River City Bicycles owner spent two weeks in ICU after truck collision

View southbound on 42nd at Sandy Blvd. The truck driver would have come from the left.

Given the extent of his injuries, it’s probably for the better that River City Bicycles owner David Guettler doesn’t remember what happened as he crossed NE Sandy Boulevard while on a bike ride on June 2nd.

Just after 5:00 pm, Guettler was rolling southbound on 42nd Avenue as he came toward Sandy Blvd. A witness (who has requested anonymity), who shared an account of what happened with BikePortland, said she was in a car just one vehicle back from the same intersection going the opposition direction (so she was facing the collision). The witness said the signal for traffic on 42nd Avenue was red. When the light turned green, she noticed the bus in front of her move forward. And then out of the corner of her eye she saw a pickup truck driver on Sandy Blvd increase their speed. “The truck driver definitely ran a light and was going well over the speed limit,” they said.

The truck driver, “just blasted through the intersection really fast, like someone does when they’re trying to run a red light,” she added. Then the witness recalls hearing “the sound” of impact and saw a bicycle rider, “Fly up into the air about 15 feet.” Guettler landed about 25 feet west from the point of impact.

The witness then parked her car and ran into the intersection to direct traffic. She didn’t know the victim’s identity and was shocked to find out later that it was Guettler.

Guettler (above) was rushed to the Intensive Care Unit at Legacy Emanuel hospital where he spent the next two weeks in the ICU. Staff from River City Bicycles posted a photo of him in a wheelchair on Instagram Saturday. Here’s an excerpt from the post:

“After riding bicycles nearly every day for over 45 years, our fearless leader Dave was struck on his bike by a vehicle that ran a red light. He woke up in the emergency room with nine broken ribs, a broken pelvis, clavicle, shoulder blade, and more. He feels fortunate to be leaving the hospital considering the extent of his injuries.”

(Graphic: BikePortland)

This section of Sandy is in the heart of the Hollywood District and is full of retail businesses. The speed limit is 30 mph. 42nd Ave has a bike lane and is a main north-south route over I-84 (via the Hollywood Transit Center).

Guettler is a very skilled and experienced rider who logs thousands of miles on his bikes through all types of terrain each year. He’s been the owner of River City Bicycles since he founded the shop in 1995.

The police have confirmed the crash and say they’ve conducted an investigation. Impairment was ruled out as a factor. The witness I spoke to says she also spoke to officers at the crash scene to share her story (which was corroborated with another witness at the scene). She also recalls hearing that the driver was saying they didn’t remember anything about the crash.

For Guettler, the severe impact will (hopefully) shield his memory from the trauma; but he won’t forget its aftermath. “Sadly, I am not the only one who has gone through this. Others have been through worse,” he shared via Instagram. “I consider myself an extremely safe cyclist and anticipate others not following the rules of the road. This collision has changed my life and I hope others learn the ramifications of careless driving…”

I’ve reached out to police to see if any charging decisions have been made in the crash. I’ll update this post when I hear back.


UPDATE, 6/29: Portland Police have issued a citation to the truck driver — 64-year-old Wilson L. Lee of Portland — for Failure to Obey a Traffic Control Device (ORS 811.265).

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)

Founder of BikePortland (in 2005). Father of three. North Portlander. Basketball lover. Car owner and driver. If you have questions or feedback about this site or my work, feel free to contact me at @jonathan_maus on Twitter, via email at maus.jonathan@gmail.com, or phone/text at 503-706-8804. Also, if you read and appreciate this site, please become a supporter.

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dan
dan
11 months ago

I did a shop ride with Chris a few years ago and he’s a strong rider, I hope he can get back on the bike soon. As far as the driver, I hope they lose their license for awhile, but I know that won’t happen. Frustrating.

J1mb0
J1mb0
11 months ago

Jesus. It’s been a bloody year so far.

I hope that driver gets a long long time in jail and is never allowed behind the wheel of a car again.

Watts
Watts
11 months ago
Reply to  J1mb0

Rather than spectacular punishments when a roll of the dice comes up snake-eyes, we need much more consistent enforcement with consistent penalties to reduce the underlying level of dangerous driving that, most times, causes no physical harm.

The crime here was running the red; what differentiates this from hundreds of other nearly identical cases was plain bad luck.

Andrew S
Andrew S
11 months ago
Reply to  Watts

“The crime here was running the red; what differentiates this from hundreds of other nearly identical cases was plain bad luck.”

Wholeheartedly disagree with your statement. When you break laws designed to keep people safe, you should be responsible not only for the infraction, but also for the consequences of your actions. For some reason when the harm is caused by someone driving a motor vehicle, we ignore the inherent dangers of the drivers actions and chalk the consequences up to accident or bad luck. This attitude is irresponsible, encourages dangerous behavior behind the wheel, and leads to weak laws that make it very difficult to prosecute the offenders.

Watts
Watts
11 months ago
Reply to  Andrew S

you should be responsible not only for the infraction, but also for the consequences of your actions. 

By vigorously prosecuting the cases that result in serious injuries, and letting the other 99% of similar actions go unnoted, you create the conditions for more serious injuries to occur.

The crime was running a red light, and because it poses a serious danger to others, it should be dealt with seriously even when no one is hurt. I am not making the case for never prosecuting; I’m making the case for ALWAYS prosecuting.

Consistent moderate punishment is far more effective than an episodic draconian response.

Andrew S
Andrew S
11 months ago
Reply to  Watts

Thanks for clarifying. Agree that it should be an “and” statement rather than an “or” statement. Absolutely take action against the 99%, AND have grave consequences for people whose actions cause grave consequences for others. We need both. AND better infrastructure. AND safer vehicles. AND automated enforcement. AND cultural changes. None of these have to be XOR gates.

KC20
KC20
11 months ago

Literally a cycling hero in Portland. I’ve always worried more about him being out so far and deep on country roads during his epic rides. Unbelievable it happened at a stop light with bike lane, cars are lethal.

Todd/Boulanger
11 months ago
Reply to  KC20

[Bad drivers make] cars lethal.

Boyrd
Boyrd
11 months ago
Reply to  Todd/Boulanger

Bad drivers,a culture of car worship, impunity for violations, and terrible infrastructure. All are problematic, and they contribute to increased risk together.

pierre delecto
pierre delecto
11 months ago

I’m glad that Mr. Guettler is recovering but am also sad that a driver violently changed his life.

Red light running by motor-vehicles has become the norm in Portland. When I cross on a green I now assume that oncoming traffic will blow through the red at high-speed. For example: if there is a motor-vehicle stopped in one lane of a two lane road, I slow down and take a careful look to make sure that oncoming traffic can’t threaten me in the other lane. On roads like Sandy (which I cross ~12-14 times each week) this means that I will sometimes stop mid-intersection to ensure that an oncoming driver in the other lane actually stops/slows on their red signal. And FWIW, as an urban cyclist who enjoys riding on arterial roads, I have started to avoid arterials/collectors because reckless driving is at levels that I have not seen in 40+ years of utilitarian cycling.

I will also note that the increasingly high likelihood of drivers aggressively running a stale red has made me more likely to run a red light if there is no oncoming traffic. If I can illegally cross an intersection with no risk, I will always make that choice rather than wait for traffic to pile up and have a red-light runner threaten my life on a green.

Trike Guy
Trike Guy
11 months ago
Reply to  pierre delecto

I’ve always made that decision on foot and have started to do so more on wheels – I am far safer crossing an empty intersection on a red than depending on a driver to obey basic rules – the one I do mose often is crossing Sunnybrook southbound at 5am. Many a car coming up off 205 and turning west will just roll through their turn without regard to the crosswalk.

maxD
maxD
11 months ago
Reply to  Trike Guy

For years I waited at red lights on my bike, but in the last 2 years I have started to run them after a stop if it all clear. Waiting at a stop light in the middle of street while cars fly by over the speed limit, many busy with their phone, many others without license plates just feels like a gamble. The speeding/red light running is one of the worst of the lingering pandemic effects, IMO. I think it has a very negative impact on all urban life, but walking and cycling are the most impacted

HJ
HJ
11 months ago
Reply to  pierre delecto

It is not actually illegal for you to do that. Oregon has an “Idaho stop” law in place that makes it legal for cyclists to treat stop signs as yields and red lights as stop signs.

Tex Mcdee
Tex Mcdee
11 months ago
Reply to  HJ

That’s for stop signs and flashing red lights, still required to stop and wait on a steady red.

KC
KC
11 months ago
Reply to  HJ

The law in Portland is only for stop signs and blinking red lights. You cannot legally go through a solid red light as a cyclist in Portland.

Trike Guy
Trike Guy
11 months ago
Reply to  KC

actually, in Oregon on lights that are triggered by sensors, if you do not get the signal you can proceed through a red light.

pierre_delecto
pierre_delecto
11 months ago
Reply to  Trike Guy

Your are required to wait for a full signal cycle before proceeding. This requirement is a ridiculous catch-22.

comment image

In just about every case it’s quicker to just punch the ped beg button and wait for the light to turn green than to wait through a full cycle (whatever that is supposed to mean from the perspective of someone who cannot trigger a full cycle).

pierre delecto
pierre delecto
11 months ago
Reply to  HJ

Oregon has Idaho stop-lite law that does not address red lights.

Boyrd
Boyrd
11 months ago
Reply to  HJ

That’s a common misconception, hj. Oregon only instituted half of the Idaho stop law, the half that applies to rolling through stop signs. Cyclists are still technically required to stay stopped at red lights until they turn green.

Todd/Boulanger
11 months ago
Reply to  pierre delecto

This is a sad but effective solution.

It is the same here in Honolulu…since the pandemic drivers have taken on a more entitled behaviour for ‘not having’ to stop at red traffic signals now that drivers know police enforcement is less likely. I can stand at a major arterial with arterial intersection and count at least 1 red light runner each complete cycle. (This has only been minimized at a dozen state intersections with red light enforcement cameras.)

I tell all my visitors walking and cycling to count to five before assuming you can even enter into an intersection from a ramp or stop bar.

pierre delecto
pierre delecto
11 months ago
Reply to  Todd/Boulanger

I can stand at a major arterial with arterial intersection and count at least 1 red light runner each complete cycle.

I think that those who do not constantly cross major arterials for work commutes or other utilitarian trips in Portland simply don’t understand how common this bat-sh*t reckless behavior has become. If someone’s cycling or walking experience is limited to the occasional trip on a safer route and/or at non-peak commute hours they will likely have a different experience.

SD
SD
11 months ago

The driver was heard saying, “I don’t know what happened. I don’t remember anything.”

This speaks volumes about the carelessness and impunity that people have when driving. I have been first on the scene several times when drivers have hit people biking or walking, and the drivers are always incredulous and in denial. They are shocked that their dangerous negligence has finally resulted in a crash. After all, they have probably done the same thing at least a thousand times and watched others do it without consequence. Out of disbelief, they usually blame the victim even if their claims are impossible. Driving safely requires people to act in a non-intuitive, risk-averse manner that has to be learned and adhered to through explicit training or a long process of trial and error. I would bet that over half of US drivers are not anywhere close to driving with the necessary amount of care and attention. If car-based transportation wasn’t such a great way to extract money from suckers, there is no way that we would tolerate this amount of tragedy and destruction from such an inefficient system.

David Hampsten
11 months ago
Reply to  SD

The driver is clearly guilty of running the signal and causing the crash, but neither the diver nor the victim are particularly reliable witnesses, so it’s important for the police to get as many other witness statements as possible, dash cam recordings, intersection recordings, and nearby store cams. It’s quite common for the driver to go through enough trauma at the impact to actually forget everything, even that trauma is far less than that of the victim – it’s just enough to forget. As for guilt on deliberately striking the victim, I’m not sure it was intentional or not, how can you be so certain? Where is that old presumption of innocence until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt?

SD
SD
11 months ago
Reply to  David Hampsten

I didn’t write that the driver deliberately hit Mr. Guettler. Actually, the thought that this was the case did not cross my mind.

We agree about the trauma that the driver goes through after a crash that seriously injures someone. Many times, drivers are portrayed as sober and rational in statements “The driver was not impaired” “The driver cooperated with the police and stayed at the scene,” when in fact they were freaking out and in shock that they just killed or almost killed someone. Whether they were reckless or careful before the crash, adamant denial that they could be responsible seems to be a pretty common coping mechanism. Also agree that any evidence independent of the driver and the victim can be very important.

pierre delecto
pierre delecto
11 months ago
Reply to  SD

Isn’t choosing to ignore the risk that your illegal behavior might kill or severely injure someone deliberate?

steve scarich
steve scarich
11 months ago
Reply to  SD

That kind of statement shouldn’t even be included in the article, unless there is attribution. Who heard it? Otherwise, it is no more than a rumor. At an accident scene, it would be rare for a driver to be within hearing distance of a witness. The police always separate the parties involved. That is standard procedure at any accident or crime scene. Both times that I have been hit within the past three years, the cops kept the other party at least 50′ away from me the entire, 20+ minutes they gathered facts. I never even heard their voices, much less what they were saying.

Todd/Boulanger
11 months ago
Reply to  steve scarich

Steve: that might be better than the opposite…having the driver next to you after being hit in the crosswalk and the police officer telling the driver “oh good people sometimes make mistakes”.

1kw
1kw
11 months ago
Reply to  SD

Comment if the week vote here!

Mel
Mel
11 months ago

This nearly happened to me and my two kids – ages 4 and 6 – last week as a driver on SE Powell crossed into the lane of oncoming traffic in order to blast through the red light just as we began crossing on SE 28th. The driver almost ran down an entire family of pedestrians with very small children as well. I called the police to give a description and file a report, but after waiting on hold for over an hour, was told there wasn’t anything they could do because so much time had passed. My heart goes out to David Guettler and I wish him a full recovery, as well as consequences for the driver. Sorry, but after having just been through something very similar (ESPECIALLY with my kids on the bike), it’s hard to accept “I don’t know what happened, I don’t remember” as an excuse. We’re human beings and we deserve better.

Jolly Dodger
Jolly Dodger
11 months ago

Civil suit? I kinda know how insurance companies work when a driver causes physical injury from their mistakes, based on personal experience. The police “accident” report from the event is usually what the preliminary filing considerations are based on. Obviously having a traffic cam shot of the impact itself would be traumatic, but it could aid in a “no trial” settlement. Though if I was the cycling figure of prominence this person is in our community, (with the monetary resources needed), I’d want a big ass trial about it. The more press coverage the better. As an aside, this intersection has always bugged the crap outta me. Cars are on and off the freeway all throughout Hollywood around there, and it’s always unnerving to ride on Sandy any time, regardless. It never feels safe. I hope the driver has regret for their actions or at least sympathy for their victim, but having to pay a huge settlement and having their insurance premiums impacted is probably the only thing they’ll actually feel.

Michael
Michael
11 months ago
Reply to  Jolly Dodger

I regularly cross Sandy near here (at Hancock, going east/west), and I agree, it’s one of the more stressful parts of my commute. If I could avoid it, I would, but unfortunately there aren’t really alternatives to get from Madison South to Lloyd without crossing Sandy at some point. Something really needs to be done to either slow down Sandy and make it safer at key crossing points or deconflict bicycle traffic with Sandy entirely. Personally, I lean towards needing to calm down Sandy.

John
John
11 months ago
Reply to  Jolly Dodger

I hope you’re wrong. This driver should never be allowed behind the wheel again in their life. They can take the bus or ride a bike for all I care, but never drive again.

steve scarich
steve scarich
11 months ago

Something is fishy here. I was hit in a somewhat similar fashion in Bend three years ago. Several drivers stopped, asked if I was OK, and then told the cops that the driver was at fault. He was cited on the spot for failure to yield. Initially, the case was referred to the DA for further possible charges (e.g. reckless driving), but nothing came of that. If it happened the way the cyclist and witnesses say it did, the driver should have been cited immediately, or within a couple of days. Another question: I assume David got the driver’s insurance information from the cops, and has set in motion a claim. The insurance company has an interest in getting the police report, and deciding what to offer David, in terms of a settlement. They will try to low-ball him to get him to sign an agreement immediately. Where does that stand? More was left out of this article than was included. The accident report is usually available the same day, or in a day or two. In my case, the officer had his report in his computer and offered it to me within an hour of the incident. Because of that, I reached a satisfactory settlement with the insurance company in about two weeks. David’s case is more complicated, because his damages can only be predicted (depending on his long-term complications), so a settlement would take many months at best.

HJ
HJ
11 months ago
Reply to  steve scarich

Cops around here do not seem to be good about citing on the spot. Add to that their blatant unwillingness to enforce the traffic laws the last 3 years and it paints a nasty picture.
Unfortunately this crash was inevitable and is easily shown as a direct consequence of the police’s choices. Even the hard-core car people are reaching the end of their ropes with the increase in dangerous driving as a result of the lack of enforcement.

X
X
5 months ago
Reply to  steve scarich

Portland police, at a crash scene, willfully do not cite evident violations. Failure to obey a traffic control device, reckless and imprudent driving, and vulnerable road user laws often stay on the shelf.

Police who will follow an errant cyclist to the hospital to issue a citation need to do a better job of investigating and documenting a crash scene. When independent witness accounts and the visible facts of a crash are aligned their discretion should be directed toward citing all the laws that reasonably apply, not dumbing it down.

Jay Cee
Jay Cee
11 months ago

This is absolutely horrible. I’ve seen a noticeable uptick in cars running red lights rather frequently these days. Just this weekend a suv moved to the right turn lane to pass all the cars waiting at the red light and full on blew a major intersection at full speed, it was shocking. We need more red light cameras as well as police that will ticket drivers without or obscured license plates

Mark Remy
Mark Remy
11 months ago
Reply to  Jay Cee

Same. Drivers are absolutely running red lights more often now.

As recently as a couple of years ago, I might expect to see one driver go through a yellow light and MAYBE the driver behind that one follow along. Now, I routinely see not just that scenario, but one and often two MORE drivers sail through afterward, long after the light has turned red. With impunity. It’s infuriating.

Todd/Boulanger
11 months ago
Reply to  Mark Remy

Mark, I have started to describe this as a “mental health issue” by US drivers…this entitlement.

Daniel Fuller
Daniel Fuller
11 months ago

I’m skeptical that the culture of impunity surrounding drivers will improve without changing the physical infrastructure of the street. Sandy Boulevard in particular needs a road diet ASAP. It shouldn’t be physically possible to drive at such reckless speeds in the city.

PTB
PTB
11 months ago
Reply to  Daniel Fuller

I agree, Daniel. On my ride to work today some guy was absolutely flying down Foster (I was safe though; bike lanes). No cops in sight, no speed cameras to get caught by, so where is the disincentive? In the morning if you catch lights right and a break in traffic, you could go very fast on Foster if that’s your thing.

Ms. PTB and I were in some UK cities this spring and traffic there seemed soooo chill compared to here. The lack of a grid helps, of course, lots of pedestrians and cyclists slow things, HARD bollards everywhere (Everywhere!), and a high cost of driving and harsh penalties for failing to drive safely and safely maintain your vehicle are probably all positive factors. All are things that I don’t ever see happening here, ever.

Todd/Boulanger
11 months ago
Reply to  PTB

All good points, plus the bar to be licensed as a vehicle operator is (was when my Dad had to study for his when we lived there…no credit for having a US license) much higher than here…especially with the chaos that cratered many DMV departments (no hours, no staff, governors’ emergency orders to allow expired licenses, etc.).

Jess
Jess
11 months ago

More people need to put dash cameras in their cars…it provides evidence some other person may need.

Matt P
Matt P
11 months ago

And we wonder why ridership is down in this city.

Watts
Watts
11 months ago
Reply to  Matt P

We do. Ridership started falling well before people forgot how to drive.

https://bikeportland.org/2020/09/29/census-portland-bike-commuting-laid-low-again-in-year-before-covid-321229

David Hampsten
11 months ago
Reply to  Watts

This absolutely nothing to do with this crash story, but…

The rapid rise and eventual decline decline in bicycle ridership ought to be studied further, and I’m sure there are academics at PSU doing just that.

For decades Portland’s population stagnated around 300,000 as a blue-collar industrial city, known nationwide as “Skinhead City” in the 1970s and 80s. Then after various annexations up to 1991, the city became famous nationwide for being “where 20-something creatives and slackers moved to retire”, kids from the East Coast and California living off of family trust funds, cheap rents, and low-paying jobs. The city boomed during that period, with rapid gentrification, first in Uptown, Goose Hollow, and the Pearl, but quickly moving on to the inner East Side neighborhoods. It was during this period the city also saw a huge jump in bicycle use rates, particularly as measured in the Census American Community Survey for work trips. The city kept growing even during the Great Recession of 2008-12, unlike most other cities nationwide.

And then after 2011 or 12 rents started rapidly rising – those 20-something slackers in the 90s were by then more like 40-something slackers with kids and maybe a mortgage or freshly divorced – while the newest slackers couldn’t afford to move to Portland anymore. And so Portland has essentially reached a nadir in its development – only the rich can afford local housing prices – the poorest are homeless – and the middle who enjoy bicycling to work are priced out, moving to other locals nationwide while they can still afford it.

Roger Geller once classified bicyclists into 4 classes – the strong and fearless; enthused and confident; interested but concerned; no way no how. It would be interesting I think to create a cross table with different income classes – the 1%, the top 20%, the middle class, blue collar, the couch surfers, the homeless, and so on, then see how they’ve fared over time, not only in Portland but other cities as well. Is Portland following an inevitable pattern or is its experience unique? Can other communities learn something from Portland?

Chris P
Chris P
11 months ago
Reply to  David Hampsten

Lessons?
A) Trickle down economics was a lie
B) Hidden inflation is cruel and hurts the poorest the most.

Trike Guy
Trike Guy
11 months ago
Reply to  Watts

Wait, they ever knew how to drive?

Norm
Norm
11 months ago

Here is to speedy recovery Dave.

Mary
Mary
11 months ago

Does he have a fundraiser for the medical bills?

Chris P
Chris P
11 months ago

I was hit in the same intersection in 2020. Broken ribs, badly torn back muscles. Just now getting full mobility back. Horrible experience.

People are speeding to get on the freeway I think. I wish PBOT would look at remedies for this major North/South connection. I’ve heard that others were recently hit here as well.

David Hampsten
11 months ago
Reply to  Chris P

Since 2013 there have been at least 7 reported crash injuries at or near 42nd & Sandy according to PBOT but no deaths. https://pdx.maps.arcgis.com/apps/MapSeries/index.html?appid=5385b143768c445db915a9c7fad32ebe

Amit Zinman
11 months ago

I don’t ride through that area often, but when I do it does feel super sketchy. Lots of people lead a mostly car-free life in NE Portland and deserve something a lot better than this.
We can only dream of a properly designed intersection, but perhaps a green box and some other simple calming measure could be a start.

Randi J
Randi J
11 months ago

Was the driver charged? If so, with what? Will DA Schmidt prosecute?

robert wallis
robert wallis
11 months ago

Thank God he is alive. Pray to God that the Devil stops influencing those who fund, design and build our transportation system, as well as those who enforce the laws governing its use.