TriMet confirms study of bike/MAX crossings

[Post updated: 9/27, 11:42am]

E. Burnside and 97th:
The tracks where Sharon fell.
Photo: Jim O’Horo

At a meeting last week of the Portland Bicycle Advisory Committee (PBAC), TriMet Communications Manager Josh Collins shared details of TriMet’s plans to review 32 locations where bike paths and bike lanes cross MAX tracks.

The review makes good on a promise made by TriMet General Manager Fred Hansen to Sharon Fekety. Fekety broke her arm in three places when she slipped and fell while riding across a MAX track at I-205 and Burnside last March.

Since the incident, Fekety has been persistently lobbying TriMet to take a closer look at improving safety at that, and similar crossings. She maintains her initial claim that a greasy lubricant on the tracks (applied by TriMet) was the cause of her fall. TriMet has confirmed they use a lubricant, but they deny it was ever applied on or near the location where Fekety went down.

According to Collins, TriMet plans to combine the study of bike crossings with a pedestrian crossing safety review they have been mandated to perform by the state legislature following a pedestrian accident in 2003.

Below is a Q&A between Fekety and Collins that took place at this month’s PBAC meeting:

Exactly where (address) are the crossings where MAX tracks come across bike crossings that will be studied?

The safety study will review the design and operation of a representative sample of MAX crossings for comparison to industry standards and best practices. The selection of specific crossings, including where bicycle paths cross MAX tracks (bike lanes, regional/local multi-use paths) will be made in cooperation with the professional safety consultant.

What is the timetable for studying these crossings and implementing changes?

We hope to execute a contract with a consultant within the next month and have the study conducted this fall. A timetable for implementing changes will not be available until we receive the results of the study and have an understanding of the consultant’s recommendations.

What type of signage is being studied?

The consultant will review crossings for comparison to industry standards and best practices, and identify additional, possible safety enhancements based on best industry practices. The sign that you mention (seen in photo above) is not a TriMet sign, and does not conform to the preferred standards of the federal Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD). The consultant will review the sign that is used by Portland Streetcar and provide us with recommendations on how to best alert cyclists to an approaching crossing.

What criteria are being used for evaluating these crossings?

The assessment will include, at a minimum:

  • Identification of variations from industry standards including but not limited to gated crossings, un-gated crossings, platform crossings, crossings near schools, crossings near high pedestrian traffic areas, crossings with regional or local multi-use paths, and crossings with bicycle lanes.
  • Identification of areas that show evidence of risky pedestrian or cyclist behavior.
  • Identification of areas that show evidence of trespassing.
  • Identification of areas that need additional pedestrian channeling.
  • Identification of areas that need additional warnings.

Are there plans to change the bumpy plastic or rubber material on either side of the tracks, specifically the ones I fell on at E. Burnside and 97th Ave? I don’t know how many other crossings use that material (none in the Pearl or S. Waterfront) but it becomes very slippery when wet. It would be good to know how many other crossings use that material as I heard from many people who have fallen on this surface.

At this time TriMet does not plan to change the rubberized material at E. Burnside and 97th Ave. It is possible that if there were ever a need to rebuild the crossing and curved rail through the intersection that a different product may be used. However, it is impossible to predict if or when such an activity will be necessary, as it would be a significant construction project and service interruption.


I’ll update the progress and results of TriMet’s study as things develop.

I think we all owe Sharon Fekety a collective thanks for the time and effort she has put into this issue. Thank you Sharon! (and I hope your arm is fully healed!)

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