Splendid Cycles

Community rallies around man paralyzed in north Portland collision

Posted by on February 3rd, 2017 at 9:32 am

Duncan and his family in the hospital back in March.
(Photos courtesy the Duncan family)

It’s been almost a year since Brian Duncan’s life changed forever. On March 30th the 37-year-old was on his bike, rolling across North Rosa Parks Way at Delaware when another man, 84-year-old Louis Hellbusch, failed to stop his car for a red light.

The impact left Duncan paralyzed and facing a new direction in his life and that of his wife and three-year-old daughter. That new life now includes a new home — one built to handle Duncan’s lifelong needs.

Duncan was a board member of the Arbor Lodge Neighborhood Association and this crash reverberated throughout the community. Last September his friends and neighbors held a candlelight vigil to raise awareness of street safety in the close-knit north Portland neighborhood — which was the site of two traffic deaths in the six months following Duncan’s collision.

Today the Duncan family is supported by an A-list team that’s helping them build a new, ADA accessible home. The project is called Two Blocks North and they’ve already raised over $40,000, nearly one-third of their goal.

“Biking was a major part of our lives and that’s been taken away,” Duncan said in a statement released through the project. “I feel lucky to be alive but that doesn’t change the reality of our situation.”


Duncan checks progress on his new, ADA accessible home.

Duncan was only able to return home in late November (eight months after the collision) and the Duncan family faced the reality that their existing home needed major renovations to accomodate his wheelchair and sleeping needs. So they decided to move two blocks north (hence the name) to a one-story house that they’ll transform into a place where Duncan can continue his recovery and move around with relative ease.

To help with the project, Duncan has enlisted a team of nine people he knows through the neighborhood, through cycling and through friendship circles. The team includes an architect, contractor, landscape designer, structural engineer, and so on.

Duncan, who still needs daily physical therapy, says he’s very thankful for all the support. He hopes his situation helps raise awareness for traffic safety. “I want to send a message about bike and pedestrian safety, our situation could have been avoided,” he said. “We’ll get through this and I will find a way to start giving back to our community again.”

You can learn more about the project, see updates on the renovation, and support the Duncan family at TwoBlocksNorth.net.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org

BikePortland is supported by the community (that means you!). Please become a subscriber or make a donation today.

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. 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

  • Spiffy February 3, 2017 at 9:45 am

    what consequences did the driver that hit him eventually face?

    Recommended Thumb up 8

    • BB February 3, 2017 at 10:45 am

      Ideally given the person’s advanced age, he and his heirs would be liable for all medical expenses as well as the expenses for moving and rebuilding a house, as well as any potential future earnings Mr. Duncan would have received in his life if he had not been paralyzed by Mr. Hellbusch.

      In reality Mr. Hellbusch was likely ticketed for running a light and then let go with no further liability.

      Recommended Thumb up 10

      • dan February 3, 2017 at 10:59 am

        I don’t disagree, but his insurance hopefully covered many of Mr. Duncan’s financial burdens.

        Recommended Thumb up 3

        • Mark smith February 5, 2017 at 8:47 pm

          The minimum insurance in Oregon is $25,000 per person max $50,000. I have met many folks that carry the minimum. Realistically, one can burn through that much in a night or day at the hospital. One can buy PIP coverage in Oregon….but it’s in your car and possibly transferable to a bike.

          However, insurance companies often don’t offer compensation until you hit MMI and even then…only if you are show to have zero liability. What could be less than zero? Oh, you weren’t wearing orange..or…the driver was drinking a pop…or the moon was showing…

          Been there.

          Car insurance works well with a good attorney and that’s about it. Some get lucky..but not so much.

          Recommended Thumb up 0

      • Spiffy February 3, 2017 at 11:04 am

        your first scenario is something for civil courts to decide, and likely would decide as you state given all the victim has gone through… although actually getting that money is lot tougher than getting the judgement that entitles you to it…

        but what criminal penalties are they facing from the court other than a ticket for failure to yield and possibly vulnerable user violations? license suspension? driving classes?

        Recommended Thumb up 4

  • dan February 3, 2017 at 10:10 am

    Yeah, and why is there no mechanism to get an 84 year old driver off the roads before something like this happens? Given the specifics of the accident, it doesn’t sound like he was safe to drive.

    Recommended Thumb up 11

    • Spiffy February 3, 2017 at 11:01 am

      there is a mechanism, but it involves votes, and old people vote more than others… they’d never vote themselves off the road…

      Recommended Thumb up 5

      • Stephen Keller February 3, 2017 at 12:33 pm

        Oregon has a process for investigating and revoking drivers licenses of at-risk drivers:


        There is even a form to fill out for requesting driver evaluation:


        The state is also one of the few that requires doctors to report medical conditions that would impair driving:


        No voting necessary.

        Recommended Thumb up 4

        • Spiffy February 3, 2017 at 12:55 pm


          although I’m not so sure hoe seriously they would take the report if it was based on something like “I saw that this person could barely walk and had slow reaction times”…

          they’d likely check out as perfectly healthy from a medical standpoint…

          but as long as it prompted a DMV written and driven re-test it could be a great tool for getting the feeble off the road…

          Recommended Thumb up 1

      • Eric Leifsdad February 3, 2017 at 12:49 pm

        There is another mechanism which involves road design. If you regularly have to make it between a 8-9ft gap without hitting a bollard or barrier, some drivers will give up and others will be forced out by the price of paint and bodywork.

        Recommended Thumb up 4

        • Hello, Kitty
          Hello, Kitty February 3, 2017 at 12:53 pm

          Let’s make it more interesting and use spinning saw blades and fire jets.

          Recommended Thumb up 10

          • Middle of the Road Guy February 4, 2017 at 1:56 pm

            Sounds like you’ve played Skyrim.

            Recommended Thumb up 0

    • wsbob February 3, 2017 at 11:22 am

      Here’s a partial repost of a comment of mine today, to an earlier bikeportland story on this collision, linked in this story:

      “….84 years old does not necessarily mean a person of that age is an incompetent or bad driver. I know this is true, because I personally know someone of that age that is a very good driver…a far better driver than many people, sober, reasonably capable as drivers, and of much younger age. This being the case, is why, I feel it’s very important not to jump to conclusions about the fitness of a person to drive, based simply on their age.

      There was a collision…what was the level of fitness to operate a vehicle, of all parties involved in the the collision, and that were operating some type of vehicle? In this collision, the person driving a motor vehicle, failed to stop for a red light; Why? There’s got to be a more specific and relevant reason for the person having failed to stop for the red light, than simply that they were “….84 years old…”.

      It’s occurred to me in past, numerous times, that perhaps in the event of involvement as a vehicle operator in any serious collision, or major failure on the part of some vehicle operator to comply with road use regulations…maybe for such persons, a medical exam to asses fitness to operate a vehicle on the road ought to be mandatory. …” wsbob

      What was the fitness to drive, of Louis Hellbusch? No mention in either this story or the earlier bikeportland story, of Hellbusch’s physical or mental condition, in the time before or after the collision. No report of notes the responding officer’s might have made about his condition after the collision, or what his driving record may have had on it that may have shed some light on the fitness of this person to drive a motor vehicle.

      Recommended Thumb up 6

      • Spiffy February 3, 2017 at 12:53 pm

        I think it’s be great if the driver had to “reestablish eligibility for the license or permit” (DMV quote) after any collision… basically saying that if you don’t re-take the written and driving portion of the exam you have your license revoked…

        Recommended Thumb up 4

        • Chris I February 3, 2017 at 3:44 pm

          I would say after any “at fault” collision. It would double-suck to have to re-take the driving test after some idiot crashes into you. Remember, cyclists would be affected by this as well, per our classification by state law.

          Recommended Thumb up 2

        • wsbob February 3, 2017 at 4:45 pm

          Eligibility re-establishment, certainly after collisions due to the person driving having failed to comply with some related traffic regulation, such excessive mph traveled, running stop signs or stop lights.

          Collisions happen also, when despite vehicle operators having complied with the regulations, a collision nevertheless occurs, for example, when it’s a vulnerable road user involved in a collision, and who failed to comply with the road use regulations. Maybe not such a good outcome of such a eligibility re-establishment policy, if they were to have to go through that process, though not necessarily due to their fault.

          But having to routinely go through such a process, might not be the worst thing that could happen, associated with a collision. I think it is fair to regard vehicle operators as having a comparatively greater burden of responsibility for watching for hazards that could lead to a collision…than do vulnerable road users, particularly those on foot.

          The responsibility for safe use of the road by vulnerable road users, doesn’t, and shouldn’t fall entirely upon people operating vehicles, whether the vehicle is motor powered like a car or truck, or pedaled, like a bike.

          Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Oliver, the other one. February 3, 2017 at 12:03 pm

    I think that far too often we allow the lazy excuse “the sun was in my eyes” or it was spring and the sun was low on the horizon and thus “In my eyes”
    when in fact the real problem is that sun glare on a dirty windshield made it impossible to see out of. These two things are very, very different.

    A dirty windshield falls under the umbrella operating a motor vehicle that is unsafe to operate on the road, and is pure operator negligence. Not that we haven’t all done it, just like we’ve all at one time chosen to exceed the speed limit, or roll a stop sign.

    But that just doesn’t excuse us of liability when it results in a crash.

    Recommended Thumb up 7

    • Hello, Kitty
      Hello, Kitty February 3, 2017 at 12:16 pm

      There’s financial liability and criminal liability. I agree with your statement as far as financial liability goes, and that’s why we have insurance, to ensure there is enough money available to compensate those who get hurt (at least in theory — I think minimum liability levels are way too low in Oregon).

      I am not sure that I think driving with a less-than-pristinely-clean windshield should carry criminal liability; it doesn’t take much dirt to create a hazard when the sun is at the right (i.e. wrong) angle.

      Recommended Thumb up 3

      • Spiffy February 3, 2017 at 1:07 pm

        apparently it needs to be proven that harm is PROBABLE (not just possible) due to the obstruction/impairment…

        example case of cracked windshield thrown out: https://www.thenewspaper.com/news/42/4263.asp

        so if you could get a picture of the view out the dirty window that showed you could barely see anything then you might have a case…

        but yes, you’re still liable for ensuring the road is clear before proceeding, no matter what’s obscuring your vision at that moment… a witness following a driver who runs someone down could say “the sun got in my eyes so I immediately slowed down, however the driver in front of me did not” and that would weigh very badly for the liable driver when they pull “the sun was in my eyes” excuse… Oregon law requires you slow down in such events…

        Recommended Thumb up 0

  • BB February 3, 2017 at 12:04 pm

    Here’s a partial repost of a comment of mine today, to an earlier bikeportland story on this collision, linked in this story:
    I feel it’s very important not to jump to conclusions about the fitness of a person to drive, based simply on their age.
    Recommended 2

    We do it with children, why not the elderly? Just because there are some 12 year olds out there that might do just fine in traffic is not a reason to grant drivers licenses to all 12 year olds, because most of them are not of sound enough mind to operate a vehicle. Same goes for 85 year olds.

    Recommended Thumb up 5

    • Spiffy February 3, 2017 at 2:35 pm

      I think if you make it to 85 years old you’ve earned the privilege of having somebody else drive you for free… maybe a free Uber pass (with set # of miles per year) in addition to a free TriMet pass…

      Recommended Thumb up 2

    • wsbob February 3, 2017 at 4:27 pm

      “We do it with children, …” bb

      12 year olds aren’t allowed to be licensed to drive. In Oregon, 16 years and older people are licensed to drive…and when one of them, for example fails to comply with a traffic light or sign, resulting in a catastrophic collision, is the age rationale brought forth to automatically conclude that 16yr old people, 18yr old people, 20, 25, and so on, should not be driving because they’re not old enough to drive? Or that they’re too young to be driiving?

      No, in the case of young people of driving age, that rationale is almost never, if ever, brought up. Regardless of how they conduct themselves on the road, or what their actual driving skills competency is beyond the most rudimentary driving skills test they undergo in the on the road test that’s part of getting their driver’s license.

      Recommended Thumb up 0

      • B. Carfree February 3, 2017 at 8:05 pm

        Many states, including Oregon, do graduated licenses for young drivers. These have various restrictions that eventually disappear with age, training and experience. Since drivers over age 70 are provably very dangerous and, by the time they are 80 they are more deadly than 16-year-olds, we should also do graduated licenses for older drivers.

        On a side note, in spite of the driver’s handbook explicitly saying that there will be a vision test for license renewal, when I renewed mine earlier this week there was no such test. In fact, I didn’t see any of the usual posters that are used for them. It could be that because I had one last year to renew my CDL medical card the requirement was waived for me, but I doubt it. I wonder how many nearly-blind old folks are getting these eight year renewals.

        Recommended Thumb up 0

        • wsbob February 4, 2017 at 12:48 am

          “…Since drivers over age 70 are provably very dangerous and, by the time they are 80 they are more deadly than 16-year-olds, …” b carfree

          Which drivers over age 70? Which 16 year olds? The kind of generalization in restriction of licensing, as you’re suggesting, doesn’t bode well for identifying and reducing problems people may have that cause them to fail to reliably and consistently follow basic rules of the road.

          People running red lights, and stop signs, is not uncommon, and happens with too great a regularity, on the part of people of all ages that are licensed to drive; they fail to detect vulnerable road users too. Why does this happen? That’s something necessary to know if the roads are to become safer for everyone to use.

          On people younger than 16 being licensed to drive: I didn’t mention that because I suspect the number of people that are twelve, and licensed to drive, in Oregon for example, is very small. Under special conditions are they granted a license to drive. I haven’t looked them up recently, so I’m not sure what those conditions are.

          Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Christopher Jones February 3, 2017 at 12:22 pm

    My family crosses the intersection where Brian was hit every day. We live at the intersection. Every day, we see people driving dangerously on Rosa Parks and on Delaware. This is the same intersection that saw a car-on-car crash that killed Diana Miller-Dixon just a few months after Brian was hit. The city has done nothing to make it safer, despite these horrific crashes in such succession. Letters asking for safety improvements sent to the mayor and to PBOT went unanswered. Emails I sent to PBOT asking for further review were unanswered. Arbor Lodge park and Harper’s Playground and Chief Joseph elementary are a block north of the intersection, so there’s a good amount of foot traffic. I’m unsure how to get the city’s attention. I have a four month old daughter now, and I’m excited to teach her to ride a bike some day, and to walk with her, but I’m not excited about having her near that intersection, or on the road with dangerous drivers.

    Of course, I’m glad that Brian and his family found another great spot in the neighborhood. And I’m really glad to see support for their project. I’m looking forward to seeing them around the neighborhood.

    Recommended Thumb up 9

    • paikiala February 3, 2017 at 3:21 pm

      When did you send them in?
      Of the 5 CJs in the system, none have addresses near this location.

      The most direct contact is via
      or report online at:

      Recommended Thumb up 3

    • Bankerman February 3, 2017 at 9:13 pm

      >> Rosa Parks was reduced from 4 lanes down to 2, concrete islands installed and bike paths painted in.. I guess all the hype about road diets is not all its made out to be……

      Recommended Thumb up 0

      • paikiala February 6, 2017 at 12:32 pm

        you didn’t actually provide any historical crash records one way or the other. So, no facts is where you reside?
        Road diets will eliminate all user mistakes – no one said, ever.

        Recommended Thumb up 0

  • bikeninja February 3, 2017 at 12:55 pm

    In my opinion the combination of running a red light and doing grave personal injury to another person should be an automatic felony assault or manslaughter charge ( depending on outcome). Running a red light is not an accident, it has predictable tragic outcomes the same as randomly shooting a gun out the window of your house. If your eyesight, judgement or reaction times are such that you can not stop at a red light then the act of driving involves the same predictable tragic outcomes.

    Recommended Thumb up 16

  • Justin M February 3, 2017 at 12:58 pm

    I’m glad to see the community do this. So many people think only of victims killed in car crashes, shootings, accidents, etc. In a way, I feel worse for the families of victims who live with serious injuries that can lead to large medical bills, possibly combined with a lifetime of reduced earning potential for the family. To see people lose their homes, have to declare bankruptcy, experience poverty and food insecurity is just heartbreaking and can permanently impact children’s futures.

    Recommended Thumb up 5

  • Spiffy February 3, 2017 at 2:41 pm

    it’s tragic, and politicians give a lot of weight to the testimony of traffic violence victims… if he continues with his activism then he’ll make more of a difference now than as somebody that hasn’t been so directly affected…

    Recommended Thumb up 2

    • Dan A February 4, 2017 at 2:56 pm

      Not the dead ones, who are frequently blamed afterwards for all sorts of trivial nonsense, and have nobody to advocate for them.

      Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Kittens February 3, 2017 at 2:47 pm

    A powerful reminder to those of us who also drive that our cars are deadly weapons.

    Recommended Thumb up 4

    • Middle of the Road Guy February 5, 2017 at 5:17 pm

      Weapons? Was it designed to harm or purposely used in a harmful manner?

      Recommended Thumb up 0

      • BB February 7, 2017 at 2:19 pm

        Neither were shovels or baseball bats but that’s just how they can be used regardless of the original intention of their design.

        Recommended Thumb up 2

    • wsbob February 6, 2017 at 10:02 am

      Fundamentally, motor vehicles aren’t deadly weapons designed to inflict harm or death; they’re a device whose fundamental purpose is travel and transport. Potentially, if used carelessly, recklessly or deliberately, motor vehicles may serve as deadly weapons.

      I think these subtleties are why it’s important, when a collision occurs whose consequence is harm or death, to make a distinction as to the condition of the person operating the vehicle, in order to determine whether something about that collision and the condition of the person operating the vehicle at the time, constitutes a crime.

      Actually, I’m not as sure as I’d like to be about all the subtleties, in terms of how various objects that aren’t fundamentally weapons, can play a part in a person becoming guilty of a homicide. Things that aren’t fundamentally a weapon, such as a baseball bat or even a skateboard…designed for games and recreation…depending upon the way someone uses them, definitely can result in harm or death to another person.

      With either of those two objects, people can be injured, or killed. Either by the person using them being careless, reckless, or just simply less attentive than they need to be to keep such objects from causing harm.

      ex; swinging the bat vigorously without being certain there is no one near that could come into the arc of the bat.

      ex; skateboard being kept secure under the foot of someone sitting on a bench along a sidewalk or on the train…somehow the board gets away, just about the time someone comes walking along, unintentionally steps on the board, loses their balance, falls and becomes injured.

      Are the people with the bat and the skateboard wielders of deadly weapons? Due to how they failed to sufficiently control the use of their recreational equipment, are they guilty of a crime, like some sort of homicide?

      Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Joe Adamski February 3, 2017 at 3:55 pm

    Financial responsibility varies by State, but Oregons limits are woefully low. A lifetime of care certainly will be passed on to the State and the victim. See the required minimum. I carry a blanket policy above this, but am sure I am a minority.

    Oregon’s mandatory insurance law ORS 806.010 requires every driver to insure their vehicle. The minimum liability insurance a driver must have is:

    Bodily injury and property damage liability
    ​ $25,000 per person;
    $50,000 per crash for bodily injury to others; and
    $20,000 per crash for damage to others property​
    State law also requires every motor vehicle liability policy to provide:
    Personal injury protection (for reasonable and
    necessary medical, dental and other expenses
    incurred up to 1 year after the crash)​ $15,000 per person

    Uninsured motorist
    ​ $25,000 per person;
    $50,000 per crash for bodily injury​

    You must certify that you have this insurance each time you register a motor vehicle, or when you buy a light vehicle trip permit. You must also certify that you will comply with Oregon’s motor vehicle insurance requirements as long as a vehicle is registered in your name, or for the duration of the permit.

    Some motor vehicles are exempt from financial responsibility requirements. Those exemptions can be found in ORS 806.020.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

    • B. Carfree February 3, 2017 at 8:16 pm

      Those minimums aren’t even double what they were when I was a teenager. Back then, candy bars were $0.05, sodas were $0.07-15, the mansions in the (L)east bay suburb I grew up in were $300k, as opposed to the $5M they would sell for today. Expensive athletic shoes were $25.

      Bearing in mind that medical inflation has been higher than any other sector other than higher education, these insurance limits are off by about an order of magnitude.

      Maybe we should pay for basic liability coverage at the pump and be done with it. I don’t know what percentage of our motorists are uninsured, but it seems to be all of the drunk drivers who make the local newspaper. At least if they paid at the pump they would be paying something towards compensating their many victims.

      Recommended Thumb up 3

  • Joe Adamski February 3, 2017 at 4:00 pm

    One other thing: this discussion has taken a policy/wonk direction, but I want to send my best hopes to the Duncan family for closure and healing. This is one of those ‘there but for the grace of god’ events that can happen to any of us. I hope that we can all close ranks around the Duncans and offer a level of support and care in the following years.

    Recommended Thumb up 6

  • Gary Becker February 6, 2017 at 8:39 am

    I’d agree in some circumstances (and I think manslaughter is a possibility under some circumstances). But it can be an accident–How about criminal charges for the homeowners that let their street trees completely obstruct stop signs? We have some of those in my neighborhood.

    Related anecdote: growing up some kids being dumb decided to steal a stop sign for kicks. A quiet road deep in some suburban subdivision. I’m sure you know what happened next. I believe serious charges were pursued, but I have no idea what the result was. They were juveniles, so probably not much.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

    • Gary Becker February 6, 2017 at 8:40 am

      Edit: Meant as reply to bikeninja

      Recommended Thumb up 0