The Worst Day of the Year Ride is February 11th

TriMet clarifies dangerous crossing warning

Posted by on May 23rd, 2007 at 8:32 am


The tracks where Sharon fell.
Photo: Jim O’Horo

Sharon Fekety, the woman who broke her arm in three places after slipping on a MAX track, continues to push TriMet to improve the safety of track crossings for cyclists.

In the latest round in her saga, she has received another letter from TriMet GM Fred Hansen. In the letter, Hansen says they have decided to add more language about bike crossings to their official Administrative Rules and to the bike safety page on their website.

Here is an excerpt from Hansen’s letter:

“Because of the concerns you and others have raised, we took this opportunity to make explicit our recommendation that cyclists dismount and walk across tracks.”

TriMet GM Fred Hansen

TriMet GM Fred Hansen.
File photo

Here is the language before the change:

Cross MAX and railroad tracks straight on. Cross tracks straight on (not at an angle) to avoid having your wheel slip into the trackbed—causing you to take a spill.

And it now reads:

Exercise caution when approaching MAX and railroad tracks. Tracks can be slippery—wet or dry. Walking your bike across tracks is always the safest approach.

If you do ride across MAX and railroad tracks, do so straight on. Cross tracks straight on (not at an angle) to avoid having your wheel slip into the trackbed—causing you to take a spill.

Fekety still hopes TriMet will add signage to warn of dangerous bicycle crossings and Hansen has said he plans to review such crossings with his management committee.

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Thank you — Jonathan

  • Tasha May 23, 2007 at 9:32 am

    I, too, broke my arm on the street car tracks (19th and Lovejoy), but I know there is a sign right there with a guy falling of his bike on the tracks, so it was totally my issue. But I understand the need, as this has happened to a lot of people.

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  • Jonathan Maus / BikePortland May 23, 2007 at 9:35 am

    tasha, sorry to hear about your crash.

    but just to clarify, this is about MAX tracks, not streetcar tracks.

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  • freddy May 23, 2007 at 9:42 am

    It’s not reasonable to expect cyclists to dismount and walk a bike. This sounds like legal CYA to me. A better solution should be found, and TriMet should demonstrate a better understanding of cycling issues.

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  • wsbob May 23, 2007 at 10:42 am

    Why exactly are people having trouble slipping on these crossings? Is it because of that grid material used between and to either side of the tracks? They’ve used some of it out near a route I take fairly regularly. I’ll take a closer look and see what they’re made of. Seems like it’s some kind of one-piece rubber on steel component. Maybe asphalt is better.

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  • Jonathan Maus / BikePortland May 23, 2007 at 10:47 am


    i’ve heard from several people that they think their fall was caused by a lubricant used by TriMet to minimize noise and facilitate sharp turns. Fekety is trying to get to the bottom of this in her case. her friends witnessed TriMet maintenance guys applying lubricant in that area but TriMet denies that claim. I just got another email this morning from someone who also thinks lubricant caused their crash.

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  • Dabby May 23, 2007 at 10:50 am

    I would like to reccomend that trains and buses walk over bike lanes…..

    This is not a solution, it is a legal loophole for when this happens again……….

    The only solution to this problem is for people to learn how to cross train tracks….

    I am sorry that she broke her arm, but it was due to her not riding the tracks properly…..

    Tri Met is not going to change anything….They don’t care that much……..

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  • Matt Picio May 23, 2007 at 11:06 am

    “I would like to reccomend that trains and buses walk over bike lanes…..”

    Amen to that. What do they suggest wheelchair users do? Some people forget that bicycles are not the only narrow-tire conveyances out there, and not eveyone has olympic-caliber speed, balance, stamina and agility. That intersection with Burnside is poorly designed, and the MAX curve is way too sharp – it should be redesigned and rebuilt.

    Ditto for the track intersections behind the library where MAX originally ended and turned around – too many tracks in a small area, making it difficult to cross all at a 90 degree angle.

    “The only solution to this problem is for people to learn how to cross train tracks….”

    Or for Tri-Met to rebuild them (and Portland to rebuild the street) so that it crosses at a saner angle. Sure, that’s WAY more expensive, but probably still cheaper than a single successful lawsuit with punitive damages…

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  • Neil Weber May 23, 2007 at 11:15 am

    If it’s not safe to ride over the tracks because they are too slippery, I don’t think it’ll be safe to walk over the tracks with cleated shoes. I’ve had a couple close calls walking inside of coffee shops.

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  • Anonymous May 23, 2007 at 1:20 pm

    Streetcar, Max, whatever the track, they’re both cycle killers. Streetcars are much worse. Riding down two-way Northrup around NW 13th, I would have to take a left off of the tracks to get to work, while negotiating two-way traffic. Close-call-a-riffic.

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  • ME May 23, 2007 at 2:18 pm

    Just slow down, not so much to dismount, but to un-clip your shoes and ride straight across them…carefully!!! I’ve done it many-many times, rain, shine and frost. Never had a problem (knocking on wood here). If grease was found to have been used, by evidence or maintenance records, then Tri-met has some ‘splainin’ to do.

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  • zilfondel May 23, 2007 at 3:43 pm

    I’ve seen a bike cop take a spill on the streetcar tracks… not pretty.

    It’s the main reason that I am sticking to fatty tires on my bike – currently I can ride right over the gap in the tracks without them slipping between them, and I get excellent traction on steel plate and rubber surfaces. But boy can it be treacherous during the rainy months…

    I encourage anyone to not cross train tracks at less than a 70 degree angle – and take the lane if you are riding along the rails!

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  • wsbob May 24, 2007 at 11:55 pm

    Re; my earlier comment, #4, wondering whether the tracks Sharon Fekety fell on used the same between tracks grid material that has been used in a couple crossings I know of out my way. From Jim O’Horo’s picture above, I couldn’t exactly tell if this was the case.

    Tonight, I took a close look at the crossings in my area. More or less as I said earlier, they are a criss-cross rubber grid, possibly with a steel core, not to big, but heavy. I took a close-up picture, but didn’t notice a way to send it here.

    I skate, lately, moreso than biking. Crossing those things on the skates used to make me very uneasy. At least with skates, they offered very little traction, even when dry. I had to be really careful and just glide over them perfectly balanced, perpendicular to the rails until I completely cleared the grid.

    Out here in the Beav, near Griffith Park, there’s a big pile of those things. In conjunction with the commuter rail construction, they’ve been ripped out and replaced with a new component that uses what looks to be concrete as the contact surface. Seems much better to me and the skates.

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  • Dave Holladay February 7, 2010 at 12:50 pm

    Just picked this up I’m reviewing a lot of cyclist falls on rail crossings AND othe small vertical irregularities which the tyre strikes obliquely – a dropped kerb edge for riding over, can at just 10mm send your rear tyre sliding sideways if you hit it at this way. The picture shows the a crossing built wiht the old OMNI (Goodyear?) panels which clearly shows edge misalignment – suggesting that the panels are not sitting properly on the bearer plates and probably move when a truck drives over them. In the UK we had a 90mph derailment of a train (2006 Croxton RAIB Report) because a tanker truck dislodged a loose crossing panel. The problem of raised rail levels should be dealt with and in the UK the rail head should be +0mm to -6mm famously made clear by the case of Row vs Sheffield Supertram where a car rode up on all wheels on the tram tracks.

    However the issue of the flangeway slots does seem to have eventually been resolved in Chicago (Cherry Tree Bridge) and Berlin (Kattwyck Bridge)

    Post me your news

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