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Columbia River Scenic Highway Accident

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  • David Safdy
    Greetings List, I just joined this list to spread the word about my recent cycling accident on the Columbia River Scenic Highway. From the description I read
    Message 1 of 2 , Oct 2, 2007
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      Greetings List,

      I just joined this list to spread the word about my recent cycling
      accident on the Columbia River Scenic Highway. From the description I
      read of the group it looked like a good place to do this.

      I am from Columbus, Ohio and my wife and I were on vacation in
      Portland the 2nd week of September this year. We had rented some Fuji
      hybrid bikes locally and got around on our vacation using the various
      bicycle paths and Trimet. Everything was great until our final day in
      Portland, Friday September 14. I had decided for us to bicycle the
      Columbia River Scenic Highway east of Troutdale based on local
      recommendations. There is even a nice brochure that touts this as
      being a great and popular local ride. We took the #77 bus out to
      Troutdale from downtown Portland and started on the road a little
      after noon. I discovered that riding on the shoulder of this road was
      dangerous as soon as we crossed the Sandy River bridge in Troutdale.
      The traffic alongside us was terrible - lots of work trucks and
      delivery vans that were easily going 20 mph over the posted 35. As we
      approached the SE Nielson Rd. fork alongside Dabney State Park, I
      heard a large truck coming up behind me and sensed he was not moving
      over. My wife was about 20 feet in front of me. Well, out of the
      corner of my eye I saw his bumper extremely close to me and I swerved
      to the right. There is only about a 3 inch shoulder on this part of
      the road and a very steep embankment that is about 30 feet down. No
      guardrail to speak of anywhere. Guess where I went? My bicycle
      basically fell out from underneath me and I free-fell about 20 feet
      and hit my right shoulder very hard, then log rolled down the
      embankment. I was in a free-fall for about 1.5 seconds before
      impacting the ground. My right collar bone snapped instantly and I
      scratched my legs up pretty badly. This is a map that shows where I
      had the accident:
      http://maps.google.com/maps/ms?ie=UTF8&msa=0&ll=45.518173,-122.351915&spn=0.003263,0.010042&t=k&z=17&om=1&msid=116250680061378627141.00043b88e2d65c03a6b4c

      The truck did not stop. Maybe he didn't even notice I was there. I
      climbed out of the embankment and to catch my breath I had to sit down
      IN THE ROAD because there was no shoulder in this spot. The cars
      going eastbound definitely moved over for me then. I put my bicycle
      in the middle of the road just to make sure. No cars stopped for a
      while, but one motorist going westbound pulled over and asked if we
      fell down and asked if we were okay. I told him that I fell and I
      think I'll be okay. He commented that this highway is dangerous. I
      said, "yep, I just figured that out a few minutes ago."

      I was able to ride back to Troutdale with my broken collar bone and my
      wife helped me put my bicycle on the bus rack. The bus driver was a
      former radiologist and looked at my injury. What are the odds? A
      passenger, who was a former paramedic, kept an eye on me while we rode
      back to Portland. Other than the extreme pain from the injury, I felt
      okay. I finally got to OHSU about 2 hours after the accident and they
      x-rayed my shoulder, confirming that I had a broken clavicle. It is a
      horrific looking break on the x-ray. Returning back to Ohio on the
      airplane was not fun! If you haven't ever had a broken collar bone,
      it is very painful. Now, nearly 3 weeks later, I am recovering from
      my injury, the pain has subsided, and I can actually use my right arm
      quite a bit. I had to miss one week of work when I returned due to
      the extreme pain. My orthopedic doctor says I should be able to ride
      again about 3 months from the accident. Not too likely here in the
      winter in Ohio! My workout routine at the gym is, ironically, reduced
      to the stationary bicycle only.

      I feel that the Columbia River Scenic Highway is an absolutely
      TERRIBLE road to cycle on. I can't believe that anyone would
      recommend this highway for cycling, even to an expert cyclist. The
      road is dangerous for cars or motorcycles. A car or motorcycle going
      off that embankment where I crashed would surely be fatal at road
      speed. I can't believe there is no guardrail in that location
      alongside Dabney Park, either. The scenery is not good on that
      highway, either. You can see the gorge much better from I-84 in a car .

      Fortunately this accident happened at the end of our vacation and not
      the beginning, and also I am glad that I was wearing my helmet. It
      pretty much saved my life in this accident.

      Thanks for reading,
      David Safdy
      Columbus, Ohio
    • matt picio
      Sorry to hear you had such a horrific experience, David. I hope you heal up quickly! The HCRH is dangerous in spots - from the Sandy River crossing to Corbett
      Message 2 of 2 , Oct 2, 2007
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        Sorry to hear you had such a horrific experience, David.  I hope you heal up quickly!
         
        The HCRH is dangerous in spots - from the Sandy River crossing to Corbett is one of the worst due to the volume of traffic.  That section is, indeed, not very scenic.  Unfortunately, you didn't make it to the Women's Forum Viewpoint, Crown Point, or the ride down from there to the waterfalls - that's the segment of the HCRH that the guidebooks talk about and recommend.  That portion generally has lower traffic and is extremely scenic - the views are tremendous.  The highway itself is 74 miles long, 55 of which still exist. (some parts were destroyed to build I-84)  Due to its length and the fact that segments are cut off from each other, have varying traffic, and is partially closed to cars, the riding exerience varies greatly.  Usually local traffic in the summer months is aware that cyclists use the road, but despite this some dangers remain.  Reported accidents are rare, but "close calls" are fairly common, especially since so many out-of-state tourists drive in the area - many looking at the scenery rather than the road.
         
        Unfortunately, safety measures are difficult to put in on many locations along the Historic Columbia River Highway because of its multi-jurisdictional status.  Some areas are incorporated, some are in Mutnomah, Wasco or Hood River Counties, and large portions are in the Columbia Gorge National Scenic Area.
         
        Glad to hear that you were able to get prompt medical attention, and I hope this doesn't dissuade you from coming back.  The east end of the HCRH has a 14 mile carless section that is a joy to ride, and also has spectacular views, especially early in the day.
         
        Regards,
        -matt picio
        (former Michigander)

         
        On 10/2/07, David Safdy <david.safdy@...> wrote:
        Greetings List,

        I just joined this list to spread the word about my recent cycling
        accident on the Columbia River Scenic Highway.  From the description I
        read of the group it looked like a good place to do this.

        <snip>

         He commented that this highway is dangerous.  I
        said, "yep, I just figured that out a few minutes ago."

        <snip>

        I feel that the Columbia River Scenic Highway is an absolutely
        TERRIBLE road to cycle on.  I can't believe that anyone would
        recommend this highway for cycling, even to an expert cyclist.  The
        road is dangerous for cars or motorcycles.  A car or motorcycle going
        off that embankment where I crashed would surely be fatal at road
        speed.  I can't believe there is no guardrail in that location
        alongside Dabney Park, either.  The scenery is not good on that
        highway, either.  You can see the gorge much better from I-84 in a car .

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