Remembering Mitch York, Portland’s latest victim of traffic violence

Mitch York, self-portrait. May 2016.
Mitch York, self-portrait. May 2016.

55-year-old northeast Portland resident Mitch York died on Saturday while he was riding his bike across the St. Johns Bridge.

He was likely on his way to another ride on some of his favorite roads in the west hills. Mitch was only a few tenths of a mile from the quiet backroads, steep climbs, and gravel roads he often set out to explore.

Our picture of who Mitch was is still coming into focus, but it’s clear from his photography that cycling played a large role in his life.

From what we know so far based on his website at MitchYork.com, Mitch grew up in Boise, Idaho. His first serious athletic pursuit was baseball, which he played in high school. Then in 1976, during his sophomore year, he discovered skateboarding and it completely took over his life. Based on his own account, riding skateboards — and photographing his friends doing it — became his all-consuming passion.

“Over the last 30 years I have also fallen in love with road cycling…loving the pure solitude of a long ride in the mountains, or country road. Loving the different people and kindred spirits I’ve met and bonded with…”
— Mitch York

35 years later and he’s still skating, and he credits road cycling with keeping his body in good enough shape to do it. Like many of us he rode for the beauty of backroads and the riding buddies you share them with.

“Over the last 30 years I have also fallen in love with road cycling and have worked at it the way I worked at skating,” he wrote on his website four years ago, “loving the pure solitude of a long ride in the mountains, or country road. Loving the different people and kindred spirits I’ve met and bonded with over this unbelievably difficult sport that has kept me in good enough shape over the years to be able still go skate a pool when I want to without embarrassing myself.”

Mitch was a professional photographer with an impressive portfolio of commercial shoots, portraits, and architectural images.

His Instagram and Strava accounts are full of beautiful images of roads many of us have ridden:

like Rocky Butte, where he liked to do hill repeats;

#Oregon#cycling#hills#rockybutte#fall

A photo posted by Mitch York (@yitchmork) on

the Columbia River Gorge;

#oregon#cycling#highway30#longhardride #99miles#soloriding

A photo posted by Mitch York (@yitchmork) on

Larch Mountain Road;

#oregoncycling#larchmt#lovelyday#

A photo posted by Mitch York (@yitchmork) on

Mt. Hood backroads,

#Prayers#MtHoodGravel#Before theFall#23mmClinchers#PlasticBikes#gratefulheart

A photo posted by Mitch York (@yitchmork) on

and even the St. Johns Bridge,

#gothic#heavyskies

A photo posted by Mitch York (@yitchmork) on

Mitch’s good friend Chris Butler told me this morning that Mitch, “Loved to ride his bike. And he loved the biking culture in Portland.” When Chris visited Portland in September, he recalled that Mitch took him to half a dozen bike shops. “He really wanted me to understand what cycling was in Portland. He was very proud of it.” After showing Chris around town, Mitch took him on his two favorite rides: a 90-mile loop from northeast Portland, across the St. Johns Bridge and up over the west hills into Forest Grove; and a 63-mile loop east on Marine Drive and Historic Highway 30 to Latourell Falls and back.

“Two incredible rides I won’t forget,” Butler shared.

Mitch is survived by his wife, son and daughter. May he rest in peace.

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

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JP
JP
6 years ago

RIP, Mitch. I didn’t know you, but seeing your photos now, I know I’ve seen you on Rocky Butte. Rest easy.

Glenn Fee
Glenn Fee
6 years ago

Beautiful tribute, Jonathan. Mitch, I’m sure we passed each other on the roads around Portland dozens of times, and I’m sorry we never met. Thank you for all that you did – through your photography and in sharing your love of cycling in our state – to make Oregon a better place. Rest In Peace.

rick
rick
6 years ago

Justice needed. Safe streets now.

bikeninja
bikeninja
6 years ago

The pattern that I see with all these tragic deaths are the cyclist struck down are always such beautiful humans. ***Portion of comment deleted. No need to denigrate other road users bikeninja. Thanks. -Jonathan***

Adron Hall @ Transit Sleuth
Reply to  bikeninja

What you said. Cyclists are beautiful humans so often… and I know the removed portion too.

This death seems to have hit me hard, albeit I didn’t know Mitch. But his photos, his paths, are very similar to many of mine that I take. I feel a kindred soul there. Often I’d take similar routes to escape humanity and enjoy a bit of the natural non-manmade world. Those photos are beautiful. RIP Mitch – well wishes to your family, I didn’t know you, but I would have and will call you friend.

TJ
TJ
6 years ago

Thanks pulling this together, Jonathan. Mitch was beautiful.

Ovid Boyd
Ovid Boyd
6 years ago

What a beautiful world you traveled in Mitch

Middle of the Road Guy
Middle of the Road Guy
6 years ago

***comment deleted. Middle of the Road Guy, let’s keep the debates and policy talk on a different post. Thanks. — Jonathan***

Mike G
Mike Gilliland
6 years ago

Lost a soulmate I never met, but now feel I know. We’ll keep riding for you Mitch.

Toadslick
James
6 years ago

This is heartbreaking. Portland is diminished for having failed Mitch York. Thanks for the tribute, Jonathan.

Josh Chernoff
Josh Chernoff
6 years ago

That photo makes me want to ride that bridge every day.
Long live any who value this land enough to get outside and enjoy it.

Greenkrypto
Greenkrypto
6 years ago

Rest in Peace, Mitchell.

Kevin
Kevin
6 years ago

Although I didn’t know Mitch, I seem to relate and understand where he was coming from. The last image is a punch in the gut. I’ve a heartache and am full of sadness. I don’t have the words to express my sorrow for his tragic death, the ones that have shared his fate, and doubtless those reading these pages who will face the same end. Rest well, friend — looks like you made the most of your time here.

Greg Spencer
Greg Spencer
6 years ago

Nice tribute. Sounds like he led a rich life, and very sorry for his family’s loss.

Jason Harris
Jason Harris
6 years ago

Sometime over the years I’m sure I passed Mitch at some point on the road too. From his cycling adventures and photography we would have had a lot in common and would have had a nice conversation if we had ever stopped for a break at the same spot. I’m so sorry for his family and friends, but also sorry I’ll not get that chance to meet a pretty cool dude some time out on Skyline, or West Union, or Reeder. “So, where you headed? Cool, I love that climb, you ever do Rocky Point?” It’s just as painful to think how it could just as easily be my family grieving, any of ours. Hopefully Mitch is riding where everyday is that perfect ride where the sun is warm, the air just slightly cool, and nothing could be better than a bike ride.

DickButton
DickButton
6 years ago

That’s enough of headlines like this. When my co-workers find out I’m a cyclist, they approach me and tell stories about one time where they had to slow down a few MPH and how unfair it is.

Well maybe you should slow the hell down!

dan
dan
6 years ago

Thank you for this tribute. My condolences to his family and friends, I know he will be missed.

Caitlin D
6 years ago

This is so sad. My heart goes out to his family and friends.

Kristi Finney Dunn
6 years ago

My condolences to Mitch’s family and friends. I’ve had a real struggle since learning of this tragedy, of another lovely person’s life lost, another family devastated in ways they never imagined. Thanks, Jonathan, for helping us get to know him a little.

Christopher Jones
Christopher Jones
6 years ago

Thanks for writing this, Jonathan.

Mitch will be missed. I didn’t know him, but like many others, I’m sure we’ve crossed paths. I have only positive thoughts for Mitch and for his family and friends.

Mark Parkison
Mark Parkison
6 years ago

We should hold a memorial for Mr. York.

AEG
AEG
6 years ago

Thank you Mitch for the beauty you created in this world while you were here. My deepest sorrow and condolences for Mitch’s family, friends and our city for our loss.

B. Carfree
B. Carfree
6 years ago

While nothing can make this tragedy right, wouldn’t it be nice if ODOT would finally change the St. Johns Bridge to one travel lane each way with protected bike lanes on each side and rename it in honor of Mitch York?

Pete
Pete
6 years ago
Reply to  B. Carfree

You’re onto something here. It’s called accountability. Santa Clara County / Valley Transportation Authority doesn’t like it when I do this, but in public meetings and discussions I call these things what they are. For example, this is the “Lauren Ward Memorial Greening”:
http://sf.streetsblog.org/2013/12/06/three-years-later-san-mateo-county-adds-bike-lanes-to-deadly-interchange

After years of battling for improvements at Page Mill and I-280, we’re finally starting to make some headway on the “Jeff Donnelly Memorial Interim Alterations” (and you can guess what it took):
https://bikesiliconvalley.org/2015/12/page-mill280-interim-improvement-process

R.I.P. Lauren, Jeff, and Mitch. Hopefully ODOT honors Mitch York’s life by working to prevent further deaths here.

K'Tesh
K'Tesh
6 years ago

ODOT KNEW!!!

Sugar Wheel Works
Jude Kirstein
6 years ago

Thanks for posting, Jonathan. Too often after such a senseless tragedy we categorize people into victim and perpetrator giving the attention to the latter. I really appreciate the attention given to the beautiful life of Mitch York. Wishing peace for his family and friends and taking inspiration from a life well lived.

shannon
shannon
6 years ago

This could have happened to any one of us. It’s heartbreaking. And infuriating.

It doesn’t seem particularly hyperbolic to think that ODOT has blood on their hands. There’s a direct line between the action of putting freight concerns above protection of vulnerable road users to this horrifying result.

Peter Johns
Peter Johns
6 years ago

I got to know Mitch before he moved from Boise a few years ago. He had a great spirit, a passion for bikes and photography. We’ll miss him here in Boise. Ride on, Mitch.

rachel b
rachel b
6 years ago

What beautiful photos. And what a sad loss. My best to his family and friends.

Kittens
Kittens
6 years ago

I cant imagine the loss his family feels right now.

The fact that he was a highly accomplished cyclist and doing everything a responsible rider can reasonably be expected to do, should make some people in ODOT second guess their idiotic choice to paint sharrows here.

esther2
esther2
6 years ago

Thanks for this lovely article. Mitch’s beautiful photo of the St John’s bridge is particularly heartbreaking.

Adami
Adami
6 years ago

What quiet backroads was he one-tenth of a mile from? Germantown Road? Because I’d hardly xall that a quiet backroad. There are no quiet roads that connect to the west hills from the St Johns bridge. As insane as that is.

KRhea
KRhea
6 years ago
Reply to  Adami

Actually there is a “quiet backroad” and it’s called Saltzman Rd. Perhaps not a 1/10 of a mile but close. It’s quiet, beautiful, no cars…Give it a try.

Adam
Adam
6 years ago
Reply to  KRhea

I wouldn’t call Salzman accessible. You still have to bike on Highway 30 to get to it. I’d hardly take my ten year old across the St Johns Bridge and down Highway 30 to access it by bike.

I wish Springville Road was WAY better graded. That would be great access point for cyclists coming from NE to Forest Park. They need to regrade it!

Kyle Banerjee
6 years ago
Reply to  Adami

Agreed that Saltzman is a good ride. Given his pics, I’m guessing he would have also found Germantown road very rideable.

Laura
Laura
6 years ago

My thoughts go out to his family. He seems like an amazing man.

shoshana blauer
shoshana blauer
6 years ago

Jenny…it’s an unbelievable tragedy that I reconnect with you over this horrible event. It’s probably been 15 years since we were in touch and I didnt know you moved to Portland. I am on the phone with Juan and told him too. Sending my love, that’s all I can do. Shoshana

Karen Toal
6 years ago

Mitch and I grew up in Boise together. I’ve followed his beautiful photography and love of life and family via social media for the last few years. Deepest condolences to his family and friends. Mitch I hope you and Bob are gaming together creating beautiful art. This is a terrible tragedy. Pay attention drivers.

stephen salter
stephen salter
6 years ago

i feel like ive lost a friend, a brother, a loved one, a piece of myself… thank you Jonathon for illuminating this beautiful soul. much love to his family and friends, we are all with you

SD
SD
6 years ago

Mitch’s art and life show how beautiful and inspiring it is to get outside of your box and experience the world, whether that box is a car or a house. His death shows the work that needs to be done so that everyone can have these experiences without fear. I will think about Mitch often when I ride across the St John’s Bridge and into the hills.

Mark McClure
Mark McClure
6 years ago

Thank you for this remembrance, Jonathan.

Steve
Steve
6 years ago

Mitch was a great guy. We went to school in Boise and hung out a bit. Always loved to take pics and skateboard..God Bless Mitch and the family !

Ian Frantz
6 years ago

My considered approach on this topic and terms. I welcome any constructive feedback. http://www.ianfrantz.com/philosophy/2016/11/5/what-is-traffic-violence
-Ian