Woman seriously injured after mysterious crash on Columbia Slough path

Ride Along with Ben Sanders - Vancouver to Lake Oswego-23.jpg

Riding along the Columbia Slough path north of Kenton.
(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

Skjelse Rapoch thought she’d just had a very bad crash while riding her bike. Now the police her family thinks she might have been attacked.

It happened Tuesday night while Rapoch was riding on the Columbia Slough path en route to Portland International Raceway where her husband (who works at Velo Cult Bike Shop) was competing in a cyclocross race. Details of the incident are scarce because Rapoch doesn’t remember anything. It was only after she was recovering in the hospital that she spoke to police and began to put the pieces together.

“What we initially thought was a terrible bicycle accident,” her family says, “is the result of something far more sinister…. it would appear an individual(s) was hiding along the path and hit Skjelse in the face with a rock while she was riding by.”

According to statements from Rapoch and her family, the police are now investigating this as a possible assault (update: the police say there is no evidence to suggest it was an attack).

A rider who found Rapoch says they saw a lone suspect fleeing the area as they rolled up. Rapoch says police have found a bloody rock has been found nearby that matches her facial trauma.

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Screengrab from fundraising page set up for Skjelse Rapoch.
Screengrab from fundraising page set up for Skjelse Rapoch.

While we don’t know much about the motives of the attack or the identity of a suspect, what we do know is that Rapoch has been very seriously injured. She was found unconscious on the path and suffered a severe concussion as well as numerous facial injuiries. She faces an long and arduous road to recovery and her family has started a fundraising campaign to alleviate some of the financial burden. So far over $10,000 has been raised.

The path she was riding on is very popular and recently received a significant upgrade that includes new connections to PIR and North Denver Avenue that leads up into the Kenton neighborhood. In 2014 we shared a ride report and said this path is perfect for families.

Over the past year or so we’ve heard from several readers who say a group of people live in tents and other housing structures along the Columbia Slough — especially under the bridge that connects Schmeer Road and Denver. In December of last year we got a report of a suspected chop shop in this area. One reader said he saw shopping carts full of bike parts and frames. The addition of people living along these paths has changed the riding environment.

If you’d like to help Rapoch get through her injuries and the medical pills that are headed her way, hit the GoFundMe link. If you have any information about what happened to her, please contact the Portland Police non-emergency line at (503) 823-3333.

UPDATE, 9/19: Here’s the latest from the Portland Police Bureau:

At this point, we cannot verify whether or not it was an assault as the victim has no memory, there are no eyewitnesses or suspect information. The information about people hiding along the trail and throwing a rock that struck the victim has not been verified. The incident is suspicious enough to warrant further investigation. Anyone with information should call Assault detectives at 503-823-0400.

— Jonathan Maus, (503) 706-8804 – jonathan@bikeportland.org

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Adam
5 years ago

Jonathan, I take issue with the second to last paragraph. I am really disappointed that you are perpetuating the “homeless people living along the trail are attacking people and stealing bikes” rhetoric. Since we don’t have any idea who attacked her, insinuating that a homeless person did it is irresponsible. I know you are just reporting what people are telling you, but you are also implying that a woman was attacked, homeless people live near here, therefore one of them may have attacked her. Implying this connection does a disservice to the majority of homeless people who are not causing problems.

I wish the victim a swift and easy recovery.

TJ
TJ
5 years ago
Reply to  Adam

I did not read an insinuation. I read other examples of problems along the path. Campers along the path –hidden or out in the open– are a problem. Be it just an inconvenience or something more. “The addition of people living along the path has changed the riding environment”.

Our bikeways are not campsites — not until we open the golf courses and car lanes.

TonyH
TonyH
5 years ago
Reply to  Adam

The last line of that paragraph (” The addition of people living along these paths has changed the riding environment.”) puts it into context. JM wasn’t “insinuating” anything, IMHO.

rick
rick
5 years ago
Reply to  Adam

Portland has become a paradise for drugs and illegal actives.

highrider
highrider
5 years ago
Reply to  rick

Rick, when I first moved here Old Town (now the Pearl district) was a place you could buy almost any drug, any time, on any street. Similarly, you could buy weed in Washington Park, or even Laurelhurst park up until the end of the 1980’s.

Hello, Kitty
Hello, Kitty
5 years ago
Reply to  highrider

The weed dealers that used to be in the parks have mostly relocated to the pot stores nearby. Some things never change.

Chris I
Chris I
5 years ago
Reply to  highrider

And SE Division street. Anyone listen to Elliott Smith?

rachel b
rachel b
5 years ago
Reply to  highrider

True, highrider–but not sure what your point is. I’ve lived here all my life and while the Pearl and other areas may have gentrified, rampant open drug use and aggressive, confrontational users have increased dramatically and spread all over the city where neighborhoods can’t afford private security.

dwk
dwk
5 years ago
Reply to  Adam

“therefore one of them MAY have attacked her.” (CAPITALS MINE).

What exactly is wrong with that statement? It just may help find the perp.
Your constant defense of homeless people is admirable to a point, but you have completely jumped the shark…

Adam
5 years ago

Thanks for understanding. Let me take a step back and say that I did not mean to imply that you are purposefully insinuating this. I could have used better language to this regard. What I meant is that by including this paragraph, people will likely make this connection in their minds, even if this was not your intent. By stating that a crime happened where a lot of homeless people happen to live, a connection that homeless = crime is being made.

Spiffy
5 years ago
Reply to  Adam

just like stating a cyclist in a crash wasn’t wearing a helmet… but mention it any way and people will think that they should have been wearing one… even though it had nothing to do with being hit by a car…

mention that there are a lot of houseless living on the trail… people will think they had something to do with it… even though we have 0 info about any possible assailant…

since there are houseless people everywhere it’s safe to assume that if anything at all happens anywhere in Portland that there’s a population of houseless folks nearby that the media can mention and insinuate are responsible in some way…

Chris I
Chris I
5 years ago
Reply to  Spiffy

If I live in an apartment, does that make me houseless?

deeeebo
deeeebo
5 years ago
Reply to  Adam

There is also insinuation that a rock found nearby = assault but no real evidence so far of that either. At this point, especially considering what seems to be a very hazy recollection of events, this is all speculation.

Eric Leifsdad
Eric Leifsdad
5 years ago
Reply to  deeeebo

If there is blood on the rock, it’s very unlikely that she fell and hit a lone rock in the middle of the path with her face (one bloody rock out of hundreds alongside the path makes sense if she landed off of the pathway.) A mechanical problem or obstruction that caused the crash would also be evident and/or some debris in her wounds. I’m looking forward to the follow-up story with detailed conclusions on this and 50 other sensational terrible mysterious death and injury stories.

soren
soren
5 years ago
Reply to  Eric Leifsdad

Portland police spokesman Sgt. Pete… Simpson said there was no bloody rock, but that there was a rock collected by Skjelse Rapoch’s husband.

http://www.oregonlive.com/portland/index.ssf/2016/09/police_investigating_suspiciou_2.html

soren
5 years ago

the houseless are a minority population that suffer from ubiquitous discrimination and bias crimes. for example, just a few weeks ago a homeowner attempted to burn a camper to death. by pointing the finger at houseless individuals without any evidence whatsoever you provide fuel for another cycle of bigotry and victimization.

dwk
dwk
5 years ago
Reply to  soren

“the houseless are a minority population that suffer from ubiquitous discrimination and bias crimes.”

The “houseless” population is also responsible for a lot of crime, specifically bike theft. I realize you like to brush this off, but it is a fact.

jeff
jeff
5 years ago
Reply to  dwk

Also, you know, assaults.

soren
5 years ago
Reply to  dwk

there are houseless people living in virtually every neighborhood, including mine. mentioning them in the context of this attack with no evidence is an example of bias.

a simple transposition should make this clear:

Over the past year or so we’ve heard from several readers who say a group of [scotts-irish protestants] live along the Columbia Slough…

Hello, Kitty
Hello, Kitty
5 years ago
Reply to  soren

Never turn your back on a Scotch-Irish protestant.

soren
5 years ago
Reply to  Hello, Kitty

would find it just as funny if i had used jew or african american in my analogy?

Hello, Kitty
Hello, Kitty
5 years ago
Reply to  soren

I doubt it. Your choice was a good one.

dwk
dwk
5 years ago
Reply to  soren

and if there were a group of scot/irish protestants living where the crime occurred, they would be looked at as suspects. Who else would you look for first besides people living in the area?
You try way too hard…….

Middle of the Road guy
Middle of the Road guy
5 years ago
Reply to  soren

So my neighbor has this big tree. I don’t have any big trees in my yard. Every year the leaves fall off this big tree. Every year there are a lot of leaves in my yard that seem to accumulate when that big tree seems to be losing its leaves. I personally do not see all of the leaves fall off that big tree. I think it is entirely possible that people are bringing leaves from other trees to my yard and dumping them when I am not looking.

I wear many hats
I wear many hats
5 years ago
Reply to  soren

Lets not ignore the fact that these stereotypical biases often arise either from experience and or profiling. The only people I’ve caught actively stealing and chopping bikes were tweakers. It would be illogical to ignore that experience. It would be naïve to do so. Homelessness is not equal to tweaker squatting. I highly doubt that JM was equating the two groups. One does not squat on a grassy island in the middle of the Columbia slough amidst the utopia of social services available in PDX without addiction and/or mental health issues. I read JM’s report as “watch out for these squatters”. No bias received.

Charles Gentou
Charles Gentou
2 years ago
Reply to  soren

Why do you think people are homeless? Although objective data on this question is quite hard to find, an opinion is that substance abuse and mental illness are extremely common among the homeless, with ‘travelers’ (people homeless by choice) and the economically homeless in the minority. Substance abusers often engage in theft and the homeless mentally ill can be unpredictable in their behavior. Though there are social accommodations for the mentally ill, those who are unhoused are often unhoused because they are unable to follow rules that will allow them to be sustainably housed by social services. While the mentally ill are very often the targets of illegal activity, they are often incarcerated due in part to their inability to understand and follow social rules and to not following police orders. Emotionally unstable homeless people are sometimes simply angry at the bourgeois bikers rolling past their encampments. At the location where this happened, there was a recent stabbing. Nearby was a camp called ‘Tweaker Island’, ie, a recognized gathering point for meth users, who are frequently incarcerated for other illegal activity as well as frequently homeless. The cause of this case are unknown, but the range of possible causes is ignored at the peril of innocents.

Let's Active
Let's Active
5 years ago

People have been living in that wooded area and under the bridge for a lot longer time than the path has existed. The path did not bring them out there.

Middle of the Road guy
Middle of the Road guy
5 years ago
Reply to  Let's Active

Are they the same people?

Hello, Kitty
Hello, Kitty
5 years ago

No.

The construction of the path brought several work-gangs of path builders, mostly Scotch-Irish protestants, to the area, with their slough clearing and path tamping equipment (typically a specially formed rock). When the path was completed, many had nowhere else to go, as there are not many paths still being built in Portland, and work for those with finely honed path building skills was scarce. The unemployed builders took up residence in the swampy lowlands along the path, displacing the previous residents, and, over time, turned to crime and preying trail users in order to supply them with bagpipe reeds, shillelaghs, haggis, and Irish whiskey.

Perhaps of greatest relevance to this community, the Scotch-Irish protestants are well known to be the source of many high quality and very well priced bicycle components.

Mike 2
Mike 2
5 years ago
Reply to  Hello, Kitty

This – and you avoid wearing clothing?! I may be falling in love….

Redhippie
Redhippie
5 years ago

I would interview many of the businesses around Delta Park about the influence of the encampments. I was in Fisherman’s Supply the other day during a coordinated grab and run robbery of camping gear with 3 people. The shop employees told me that this activity occurs all the time primarily with camping gear. There have been times the employees chase them, only to end up running into a larger group of homeless. They just see it as a cost of business.

Kim Martin Thanislaus
5 years ago

Oh my, I sure hope they figure out what happened to this poor girl. It could be as simple as a bad bike crash all on her own but it does look like someone face bashed her but I’m no medical expert. Its a harsh world out there with cruel people in it, to only think of them selves even here in our beautiful state of Oregon. What I would do ( and this is just my opinion ) is find that girl a good hypnotist, a legitimate one with a good track record but this could be very devastating to her and her mind has to be open to this. It does not work for everyone. My prayers and well wishes to her and her family. If someone did assault her I sure hope they pay big time for there crime. I do not think you were out of line about the ” possibility ” of a homeless person but some are very sensitive and nit picky. It could have been many scenarios. She may wake up one day with what happend and its gonna hit her like a freight train 🙁

Middle of the Road guy
Middle of the Road guy
5 years ago
Reply to  Adam

Adam,

over the last two years there have been many crimes committed in the area that are suspected to have been done by the good folks living around Farragut Park and near the bridge on Schmeer.

You can take all the offense you want, but when people find open parcel packages over there that are not anywhere near the address listed on them and more bike parts per person than most avid cyclists own, it’s not difficult to draw a conclusion. At some point, the idealism of a social justice warrior has to give way to reality.

Paul Wilkins
Paul Wilkins
5 years ago

SJW is a derogatory term. Doesn’t really advance the topic…

Todd Hudson
Todd Hudson
5 years ago

If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, a DNA test to determine it was a duck is not necessary. Assaults on the Springwater skyrocketed after Hales started tolerating camping there, and the same is happening here.

Work Account
Work Account
5 years ago
Reply to  Adam

I think it’s worth noting that people living on the fringes of society inhabit this area personally.

Matt
Matt
5 years ago
Reply to  Adam

Well, you certainly have your priorities in order.

Hello, Kitty
Hello, Kitty
5 years ago
Reply to  Adam

Of course it was a homeless person. Where would someone with a house get a rock???

highrider
highrider
5 years ago
Reply to  Adam

A few years ago there was a guy golfing at the course by that path who was attacked by a group of youths. His Boxer dog helped him fight off the attack. My first thought was more teen-aged nihilism this time rather than a person experiencing homelessness. But I dislike speculation- belief is not knowledge.

KTaylor
KTaylor
5 years ago
Reply to  highrider

This sounds like territorial behavior, so it seems reasonable to look at people who have illegally staked this area out as their territory.

Jess
Jess
5 years ago
Reply to  Adam

I live very near the trail and the camping IS a problem — I frequently run on the trail and have had instances of the campers actively intimidating me (standing in the dead center of the trail as I run up, glaring at me and not moving away). For awhile they blocked much of the path. There has been at least one fire over there and the area is intermittently a real mess. I am a petite woman and I no longer run that trail without having a phone handy. It sucks.

eli bishop
eli bishop
5 years ago
Reply to  Jess

Aw, Jess, I’m sorry. I’ve had the exact same problems on the Springwater. 🙁

christopher
5 years ago
Reply to  Adam

If you’ve been down this path you know who is hanging around there.

Kate
Kate
5 years ago

Thanks for the reporting Jonathan. I run and ride the slough trail alone with some frequency and had, in fact, planned to ride there tonight. I’ve been recently debating whether to do so any longer.

I hate to cede this lovely trail to fear, since I’d rather not ride Lombard or other roads to Kelly Point Park and so on. I’ve been startled by folks emerging from under the Vancouver Bridge over the slough and threatened by the larger camp under the Interstate Ave bridge. Thankfully you can divert on the path up to the at-grade crossing of Interstate Avenue to avoid the camp in the underpass area.

While Adam is correct that we don’t know who may have attacked her, Jonathan is also correct that riding conditions have changed. I dunno- what else can you do beside be extremely aware when using the trail? I try to make eye contact and say hello to everyone I pass. How do you avoid people jumping out and smashing your face in?

Chris I
Chris I
5 years ago
B. Carfree
B. Carfree
5 years ago

Only obliquely related to all this, I have a question for the knowledgeable BP community. I live in Eugene and we have bike infrastructure being taken over by drug addicts. They have taken to blocking key underpasses over the past few years (part of the explanation for our loss of 30% of our cycling commuters back to cars since 2009).

Our police are now saying that it is legal to block the bike paths and are refusing to help clear the underpasses. They say as long as it’s not a lane cars operate on, it’s not a road. I distinctly recall reading that in Oregon, per ODOT, bike paths are legally roads. Can anyone help confirm this with citations?

Spiffy
5 years ago
Reply to  B. Carfree

ORS 166.025 is what you’re looking for…

Spiffy
5 years ago
Reply to  B. Carfree

also, bike paths are considered sidewalks under the law according to http://www.stc-law.com/bikemulti.html

pdxhobbitmom
pdxhobbitmom
5 years ago

Makes me sick.

bikeninja
bikeninja
5 years ago

Not mentioned in this article there is any apparent motive for this horrible crime. If Skjelse had been robbed after being knocked unconcious this would shed more light on the criminal and their motive. This is a horribly violent act that would only be perpetrated by a sociopathic person bent on robbery, or some kind of twisted sense of revenge.

John
John
5 years ago
Reply to  bikeninja

I’m guessing he was scared off before he could ride off with her bike, rummage through her wallet, or assault her further. It would be nice if there was enough trust in the homeless community to where they would report dangerously unstable or vicious individuals….sadly, many of the homeless are living under bridges because of mental illnesses so there would likely be some over reporting.

Robert Ping
5 years ago

I was the ‘victim’ of rock throwing a couple of months ago while riding along Willamette Blvd around midnight. I was not hit by the multiple rocks, but they landed hard all around me. I stopped and two young men/youth had just jumped up onto the jersey barrier wall that was temporarily there during a road construction project to upgrade the bridge, acting innocent. I confronted them, and warned them that the next time I wouldn’t take their word for it.

This is the second time I had rocks thrown at me in that same spot, although the first was when I was driving my Eurovan last year, also late at night, in the same exact spot. The rocks did damage to my vehicle.

Rock throwing at cars is not unheard of for teenagers to do, but this probable attack on Skjelse Rapoch (all the best for a full recovery, Skjelse!) is only a couple of miles across the peninsula, and along with my attack, are the only times I have experienced rock throwing at people on bikes in decades of riding. Now thumbtacks, however…

Redhippie
Redhippie
5 years ago
Reply to  Robert Ping

There used to be a homeless cave just below the road where the construction project was located. Over the years commuting to St Johns, I have seen a number of weird events around that area.

bikeninja
bikeninja
5 years ago

Since the Bikeways of Portland are begining to resemble the streets of 1970’s New York it might be about time to set up a chapter of the Guardian Angles, except on two wheels.

rachel b
rachel b
5 years ago

I’m thoroughly weary of the preoccupation in Portland for vigilant defense of the dubious ‘honor’ of a legion of drug addicts and antisocial aholes willing to trash our public spaces, and more. The same self-appointed defenders have no trouble lambasting those like the folks of Lents who have the temerity to get upset about living next to the resultant chaos and squalor of an unchecked population of miscreants. And I do distinguish, by the way, between the jerks and the law-abiding homeless. It is possible to do! Who knew? I’d wager most of us don’t paint all homeless with the same brush. Give us some credit.

Whomever perpetrated this attack, I’m sick about it and I hope Rapoch heals as quickly as possible.

soren
soren
5 years ago
Reply to  rachel b

Eighty-eight people died while homeless in Multnomah County last year.
That’s 32 more than the year before, and the total of 2013 and 2014 combined.
And it’s yet another sign Portland’s homelessness crisis is taking a toll beyond the perennial focuses of messy camps or inconvenient panhandlers…
Also: 17 women died on the streets, a 325 percent increase from four in 2014.
“The numbers in this report are staggering,” Multnomah Count Chair Deborah Kafoury writes in an introduction (she’s been calling the death toll “unacceptable” since 2011, when 47 people died).

http://www.portlandmercury.com/blogtown/2016/09/09/18554819/deaths-of-homeless-people-shot-way-up-in-multnomah-county-last-year

Hello, Kitty
Hello, Kitty
5 years ago
Reply to  soren

But what does it really say? I don’t know how these people died, and that matters. If they were primarily drug overdoses, it might suggest more need for treatment. If they died from violence, that suggests a completely different problem. If they died of exposure or starvation, it suggests something else entirely.

I do believe that for many people, “housing first” is the solution. For others, I’m not so sure. We all know that some people are homeless because they simply can’t (or won’t) follow rules, and I’m not sure “housing first” would work for them.

rachel b
rachel b
5 years ago
Reply to  Hello, Kitty

Agree w/ HK. And I’m firmly against any further enabling of illegal and antisocial, territorial, destructive behavior. Get those people out or incarcerated. I don’t care where they go. But I care in the bigger sense of that word. Give them incentive to change via appropriate, hard consequences for their actions. Anyone who’s lived w/an addict (as I have) knows enabling is the last thing they need. Hitting bottom (and a consequent desire to change) for many often involves incarceration/paying a price for their destructive behavior.

Hello, Kitty
Hello, Kitty
5 years ago
Reply to  rachel b

“Hitting bottom” sometimes results in death.

rachel b
rachel b
5 years ago
Reply to  Hello, Kitty

Are you proposing you, or we, can save everyone from death? Even if they are hell-bent on it?

bikeninja
bikeninja
5 years ago

In the grand sweep of history there are only 4 ways this type of situation gets taken care of. 1) Our government comes up with solutions to houselessness, so this type of fringe community is not needed 2) The police crack down and maintain law and order 3) The fringe society organizes and polices itself to avoid conflict with the rest of society ( this includes those elements that orbit or interact with this society.4) Non government forces within the greater society push back forcefully. Apparently options 1 and 2 have failed, so I really hope that 3 happens quickly before the ugliness of 4 comes on the scene. I wish that those in power would realize that inaction creates its own momentum.

Middle of the Road guy
Middle of the Road guy
5 years ago
Reply to  bikeninja

If #3 happened on a regular basis, #4 would never arise.

My neighborhood is starting neighborhood watches. Personally, I do hope there some kind of confrontation. Things often only change once there is some kind of violence or conflict.

Bald One
Bald One
5 years ago

I occasionally ride this path. This path is one of the only places in Portland that gives me pause to ride for personal safety reasons – in particular the section under the schmeer bridge near Interstate. I think the BP commenters who do not ride this path should hold their comments until they can go there and experience it for themselves. Criminal elements clearly harbor and intermingle with these long standing homeless camps, even though most residents of these camps are not engaged in criminal activity. Go there, ride this path (take a friend with you), see for yourself.

Brenda E
Brenda E
5 years ago
Reply to  Bald One

I live in NoPo & regularly ride/walk the area in & around Kenton. This particular section near the bridge also causes me concern – to the point that I will not ride in this area out of concern for my personal safety.

Anna G
Anna G
5 years ago
Reply to  Bald One

I also live near this path (Farragut park area) and will not use it anymore for safety concerns. Thus the folks living under the overpass have successfully defended their territory by discouraging the use of said path.

Matt S.
Matt S.
5 years ago
Reply to  Bald One

I rode that path everyday for three months while I commuted b/t Portland and Vancouver. I disliked the entire ride from the I5 bridge, through the path system, through Delta Park and finally up on the Columbia slough path. I’m a 6’2″ 200 lb. built man and I was nervous everyday riding along that 3-4 mile stretch. Not until I got up on Vancouver Ave. did I feel safe.

I strongly considered carrying pepper spray attached to my top tube.

Then my job changed.

Jim
Jim
5 years ago

Those that care about the homeless should be commended for their humanity, and empathy. But those same caring souls MUST accept reality as well. Yes, a lot of the homeless are there by fate they had little control of. But most are there because of substance abuse, often triggering mental problems and irrational behavior. Cyclist who are not part of their world, their reality, can cause anger, and an angry reaction. For example, the commuter train service my wife works for has had passenger car windows damaged by rocks every time they travel past a couple of homeless camps. It’s not teens. And teens aren’t likely to hang out around homeless camps.

Spiffy
5 years ago
Reply to  Jim

substance abuse is often a self-remedy for mental anguish… users trying to escape something which is tormenting them…

I wear many hats
I wear many hats
5 years ago

Lets not ignore the fact that these stereotypical biases often arise either from experience and or profiling. The only people I’ve caught actively stealing and chopping bikes were tweakers. It would be illogical to ignore that experience. It would be naïve to do so. Homelessness is not equal to tweaker squatting. I highly doubt that JM was equating the two groups. One does not squat on a grassy island in the middle of the Columbia slough amidst the utopia of social services available in PDX without addiction and/or mental health issues. I read JM’s report as “watch out for these squatters”. No bias received.

Andrew Kreps
Andrew Kreps
5 years ago

If she has auto insurance, I hope she knows her personal injury protection fund will pay for quite a bit of the initial costs. I didn’t when I had a bicycle collision recently.

J_R
J_R
5 years ago

This is yet another example of why city leaders, city councilors, law enforcement officers, and prosecuting attorneys need to ride bikes, at least occasionally.

Since being verbally assaulted, physically assaulted, harassed by persons and by vehicle operators is outside of their personal experience, they simply do not take it seriously.

If our leaders rode, they’d also get to experience first hand the lack of sweeping of dangerous debris, tree branches that intrude into the paths and bike lanes, signal detection that doesn’t work, nonsensical routing, etc.

Thanks for posting information about another area where I should avoid riding alone.

Todd Boulanger
5 years ago

Any idea of the section where this occurred?

Laura
Laura
5 years ago
Reply to  Todd Boulanger

Between Vancouver and I-5 just south of the Portland Meadows Park.

Todd Boulanger
5 years ago
Reply to  Laura

thx

Lisa
Lisa
5 years ago

Best wishes for fast healing, Skjelse Rapoch!

Teddy
Teddy
5 years ago

This is horrible to read about indeed! I wish her a full and speedy recovery.

I used to ride on that trail back in 2014-2016 and usually felt pretty safe there other than some blind spots by the sewage treatment plant. I had to get to Vancouver by 2AM once and I was tempted to ride the Slough Trail, but I was too scared so I took a different way.

John Liu
5 years ago

Skjelse was very seriously injured. I don’t want to go into details, but she will need very major facial and dental reconstruction, which will cost far, far, far more money than she has.

C’mon folks. Don’t fall back into our standard endless debate about homeless. It really doesn’t matter who attacked her, or why, or if they are homeless or a psychopath with a home.

The fact is that women, and men, should be able to ride Portland’s trails in safety. Not “should be”. Try “must be”. We can’t be frightened away from this trail and similar trails. We have to take them back, cyclists and runners and families and all of us, and the city and police have to help. Have to. Have to.

Hello, Kitty
Hello, Kitty
5 years ago
Reply to  John Liu

Well said.

J_R
J_R
5 years ago
Reply to  John Liu

I agree we must take them back, but it’s become painfully obvious that there’s no help from City Hall. The city and the police will have to be present with some regularity. Until then, even though I’m a reasonably fit male, I’ve abandoned riding the trails alone because I fear for my personal safety.

rachel b
rachel b
5 years ago
Reply to  John Liu

Well, if our trails were safe until they were overrun with threatening, territorial homeless campers and bad things ensued once that happened, and now we have all ceded the trails to threatening, territorial homeless campers because of their behavior, then I’d say that it DOES matter, and the discussion here about problems with homeless campers is absolutely germane.

This IS the problem. Whether Rapoch was attacked by someone living on or off that trail or not, without question THE problem with the deterioration of and lack of safety on our trails is directly related to threatening, territorial, homeless campers. Who are using/shooting up. A lot. NOT EVERY ONE OF THEM. I hope we can agree that we all can distinguish between the law abiding and the not law abiding? But a large number–large enough to wreak effective havoc on on parks and trails systems, and to leave devastation behind. And the City is enabling them. People fed up with this situation or not compassionless. They’re just distinguishing between those that want and deserve help and those engaging in criminal and antisocial behavior.

rachel b
rachel b
5 years ago
Reply to  rachel b

p.s…the general lawless atmosphere brought about on our trails by the bad campers makes it a lot easier for criminal ‘tourists’ to do bad things too. If I were looking for a good place to do some awful things right now, I’d head straight to someplace like the Slough path, or the Springwater. Lawlessness breeds lawlessness, and the word about lax (or nonexistent) enforcement gets around. Fast.

Brian
Brian
5 years ago
Reply to  rachel b

I agree with you rachel b, and what I got from John’s statement is that we can’t just sit back and type away when we hear of a terrible story such as this. We need to actively get involved to ensure safety for all on our trails. Ride the trails. Ride in groups. Use them as often as possible. Include them on organized rides. Be safe.

rachel b
rachel b
5 years ago
Reply to  Brian

Thanks, Brian. “Ride in groups” is the key phrase here, I guess, but even that places a ridiculous burden on cyclists (and peds). Being on the distaff side of humanity, I’m used to the injunctions to “never walk alone” (…and carry mace! And a rape whistle! And don’t dress provocatively! And be nice! And don’t provoke! And don’t go down the wrong street! And don’t go to that bar alone! And don’t walk at night w/o someone else! And don’t get into that elevator alone w/ that man in there! And don’t go get your car or bike in the parking garage w/o an escort! And etc. etc. etc.). I’m all for prudence but it all just sucks–esp. when so much of it could be easily solved w/ some simple spine at the Top.

Kate
Kate
5 years ago
Reply to  rachel b

Yes, it’s all well and good to say that, but frankly I’m a single lady living alone and I don’t really have a ‘group’ to bring along on my runs and often not on my rides so it’s not super useful advice for those who use regularly rather than as infrequent recreation. But maybe if others do, that will increase safety for all of us. So really, extra eyes on the street- er, path always helps.

rachel b
rachel b
5 years ago
Reply to  Kate

I’m with you, Kate. It makes me feel like I’m a character in The Handmaid’s Tale, or something. Strange that we live in a world that expects women to just have male escorts (or a gaggle of ready female friends) around, just to go about our business safely. At night. Or in the day, on a public trail that’s no longer safe. Or in parking garages. Or in certain parts of town. Or in deserted areas. Or, or, or, or…. Especially strange how “post feminist” and progressive we all congratulate ourselves on being. USA!

Matt S.
Matt S.
5 years ago
Reply to  rachel b

Would anyone be interested in meeting up at the Lucky Lab or another location and do a letter writing campaign to the city council, mayor, police chief?

If we could get 10-15 people doing this weekly, maybe we could have an impact? Plus, spur some interesting conversation and see what’s born out of it?

John
John
5 years ago

I was about to say fuck PDX I’m moving to Minneapolis where the city seems to care more for their bike paths. Then I found this list of assaults. While few, I haven’t heard of pistols, stun guns, and Molotov cocktails being used against cyclists here in Oregon. Maybe we’re lucky?

http://midtowngreenway.org/about-the-greenway/safety/incidents/

I wonder what a list of Springwater assaults would look like.

Hello, Kitty
Hello, Kitty
5 years ago
Reply to  John

We should find out who cleaned up Minneapolis. It was looking pretty grim until they did something in Sep 2015; since then, not a single incident has been reported. Let’s do whatever they did, and get our trails back under control.

dan
dan
5 years ago

I don’t understand- the entire premise of your post is that she was attacked-

“What we initially thought was a terrible bicycle accident,” her family says, “is the result of something far more sinister…. it would appear an individual(s) was hiding along the path and hit Skjelse in the face with a rock while she was riding by.”

“While we don’t know much about the motives of the attack or the identity of a suspect…”

But now it appears that there’s no actual evidence of an attack, other than a rider claiming they “saw a lone suspect fleeing the area as they rolled up”.

I’m not sure this is an issue of “not making that more clear” but jumping to a conclusion that is totally unsubstantiated and creating fear in the community while focusing anger on easy targets.

Hello, Kitty
Hello, Kitty
5 years ago

Well, there was also a bloody rock, no? And there is some question of how a rider could suddenly and seriously crash on an open trail. To me, an attack is entirely plausible.

dan
dan
5 years ago
Reply to  Hello, Kitty

Actually, maybe.

According to a post from an actual news site the husband found a rock that he assumed had “what appears to be dried blood” on it.

http://www.kptv.com/story/33134142/woman-seriously-injured-while-riding-on-columbia-slough-trail

soren
soren
5 years ago
Reply to  Hello, Kitty

Portland police spokesman Sgt. Pete Simpson said. They have not been able to verify whether it was an assault because of Rapoch’s memory loss and the lack of witnesses… Simpson said there was no bloody rock, but that there was a rock collected by Skjelse Rapoch’s husband.

http://www.oregonlive.com/portland/index.ssf/2016/09/police_investigating_suspiciou_2.html

rachel b
rachel b
5 years ago

Whether or not this was an attack, folks here have testified about experiencing harassment/threats on that path that led to their no longer using it— i.e. Jess (above): “I live very near the trail and the camping IS a problem — I frequently run on the trail and have had instances of the campers actively intimidating me (standing in the dead center of the trail as I run up, glaring at me and not moving away). For awhile they blocked much of the path. There has been at least one fire over there and the area is intermittently a real mess. I am a petite woman and I no longer run that trail without having a phone handy. It sucks.”

Middle of the Road Guy
Middle of the Road Guy
5 years ago
Reply to  dan

“That rock picked itself up and threw it.”

Her injuries (I’m not expert) don’t seem consistent with a “just riding along” crash.

I suppose it could have been a meteor.

TJ
TJ
5 years ago

Going over the front face first without a wrist or collarbone absorbing the initial hit happens more frequently than you’d assume — both racing and commuting. Many times cause is unexplained.

The key: plausible either way.

Brian W.
Brian W.
5 years ago
Reply to  TJ

It is definitely plausible either way, given the little evidence we have seen. It is strange/horrible to think that in this situation going down hard by your self is the preferable situation.

lyle w
lyle w
5 years ago
Reply to  TJ

Yep, going over a certain speed, you can easily endo faster than you can put your arms/hands up to absorb the blow to your face. That would usually come by something getting sucked into the wheel/fork (think squirrel/steel rod/large piece of cut carpet?)… which I guess could then get spit out. I don’t know how common it is for your hub somehow to lock up out of nowhere (probably extremely rare).

But it can definitely happen.

Middle of the Road Guy
Middle of the Road Guy
5 years ago
Reply to  lyle w

I doubt she was going 30mph on that path.

KM
KM
5 years ago

From FOX (while not a source of a news I like) her friend found her and then called the husband. The husband says he “searched” and found a rock. It sounds like the husband did a thorough investigation of the area so by the time the police arrived he had a rock, a story of a person climbing the overpass, and an unconscious wife… and all bikes accounted for. If you watch his interview, he’s composed and not shaken but makes little eye contact with the newcaster.

Brian W.
Brian W.
5 years ago

When I first saw this on instagram I did not think the injuries were consistent with a cyclist losing control and landing on their face. She was wearing a helmet which tend to do a decent job of protecting massive damage to your nose/mouth area (almost all helmets stick out further than your nose). I would also expect scraping and lacerations to the lower part of her face due to sliding on asphalt, which are absent.

I am not a doctor or a collision expert, but the two times I have landed on my face while wearing a helmet my nose/upper mouth was spared, and most of the damage was to my chin/lower jaw. Which is anecdotal of course.

I have ridden with Skjelse before and wish her as quick as a recovery as possible, and hope she is back on the road (or trail) soon.

Ian
Ian
5 years ago
Reply to  Brian W.

On the topic of anecdotal evidence, I was in a right-hook crash that sent me face-first into asphalt, and Rapoch’s injuries look perfectly consistent with the ones I sustained (including a helmet that, thankfully, absorbed a good bit of the impact force). Specifically, broken nose, upper lip split open, several teeth knocked out, but no significant injuries below the mouth area. That’s not to say that the rock wasn’t involved, of course, but I’m quite convinced that her apparent injuries could be adequately explained by a face-first helmeted collision with the ground.

Kyle Banerjee
5 years ago
Reply to  Brian W.

I agree that the injuries could result from a face plant. I sustained similar damage myself in a crash a little over 30 years ago. You do not necessarily slide, and even though my case was much less severe than hers, I still lost a bunch of teeth, rammed the bone in so I still can’t close my mouth the way I could before, and got 18 stitches in my chin plus a few in my lip.

Whether or not she was attacked, I won’t ride some of these paths specifically because of harassment. My personal experience is that harassment on bike ways is significantly worse than that on the road, and it much more unpredictable to boot.

Gabriel
5 years ago

Terrible. And I am assuming her bike was stolen?

Jim
Jim
5 years ago

I’m re-reading this a couple of weeks after seeing it the first time. My wife had a cycling accident a few years ago and her injuries were remarkably similar to the young woman in this story. My wife doesn’t remember what happened either, and she’s glad she doesn’t. I wouldn’t be so fast to point fingers and assume that there was an attack.