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Community rallies around man paralyzed in north Portland collision

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

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

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