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Photo of the week: A bike path underneath a bridge (Updated)

Posted by on August 28th, 2009 at 2:49 pm

A living example of an under-deck bike path in Roseburg, Oregon, at dusk. (Photo by Stephanie Noll)

I dropped by the Bicycle Transportation office today to ask advocate Michelle Poyourow some questions about the organization’s recent decision to leave the bicycle and pedestrian advisory committee for the Columbia River Crossing project — in part over the committee’s support for a bike and walking path that would be under the deck of the bridge.

Just as we were sitting down, BTA programs manager Stephanie Noll came rushing out of her office. “Do you want to see some really scary photos?” she asked. Yes, we did.

Noll had just been traveling in southern Oregon, and in the course of a bike ride through the greenway network of Roseburg, had come across a real life example of an under-bridge bike path, complete with chain link fence and mysterious damp patch.

An under-deck bike path in Roseburg, Oregon (with flash). (Photo by Stephanie Noll)

Poyourow pointed out that this is indeed similar to the design being discussed for the CRC. “In the CRC project materials they have these drawings of the bike path,” she said, “that show glowing vistas towards Mount Hood. But the illustrations stop before you hit the chain link fence on the inside of the path.” She also pointed out that while you can see sunlight from the other side of the small bridge in these photos, that would not be the case with the 200 foot wide CRC.

A story on the BTA’s new stance on the CRC project is coming soon.


Update: Todd Boulanger, who was on the CRC bike/ped committee in his former capacity as planner for the City of Vancouver, makes this point in a comment on this story:

Yes this is a good example of what a poorly designed underneath bike pedestrian facility could be.

Though it seems to be far from the design being discussed on the PBAC to date for Option B…unless I have missed something in 28 meetings…seems much narrower (50% less), lower ceiling height (40% less) to the piping, and surrounded in prison like chain link fencing on both sides.

It would be like taking photos of the existing Interstate Bridge bike ped crossing and comparing it to the proposed Option C.

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Comments
  • Perry August 28, 2009 at 3:10 pm

    The pictures (or, captions) are reversed, the top one is without flash, the bottom one is with the flash on and it makes the situation look darker than it really is.

    Fixed!

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  • Todd Boulanger August 28, 2009 at 3:31 pm

    Yes this is a good example of what a poorly designed underneath bike pedestrian facility could be.

    Though it seems to be far from the design being discussed on the PBAC to date for Option B…unless I have missed something in 28 meetings…seems much narrower (50% less), lower ceiling height (40% less) to the piping, and surrounded in prison like chain link fencing on both sides.

    It would be like taking photos of the existing Interstate Bridge bike ped crossing and comparing it to the proposed Option C.

    Please correct this to be fair. Thanks.

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  • buglas August 28, 2009 at 3:51 pm

    This appears to be the northbound I-5 bridge just south of the Garden Valley Boulevard exit in Roseburg. A look at the satellite image shows paths that appear to disappear and then re-emerge under the bridge. The bridge has been there for a very long time and there was no path under it when I left there 30+ years ago.
    In fairness, this path was an add-on to an existing bridge. I would like to see comparison shots with an under-deck path that is part of an original design. Not that I expect it to be more appealing, but it might at least get away from the chain link fencing.

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  • Q`ztal August 28, 2009 at 3:52 pm

    And while we could argue about flash vs non-flash it’s common knowledge that it is more difficult to visually identify anything in low light situations; even more so in a person’s periphery vision.
    So while some might say that a police officer can see neer do wells it will much easier to miss them in the perpetual dark that will pervade any under bridge path.

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  • Elly Blue August 28, 2009 at 3:57 pm

    Thanks for your informed commentary, Todd — I’ve edited the story.

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  • Michelle (BTA) August 28, 2009 at 3:57 pm

    Yes the proposed CRC path ceiling would be 25 feet high, perhaps less a little bit for overhead utilities.

    And there wouldn’t be trees on the left side.

    But the chain link, I strongly suspect, would be there. Because there would be a big empty second tube right next door just crying out for mischief! And normally, when a design encourages mischief, chain link is the band-aid solution.

    Even on a bright and sunny day, a 200 foot overhang makes a place pretty dang dark.

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  • Steph Noll August 28, 2009 at 4:02 pm

    When I was biking on the Roseburg bike path at dusk, I thought that this bridge looked and felt really creepy. The rest of their path along the river though was gorgeous!

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  • Mike August 28, 2009 at 4:07 pm

    Kinda looks like something out of a mad-max movie.

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  • hanmade August 28, 2009 at 4:09 pm

    Chain link fences are easier to get through than a cable lock on a bike. It’s a bad deal all the way. That place would become a no man’s (and especially woman’s) zone.

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  • John August 28, 2009 at 4:27 pm

    Ok, feeling a little defensive here (just a little). I live in Roseburg and have walked/ridden the “underpass” numerous times. While it’s hardly a thing of beauty, it certainly isnt the dungeon the images portray. I might also add it’s heavily used by students as an access to the high school. On the flip side it is somewhat intimidating (the whole bridge vibrates) when a large truck passes overhead on the freeway!

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  • Zaphod August 28, 2009 at 6:15 pm

    I’ll ride most anything but a long claustrophobic tunnel, potentially with vagrants, I’m reaching for the car keys and I *really* don’t like to drive.

    This offends and angers me. Are we not in Portland? Consider what the Golden Gate Bridge has done for San Francisco’s image. Why build something so pathetically uninspired. We can do better, we must demand better.

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  • lynn August 28, 2009 at 9:00 pm

    There has been a lot of discussion regarding the problems an under bridge path presents for cyclists. Given the length of the bridge, I am very concerned that the under bridge path design option will creat a very unpleasant environment for pedestians, day or night.

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  • Todd Boulanger August 28, 2009 at 10:50 pm

    Thanks Elly for additional context. T

    The CRC project has many warts though the current I-5 facility [I have lived within 1000 ft of it for 10 years] is all but a wart…our worst case scenario would be to build the minimum bike design standard now and then try to retrofit better in the future – as the photos show us all.

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  • Dan Kaufman August 29, 2009 at 12:15 am

    Todd, you have been working hard to make this MUP better for us all for at least two years, which I appreciate.

    I am baffled by your support of this design except, perhaps, that the CRC planners will give you no other options.

    Ultimately, I think this “under bridge” design will only make trolls happy.

    I have plenty of experience with MUP tunnels and underpasses. They all suck! In fact, I was told that many have been permanently shut down because they are dirty, unsafe, and hard to manage. Brooklyn Neighborhood residents were told this by an DOT rep many years ago the when we lobbied the idea for an Mcloughlin underpass connection to the Springwater trial. Funny, they don’t seem to have a problem with this now when it comes to the CRC.

    I will be absolutely opposed to this concept until somebody can show me a pleasant MUP “underpass” design successfully implemented somewhere else.

    Also, I keep hearing how bad the path is on the current I-5 crossing. Really, it’s not that bad (and the views are stunning). I know because I rode that path off and on for three years through all conditions.

    The current CRC proposal is more than just covered in warts. If it proceeds as planned, it will be (in many ways) a very costly mistake.

    Todd, I urge you and the other committee members to resign and let the CRC designers come up with the most ghastly and ridiculous thing they can (they’re well on there way). Maybe this will give the politicians the courage and cover they need to step away and start over.

    Sincerely,

    Dan

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  • Ted Buehler August 29, 2009 at 10:57 am

    I think it’s possible to design a good “under the bridge” bikeway. And the design on the table is a good on. For the main span and the main span only.

    The rest of the design is pretty bad. That wide 24′ path in the renderings skinnys to 16′ for the other 2/3 of the crossing, including sharp curves, steep grades.

    So the wide section on top of the main span is somewhat irrelevant to the crossing experience (it’s the worst spots that matter), and it will certainly be dark down there, given that the bridge deck above sticks out 25′ beyond the path and is canted down toward the ground.

    And the poor design of the rest of the bike facilities on the new bridge don’t bode well for the under-the-deck proposal to retain all its amenities during the design process. They have another 5 years to systematically strip amenities from it, and the PBAC and other groups have not stood up for previously stripped amenities in the last year.

    In the last year, the proposed bridge design has quietly been stripped of the following bike/ped amenities
    * one of two main span paths
    * one of two Vancouver-side approach paths
    * the Vancouver side elevator
    * a bunch of belvideres.

    This does not suggest a high level of commitment on the CRC to follow through with the design amenities of the current path design.

    I would like to have my skepticism proven wrong.
    Ted Buehler

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  • Todd Boulanger August 29, 2009 at 11:04 am

    Hi Dan – thanks for your reply…

    The current I-5 Bridge works for riders such as you (and myself)…but it keeps a lot of potential riders from crossing – I hear and see this all the time up here.

    Dan, I am glad that you have a frequent and deep experience with crossing this facility because many who have commented here on the bridge path do not – have not crossed at 2 AM in the winter or during the rain with truck + bird spray or with children in tow or stood in the dark rain for 30 minutes during a lift…usually at best they are fair weather bridge path users, I would suspect …and that they have crossed the bridge mainly by car.

    You are correct – it was been a struggle to find a comparable under pathway … I have (and others) spent many an hour searching Flickr and keeping an eye open on trips … few if any examples are ‘world class’ and do not match the proposed design of Option B.

    I have been a bit amazed by the Portland community during this design discussion…with most recent multimodal transportation projects Portland’s community and leadership has not been afraid to adopt a design template because few established North American examples can be found.

    If a surface crossing (and narrower pathway) is what the metro bike community wants to fight for…then the CRC Option A (2 car bridges + 1 carfree bridge) had the best of the two surface designs [the path was away from the car traffic and next to the MAX tracks], but this option was recently dropped by the UDAG committee (members: Sam Adams, Royce Pollard, etc.) in order to meet other valuable objectives (lower cost, less visual impact, less disruption to salmon, etc.).

    The growing success of the Portland development model is developing bikeway facilities that attract new users thus growing the ranks of users and the ability of drivers to understand how to share the road [bike experience as adult riders]. I have yet to see the anti-CRC folks come up with a viable (and fundable) option to the CRC that would get us the best outcomes of the current project vs. just scuttling the CRC. Sadly Congress will not let the FTA do a ‘Mount Hood II’ – perhaps Obama will change this. Nor have I seen the City of Portland and other Oregon organizations move to fund a MAX + Bike + Ped only bridge (or aerial tram) ending in the Vancouver downtown in the way they have moved forward with the recent carfree Willamette River crossing. [I would think it would matter to the business community that 60,000 Portland area employees and income taxpayers are 'stuck' on this side of the river barrier.]

    For your recommendation that the remaining PBAC members to decamp from the committee …and possibly let the design degrade would not well serve Vancouver and North Portland bicyclists who must cross this bridge daily now. We have been long suffering in silence the poorly laid out (historical) bikeway routing and dangerous (current) intersection crossings in the bridge area.

    It would be tough to have to bike through another 50 years of a poor facility.

    PS. Dan – keep up the good work on CrankMyChain!

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  • Todd Boulanger August 29, 2009 at 11:10 am

    Would any other PBAC members like to address Ted’s comments above?

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  • Timbo August 29, 2009 at 12:20 pm

    Well said Todd.

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  • girl-shawn August 29, 2009 at 1:14 pm

    Todd,

    I’ve never met you, but respect your work. That being said, in response to your statement:

    “I have yet to see the anti-CRC folks come up with a viable (and fundable) option to the CRC that would get us the best outcomes of the current project vs. just scuttling the CRC.”

    I’d point you to this:
    http://vimeo.com/5419575 which was part of this article:
    http://bikeportland.org/2009/08/27/series-of-web-videos-help-explain-crc-project/

    You also said this:

    “Nor have I seen the City of Portland and other Oregon organizations move to fund a MAX + Bike + Ped only bridge (or aerial tram) ending in the Vancouver downtown in the way they have moved forward with the recent carfree Willamette River crossing.”

    This insinuates that this transit/ped/bike/local access bridge isn’t an alternative that makes sense. I’d like to argue that just because the City isn’t looking at this idea doesn’t mean that it isn’t viable, cheaper, or part of a larger alternative plan that makes sense.

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  • anonymous August 30, 2009 at 8:18 am

    I’m not looking for bike routes that are “sanitized for my protection”, I’m just looking for bike routes that offer a REASONABLE expectation of personal safety. If I lived in Roseburg I sure wouldn’t be wild about commuting home along this tunnel after dark. And I can’t see the present CRC under-the-bridge solution as being terribly attractive to potential bicycle commuters at all.

    One of the issues not being discussed enough in the cycling community is that reality that hundreds of people are living outside and sleeping under bridges every night in Portland and Vancouver. Most are harmless to other people, but some are angry and mentally disturbed, and given the opportunity they might resort to violence against better-off cyclists who are commuting between a real job and a real home. This has been a problem for some time along portions of the Springwater and I-205 bike paths. What is being done to more aggressively combat the causes of homelessness and to offer these folks a way off the streets? And why isn’t the bicycle community demanding more energy and money directed at this issue from our leaders? Homelessness and cyclist safety along separate bike paths ARE connected.

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  • Todd Boulanger August 30, 2009 at 10:55 am

    In reply to #20 above…

    …your point is well taken. Houseless populations can and will utilize SUP facilities especially those with protective cover. It can and will be a problem if it is not managed…the PBAC members have been clear in our advise about this issue with CRC staff and Options B (A and C too).

    In my frequent crossings of I-5 (all hours of the day) I rarely see folks camped out there as one sees more frequently in the Sellwood trail (under the highway grotto). If I see anyone – it is usually only 1 or 2 guys taking a break with a beverage after selling their cans to Safeway. (If Safeway were to stop taking returns from those without an island zipcode…this issue could be reduced.) I tend to see more folks panhandling on the ramps than hanging out on the trail these days – congestion makes for better panhandling. ;-)

    Generally things have not gotten out of hand (Hoovervilles) with the I-5 bridge due to the growing frequency of the trail use by bike commuters and other riders passing by every 5 minutes or so (on average) and [likely] to improved oversight by ODOT of the I-5 undercrossing.

    In any future facility I doubt folks would be camping out along much of the covered portion of the bridge as it would be too far away from ‘services’. We would likely see any ‘camping’ at each end of a future covered bridge and this would be more easily managed by good design and ongoing sweeps by local authorities and Trimet.

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  • Todd Boulanger August 30, 2009 at 12:16 pm

    In the past (4+ years ago) the prime ‘camping’ site for the I-5 bridge area was the undercrossing / tunnel of I-5 on Hayden Island.

    This was back when ODoT did not keep up with the burned out/ vandalized lighting of the tunnel. With the more frequent use of the path and maintenance calls for this facility they have been much better in fixing these type of issues.

    And at the August PBAC meeting Basil (ODoT) reported that ODoT staff were working on upgrading the wattage/ type of light for improved visibility in the tunnel.

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  • Todd Boulanger August 30, 2009 at 12:35 pm

    Hi Girl-Shawn,

    Thanks for your post and the links. (I have already commented on them and made suggestions.) Their work is very good and the phasing is similar to comments I have made to others (off line) in the past for “my ‘ideal world’ scenario” sans CRC.

    But what is missing is a workable funding plan for these Alt-CRC proposals (there may be one in private but I have not heard about it). This would make it a real alternative for consideration. This is a skill that Portland has shown great originality and verve for regional [cutting edge] transportation projects in the past (and much better than Seattle has done too) – so I have faith that it could happen but have not seen it yet.

    This transportation project is a ‘tough nut to crack’ due to the polarized nature of the [vocal public] expectations for the capacity and services of this future crossing. Everything that ‘Portland’ wants to improve is something that ‘Vancouver’ does not and vise-versa .

    And this does not even touch on the funding mechanism for the ‘local portion’ of the bill. [Portlanders - you should keep and eye on our Mayoral election race as this is one of the few 'real' issues separating the two candidates.]

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  • Todd Bouanger August 31, 2009 at 4:24 pm

    To follow up with Ted’s comments in Post 15…

    I can understand his concerns based on the difficulty in following the design minutia of this project as it has been a moving target…that everything has been done in multiple pairs (for each bridge variation) and in various versions due to CRC staff brainstorming with PBAC (and UDAG) members as issues come up…and that unless one attends PBAC meetings constantly it can be difficult to find the most relevant and up to date visual materials on the project web site.

    Ted wrote (post 15): “In the last year, the proposed bridge design has quietly been stripped of the following bike/ped amenities
    * one of two main span paths
    —————————
    [Todd: Option B: Yes the PBAC combined the paths into one world class path width of 24'; Option C: still has two 12" paths.]

    * one of two Vancouver-side approach paths
    —————————————-
    [Todd: Option B approach path dropped due to the PBAC recommending a single wider path; Option C still has two approach paths.]

    * the Vancouver side elevator
    —————————————-

    [Todd: the UDAG simulation materials presented at the last PBAC showed a glass elevator concept with an encircling ramp; perhaps Ted's comment referenced a design document(s) that was focusing only on path ramp layouts/ configurations - thus the missing elevator.]

    * a bunch of belvideres.
    ———————————–
    [Todd: Yes there was inital PBAC discussion on multple belvideres along the bridge, but this has for the most part over time focused on developing a belvidere concept design that has primarily been shown at the apex of the the path; I am not sure if the PBAC has limited itself to recommending only one belvidere but I know we have discussed at length several times the concern that we would not want too many belvideres on Option B if they were to cause knee wall ramping conflict with bikes by thru peds bypassing the belvidere or grade issues for bikes at speed if the floor were to be raised and lowered at each belvidere. For Option C there may be structural limitations not allowing wide belvideres like in Option B due to the 6 lane cross section with SUP path nearing its width limit - from what CRC engineers have reported to the PBAC.]

    Ted is correct – that these are important topics to lock down in the next two PBAC meetings so they can continue from the PBAC recommendations into the FEIS.

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