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Injury crash near OMSI raises concern - Updated

Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on February 4th, 2011 at 11:25 am

A Portland woman fell and broke her clavicle
in this location yesterday. Note the lighter
pavement on the right that is raised a bit
from the roadway.

There's currently a detour around OMSI that takes bicycle traffic off the Eastbank Esplanade and onto the bike lane on SW Water Avenue. A Portland woman riding in that lane yesterday crashed near a storm grate and fractured her clavicle. Here's a bit more from the woman who was injured:

"I think the hazard deserves attention. The problem: a low curb which runs parallel to the bike lane and is virtually invisible from the perspective of a cyclist in the lane. OMSI safety personnel reported that there have been multiple crashes in this scenario over the years."

This location is a known hazard. Reader Mark Ginsberg calls it "the lip". He says he's been working to get it fixed. "The pull-off area [for loading/unloaded at OMSI] is about 1/2 inch higher than the road, so there is a lip the entire length of the pull off area."

Here's another photo:

Has anyone else had a problem with this area near OMSI?

UPDATE, 4:45pm: This story initially made it seem like the strom drain grate in the photo is what caused the crash. I regret the confusion and I have updated the headline and the story to make things more clear. (Note: I was unable to update it sooner due to being in a car for the past 3.5 hours!).

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Comments
  • Greg February 4, 2011 at 11:28 am

    Was it the grate or the low curb that caused the accident? The grate appears to have the cross bars that would prevent a tire from falling in.

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    • jacob February 4, 2011 at 11:34 am

      I agree, the grate doesn't seem to be a problem, that curb on the other hand is kinda nasty.

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    • JE February 4, 2011 at 11:40 am

      May have gone up the curb to go around the grate. I didn't even notice the curb in the first picture. I think the contrast with the white paint is hiding it. Perhaps painting the vertical portion white also would take care of that.

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    • Opie February 4, 2011 at 12:07 pm

      I believe that regardless of the cross bars, the surface is more than slick, which could cause the bicyclist to slide into the curb.

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  • Todd Boulanger February 4, 2011 at 11:35 am

    Looks like a good place for a lift of asphalt to smooth the transition to the parking lane. (Is the street sinking vs the concrete parking lane?) The grate looks up to standard - though it would be better relocated to the parking lane).

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  • JHB February 4, 2011 at 11:48 am

    I crashed on this curb at night last summer. Flew off the bike and banged up my hands and knees, but nothing broken. Agree that this area is a hazard.

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  • meteorite February 4, 2011 at 11:55 am

    The curb is the problem. The presence of the storm grate merely prompted me to drift right in the bike lane to avoid it. I didn't visually detect the curb until my tire was parallel to it and too close to permit me to turn the wheel and ride up over it. Perhaps a bunny hop maneuver was indicated but I saw the hazard too late for that. The painted bike lane disguises the elevation differences between the asphault street/bike lane surface and the cement turnout surface. Cyclists would be safer without the the outer white line not to mention the abrupt curb!

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  • davemess February 4, 2011 at 12:01 pm

    I've often wondered why they can't just rotate the grates 90 degrees, especially the grates without bars. There are quite a few on Hwy 10 in Beaverton that are very precarious. I was dodging one going home last night and trying to imagine a world where cars had 12 in. wide tire-sucking hazards to avoid that take up half of their lane. Kind of the thought of what if drivers had to put up with what we have to put up with as cyclists. What a different world it would be then, eh?

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  • Oliver February 4, 2011 at 12:03 pm

    That white line/curb combo looks wicked...in a bad way. It seems like a hazard that needs addressing.

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  • BURR February 4, 2011 at 12:04 pm

    those double wide storm drains are in the bikes lanes throughout the city, they reduce the effective width of the bike lane to about 12 inches.

    There's also an abrupt 1" to 2" grade change from the street to the driveways in that area, which I've also seen people crash on there.

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  • David February 4, 2011 at 12:04 pm

    The problem is not the drain, it is the curb. The woman said, 'The problem: a low curb which runs parallel to the bike lane and is virtually invisible from the perspective of a cyclist in the lane.' There is a similar curb running past the mill work place.

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  • rider February 4, 2011 at 12:05 pm

    This grate is another problem spot. I wish they would route the bike line around the right of the bridge supports. http://tinyurl.com/49t6ms6

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  • Toby February 4, 2011 at 12:31 pm

    Wow! Seriously effed up design. How the Hell did that get approval in the first place? That's why when they're doing work on interstates and they create a gradient change like that they put up signs to warn motorcyclists, extremely dangerous. Either they should fill in the lip or shave down the edge. I can't imagine either one of those options costing more than continued settlements.

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  • Karl D February 4, 2011 at 12:34 pm

    Going down N Interstate hill at Greeley there are storm drains that break spokes. I like the single wide grates not the double wide.

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  • KJ February 4, 2011 at 12:40 pm

    There are at least 4 other drains like this one in the area, two on the way north to Clay near the PCC and PGE lots and 2 on the way south towards this one near the Interstate Building and PEPCO building. I usually avoid them in case they are slippery (or with the two near the Interstate lot when they are clogged giant lakes).

    My guess is the curb could be an issue but I haven't had any problems with either the drains or the curbs in the area the 7 years I have biked through here. I find the curb obvious but I can see how many may not.

    OMSI had a similar lip in the turnout in the north parking lot which did get leveled off with asphalt in the last few years.

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    • cyclist February 4, 2011 at 1:15 pm

      I've had a similar experience to yours, I frequently bike through this area at night and it's not an issue even in the dark. The grates are fine to ride over, there's no need to take evasive maneuvers.

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  • OnTheRoad February 4, 2011 at 12:44 pm

    This kind of unevenness also shows up a lot where there is a parking pull-out. Often the pull-out is concrete and the street is asphalt, and there will be a good inch or so step between the two. This can knock you over like a streetcar track, but because it is less visible or expected, it seems to be a more sneaky hazard.

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  • RyNO Dan February 4, 2011 at 12:45 pm

    I've been riding the detour. There are holes, gravel, and of course the grates. It doesn't even look like they prepared it for cycle commuters. There's no way I'm traveling over all the grates. And of course somebody honked at me this morning when I avoided the hazard in the bike lane. Bike lanes should not be striped where grates exist. Duh.

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    • KJ February 4, 2011 at 2:13 pm

      Yeah it's like that year round, sadly. It's my regular commute, not a detour. I ride Water to and from Stark.
      I don't think it ever gets swept and down by Yamhill car break ins are so high there is usually glass somewhere along the way. The bike lanes between Stark and Yamhill are the diciest (IMHO) sections, the turn at the rail road tracks is always full of gravel and other debris. Then Yamhill to Clay, even with the repaved sections. Clay to Carthurs is actually the best section, for the most part, in terms of debris and potholes, half buried rail tracks and utility covers.

      However it's mostly pedestrian free so I still much prefer it for my riding style and comfort (and that of others) than the esplanade. =)

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  • Schrauf February 4, 2011 at 12:45 pm

    That difficult to see lip, in an unexpected location and further disguised by the painted line, is one of the more dangerous intentional designs I have seen in this City. Lips on driveways are one thing - you should expect them, but not on a long parking strip that is part of the roadway.

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    • Schrauf February 4, 2011 at 12:47 pm

      Further, the inside painted line should be BELOW the lip, so at least one would not hit the lip until after passing over the line. And maybe the lip would be more apparent.

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  • Cedreau February 4, 2011 at 12:49 pm

    At least there's only one grate here. On my route there's five within a single block and four in the block immediately following it.

    But if that second picture hadn't been posted, I would never have even seen that raised curb. It definitely needs to be addressed.

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  • Alan February 4, 2011 at 1:00 pm

    That's yet another place where an ogee curb (AKA "soft curb") would be appropriate, but probably outside immediate budgets. An asphalt wedge seems like it would be prone to chunking and leave a hazardous edge, itself. Maybe beveling the existing curb to 45° with a masonry saw would help.

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  • Joe Rowe February 4, 2011 at 1:14 pm

    The OMSI bike path at the river is very dangerous at night. At dark you can't see the path. There is a curb that pokes out of the path with no warning and no paint. The path has no paint and it is easy to go off path into gravel. They need 4 new lap posts. Some lamp post lights have been out for over a year. I wish the BTA would take some photos and ask people to sign a petition.

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  • Stig February 4, 2011 at 1:32 pm

    The curb aside, the city actually cares about dangerous storm drains? I could call in a dozen a day on the East-side if that's what I'm meant to do.

    Division, 122nd, 181st, 223rd, off the top of my head have wheel eating storm drains that reduce the bike lane to a few inches. I have yet to see a bike lane I'd ever let my mother ride on.

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    • sam February 4, 2011 at 1:49 pm

      Yeah... K'Tesh is on a mission to have them all reported and replaced. He's posted lots of photos of his reports and results on the forums. He has said to report them to PDX Tran's 24 hour maintenance hotline (503) 823 1700.

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      • Stig10 February 4, 2011 at 4:59 pm

        The ones I see aren't necessarily at the wrong rotation, they're sunken into the road and will send you over your handlebars with a buckled wheel.

        I'll call one in as a safety hazard near my work and see what happens.

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  • velowocky February 4, 2011 at 1:51 pm

    Sorry for the rider but I can only wish for grates that nice on my usual route between West Linn and LO. The grates here are so bad they force a rider into the roadway. Anyone know if grate reconstruction is a focus for local bike planners?

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  • Carter February 4, 2011 at 2:09 pm

    I ride there frequently, and I always wonder what they were thinking when they built the street with that little ledge there, and how many riders have had problems with it.

    The difference in height probably alerts drivers to the existence of the loading lane, but it is a hazard for bikes.

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  • jocko February 4, 2011 at 2:14 pm

    I am going to get skewered for this but.....the low curb is park of this weird parking drop off that they have infront of OMSI. with all of the re-directs in the area maybe it was confusing, but I ride this every day (much safer than the OMSI people slalom) and have never felt the need to ride up on the parking cut.

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    • Schrauf February 4, 2011 at 9:42 pm

      But the point is it would be easy to be riding by this stupid lip and never see it, because of the line in the wrong location that helps disguise it. So why not pass the grate on the right? The City deserves to be sued. And yes, as a taxpayer in Portland I will help pay for that lawsuit. Inadequate engineers and/or contractors. Somebody needs to get fired - that is how bad of a design it is.

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  • eric February 4, 2011 at 2:23 pm

    I, uhh, ride around the grates in the car traffic lane. Lots more room there.

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  • Endanseur February 4, 2011 at 2:47 pm

    I believe we need to be clear that it was the curb, not the storm drain grate that caused the crash. It was my wife who crashed and it is my photo. The curb/lip is perhaps 1-2" in height and is not visible due to the striping. In fact, the striping makes the surface look flat when viewed from a bicycle.

    The striping needs to be remedied, perhaps restriped on the macadam and not the top of curb, painted yellow or removed. The crash occurred because the rider saw the grate and rode to the right of it to avoid the grate and hit the curb that caused the crash, thinking that the stripe was the same elevation as the road.

    Another option it do what OMSI did on their portion of the drive, on their property, which was to construct a smooth transition. With the new detour, many more people will use the route and this needs to be remedied, especially for those persons riding at night and will never see the curb.

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    • mark ginsberg February 4, 2011 at 4:05 pm

      pls contact me off list, Mark Ginsberg

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  • BURR February 4, 2011 at 3:00 pm

    you really should pass the grates on the left.

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    • Endanseur February 4, 2011 at 3:15 pm

      Burr--Typically you are correct, but in this instance there was traffic on the left and the right side looked clear and flat, but that was only an illusion caused by the paint and different material. It appears to be a flat surface.

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  • esther c February 4, 2011 at 3:30 pm

    Endanseur, your wife has my sympathy. I broke my clavicle this past summer. I did it on the trolley tracks downtown, my own damned fault. I was out of commission for 4 months. 3 months waiting for my clavicle to heal and another month unfreezing my $%^#& shoulder. I hope she has insurance and sick pay.

    Its a bummer how a simple miscalculation or crappily planned street can screw you up like that.

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  • cyclist February 4, 2011 at 3:37 pm

    Jonathan: Could you edit the headline/story to reflect the fact that the drain didn't actually cause the crash?

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  • K'Tesh February 4, 2011 at 4:04 pm

    davemess
    I've often wondered why they can't just rotate the grates 90 degrees, especially the grates without bars. There are quite a few on Hwy 10 in Beaverton that are very precarious. I was dodging one going home last night and trying to imagine a world where cars had 12 in. wide tire-sucking hazards to avoid that take up half of their lane. Kind of the thought of what if drivers had to put up with what we have to put up with as cyclists. What a different world it would be then, eh?

    Davemess,
    I hate to say it, but all to often those "square grates" ain't square (I'm talking about the inlets that have two grates installed, like the one in the photo). I've tried in the past to rotate some, and they are just a smidge longer (parallel to traffic) than they are wide.

    I've taken photos of all the grates on the B-H Hwy from Lombard to the WashCo/MultnomaCo line, and have reported the worst of the offenders to ODOT. I haven't had a chance to return to evaluate if the worst of the offenders were corrected. Such as:

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/ufobike/5283071023/in/set-72157625527858267/

    The set is at:
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/ufobike/sets/72157625527858267/

    (Yeah folks, I have 204 boring photos of storm drain grates in this set...)

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  • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) February 4, 2011 at 4:47 pm

    Just want everyone to know that I realize the crash was caused by the raised curb, not the grate. I mistakenly blamed the grate due to hasty reporting initially and then was not near my computer for the past four hours or so. I have changed the headline, photos, and added more information that I hope makes the situation more clear. Thanks and I regret any confusion. Hopefully the next story is about a fix to that nasty lip of a curb that has claimed more than one victim.

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  • Alexis February 4, 2011 at 4:57 pm

    I went by to see this after hearing about it. The lip was clear with me looking for it, but I probably wouldn't have noticed it otherwise. The stripe definitely makes it harder to see than normal. A lip like that caused one of my first bike crashes as an adult (I was lucky, just skinned knees & chain came off).

    OTOH, these aren't grates that I would normally take any evasive action for -- they are nice and even, so I would just ride over or slightly move left while staying in the bike lane.

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  • random_rider February 4, 2011 at 7:42 pm

    This is one of those things that a year ago I would have said "well, there are situations like that all over town, just learn to look and adapt." But, this site has educated me to realizing that bicyclists have become conditioned to accepting hazards that would be inconceivable for those in cars. There is no possible way that the public would allow a motor vechicle lane with an unmarked curb lip the same height as the width of a tire. But we on bikes are used to having to be hyper-aware. We shouldn't have to accept infrastructure that is poorly planned to the point of being borderline sadistic

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    • K'Tesh February 9, 2011 at 10:06 am

      This is someone who gets "IT".

      People can't expect that the problems they see on the road will go away on their own. You have to take the time to try and resolve the hazards you see. Whether it's a branch overhanging a sidewalk, or a root buckling a sidewalk, or a storm grate that's poorly designed/aligned/or sunken, it isn't impossible to get them fixed. If enough people get involved, agencies will take notice and things might get done right the first time.

      See Something?
      DO SOMETHING!!!

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  • Heather February 4, 2011 at 8:00 pm

    I was taken down by that lip during Bridge Pedal one year. I had no idea it was there. I still have the road rash to show for it.

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  • wsbob February 4, 2011 at 8:00 pm

    Has anyone asked the city why the 'lip' is there? Has the city said the 'lip' needs to be there for some functional reason?

    More than anything else, the 'lip' looks like an engineering mistake. Looks like it's the edge of a concrete pad, maybe installed for heavy vehicles such as buses. Maybe someone just didn't get the grade height figured right.

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    • cyclists February 5, 2011 at 1:04 am

      I think you've hit the nail on the head. I've regularly seen school buses parked on the concrete there, if I had to guess I'd say the concrete was meant to be flush but isn't. Hopefully there's a cheap and easy fix.

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      • wsbob February 5, 2011 at 10:35 am

        The 'lip' looks to be a lot of linear footage...i.e. ...'big job', but it could possibly be ground down to a 45 or 60 angle bevel (thanks! to Toby February 4, 2011 at 12:31 pm: "...Either they should fill in the lip or shave down the edge. ...). That would be better than throwing asphalt into the 90 degree angle between street and 'lip' to create a bevel and counter the mini-curb's abrupt edge that way.

        Doing the latter would mean creating another obstacle for cyclists due to an occurring transition difference between such a bevel and the storm grates current grade level with the street. Currently, the height of the storm grate itself is beautifully consistent with the surrounding street pavement; no need to mess with that.

        I vaguely remember news of the concrete pad with 'lip' at Omsi being installed some years back. Fairly sure it was a change that occurred subsequent to the construction of Omsi's building, and that it was specifically created to handle heavy vehicles.

        So the answer probably is to somehow get someone from the city to do some investigation about why the 'lip' is there, whether it really needs to be, and provide an official explanation to the public. If the 'lip' doesn't really serve any functional purpose critical to the integrity of street, storm drain or concrete pad's construction, and the city allows it to remain there despite an absence of need, just waiting to trip up unwary cyclists...I suppose the city could potentially be liable in a lawsuit.

        It's interesting that the top edge of the 'lip' has been painted with a big bold white line...almost identical to the one further into the street indicating the left edge of the bike lane. Here's a question that occurs to me:

        'Is the line on the 'lip' there to indicate the right edge of the bike lane? Or is it there to indicate a hazard to cyclists posed by the 'lip', possibly known by the city to exist, but that it has somehow not had occasion or opportunity to fix properly?'.

        Also, a reminder to read Endanseur's February 4, 2011 at 2:47 pm comment. Here's part of it:

        "I believe we need to be clear that it was the curb, not the storm drain grate that caused the crash. It was my wife who crashed and it is my photo. ..."

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  • was carless February 5, 2011 at 12:08 am

    I think the solution here is to be smarter than the pavement.

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  • h February 5, 2011 at 12:19 am

    I dislike curb lips. it can trip you good. No problem for cars and trucks. dangerous for bicycles and motorcycles. So are tracks.....

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  • BURR February 5, 2011 at 9:46 am

    viola, a solution from Copenhagen...

    http://www.copenhagenize.com/2011/02/rumble-strips-for-bicycles.html

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  • Michael Pina February 5, 2011 at 10:44 am

    I too have had a crash at the very same spot. My wheels got caught against "the lip" and couldn't get out of It. It happened several years ago and i still have gnarly scars on my leg and arm from the road rash.

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  • Endanseur February 5, 2011 at 12:24 pm

    After reading all the comments it appears that several positive things have occurred. The most important one being that with the new detour, more and more people are aware of the potential hazard in front of OMSI. Continue to pass the word around so no one else has to experience a similar crash. And now the city knows about this and hopefully will take corrective action. Thanks for everyones' responses.

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  • mjpdx February 5, 2011 at 12:33 pm

    I was with Endanseur and the group taking the detour. From many angles the low curb really is not visible, and because it is painted white like the bike lane marker, it seems flat. At a minimum, it should be painted yellow...or removed entirely. Previously, due to the danger, I have avoided the detour and followed the old Esplanade route, walking my bike if necessary through the narrow part. Not a great solution, but safer, considering OMSI traffic and parking lots, street traffic, and pedestrians/children.

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  • BURR February 5, 2011 at 4:59 pm

    about 8 years ago on Bridge Pedal I saw several people crash on the lip there in a period of about 15 minutes while I helped someone fix a flat in the median, so it's a fairly long time hazard.

    I saw a young girl riding with her parents crash on the same lip over by McCoy Millwork on SE Caruthers a few years ago.

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  • C-Dawg February 5, 2011 at 5:31 pm

    I had a similar fall from the concrete lip in the entrance to Kohler Pavilion at OHSU last March. Too shallow turning angle, tires pumped up to 95 psi, the front tire "bounced" off the lip and momentum carried me over the bike and onto the cement. A little blood, but could have been much worse. Gloves were critical, helmet probably helped.

    I rode in front of OMSI today and didn't even notice the lip there, so I guess I need to reinforce avoidance of this type of hazard. A little yellow paint out front wouldn't hurt, though it would have to be re-painted yearly.

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  • Ivana Tinkle February 5, 2011 at 6:18 pm

    Going up the hill on Barnes Rd to the Sunset TC, as you turn off Barnes to the TC, there is a lip like this.

    One time I didn't turn my wheel sharp enough to the right as I went up the hill, grazing the side of it and went over. Other than a bruised ego I came out unscaved -lucky considering there was traffic a foot or two away. Maybe there should be a hotline for dangerous areas.

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  • jim February 5, 2011 at 6:43 pm

    If that lip is there just to keep traffic from drifting into the loading zone, then why don't they make it flush and just do some turtle bumps to warn cars they are going across where they shouldn't be? You could see turtle bumps better than that little lip. I would bet this won't be the last cycle accident in this spot. I think it deserves being fixed and acknowledge that it was a bad design in the first place.

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  • dwainedibbly February 6, 2011 at 10:32 am

    How about adding something like this in Copenhagen:

    http://www.copenhagenize.com/2011/02/rumble-strips-for-bicycles.html

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  • Linda February 6, 2011 at 7:55 pm

    I went down at that curb today. As this article says, the lip is almost invisible to a biker. Luckily the only damage to myself is an abraded knee. Sadly, my bikeing knickers now have a big hole in the knee, my derailer hanger is bent and my handle bars needed straightening and new tape.

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    • dude February 7, 2011 at 7:05 am

      Jim was right. He said there would be another acident 2 posts ago

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  • Tim w February 7, 2011 at 3:33 pm

    I had an issue with that curb just last night. I drifted into in expecting it to be the same level and saw surprised when I bumped into it. I also noticed a pretty massive pothole just south of OMSI in the northbound bike lane. Has anyone had an issue with this?

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