Like many people who arrive in Portland alone and without a network of friends or family, Dan Gebhart found his “kindred spirits” via our vibrant and welcoming cycling community.
“He found within the bike community here in Portland his calling, promoting safer streets.”
— Cathy Bickerton, Dan’s mom
That’s one reason his death while bicycling alone is all the more sad and tragic.
According to Dan’s mother, Cathy Bickerton, he was riding home from work on Tuesday September 22nd when the crash happened. He worked at a gas station on SE 122nd and Sunnyside in Clackamas and was headed west toward his apartment at 72nd and Foster in southeast Portland. Bickerton says he likely gathered speed on the curvy downhill of SE Otty Road, lost control of his bike, and hit a curb before colliding with a nearby fence. Bickerton said the Clackamas County Medical Examiner checked Dan’s Bike Friday folding e-bike and that, “It was obvious the brake cables slipped and would not stop the bike.” (She also noted he’d been moving the brake cables around recently after installing a front rack.)
Dan was 38 years old.
I remember Dan as a quiet and active volunteer with Bike Loud PDX who I’d often see at events and meetings. We interacted via Twitter (he’s @DeadPanDan) and he was a reliable source who’d send me photos to use for stories and brief dispatches from events to help with our coverage.
In 2016 he organized and led the No More Four-Lane Roads ride to raise awareness of the dangers of wide, high-speed arterials. He made a sign for his bike that read, “All Modes, No Stroads”.
Also in 2016, Dan took part in activism to improve safety on SE Division Street which led to PBOT lowering the speed limit. He’s in the blue puffy jacket in the celebratory photo below of the new new speed limit signs:
Dan was born in Elgin, Illinois and lived in Indiana, North Carolina, Wisconsin, Connecticut and New Hampshire before moving to Clackamas in 2013. “After months of struggling in a new place with no friends or contacts, Dan discovered the bike community here in Portland,” Bickerton shared with me recently. “Pedalpalooza and Sunday Parkways brought Dan in contact with kindred spirits – finally folks he had interests in common with.”
“He found within the bike community here in Portland his calling, promoting safer streets for cyclists and pedestrians. He became a member of Bike Loud PDX and participated in many of their initiatives.”
Here’s more from Cathy:
“In late 2019 Dan purchased his first e-bike, a cargo bike. He was so thrilled with the cut in his commute time he ordered a second one as a commuter bike that arrived this past March just as the pandemic hit. Organized bike rides during this time ground to a near halt, so to pass the time Dan took up woodworking with hand tools turning his little studio apartment at 72nd and Foster into a quasi-workshop.
Dan’s degree was in Engineering Technology and his brain was always geared to a ‘fix it’ mindset. He was quiet, thoughtful, slow to speak and had a dry snarky humor. He was anti-car and ironically worked at a gas station for almost six years. True to his character he even gave pumping gas his all. His supervisor was heartbroken when she heard the news. “He kept this place running,” she said.”
Dan’s sister Rachel Moline also shared a few words about him:
“Dan was sparse in words but not in mind and heart.
In childhood, Dan was a kind and inspirational brother who was perpetually immersed in some project to expand his understanding of the world around him. As an adult, he was a good friend. Whether you needed help moving, an appliance repaired, or an extra mind to solve a problem, Dan was eager to help.
Once in Portland he found focus in a new passion of bicycling. He was finally able to merge his intellectual pursuits and generous spirit with a greater purpose through bike and pedestrian safety. He really was a beautiful soul who genuinely cared for his family, friends, and community.”
Family and close friends gathered on September 26th to say goodbye to Dan. He is survived by his mom, Cathy Bickerton, his father Leonard Gebhart, his two brothers Michael and Timothy, and his sister Rachel Moline.
Bickerton plans to donate two of Dan’s bikes and lots of spare parts to the Community Cycling Center.
— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and firstname.lastname@example.org
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