on the sidewalk…

Recommended 0

sometimes you have NO other choice … ie: se 82nd between Springwater & Johnson Creek blvd.

Jrdpdx
Guest
Jrdpdx

Now I remember why I quit reading the comments
Nice article flaws and all