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New bumps installed on Esplanade ramps: What do you think?

Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on January 10th, 2011 at 2:44 pm

Bumps on the Esplanade-2
The existing "transition strips" on the
Esplanade ramps. See the new ones below...
(Photos © J. Maus)

The City of Portland Parks and Recreation Bureau has installed new bumps — a.k.a. "transition strips" — on one of the ramps (gangways) that leads to the floating portion of the Eastbank Esplanade. The installation is a pilot to determine if the new strips improve the experience of bicycling on the ramps.

Back in July, we detailed the problem with the existing bumps and ten days later I met at the site with Parks Bureau staffer Bob Downing to talk about the issue. The problem with the old bumps is that they are jarring, loud, and so severe that they catch many riders unaware and can lead to crashes.

Downing says they've installed a new transition strip (in photo above) that has a less severe angle (and some traction marks for good measure). The Parks Bureau will be analyzing the new part and is looking for feedback on whether or not they improve the riding experience. The new strip has been installed on the far southern end of the ramps. If you've ridden over them, please share your experience below.

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Comments
  • Geezer Guy January 10, 2011 at 2:49 pm

    I just rode over them about 1 hour ago and I couldn't really tell a difference from last summer. Maybe the very first ramp is smoother but thats about it. . .

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  • Andrew Kreps January 10, 2011 at 3:33 pm

    I took a sprint across them last week from South to North. For my bike, I'd say the impact is about 20% better, but the noise the ramps make when I hit them has been reduced from 50%-80%. Some of the transitions are less noisy than others, but they're all noticeably quieter.

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  • thumb January 10, 2011 at 3:40 pm

    i didn't ever seem to have a problem with the old ones.. if a little bump like that catches you by surprise maybe you should pay more attention to where your wheels are going.....

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  • rider January 10, 2011 at 3:40 pm

    Better, but marginally so.

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  • Spiffy January 10, 2011 at 3:43 pm

    it certainly LOOKS like it will be smoother... but not sure when I'll next be over there to try them out...

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  • David January 10, 2011 at 3:56 pm

    I still don't like them. I'd like to see skirts (Bumps) of about 4 to 6 inches such as one sees on marina floats. I always feel like i'm going to get a snake bike with these short ones.

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  • kj January 10, 2011 at 4:03 pm

    Since it's only one bump, it's hard to notice, I wasn't sure until now which end had been changed. But yeah, that one bump is better I think.

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    • kj January 10, 2011 at 4:05 pm

      Wait, is it all of the southern end ramps or just the first bump?

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  • Allan January 10, 2011 at 4:15 pm

    only the southern-most bump. I think its better, but the jarring resumes almost instantly. if they last, more would be quite welcome

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  • craig January 10, 2011 at 4:51 pm

    Other than the noise, these bumps have never bothered me. Visually they announce themselves well, and present no surprises--in the daytime anyway (I can't speak about how they appear at night)--and an alert rider would always do well to simply slow down for such a bump. Much ado about nothing.

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    • Jacob January 10, 2011 at 4:58 pm

      I agree, I never viewed these bumps as a problem.

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    • Spiffy January 11, 2011 at 6:52 am

      yeah the noise has always bothered me more than the physical bump...

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      • bikieboy January 11, 2011 at 12:23 pm

        Agreed. The noise is (was?) obnoxious. Always feel apologetic towards walkers for making such an unholy racket...

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        • q`Tzal January 12, 2011 at 10:34 am

          The noise is a pedestrian safety feature.

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  • Doc January 10, 2011 at 5:24 pm

    I think they should stay the way they were. smoother transitions will only make it easier for people to ride super fast down them, I've always concidered them "speed bumps". they should just paint the old ones in reflective yellow and post signs like they do for cars. as a pedestrian and a cyclist I've noticed the the rate of speed people travel on the esplanade sometime ranges into unsafe for people walking as well as fellow cyclists.

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    • toby January 10, 2011 at 6:22 pm

      I mostly agree with using them as a speed bump. I've never had an issue with them. But what is nice about the upgrades is that the outer portions of the ramps are much quieter and smoother YAY! Everyone used to try not to ride on them and instead stay in the middle half because the outer quarters go "clatter clatter". Hopefully people will use the whole ramp now.

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  • Tansy Ragwort January 10, 2011 at 6:01 pm

    I loved the noise of the ramps. Really gets people's attention.

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  • Johnnie Olivan January 10, 2011 at 7:41 pm

    I just tested the bump with some friends. We took the bike-car and it is a huge improvement! Can't wait for the rest, it makes a smooth ride.

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  • Daniel January 10, 2011 at 8:15 pm

    I haven't ridden over the new installation, so I can't speak much. I hope it's an improvement because the old joints were teeth rattling. Didn't some cyclist die there last summer when his fixed gear bike went into the river?

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    • Allan January 10, 2011 at 9:40 pm

      Daniel- I agree that the old joints are teeth-rattling, but I'm fairly sure that the guy just got a loose bungee cord caught in his spokes and went down hard. However, I do like the idea of it becoming an urban legend

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  • suburban January 10, 2011 at 9:39 pm

    ..This is not a part of town requiring improvements. It's a training site for union apprentice welders. Not dangerous, not inconvenient, and not news. Do not use bungee cords on spoked vehicles or travel at speeds inappropriate for the road or path.
    Take a step back and regard the relevance of this tiny issue.

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  • Tim w January 10, 2011 at 9:51 pm

    This has always been the most fun part of the Esplanade, except maybe the part where you can ride on the metal grid and feel like the kid from ET if you look down.

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  • LoneHeckler January 10, 2011 at 10:50 pm

    I like the change and I hope to see the rest of the bumps changed, as well.

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  • Ted Buehler January 10, 2011 at 11:25 pm

    It's an improvement, but from the looks of it, they're still not ADA compliant. Just a guess.

    Ted Buehler

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  • Lizzie January 11, 2011 at 12:51 am

    I've had an ortlieb pannier fall off my bike, a purse fall out of my bike bucket, and a u-lock fly off of my bike and almost hit a pedestrian, all when descending the Esplanade Ramp on my bicycle. And honestly and truly, I wasn't biking very fast at all. The bumps are just that jarring.

    Anything that reduces

    a) the obnoxious noise bikes make hitting those bumps that freaks the living daylight out of any walkers or joggers and

    b) that reduces the chance of wiping out

    is welcome by me.

    That said, simply slowing down on the bumps seems to help more than anything else!

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    • Steve B January 11, 2011 at 3:10 pm

      Wholeheartedly agree, Lizzie. Thanks for sharing your experience!

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  • Vince R January 11, 2011 at 6:20 am

    I've always bunny-hopped the bumps or speed-rolled by lifting my front wheel over them. This 'new' bump looks like it will be a much smoother transition.
    As far as fearing a snake-bite flat, as long as you are riding at a safe speed (10-15 mph) and keep your tires properly inflated, there shouldn't be an issue.

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  • JH January 11, 2011 at 6:44 am

    I think this "fix' seems to be a lot excessive. Some "SLOW/CAUTION" signs at the top of the ramps in question would have been enough.

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  • Dan January 11, 2011 at 6:47 am

    Couldn't tell the difference. I think riding over these bumps safely is more my responsibility than the city's. I appreciate the effort, but I can't imagine what it cost.

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  • DK January 11, 2011 at 7:52 am

    How can anyone hear the sound the transition strips make with all the whining going on?

    Bunny Hop.

    Much cheaper!

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  • random rider January 11, 2011 at 8:14 am

    I won't be satisfied until they have a system that will carry me on a padded rickshaw the entire length of my trip while giving me a deep tissue massage and tuning my bike.

    Seriously, I never viewed them as a threat to anyone and, while I appreciate Parks and Rec being so responsive to a perceived problem, I can't help but think their money and effort could have been better spent on a higher priority issue.

    Just my $.02

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  • Lenny Anderson January 11, 2011 at 8:39 am

    Noise should hardly be an issue under the shadow of I-5. The bumps work to slow bike traffic...a big issue on multiuse trails, and the bang alerts others that bikes are approaching. Crashing was only an issue for those you were riding too fast is my guess.

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  • craig January 11, 2011 at 9:11 am

    ***portion of comment deleted***

    This issue only arose because a fool (read "normal dude, like the rest of us") and his gear met with normal road conditions and was the victim of his own inattention. We're all dipshits like that sometimes. what makes this guy a real dipshit is that he cried to the city to blame the bump.

    http://bikeportland.org/2010/07/09/crash-leads-to-closer-look-at-jarring-bumps-on-esplanade-ramps-36365

    All bumps pose a hazard to riders who don't ride them properly, especially to those with unsecure bungees. Despite the anecdotes in this story about others suffering from the esplanade bumps, this was never an issue before in terms of complaints to the city--and in this city, you know shit gets complained about if it's causing a problem:

    "Prior to these incidents, PP&R
    had not received notice of any
    safety concerns associated with
    this specific issue."

    What's more concerning to me is that bikeportland.org turned this into a news story back in July, which led to this inordinate application of public resources to fix a non-problem. People crash on their bikes and break their bones in this city every day--this event was not news. So what if this guy was a ride leader during pedalpalooza.

    I'll bet he slows for bumps now.

    I'll bet thinks twice before packing his gear with ill-fitting bungee cords now.

    Still, I'll bet he still bitches to public authorities again, the next time he crashes himself in a public right of way.

    We're all dipshits sometimes. We don't all try to cover our pain and embarrassment by blaming the world around us for our folly.

    BPO, you could be more judicious about what you put forward as news. It is possible--over time--for a news source to blow its wad, in terms of civic influence. Ref the Boy Who Cried Wolf.

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    • spare_wheel January 11, 2011 at 11:49 am

      i agree a sign would have been an acceptable fix but where the heck does all that anger come from?

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      • craig January 11, 2011 at 12:02 pm

        Anger? No anger here. People don't only use words like "dipshit" and "bitching" (verb form) when they're angry--they sometimes use then while engaging in a constructive, collaborative, meaningful dialog because those happen to be useful and appropriate words to describe of a given behavior. Nobody had observed before that the crash-guy displayed poor character by blaming the city for a crash that resulted from his poor ridership, a facet of this story that I think merits attention. You might ask yourself why you associate all strong language with anger.

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) January 11, 2011 at 12:02 pm

      Thanks for the comment Craig. I just happen to see this differently than you and some others. I think our bikeways should be smooth and that jarring bumps like these should not be present on a transportation corridor.

      Like has been in the past, we would never have something similar to this on a road where motor vehicles travel, so how is it acceptable for a bikeway?

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      • craig January 11, 2011 at 12:35 pm

        Jonathan, I agree with you in principal. Planning for construction of a transportation corridor for bikes should eliminate such bumps.

        Was the Esplanade planned with transportation as the primary use, or was it intended for shared recreational use by people on foot, bikes, skates, etc? I am curious to find out. A dedicated transportation corridor serves a very different set of requirements than a recreational multi-use path.

        The Esplanade certainly has been adopted as a main artery for bikes, and is used that way today, whether rightly or not. The entire city is sorely lacking in north-south bikeways, and the Esplanade helps to fill that gap--albeit one that is shared with very heavy, unseparated usage by slower users without bikes.

        I doubt that speed bumps were intended by design here, although they would have been well-advised as such. I for one am glad that the transition plates provide defacto speed bumps on this part of the Esplanade. This particular section with the float ramps generally demands--in my view--walking speed by all users, since the path here is narrow and is highly constrained by side rails--nobody can move off of the path suddenly if they need to. An interesting followup would be to interview people on foot coming off of the ramps to get their feedback about bicycle traffic going up and down them alongside joggers, strollers, elderly tourists, etc.

        Per the city's records (according to your July story), those bumps don't present an actual problem in terms of reported user experience beyond the theoretical problem that you describe, and in my view didn't merit the column inches, given the range of other transportation issues needing attention in the news. I wonder if smoothing those bumps will introduce a new actual problem by making it easier for people on bikes to blast at high speed through these tight shafts, as evidenced already by the bunny hoppers.

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        • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) January 11, 2011 at 12:47 pm

          thanks for the reply.

          If we have a problem with bikes going to fast in that location, than let's deal with that problem without using punitive measures (like jarring bumps).

          RE: Parks Bureau having no reported crashes. This is simply because no one has reported them. And besides, if you crashed there would you even know who to call or where to report it? Does everyone report crashes when they happen? Fact is, there are huge crash reporting gaps all over our system. We can't rely on reported crashes as our main way of addressing problems. I had personal experience and several other people who said they've either seen a crash or experienced one here.

          Thanks for the feedback about how much attention I have given this issue. I happen to think that speaking up for a high-quality bicycling environment that is free from annoying and potentially crash-inducing bumps is very important.

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          • craig January 11, 2011 at 1:04 pm

            I also happen to think that speaking up for a high-quality bicycling environment that is free from annoying and potentially crash-inducing bumps is very important. More people using bikes instead of cars is better for all of us for a long list of reasons that you already know. Safer and more comfortable bike infrastructure is needed in order to make that happen. The Esplanade is not only a bike route, however, and when crashes result from poor ridership, our cause is weakened by misdirection (his, not yours) to infrastructure issues.

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      • craig January 11, 2011 at 12:38 pm

        Photo from Google Maps. Give it a second to load.

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      • cyclists January 11, 2011 at 1:49 pm

        This has been repeated before and is demonstrably false. The city places speed bumps ALL OVER THE CITY. Furthermore, some streets in the city remain unimproved, and sometimes these streets are unimproved because the folks that live on the street prefer it that way. Some streets are old concrete (rather than asphalt) and are bumpy as hell, but they're left that was as defacto speed calming devices.

        So let me repeat, drivers DO in fact put up with bumpy roads, so why shouldn't cyclists?

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      • matt picio January 11, 2011 at 4:19 pm

        I agree with Craig - this portion of the Esplanade is *not* primarily a transportation corridor, it's recreational. If transportation were its purpose, we wouldn't have a floating bridge, we'd have a rigid bridge level with the approaches. And we do have roads which are similar in terms of car traffic - look at cobblestone roads in Baltimore, Norfolk, and other cities. Some are historic, but not all of them - some were built for aesthetics and livability and aren't intended to convey cars smoothly or at speed. This portion of the Springwater is analogous to that, and not every bike facility needs to adhere to a rigid set of standards for ease and efficiency.

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    • Matthew Denton January 13, 2011 at 10:31 am

      I'm surprised that this is the first complaint they've gotten: I heard stories of people going to the hospital from these bumps back in 2007. That said, the rest of your comment is about right: We have to be careful and pay attention while riding, myself included.

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  • Bill January 11, 2011 at 9:13 am

    I never saw these as an issue and I rode them daily on my commute. They arent much different than many of the bumps you'll see on the road, in fact quite smaller than most. If they are too aggressive, then you're riding beyond your limits. the noise was great for pedestrians as it would alert them to other forms of traffic coming. I agree that this had to have cost a fair amount of money despite how simple it mayve been. money, in these times, that couldve been better spent in my opinion. gotta give kudo's to the city for listening to cyclists' concerns though.

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  • Paul Manson January 11, 2011 at 9:27 am

    I also like that the grating on the outside of the ramps has been replaced. The old grating was loose and shifted when you ran across it. Now joggers can safely stay to the right on the ramps. Before the loose grating made everyone run on the solid decking in the middle.

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  • El Biciclero January 11, 2011 at 9:28 am

    I suppose there will never be a solution that makes everyone happy.

    To the Bunny-hoppers: Come on. When's the last time you bunny-hopped with two loaded pannier bags full of stuff like your laptop?

    To the "quit-whining-you-babies-and-just-stay-alert-and-ride-responsibly"-ers: Sure. It's no problem negotiating jarring bumps in your path, as long as you know they are there! In my mind, the only issue with these bumps (I've ridden over the old bumps in the past) is seeing them. Riding along this path for the first time in low light or other conditions under which the bumps are hard to see could result in some unwelcome surprises. I don't necessarily think the bumps need to be smoothed out so cyclists can zoom down the path, but neither should they be camouflaged, accidental speed bumps that take path users by surprise.

    The "correct" solution here, IMO, would have been to a) post the speed at which the bumps can be taken "safely" (e.g., BIKES 10mph), b) post signs that warn of the bumps (e.g., WARNING: BUMPS), and/or c) cover the transition lips with reflective, yellow-striped traction tape to make them visible.

    Unpainted, unsigned speed bumps in the middle of a motorway would not be tolerated. Why do we expect cyclists to tolerate such things?

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  • Juan C January 11, 2011 at 10:48 am

    I thought I noticed that something was different the other day..visually anyway. Can't say they make much difference either w/ noise or bump. I pinch flatted once on the old strips going south and I've sort of bunny hopped them ever since.

    I say half that angle again and we'd have something to really talk about.

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  • Jim F January 11, 2011 at 11:23 am

    I second what Craig said.

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  • Bob_M January 11, 2011 at 11:45 am

    Craig's blunt spoken honesty is refreshing

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  • Sham Adams January 11, 2011 at 11:51 am

    Lenny Anderson
    Noise should hardly be an issue under the shadow of I-5. The bumps work to slow bike traffic...a big issue on multiuse trails, and the bang alerts others that bikes are approaching. Crashing was only an issue for those you were riding too fast is my guess.

    Well said Lenny!

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  • deborah January 11, 2011 at 12:20 pm

    I always take these at a crawl. It's such a serene and beautiful place, I hate to be the one to muck it up for others. I'm glad the city has helped out with some padding on the ramps.

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  • Mindful Cyclist January 11, 2011 at 12:34 pm

    I haven't tried these yet, but I agree with what a lot of posters are saying is that it is really not the biggest deal. I always just got out of the saddle, kept my knees and arms flexed, and it makes the jarring much more tolerable.

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  • Carter January 11, 2011 at 2:01 pm

    I find the old bumps to be quite annoying and uncomfortable. The esplanade is not a mountain trail, it is more like a street, and it should be smooth. You should not have to rise from the seat if you are riding on a paved right of way. When bikers find potholes in streets that offer as big a bump as those ramps do, they get annoyed and have them fixed. So should those bumps be fixed. I hope the new strips help matters.

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  • Steve B January 11, 2011 at 3:17 pm

    I'd like to join the "This is a problem, and I'm glad to see efforts underway to make it a more smooth transition" posse. Thank you, Portland Parks and Rec!

    I've lost 2 lights (RIP) to these ramps, and I often avoid using the esplanade as a commute route because of this section (as well as the intense congestion in the warmer months).

    Any effort that makes my bike rides a bit smoother and peaceful is welcome in my book. If slowing cycling speeds is a concern, there are other solutions available that don't risk crashes. We could also look into implementing a speed limit on the pathway in some of the more troublesome spots. When I saw a speed limit sign on one of Vancouver's pathway, it was a reminder to take a relaxed pace. I think this is actually a necessity on the Westside waterfront pathway.

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  • pabstslut January 11, 2011 at 4:48 pm

    I've ridden them twice in the past week and didn't notice until I read this story.

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  • cyclists January 11, 2011 at 11:06 pm

    I rode these tonight (in both directions) and I couldn't tell which side had the new treatment. I continue to think this whole story is a non-issue.

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  • Sharmin January 12, 2011 at 8:37 am

    If you aim for the seams that are about 1/4 of the way in on each side of the ramps, the noise is greatly diminished. I am guessing there is a little extra support in those areas and it is not nealry as loud.

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  • spare_wheel January 13, 2011 at 11:33 am

    Those who don't notice or care should realize that not everyone adopts your riding style or mode of transport.

    *If you are riding skinny high-pressure tires those bumps can be dangerous if you are not expecting them.

    *If you ride lighter rims with fewer spokes those bumps can be dangerous if you are not expecting them.

    *If you are a novice or have disabilities those bumps could be dangerous if you are not expecting them.

    It borders on the narcissistic to expect a newbie to bunny hop. I suspect the percentage of PDX cyclists who can bunny hop is in the single digits.

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  • ED January 13, 2011 at 1:27 pm

    I am grateful for PP&R looking into this, even if it's not a major issue. Yes, bikers should ride at a safe speed especially on a multi-use path, but that's no reason to make it painful and annoying for every biker that rides along. Even at slow speeds I think the bumps are jarring. People that want to speed are going to no matter how severe the bumps are, so let's not diminish the experience for every biker.

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  • Lenny Anderson January 14, 2011 at 11:22 am

    I rode the Esplanade yesterday. I think I noticed the new flange, but what we really need is a good sound wall between the trail and I-5!

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