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.
Rest in peace Dan. And may the wind always be at your back.
— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and firstname.lastname@example.org
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I’m so sorry to hear this. I had many conversations with Dan, He was always thoughtful and seemed particularly interested in talking about skateboard transportation.
Group rides won’t be the same without Dan riding along.
Thanks for all your efforts, Dan.
i didn’t know dan well, but from our few interactions, he seemed quiet, kind and worked tirelessly for bike advocacy. tailwinds, dan, rest in peace.
I’m really sorry to read this. I don’t think we’d ever met in person, but in our interactions online he came across as a really great person.
This is so sad! Dan was a wonderful person, kind, and with a sense of humor. I really enjoyed his attendance at the many events I saw him at. So sorry to hear this!
I feel sick. I was so pleased when Dan got the apartment on Foster, because he had lived so far from what he was involved in. I kept hoping he’d land the job he applied for on Hawthorne, and never dreamed that that would be such a small and unimportant wish.
Sounds like he was a great guy, and someone who strengthened our bike culture here in Portland. I can’t help but be curious as to whether he was wearing a helmet when he crashed. According to these pictures, he only wore them sporadically.
He was wearing a helmet at the time of his crash Zander77.
Hi Jonathan, have you considered removing these kinds of comments? I personally don’t think they are appropriate on a post that functions as a memorial to someone who passed away. Perhaps they can be moved to the Bike Portland forums, as an alternative to deletion.
Thanks for the feedback Soren. While I don’t love this comment either, I don’t think it rises to the level of needing to be deleted or moved.
Jonathan, the comment was very useful b/c I had – and I’m sure hundreds of other readers also had – the same thought as we read the article and looked at the pictures. No one is blaming Dan for his own death – far from it. But it is natural to wonder if he was wearing a helmet when he crashed, since the photos provide so much evidence to the contrary. We all want to be as safe as we can be when we’re out riding. Thanks.
As a follow-up: I understand the curiosity, but these sorts of questions after a tragedy come across as victim blaming to those who are grieving. To be very clear: I’m assuming your intent was benign, I recognize the relevance of a helmet in a crash, and I want to help you understand why such questions are a habit to leave behind. I’ve made similar mistakes before, ain’t nobody perfect – but we keep learning!
so sad to hear this
I met Dan at my first group ride after moving to Portland, and later that year attended PSU’s Traffic and Transportation class with him. He was a fixture in the bicycle activism community, and I will miss his steadfast and resolute presence.
I would have thought I’d seen him on rides in Portland since earlier than 2013. He was always out there. Sad.
What very sad news. Dan was a regular on Bicycle Kitty rides. He had a silent strength and confidence about him.
This is so sad and confusing. Was there no MCT investigation / it was not treated as a traffic death? Even a mechanical error/failure deserves to be questioned in terms of Vision Zero and safety by design. What fence?
Dan will be missed. I still have the sign I made for his No More Four Lane Roads ride last year “See you at the next light!”, and indeed we did repeatedly catch up to the speeding and honking car traffic which had passed us only to wait idling at the next stop light.
PBOT won’t include this as a traffic death in their annual tally (that will be on Vision Zero maps, etc..) because only one person was involved. Odd I know. I don’t agree with that and I think it should be on the list. We don’t know if environmental/design factors contributed. I’m adding it to my tracker FWIW.
PBOT will of course investigate and track it, it just won’t be logged in the annual tally, because they use national criteria which excludes suicides, deaths that happen in parking lots, incidents that don’t involve a motor vehicle, and deaths that happen over 30 days following the collision.
As for the location.. I didn’t feel appropriate to put in the main body of the story, but here’s the exact location where it happened via Google Maps. You can see the white house in the middle. That’s the curb and fence he hit:
False. PBOT and ODOT consider single vehicle crashes to be crashes like any other. The ODOT database is full of fixed object single-vehicle crashes. The disconnect is that ODOT does not typically record a non-motorized single vehicle crash (Department of MOTOR Vehicles, ICYMI), and the reporting limits for property damage only bike crashes are usually below the minimum dollar value (PDO crashes are precursors to more hazardous trends). However, fatal crashes likely always make it into the database. PBOT would always add such crashes it had knowledge of to it’s database.
Just to clarify. I’m aware that PBOT/ODOT keeps track of fatalities like this one. I’m talking about the public annual tally of fatals that are published each year. The fact is, Dan’s death will not be on their official annual tally because PBOT follows national criteria which excludes suicides, deaths that happen in parking lots, incidents that don’t involve a motor vehicle, and deaths that happen over 30 days following the collision. I’ll edit my other comment to make this more clear.
The crash occurred in Happy Valley (SE Otty Road), in Clackamas County, and not in Portland, so PBOT isn’t involved. It’s much more likely to be recorded as a pedestrian death, as the police record all non-motorized vehicle deaths as “pedestrian”. How ODOT translates that info is another issue.
Yes. Happy Valley. Thanks David. I have corrected the story and I will not add this death to my fatality tracker.
So sad to hear
Dan will be sorely missed. He was a regular attendee of Puddlecycle rides over the years. Check out the nice photo album he posted for the Hidden Gems of the Springwater Ride:
I bet I have so many pic.s of Dan on lots of rides. Paula got you and Dan on the ride you mentioned https://flic.kr/p/r95JHt
I wonder how many bike moves he was on.
Just reading about this now … I’m so sad! Dan was an amazing bikey friend – will miss him.
Went down memory lane to find more pictures of Dan. His Facebook page is rather sparse in self images:
The Luck of the Irish 2019 (Dan in back center):
Planes, Trains, Automobiles & Bikes 2018:
Ride to Fairview Christmas Tree Lighting 2018:
Nighthawk Holiday Lights Ride 2017:
Bomb Shelter Ride 2017 (Dan’s photos):
Ride to the Dahlia Festival 2016 (Dan rode home with a bouquet on his bike):
Orange Line Art Hop 2016:
Clinton’s Run 2016 (Dan in high-vis outfit):
Into the Maddax Woods 2015 (Dan in high-vis outfit):
Riders to the Stars 2015 (Dan’s picture through Santa’s magic glasses):
Fixie Friendly Council Crest 2015 (pictures of Dan and his photo album):
Dan’s photo album on the Ripplebrook Century 2015. He rode 130 miles!
Orange Line Adventure 2015 (Dan in blue shirt taking picture):
Flying Carpet Ride 2015:
North Portland Greenway Excursion 2014:
Into the Maddax Woods 2014:
Riders to the Stars 2014:
Dan with the Belmont Goats 2014:
Springwater Hidden Gems 2014:
Oh my gosh Tom, thank you so much for pulling all these photos together along with the rides and dates. If you find any others feel free to message me through Facebook. I am putting together a memory book of Dan. There is a lot about his life here in Portland that his brothers and sister living in the Midwest are unaware of. Thank you!
Thanks Cathy! I’ve updated the Puddlecycle ride list with a “Dan” icon for the rides he went on. Some of those don’t have pictures, but do have comments he left:
I’ve got some higher resolution images on iCloud, so I’ll get those to you as well via Facebook.
Can’t help but be suspicious when an experienced cyclist goes down all by themselves, especially on a daily commute.
So many things can happen that being suspicious of anything is pure speculation. As is the case for motor vehicles, accidents often happen on daily commutes and single vehicle crashes are common.
Even the details supplied don’t necessarily tell us anything. For example, the brake cables could have slipped as a result of the crash and it’s very possible that the crash had absolutely nothing to do with being unable to stop.
It’s just a tragedy. He was taken too soon.
Somewhat disrespectful to suggest his bike was in a state of disrepair. I rode with him on numerous occasions and he was safe courteous and skilled rider with a well-maintained bike.
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.)
It’s not at all disrespectful to suggest a mechanical failure might have led to this crash, less so even than suggesting operator error led to a car crashing into a tree. We should all welcome factual inquiry that can both help explain this tragedy and, hopefully, help avoid the next.
Baseless conspiracy theories like this help nothing and just end up discrediting cyclists as a whole when non-cyclists see them and incorrectly generalize that all cyclists are this way.
My heart goes out to Gebhart’s friends and family; what a tragic accident.
The chances of someone drifting into the bike lane down a left-curving hill are pretty good. As are the chances of someone deliberately crowding him in podunk Clackamas. Like what? Aware that sometimes people who drive cars are aggressive toward cyclists? Who hasn’t experienced it?
The chances of your imagination having any idea of what occurred are zero. I drive a car. I ride a bicycle even more. What makes you an expert on Clackamas county activities? Are you aware?
There is no basis to try to make this tragedy into an anticar thing. For starters, vehicles that encroach on bike lanes on curves typically do so on the inside rather than the outside of the curve.
There are simply too many viable causes to pretend to know it was anything in particular without evidence.
Oh, no! I am so very sorry to learn of this. I met Dan numerous times at advocacy events, vigils, etc., and was always so grateful for his dedication and his kind heart. I just want to cry with sadness. I always was told to be thankful that my son died doing what he loved the most, and the same could be said for Dan, apparently. However,while that can be a smidgeon of comfort in the greater scheme of things, my heart just bleeds for his family, especially his mom, because of their enormous grief at the loss of this young man way too soon.
Thank you Kristi.
Such a tragedy. Dan came on both of the Talking Heads pedalpalooza rides. Wish I had had the chance to talk with him more. I am sure he had an interesting prespective pumping people’s gas while riding a bike to get around himself. He will be missed!
Wow. If a problem with the brake cables was indeed the cause of this crash, then this is my absolute worst nightmare as a bike mechanic. Please note that I’m not trying to blame the victim (I see that concept was already broached in a previous comment about helmets), but I do try to take away valuable lessons whenever anything goes wrong.
Thank you for saying this. I was going to write something about being ten times as perfectionistic the next time I adjust my brakes, but I could not think of a way that would not imply blame. There are so many ways for so many small things to go wrong
I remember when I first moved to Portland. I started going on group bike rides. Going by myself to the rides, and not knowing what each would be like… I would feel anxious!
But then, I would see this familiar face again and again and again. Dan would be just giving off this quiet, calm, kind level-headed energy. I learned who this person was. And soon, my rides would often start by going up to somebody, and say “hi Dan!” And that meant the little anxiousness of a new adventure would go away and I’d and be ready to ride!
I am so sad that won’t happen again. He was such a good person to have in the world. Quiet in the way that mattered and made people around him feel better. I am going to cry now.
Rest in Peace, Dan.
Oh no, Dan.
I remember an earlier Twitter bio of Dan’s, too: “pedestrian by choice, biker by necessity.” One of my strongest memories of him was the time he showed up to a housing reform ride, panting and still merrily speckled in paint from his previous, completely different ride.
Dan was exactly the sort of Portlander we need many more of. The fight to make the city better will be a little harder without him, and the world will be a little less pleasant.
Rest in peace Dan! Portland bike community will miss you.
So many memories of Dan from Bike Loud events. I think my favorite is the time he planned the route and helped lead the ride down to Salem to protest ODOT in 2016. He actually rode it before to test it out and he was a confident, calm leader even when we accidentally got a little off-course. I’m so sad he’s gone.
I’m well aware of what I did there. I used accident to be extra sensitive to the situation. That’s also the term his mom used to describe what happened and with stories like this where I know the victim and his family, I tend to mimic their language to be as sensitive as possible. Thanks for the feedback.
UPDATE: Upon further thought, I have changed “accident” in the story to “crash”. just FYI.
What a touching tribute Johnathan. Reminds me how connected we all are, even the quiet guy who pumps your gas.
I will forever remember to check and double check my brakes before riding. Often seem to forget to reengage one or the other after removing the wheel.
Brake cables ‘slipped’…not quite sure what that means. I can’t recall the brand of a bike being mentioned in other reports on crashes. Not sure why it was done here. That said, I think Bike Friday should be given the opportunity to weigh in, since many will connect their brand with the crash. btw I am a former BF employee.
I did reach out to Bike Friday right away. Dan was a beta tester on their bikes and had actually gone down to Eugene in early September to look at an issue with the housing on the motor. They do take these things seriously and are always looking to troubleshoot potential issues.
No one really knows what happened. We know that he had moved his bike cables to go around a basket he had installed and for whatever reason may have gotten distracted and not tightened them down all the way…..who knows. We can only guess. But, the sad fact is that he is no longer with us.
Take care everyone and be safe.
I’m sorry for everyone’s loss. The guy was clearly very well liked / loved.
So sad to hear. I remember Dan always saying hi to me. It wasn’t always a vocal “hi” but a nod or a smile said it all for me. You will be missed
In the early years of BikeLoud I spent a lot of time with Dan and he was someone that I considered a friend and had/have enormous respect for. BikeLoud relied on Dan enormously because he was often ready to take on time intensives roles that others, including myself, were reluctant to commit to. Dan also made these commitments even though he attended meetings, actions, or rides after a long day of work and faced a very long ride back home to Clackamas. As Emily G mentioned, Dan played an essential role in planning BikeLoud’s lobbying rides to Salem as well as being a key organizer of some of BikeLoud’s most well-attended Pedalpalooza rides, including “No More Four Lane Roads” rides and “Jazz Funerals” for traffic violence.
I also want to note that when Dan said that he was a walker by choice and a bike rider by necessity he was not just making a metaphorical point. Dan had a chronic health condition that made it impossible for him to drive. When I developed a chronic condition that prevented me from cycling, Dan’s messages of support were one of the things that really helped me through a time of depression.
Dan was also a renter who struggled with landlord refusal to make basic repairs. At bike events and later at Portland Tenants United (PTU) events, we often discussed how a lack of affordable apartments in Portland pushed many tenants to the periphery. Dan told me that he joined PTU because he appreciated how the Relocation Assistance ordinance made it harder for his landlord to evict him. As a friend and PTU organizer, I was ecstatic that Dan was finally able to find an apartment in Portland. His death is a real loss to our community and I would like to express my deepest condolences to his family.
Soren, I am so glad that Dan was able to help you. I hope you will continue us to remember him as an example of how you can get through the tough stuff and emerge stronger.
Oh yes, he lived in some really dodgy apartments run by slum lords. He was so elated when he was able to move into 72Foster. He loved it there. Thank you for your condolences. I hope to meet many of you at the memorial get together being organized by Bike Loud.
Oh, how heartbreaking! I knew Dan fairly well from the early days of BikeLoudPDX. He was hardworking, devoted, and smart. He faced significant difficulties in his life without letting hopelessness or resentment stop him from advocating for systemic change. What a loss for us all. My thoughts are especially with his mother, his other family members, and others who had a close personal relationship with him.
This is painful news. It’s hard to comprehend. Dan was such a kind, generous, thoughtful person. I remember him from a number of rides (I’m sorry they kind of blend together). I think he organized a no more four lanes road in 2019 pedalpalooza. Route scared the dickens out of me but really showed what’s possible, especially when we went from four lanes to the new Foster (think it wasn’t quite finished).
Dan was a hero of the best sort. Just quietly humbly doing his part to make the world better and to save lives.
Oh no. This news is just heartbreaking. Dan was such a steady and generous contributor to the bicycling and pedestrian advocacy-and-fun community here in Portland. I am grateful to him for that, and comforted to hear that his family is glad that he had found his calling and his people here with us.
Dearest Cathy, Leonard, Rachel, Michael, and Timothy,
I was shocked and so very sorry to hear of the death of your beloved son and brother. Know that he will be grieved, remembered, and sorely missed by so many here in Portland.
In deepest sympathy,
Thank you Betsy
Are we doing a memorial ride for him? He was an absolute gem. Sorely missed, wow, this is terrible. He was an absolute hero Activist!!!
Bike Loud PDX is planning a COVID-safe memorial ride and small remembrance gathering for Dan on Sunday, October 18th from 1-3pm at Mt. Scott-Arleta park.
Early Puddlecycle rides were sometimes just Tom Howe and me and a few stalwarts. Dan was one of the regulars we loved to see who would come out in January to have a bike adventure in the rain with us. His spirit never seemed to sink, and I remembered being tired after a three-hour winter ride in Portland, and at the end watching him bike off toward Clackamas. Tough customer!
I was very saddened to read this. Dan joined me and one other for a ride down to Salem in 2017 to view the solar eclipse. I am thankful for the time I was able to spend with Dan and always enjoyed seeing him riding around regularly. So sad. RIP Dan.