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One year after he was killed while biking to work, Gresham man’s family will honor him

Posted by on September 21st, 2017 at 2:32 pm

Robert Esparza.
(Photo via Legacy.com)

The family of Robert Esparza will be on the Gresham-Fairview Trail late afternoon Sunday to call attention to bicycling awareness, organ donation and Esparza’s life.

Esparza, 21, was hit by a Corvette on Sept. 24 of last year while biking through the marked crosswalk near 200th and Glisan at 3:30 a.m. The alleged driver was Alex Jacoby. Esparza, a 2013 Gresham high school graduate, had been on the way to his shift as a welder for medical equipment maker CAPSA Solutions.

Esparza’s sister Janelle Ramirez said in an interview Thursday that she and her family will set up a table, bottled water, cookies and pictures of her brother from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. (Facebook event here.) She expected other family members, friends and supporters to be there or stop by too, though no particular speech or moment is planned.

“I kind of just thought we could talk to people as they approach if they’re interested,” Ramirez said. “I just want a way to recognize him.”

Among local donors to the event is the Community Cycling Center, which contributed a ghost bike. Ramirez said her husband has painted it white in memory of Esparza. It’ll be installed Sunday.

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In Oregon, people biking through crosswalks have the legal right of way as long as they enter the crosswalk moving no faster than someone walking. Jacoby, 76, was later indicted by a grand jury with charges of second-degree manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide, according to KOIN News. Ramirez said the case is headed for trial.

According to KOIN, police said Jacoby was not driving impaired but that they think “speed was a factor.”

Esparza never got a driver’s license, Ramirez said.

“My husband offered to teach him how to drive, and he just wasn’t interested in it.”

— Janelle Ramirez

“My husband offered to teach him how to drive, and he just wasn’t interested in it,” she said. “He was like, ‘No, I have my bike.’ … It’s not like he was an avid biker or anything, but that was his means of transportation.”

Despite never getting that license — a moment when many people are presented with the choice to become an organ donor — Esparza was also a very conscious organ donor, Ramirez said. She said he’d discussed his strong feelings about organ donation with their mother.

“He researched everything and was very, very intelligent,” she said. “I don’t think that he ever expected to need it, necessarily, but it wasn’t just a box that he checked.”

Today, Esparza’s heart, kidneys and liver, along with parts of his eyes and other tissues, are at work in the bodies of 17 other people, Ramirez said.

“Some of my family has been able to cope a lot better with that information,” she added.

Esparza is also remembered in an obituary page on Legacy.com. Simon Esparza has left a comment on that page almost every month since Robert’s death, sometimes signing his name simply as “Dad.”

“You have touched more lives than you’ll ever know and it you will be the reason so many more lives have an opportunity to become alive and well,” Simon Esparza wrote in July after attending a picnic for organ donors and recipients. “I love you so very much. I miss you even more.”

— Michael Andersen: (503) 333-7824, @andersem on Twitter and michael@portlandafoot.org

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18 Comments
  • Ryan September 21, 2017 at 3:48 pm

    Thanks for highlighting this. Sundays are usually busy for me with family things, but if I can talk the wife into a late afternoon family bike ride it would be nice to stop by.

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  • 9watts September 21, 2017 at 6:31 pm

    That was a very nice tribute, Michael. Thank you for writing it and publishing it here.

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  • Bikeninja September 21, 2017 at 7:07 pm

    This makes me sad. Perhaps we can prevent a lot of these senseless deaths and injuries by putting a night curfew on auto use. You want to travel the streets of Portland after 9:00 pm bikes, walking and transit only. Bring back the night!

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  • pdxbusman September 21, 2017 at 7:29 pm

    “It’s not like he was an avid biker or anything, but that was his means of transportation.”

    This statement hit home for me. Have you ever heard anyone say, “It’s not like he was an avid motorist or anything, but that was his means of transportation”. Can we please explore the difference between these? It’s transportation people, not a hobby, not a toy. Cars and bikes NEED to co-exist. They are the same, except one kills cyclists, pedestrians AND their own.

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    • nuovorecord September 22, 2017 at 9:19 am

      I think that’s an important distinction to make. Or rather, the lack of a distinction between people in cars, on bike, in a mobility device, on a bus/train, or on foot. At the end of the day, we’re all people, trying to get where we need to go, regardless whether it’s the manner that we choose or that we have no other choice in.

      I don’t see this as a transportation issue so much as it is a reflection of how disconnected and uncaring the human race has become. Yes, there are outpourings of support when major disasters hit that show that at least some of us still care about our fellow humans. But in the day-to-day interactions that make up life, we so often give nary a thought about those around us. Take that attitude into a car, and the consequences are tragic.

      Not sure how we fix that. 🙁

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      • nuovorecord September 22, 2017 at 9:21 am

        Should have said “I don’t see this as a transportation issue so much as it is a reflection…”

        (Can we all crowd-source the funding for an edit feature on this blog????) 🙂

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      • bendite September 22, 2017 at 1:19 pm

        In what timeframe were we more connected and caring?

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    • Kyle Banerjee September 22, 2017 at 1:32 pm

      pdxbusman
      “It’s not like he was an avid biker or anything, but that was his means of transportation.”
      This statement hit home for me. Have you ever heard anyone say, “It’s not like he was an avid motorist or anything, but that was his means of transportation”. Can we please explore the difference between these? It’s transportation people, not a hobby, not a toy. Cars and bikes NEED to co-exist. They are the same, except one kills cyclists, pedestrians AND their own.

      I don’t want to distract from a young person who had their life taken by someone driving irresponsibly

      Being identified as a “cyclist” in Portland carries baggage which can make the label a divisive one. I described myself as a cyclist my entire life before moving to Portland, but no longer do for that reason.

      The way I interpreted this statement was to say he was a normal guy with nothing to prove crossing the street like anyone else would.

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  • Al September 21, 2017 at 8:12 pm

    I didn’t know there was a fatality at this crossing. I’ll see if I can stop by Sunday.

    These intersections need to change from just having a caution light to one where it actually cycles from green to yellow to red. There is too much ambiguity when cars will stop for you. I had a close call at this very crossing. Traffic was stopping for me until it wasn’t. It was the weirdest thing. Both cars approaching the crossing were slowing down until they decided, “Nah, we’re going to proceed through anyway.” Luckily, I was just getting out into the crossing and was able to turn at the last moment to avoid getting hit.

    The more common scenario is that one car will stop but another following behind in the other lane will drive through. The car actually driving through can be screened by the stopping vehicle so you don’t actually see it until an uncomfortably short interval before it approaches you.

    All of the Gresham-Fairview crossings are like this but should be like the Springwater Trail crossing Eastman Parkway instead. There is a clear green/yellow/red traffic signal there and it is very clear to both pedestrians and cyclists crossing and cars approaching who has the right of way and when.

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    • Spiffy September 22, 2017 at 2:12 pm

      if you hesitate at all then drivers think you’re letting them go… see it all day long… people approach the curb and peek out, the car starts slowing, the ped waits for the car to stop, but since the ped doesn’t proceed while the car is slowing down the driver assumes the ped wants to wait until the driver passes…

      I was like that for a while after moving to Portland as a driver… mostly because I got tired of stopping for people that weren’t actually crossing the street but were merely walking halfway across the road to see if their bus was coming and then walking back… so I no longer stopped for people waiting to cross if there was a bus stop at the corner…

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  • John September 22, 2017 at 7:04 am

    Does Alex Jacoby deny being involved in the incident? If not, he’s not the “alleged driver,” he’s the driver. Even on this blog, being a driver isn’t a statement of guilt to be qualified until the justice process is complete.

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    • Jasmine Elliott September 22, 2017 at 11:03 am

      Yes, Alex Jacoby killed my brother. I believe the author was getting that information from the news that was published shprtly afyer the accident.

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  • Cellular September 23, 2017 at 11:28 am

    these stories make me extra sad. i wish motorists stopped viewing us as annoyances that cause them delays and worse, another thing to take their attention away from their cell displays. God forbid, we treat each other with respect and value our equal rights to live. I am sorry for your loss, Jasmine.

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  • Bart September 23, 2017 at 8:16 pm

    I didn’t know Robert, but I used to see what I presume was his bike at Capsa and I’d always wondered who was doing the riding. There are only a couple riders in the industrial park off 185th. I’d make excuses why I wasn’t going to ride – road noise, the weather, speeds, but seeing that bike chained to that pole… he inspired me more than once to get on my own bicycle and pedal my butt in.

    Thanks to the Esparza family for honoring their son’s wishes, letting his legacy live on through 17(!) other people, and coming out to the trail to share his story. Also, cheers to Robert.

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    • Jasmine Elliott September 25, 2017 at 10:05 pm

      Thank you for such a nice comment, it means alot to all of us.

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  • Joe September 25, 2017 at 11:48 am

    live on ride on.. RIP * tears *

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  • Joe September 25, 2017 at 11:50 am

    so many ppl in hurry driving these days.. 🙁

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