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“Watchdog” blog hopes to keep tabs on TriMet

Posted by on May 25th, 2006 at 9:35 am

Ira Flowers is a local film producer and daily TriMet user. He hasn’t owned a car for the past 10 years and rides the bus twice a day to and from his office.

He recently got in touch to tell me a story about an experience his girlfriend had with a TriMet bus driver:

“Her bike was in the front holding device and the bus driver was moving way to fast up Multnomah after the Rose Garden Arena. He hit a bump very fast and my ladies bike released itself from the front carriage. The bus driver then ran over the bike. Stopping only after my girlfriend shrieked. He said nothing to her, did not offer to help, didn’t look at her in the eye, and when we contacted Trimet they said it was our own problem. That ticked me off.”

Calling this the “last straw”, he went home and created Trimet Watchdog, a new blog that he hopes will, “develop into an online forum where accountability can be monitored and tracked daily.” He wants Portlanders to log their experiences (both good and bad) and also hopes to get TriMet employees to join in.

TriMet is a huge part of our transportation ecosystem and I think it’s healthy to have a place online where experiences, grievances, and commendations can be documented. Hopefully Ira can maintain balance and a constructive dialogue on the site. It’s not an easy task, but if he succeeds in gaining momentum with his blog, it could have an impact on TriMet’s policies.

Now, if only Randy Albright would have had this site back on that fateful day back in January ’04…

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  • pdxrocket May 25, 2006 at 10:14 am

    Sorry about the bike, but we do all take a certain responsibility when we carry our bikes on Tri-Met. Maybe she didn’t securely put the arm over her wheel? Maybe the driver didn’t have any control over the bump in the road, maybe he did? What was he to do? Hard to know the full story unless we were right there with her.

    Just trying to see this from all sides, that’s all.

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  • gabriel amadeus May 25, 2006 at 12:36 pm

    This type of bus bike rack is pretty common, I used the same ones back in duluth, mn. So with the prevalence of this style, has anyone heard of this happening before? I’ve often wondered and worried about it (especially loading a minibike on one! Note: put it on backwards, and use the hook on the seat…) but the driver always assures me its fine.

    Any other stories?

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  • Kaliana May 25, 2006 at 2:37 pm

    That’s very sad to hear. I would be crushed if that happened to me, but I cannot understand -how- that happened? I’ve used the bike racks on Tri-Met a lot and used to always stare at my bike during the ride to make sure it hadn’t popped out. Over the years I realized those bike racks were very, VERY reliable and quit being so panic stricken anytime the bus made abrupt stops or ran over curbs.

    I’ve never had a problem with the bike racks nor has anyone I’ve known. I’m wondering if the woman in the above story has used the bike rack on Tri-Met a lot and is 100% certain it was secured properly?

    I’ve had lots of problems with Tri-Met drivers accidentally (?) running me off the road or close to it so I can be a bit biased against them, but in the case of those bike racks, they have been incredibly reliable for me over the course of several years when that unexpected rain pops out of nowhere and I choose to bus myself and my bike home rather than get drenched.

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  • Garlynn May 25, 2006 at 2:40 pm

    Yay, go Ira! I’ve known this guy for years, and he always puts a lot of energy into his endeavours. Hopefully, this one will prove to be an effective tool at providing a community policing function to keep Tri-Met on track. If they’re not perfect all the time, the citizens should remind them that they should be. :-)

    cheers,
    ~Garlynn

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  • Alyson Wilson May 25, 2006 at 4:41 pm

    Here I am feeling intense jealousy of you Portlanders who have vastly superior public transit (compared with us in Los Angeles)… and I have to read this terrible, tragic story of bike-icide!

    Is it horrible to say that, as unlucky as that accident was, you should count yourselves lucky to have a useful bus system?

    -Alyson, thisnext.com/blog

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  • Grumpy May 25, 2006 at 6:15 pm

    I’ve always wondered: How often are bikes stolen from the bus bike rack? They’re usually not “locked” on and an enterprising thief could just make off with a bike when the bus is stopped and loading pasengers. The bike owner and driver may not even see the theft.

    Would it be Kosher for a cyclist to lock his bike to the rack? I would be reluctant to put an expensive bike on one of those racks.

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  • Gregg May 25, 2006 at 9:01 pm

    I’ve wondered about theft from the bus racks too which is why I keep an eye on the rack while the bus is downtown. Call me paranoid but I’ve seen those “dumbest criminals” shows on TV. Trimet may have records showing if it’s ever happened.

    I don’t think locking bikes will go over well with the other riders as it would take some time to do so. An alternative may be just to lock the front wheel to the frame before loading. It may even be entertaining to watch somebody try to grab a bike and ride off in that condition.

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  • Geezer May 26, 2006 at 7:52 am

    I hope this blog gets to the Trimet people. They say they care but I don’t think the bus & train operators do. I know they have a thankless job but it would sure be nice if they had some communication skills. I have never used a bus for my commute with my bike. I use the east side MAX and for the most part its a good thing. The lady who operates the 6:30am train really knows how to jerk her train and hates to open the doors. . . .

    Geezer

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  • Jon McAuley May 26, 2006 at 10:12 am

    Mangled bikes aren’t much fun, I’ve sympathy for the bike owner.

    I endlessly build scenarios in my head, so I’m intrigued. How would the bus driver have responded if the bike had bounced up into the bus windshield or caused a break down? How would the owner of the bike responded if the bike had landed or bounced into another lane of traffic, or a group of unsuspecting pedestrians on the sidewalk?

    I’m grateful that only a bike was damaged. It would be wise for Tri-met to have some sort system where the driver can verify that those bicycles are secure to the bus and I’m sure Tri-met has some form of protocol for dealing with accidents and property damage/bodily injury.

    Ultimately the driver is responsible for his bus, and there is probably a blurred line when it comes to the improper actions of a rider (such as an angry rider assaulting a person then using the bus to flee the crime) or a bus riders property causing damage on the bus.

    It seems the bike owner referred to in this post and Ira, are interested in a personal acknowledgement from Tri-met. I suspect that a lot of the cases where something goes awry and damage is done, we are able to cope and it’s always easier to do so with a little understanding from others. The understanding component is often something that historically Tri-Met has been in short supply on.

    Ride Safe fellow cyclers

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  • Ira May 26, 2006 at 11:18 am

    Thanks for all your posts. The story is tragic. I think the most upsetting part wasn’t the bike taking a tumble but the reaction from the bus driver. He could have cared less. Not even a courtesy offer to help.

    This is what ultimately upset my girlfriend. Lets not forget he didn’t stop immediately because he was travelling way to fast. It took a second for him to register what had happened. Then offered no help if freeing the bike from the undercarriage of the bus. A damn shame really.

    I have a lot of faith in those bike racks. Never really worried about it. But those bus drivers…. sometimes I wonder…

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  • N. May 27, 2006 at 7:51 pm

    The first time I ever took my bike on the bus it nearly fell out of the rack, and I’m positive that I’d put it on correctly. Luckly it only came halfway off and the driver stopped so I could put it back on.
    Since then I think I’ve only put my bike on the bus one other time, because I’m scared of it getting run over.

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  • ExTriMetDrive June 1, 2006 at 4:50 pm

    TriMet is not a city, county, state, or federal entity. It is an ‘Public Agency’ created by the tri county community.

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