One minute, he was pedaling across the Golden Gate Bridge at five miles an hour following a long bicycle ride. The next, Patrick Shortle was being worked on by an EMT, with a broken hip, broken collarbone, broken ribs and a concussion.
“They said I was passed out in the street,” said Shortle, 60, who had just completed a training ride for the AIDS Life Cycle before he was injured on Feb. 17. Shortle gave his interview via telephone from his hospital bed at Kaiser Permanente Medical Center, where he is beginning a two-month recovery period.
Shortle was pedaling south on the bike/pedestrian path near Merchant Road — near the Golden Gate Bridge gift shop and automobile parking lot on the San Francisco side — when he for unknown reasons veered hard to the left, according to the official CHP incident report (you can read it here). His bicycle hit the concrete curb in front of northbound pedestrians and cyclists and he was thrown from the bike, the report said.
But Shortle was hurt so badly — the fall cracked his bicycle helmet, and when he arrived at SF General Hospital, his trauma doctor told him the helmet saved his life, he told the Appeal — that he believes a vehicle was involved in the accident. “I have such severe injuries — it’s not consistent with the speed I was going.”
“I think I got hit by a car, but I don’t know,” said Shortle, who has no memory of the impact and was unable to tell responding paramedics what had happened. “I couldn’t tell you for sure.’
Shortle’s doctor at Kaiser Permanente declined to be interviewed, according to a hospital spokesman, and the ride leader from AIDS Life Cycle, who had led the 40-mile practice ride Shortle had just completed, also declined to be interviewed by the Appeal.
Shortle says he has no outstanding medical issues, no history of blackouts, and was last hospitalized “20 years ago,” he said.
It is possible to be severely hurt in a short fall from a bicycle, despite a good level of physical fitness — Shortle is 5-foot-8 and 165 pounds and completed the Life Cycle ride between San Francisco and Los Angeles last year — according to CHP Officer Eric Hohmeister, an agency spokesman.
Furthermore, only one person phoned 911 and described the fall to CHP as not involving any vehicles, Hohmeister. The likelihood of a car hitting a bicyclist near the Golden Gate Bridge in broad daylight without the driver being stopped by a mob or at least reported by a mob of 911 calls is unlikely; unlikelier still is the possibility of a car or vehicle driving on the pedestrian/bike path, Hohmeister said.
Nonetheless, friends and family of Shortle still believe there’s more to the story. “Patrick’s injuries don’t match the “official” CHP report,” said James Whelan, Shortle’s partner, who added that the CHP’s witness to the event is unnamed and was not interviewed at the scene.
In the meantime, Shortle won’t be able to participate in this year’s ride — and is wondering exactly how he got so hurt.