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Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Multi-modal miff

Up in Seattle, the bicyclists are suing the streetcar.

Comments (16)

I have to agree that some warning signs may have been warranted, but please.. Doesn't riding a bicycle take an extra degree of caution? Where these people paying attention to the tracks? It doesn't take many falls to figure out the whole 90 degree thing. And, if you are going to ride a two-wheeled vehicle, don't you assume a little more than the average duty, to inspect the roadway ahead of you for things like...rail grooves that your tire might get stuck between?

I ride a motorcycle and those tracks are frightening, especially when wet. I can't imagine what's it like when your tires are small enough to fall right in and get cocked when you or the tracks make a curve.

To clarify, the problem isn't when crossing the tracks perpendicular, it's when riding in the same direction as them and then you need to change lanes, make a turn, or the tracks swerve that you find yourself having to cross them nearly parallel and it's quite a challenge trying to do it safely.

There haven't been any lawsuits in Portland because of this?

Are we entitled to be amused by the incompatibility of the city's two favored modes of transport?

These lawsuits remind me of a suit by a person who decided to come to a stop, on a bicycle, on a cattle guard. (Cows are smarter than that.)

Bike advocates versus transit activists. It's the perfect storm of self righteousness!

believe it or not, many bicyclists are not streetcar fans....

Growing up in the country crossing railroad tracks and cattle guards quickly taught me to be careful. If these guys can't learn as quick as a kid how to safely cross then maybe they should just stick to riding streetcars (I don't want them operating a car either).

I ride my bike a lot, but I don't consider myself a "bike advocate." I love riding my bike because I stay in shape and I like being outside.

Last October I took a wicked fall hitting the WES tracks in Beaverton. I had to go get my hip x-rayed and am now just able to run without pain. As a cyclist, we all know that tracks are terribly dangerous so warning signs at all tracks makes little sense. Cyclists should also know to plan routes away from roads with rail lines parallel to the road. There is almost no safe way to cross parallel tracks unless you are really good a bunny hops.

Having said that: the designers are idiots. We hear all this talk about rail transit and cyclists, but the designers obviously do not ride bikes. Too many transit rail lines cross major arteries at odd angles without improving the bike lanes. If it isn't cost efficient: fine, but they should divert bike traffic around dangerous intersections.

The location of my accident in Beaverton occurred at Bvrtn-Hillsdale, Lombard, and Front. As I discovered, there is NO safe way to cross the tracks at this location. So, there should be a sign but the sign should not be a warning sign but a sign prohibiting cyclists from attempting to ride from Bvrt-Hillsdale down Front. There are other options.

Let me explain. The WES line makes a turn at the very location where Bvrtn-Hillsdale also curves at the opposite direction. The tracks cross at about a 30 to 45 degree angle to the road. There are two sets of tracks, so four rails that have to be navigated. Adding to the problem, Bvrts-Hillsdale has a shoulder leading up to the tracks, but when it turns into Front, the shoulder completely disappears.

The only way to cross the tracks close to a 90 degree angle is to turn your bike so that its facing into traffic. But again, there is no shoulder so this means the bike is crossing the tracks and directly into the lane of traffic. This is what I did, so when my tire caught the third or fourth rail I fell directly into the lane of traffic. The car behind me, driven by an elderly couple, had to slam on its brakes to stop before hitting me. The sound of the car skidding was frightening to say the least. But, the couple was much more frightened and even though I was banged up pretty good, I felt horrible for spooking them by falling in front of their car.

They spent a ton of money improving that intersection and all of Lombard (google the intersection and you can see the entire redesign of Lombard). But it appears that there was no concept for bike traffic. Again, I'm not saying spend, spend, spend to make a pretty bike lane. If the costs were too much to build in a safe bike crossing, then it would not cost anything to place signs redirecting bike traffic around the intersection. My opinion is that they know the intersection is dangerous but do not want the political pressure of improving transit and at the same time removing an artery for bike traffic.

Similarly, this problem has popped up all over downtown. The transit mall on 5th now moves bikes into the far left lane, which is terribly dangerous because cars typically look in their right mirror for bikes before turning right but rarely look in their left mirror before turning left. Previously, there was seldom a reason for motorists to check their left mirror before turning left. There are NO warning signs for motorists explaining bikes are in the left lane, and mysteriously, there are no green lanes and boxes even though these safety boxes are all over the rest of Portland. In fact, there is no bike lane at all until it mysteriously appears somewhere near the Wells Fargo tower. Farther south on 5th, the bike lane then actually moves bikes onto the sidewalk at a choke point with peds because the streetcar line crosses 5th at that intersection, and then later the bikes have to cross over to the right side of traffic in order to follow 5th to Barber. Its crazy. 6th Ave is no better, and Broadway now parks cars in the street near PSU with the bike land traveling to the right of the parked cars. Again, people typically don't think about looking for bikes before opening the right passenger door, whereas they are used to looking for bikes before opening the driver side door.

Anyway-my experience is that cycling in Portland is actually much more difficult now than just a year ago.

I've lived here many years and used to go downtown for everything, by bike, by automobile, whatever. But downtown has been ruined. As much as humanly possible I just avoid like it has plague infested rats.

I feel sorry for anyone who has to descend into that ill-bogotten theme park by out-of-control planning wonks.

Isn't Hawthorne the next intended Streetcar destination? And isn't SE Portland the quadrant in Portland with the most bicycle usage?

It's already gridlock at times in SE, now a year or two of construction, followed by dealing with slow-moving streetcars and bicyclists trying to cross the street with that recommened 90 degree angle - get the video camera out, Martha, we'll make a fine movie for some reality show yet!

South Lake Union Tram = SLUT


It only takes one experience with rail tracks to learn the lesson about exercising caution when near them. Unfortunately, the consequences of learning the hard way, which usually involves landing face/head/hands first on the pavement, can be financially and physically catastrophic.

Yeah for Seattle bikers! I'd certainly get behind a lawsuit in Portland. The streetcar tracks here are a menace and it's particularly crazy where the streetcar and MAX lines cross.

Yeah, you have to exercise caution, but you also have to be keeping an eye on cars, pedestrians and other bicyclists. With the curb extensions at the streetcar stops, a bicyclist--keeping to the right as the law mandates--has about 10 inches between the curb and the track--which barely allows one to pedal. On a rainy windy day in February, I skidded into a track and took a long, slow spill, which left me with no more than a banged up knee, but I saw some others that day that weren't so lucky.

I thought streetcars were a great idea when they first came along, but after experiencing them, give me the buses they have in Bogota instead. I mean, in addition to being expensive hazards, they are also slow. A moderately brisk walk will usually beat them.

Travis wrote: The WES line makes a turn at the very location where Bvrtn-Hillsdale also curves at the opposite direction. The tracks cross at about a 30 to 45 degree angle to the road. There are two sets of tracks, so four rails that have to be navigated. Adding to the problem, Bvrts-Hillsdale has a shoulder leading up to the tracks, but when it turns into Front, the shoulder completely disappears...The only way to cross the tracks close to a 90 degree angle is to turn your bike so that its facing into traffic.

At many locations along the WES and MAX lines, TriMet goes out of its way to design crossings for bicyclists. That said, TriMet is not the road agency and has no obligation to make improvements not related to the transit facility.

Looking at the example of Beaverton-Hillsdale Highway (an ODOT facility) and Farmington Road (a City of Beaverton facility), as well as Lombard Street (Beaverton) - none of these streets have any bicycle facilities on them. There are no bike lanes on either Farmington or Beaverton-Hillsdale on either side of Lombard. And frankly, the travel lanes on Farmington to the west allow nearly no room for safe bicycle riding.

So given that it is generally not a safe bike route, why would it be presumed that TriMet should spend more money to accommodate bicyclists within an island? It would be one thing if this island were surrounded by well improved bike lanes and the railroad crossing was the sole safety hazard, but there's no bike facilities anywhere. It's like building a sidewalk not connected to anything - a sidewalk that pedestrians wouldn't use.

Looking at an aerial view of the intersection/crossing, it is perfectly safe for a bicyclist travelling northbound, or eastbound, to approach the crossing at the SE quadrant, and utilize the pedestrian crossing of the tracks which is as close to 90 degrees as possible, and then continue north or east. If one is travelling south or west, there is a large concrete apron in the NW quadrant to safely cross the WES spur to Beaverton TC; however there is still the issue of the P&W Tillamook Main (which is not under TriMet jurisdiction).

Just as a motorist must use caution, bicyclists don't have an automatic right to proceed at full bore when there is a traffic hazard. Sometimes it is necessary to slow down, dismount and walk, or use alternate routes. Many times when transportation authorities build facilities for the safety of bicyclists, they are simply ignored because they are not convenient (example: the bike lane at the split of NB Barbur and Naito Pkwy, which directs bicyclists to leave Barbur and access a sidewalk, and then cross Naito at a marked crosswalk at a 90 degree angle - many bicyclists simply dart across two lanes of Naito traffic to remain on Barbur; bike lanes on 5th/6th Avenue Transit Mall are frequently ignored by bicyclists who ride in the transit lane (thus subjecting themselves to getting caught in the MAX flangeway by CHOICE, or riding on the sidewalk illegally by failing to signal to pedestrians, failing to ride at walking speed, and failing to yield to pedestrians - all within the ORS; not to mention it is a violation of city code to ride on a sidewalk along the Mall north of Jefferson and south of Hoyt -- or west of Front and east of 13th.

I have ridden my bike across many railroad crossings (especially since I use my bike on occasion with the specific purpose of checking out train tracks as a railroad enthusiast) and have never been caught up in a flangeway - because I use my head and think about where I'm going to ride. It is perfectly legal as a bicyclist to act like a pedestrian when crossing a street at an intersection (corner to corner) to allow a 90 degree crossing of a streetcar/light rail/railroad track. Just because you want to save yourself three seconds and make a sweeping curve at 20 MPH is not justification for a lawsuit or to complain that something is unsafe.

Sometimes it is necessary to slow down, dismount and walk...

No, no, 1,000 times no -- never! I am a bicycle commuter! It is my God-given right never to have to push my bike, anywhere.


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