“We have no political axe to grind and are not in opposition to bicycles in general. But we are in opposition to bicycles in the Rose Quarter Transit Center.”
— from a letter and petition send to local media outlets from a group of TriMet bus and train operators
The Portland Mercury has shared an interesting development in TriMet’s plans to begin to re-configure bike access through the Rose Quarter Transit Center (RQTC).
News editor Amy Ruiz published a four page letter (download PDF here) that was emailed to her along with a petition signed by by “over 250+ professionals with over 2,900 years of driving experience from across the board at TriMet”.
The group behind the letter has a simple message: “No Bicycles in the Rose Quarter Transit Center”.
The operator’s letter says they are not opposed to bicycles in general but that they are just worried about safety issues surrounding the new plans:
“With your help we can prevent the fatal results that will no doubt occur if we remain silent, and current plans go forward. No professional driver ever willingly puts their self or others at risk, but that is exactly what we are being asked to do if bicycles are allowed traverse where multiple 20-ton busses and 3 MAX lines are maneuvering… We cannot let the city of council of Portland squeeze a bike lane through the Rose Quarter Transit Center.”
The authors of the letter appear to be acting independent of the operators union:
“Even the Union with its mission to protect drivers seems to be sitting on its hands on an issue that can potentially not only end careers but will cost lives.”
Instead of the current plans — which are set to be implemented within weeks and call for a new bike lane, a bike box, and other improvements — the operators behind this letter want bike traffic to continue to be averted around the RQTC and they want stepped up enforcement (“and this time, give out tickets — not just warnings.”).
The letter repeatedly asks the question; “What is so compelling about putting a bike lane through the Rose Quarter Transit Center?” and adds, “the bikes have gone around for years.”
This opposition to TriMet’s plans brings up several questions.
Do the 250-plus operators (out of about 1,500 total) that have signed it realize the comprehensive planning that has gone into this decision?
TriMet has worked closely with the Bicycle Transportation Alliance and PDOT to implement a series of changes to help mitigate safety concerns. Bus routes and stops will be changed, signage will be added, new lanes will be painted, and so on.
Has TriMet done a thorough enough job in communicating with their drivers about these plans?
I can see the operators being frustrated that there concerns were not considered if they have not been effectively communicated with. It’s been nearly four months since I first reported that TriMet was looking at doing some tests to allow bike access through the RQTC.
A source at TriMet who is familiar with the letter tells me that the bike access plans, “Were not thrust onto these folks… it’s something that has been developed with a lot of integrity.”
My source also shared that TriMet’s manager of operator training, Allen Morgan (a bike rider himself), has overseen “the most robust training” around bicycles he’s seen during his time with the organization and added that there’s been “a real culture shift” around bicycles at TriMet.
Part of that shift (and perhaps some of the frustrations and emotions laid out in this letter) are likely due in no small part to the fatal collision between a TriMet bus and high school student Austin Miller back in February of this year. TriMet is currently involved in a $2 million lawsuit by Austin’s mom, Stephanie Miller back in June.
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We cannot allow the bus drivers to dictate what cyclists do in the City of Portland.
Bicycle access through the Rose Quarter Transit center is feasible, it is needed, and it is already safely done by a majority of those who ride through the area.
One of the real problems involved in cycling through the City of Portland for years has been the actions of bus drivers. I could make a long list of the atrocities involved, but we al know what they are.
To think that this movement might change the coming status of bike travel through the Rose Quarter transit center saddens me.
It would be a big backwards step in the progression of alternative transportation in The City of Portland, and will only serve to heighten the already growing animosity many have for bus drivers, and for Tri met in general.
I encourage you all to write letters in support of the already in place plan to allow bicycle passage through this two block area, and against this independent, bus driver based movement.
Thank you, and have a good day!
I\’ve (illegally) ridden through this area dozens of times and never found it to be especially treacherous. Look both ways, don\’t run the lights and you\’re fine. Of course, one could argue that many cyclists aren\’t going to take those basic precautions. But the huge number of people who pass through the area totally unaware– as it exists today sans bike lane, moved stops and everything else the safety experts have planned– seems to suggest it\’s not that much of a risk. The petition seems to think that adding safety features will result in fatalities, and I just don\’t buy it.
maybe the bicyclists who ride through there should start a petition. i\’d sign.
This seems like an unnecessary battle. Why is a bike path through the transit center so essential? Trimet and bikes have a history of clashes.. even if there was a bike path through the transit center I\’d still take an alternate (and quicker) route anyways.
Time to mobilize. Refusing to share the road is unacceptable.
I\’m a bike commuter and a MAX/bus rider. I think that the bus drivers are right to be concerned about bike fatalities in the RQTC. I see plenty of both bikes and pedestrians ignoring the right of way there and stepping in front of buses and trains. Why is it such a big deal to go around the transit center? Why not make an awesome bike boulevard a street over and divert all bike traffic to a safer space? I think most bus drivers (like most people) are generally concerned with the well-being of others. I think they are expressing that concern with this petition and I support them in that.
\”With your help we can prevent the fatal results that will no doubt occur if we remain silent, and current plans go forward. \”
When I first read this it sounded a lot like \”stop us before we kill again.\” I\’m sure that\’s not their intent, but notice the passive voice: \”Fatal results will … occur.\”
\”This bus drives itself, I was just sitting here watching the fatal results occur!\”
FWIW I seldom ride through the quarter so I don\’t have a dog in this particular fight. But the language on display here isn\’t exactly a ringing endorsement of the petitioners\’ abilities.
\”Refusing to share the road is unacceptable.\”
I humbly disagree – we should instead deny access of any buses to the transit center. That would solve this problem once and for all 🙂
I know, it\’s accepted useage, but it still makes me smile.
And the narrative sort of slips back and forth between the collective and the personal.
Anyway, I\’m all for banning buses in this stretch if drivers feel it will keep cyclists safer.
hmmm…just read over the pdf. It seems that oneof the bus drivers concerns is that if enforcement wasn\’t present that bike riders would disregard safety measures and ride whereever/however they want, thus causing situations that will inevitably cause a fatality. gee, why would they think that bikers would ignored posted safety regulations?
im about as concerned about being able to ride my bike through the rose quarter bus mall as i am about being able to ride my bike on the sidewalk on the upper deck of the steel bridge.
that is to say – not at all.
i consider both to be suboptimal, even useless, bike routes, and not even worth bothering with.
i realize that there are those who use them, and consider them vital to their commute or routing, but thats them, and im me.
the only thing that *might* concern me as far as restricting bike access to the rose quarter transit mall would be potential repercussions for access to the max/bus mall on sw 5th/6th when that opens up – its already poorly designed (and i am about 1000% pro-light-rail) – the same reasoning might be used there to restrict or prevent bike access, and that, id be rather vocally opposed to.
as for this, though – they can have the rose quarter bus mall, as far as im concerned. i dont need or want it.
Hmmm…this is not an area that I generally ride. Are their concerns reasonable?
If it\’s dangerous for cyclists to ride through there, should we ban pedestrians as well? What about motor vehicles?
250 drivers out of 1500… that\’s what less that 17% right?
Shouldn\’t the title be \”Some TriMet drivers say “No” to Rose Quarter bike access\”
And what about the other 1250 drivers? What did they say?
\”Why is it such a big deal to go around the transit center?\”
It may not be a big deal to go around the transit center, but it *is* a big deal to make it illegal for people riding bikes to use the roads in the transit center.
Because their rationale here is that they cannot safely drive around bicyclists. So next it will be:
\”We have no political agenda, but since we sometimes kill you, you must be banned from all bus routes for your own safety.\”
And then the motor vehicle drivers who also refuse to share the road will say the same about \”busy\” roads where cyclists don\’t belong.
Not in my town.
Here is what is so compelling about a bike route through the Rose Quarter Transit Center: the Rose Quarter TC is only direct route between the Williams/Vancouver bike routes and the Esplanade. It\’s basically a 10-mile long straight shot between Columbia in North Portland and Tacoma in SE – except for the detour around the transit center. To not allow access to cyclists through there is like denying drivers access to I-5 between Alberta and Weidler and forcing them to take Interstate Avenue instead. Can it be done? Sure, but it\’s slow, cumbersome, and inefficient.
While it\’s true that some cyclists have willingly gone around for years, it\’s also true that others have illegally gone through for years. Regardless of whether or not there is a legal path, some cyclists will continue to use it because it\’s the the most direct route. Which option do the operators want? A legal, workable route which has been worked out between Trimet, PDOT, and the BTA? Or an illegal route which will continue to get used (regardless of enforcement) and which will continue to aggravate Trimet operators?
@a.0 #14: \”Because their rationale here is that they cannot safely drive around bicyclists.\”
That\’s pretty much their entire rationale. The last page of the PDF has an analogy to standing on a ledge that\’s particularly creepy — it\’s almost as if the petitioners see themselves as unable to control their reactions or behavior.
The TriMet guys might have a legitimate concern here, that the quarter is too dense or whatever to safely allow bikes. I won\’t comment on that. I went into this with an open mind. But this petition is like an anti-argument, it unintentionally highlights how unseriously the petitioners take driving near bicycles. If it\’s convinced me of anything, it\’s that at least 250 drivers need a lot more training.
@ #16: I totally agree. They have a legitimate concern. Their solution is both totally unacceptable and very revealing. It\’s been obvious to me for some time that the driving of many of these folks reflects this kind of thinking.
Not just no – HELL NO.
The argument that bicycles would have to share the congestion with trains doesn\’t wash. No matter which route you take through or around either side of the transit center, legal or illegal routes, one must cross a minimum of two sets of MAX tracks. It doesn\’t even enter as a factor in the argument.
Also, let\’s not forget that part of the original plan for putting in the bike lane is that it would be taking some of the buses off of the transit center core altogether.
This is why we\’ve had to wait for it to be executed. Even more buses than normal were temporarily added to the center during the Steel Bridge upgrade. That\’s now done and those buses will be gone and some of the originals are planned to be moved out.
andy – to those who complain about the, what, 2 or 3 block net gain in distance traveled due to riding around the rose quarter transit center rather than through, i say \”oh come ON…\” if making 2 extra turns, dealing with a traffic signal, and adding a couple hundred feet onto a commute is so vastly inconveniencing, then were getting awfully spoiled.
and john – your point about the inevitable max track crossing is a point well taken.
for what its worth, i think a.o. is spot on in focussing on the nature of the drivers complaint being bogus and bad precedent, regardless of what i think of the importance (or lack thereof) of the rose quarter transit center as a bike route.
I have an immense amount of respect for anyone who operates a 20-ton bus on a daily basis, and for the danger those vehicles represent to me as an unprotected road user.
That said, one point they raise – \”what is so compelling… bikes have gone around for years\” – really bothers me. It indicates that these drivers are unintentionally or deliberately ignorant of the expansion in bike traffic in the last 20 years. Either that, or they\’ve chosen to trivialize that fact. If bike traffic remained constant, changes to the Rose Quarter might not be necessary, but bike traffic has increased four-fold in the last five years, and that growth rate appears to be continuing.
If Tri-Met really wants to keep bikes out of the RQTC, the best method would be for Tri-Met to fund the construction of a separated bike thruway alongside I-5, from the specialized bike signal to N Wheeler.
Other than for reasons of cost – why can\’t they do this? The lion\’s share of traffic problems are along this axis.
I agee with #11. We are talking about something that is completely useless. Why argue and fight for something so shitty even if access was well designed and implemented? Trains, Buses, crappy concrete and pedestrians running around not paying a lick of attention other than catching their train or bus. Imagine the outrage on this website if someone gets squashed for whatever reason…?
While I don\’t see why it is so terrible for bikes to go through the Rose Quarter, I really don\’t see what is so awful about going around it either, I do it everyday. Trimet drivers can be a surly bunch but none of them want to kill a person on a bike, so if they have concerns maybe it should be considered.
Their concerns have already been considered, since the change to allow bikes through the TC took a long time to plan, and involved all interested parties already. Considering a group\’s concerns does not mean agreeing with them. Allowing anybody to veto anything for any reason is not really fair or sensible.
This is fascinating. I appreciate the argument from these bus drivers that basically says \”you-don\’t-really-know-what-it-is-like-to-be-us.\” It\’s an argument that is sometimes brought up here from people who regularly ride bikes. There ought to be a ride-along exchange, where people who ride bikes would shadow a bus driver for a day, and then bus drivers would accompany a bike rider for a day. Maybe that would foster better understanding and appreciation in both directions.
Walking a mile in someone else\’s shoes often does that.
Ignoring the difference in distance traveled – rail crossings:
>Route through RQTC (north & southbound) – 3 tracks, all perpendicular
>northbound route (Oregon St & Lloyd Blvd, right @ Multinomah, left @ Wheeler) – 4 tracks, 2 near 45 angle
>southbound route (Wheeler & Multinomah, left @ N Interstate) – 6 tracks, 2 near 45 angle(1), 2 over 45 angle(2)
(1) If one makes this left turn (illegal left turn @ Multinomah onto N Interstate?) part of that turn is over the metal surface of the rails. Poor traction surfaces, like paint or metal, are lethal when lateral forces are acting on the wheel.
(2) Unless one takes the sidewalk zig-zag as described at http://bikeportland.org/2008/08/21/hotline-helps-maintain-better-bikeways/
In theory Trimet drivers should have more experience and training than the average automobile driver but what they are saying is that it is too inconvenient for them to pay attention to their surroundings.
IF, however, they are claiming that they are more experienced than the average driver then cyclists would be safer in their presence than out amongst the automobile traffic. This traffic ALSO includes buses. They are just as much of a hazard to cyclists in the transit center as not, perhaps more so (has a stationary bus ever been accused of running over a bike?)
matt @ #21
For this path to work it would need to be a bridge over Multinomah & Holladay. As long as we\’re dreaming why not extend the south end of this bridge to drop cyclists off at the SW corner of Oregon St & Lloyd Blvd?
If bicycle traffic is mainly concerned with getting from the Esplanade to Wheeler and back why not run a path like shown here in purple:
meeting up with either side of the Esplanade bridge (a bridge path shown in orange) over the railway up to the Multinomah & N Interstate intersection.
Implementing these ideas comes down to who is more intransigent: ODOT/Trimet for your path or the rail yard(BNSF?)
Private automobiles are also banned from the Rose Quarter Transit Center. A0, if you are committed to sharing the road, do you believe that automobile drivers should also be able to use this route as part of their daily commute, saving themselves time and gas?
Buses have blind spots, many of them. The Rose Quarter has dozens of pedestrians with tunnel vision at any given time, focused on catching a bus or a train. Add to this that fact that a fair precetage of bicyclists believe themselves entitled to disobey any law they disagree with, and you have a lethal concoction.
I am more concerned about bike/pedestrian encounters than bike/bus encounters. As far as sidewalks are concerned and pedestrian right of ways are concerned, a sizable minority of riders behave as if they believe that they are free fire zones.
RedHippie, did you manage to contact Brian Runyan with your concern?
This is definitely worth the investment, TYWM. Andy #15 explains the why very well.
And, I can add from personal experience commuting to the \’Couv from SE Portland for years that I illegally used RQTC daily because the legal option is significantly more dangerous and much slower.
In all that time I never once had a dangerous experience, which makes me think that this whole thing is an axe to grind against cyclists.
I am glad Trimet, BTA, and PDOT is making this happen. Thank you!
#15 says it all.
I am a Trimet Rail Operator. The petition was secretly distributed. Most of the signatures came from Operators who are directly affected by the changes at the Rose Quarter as they have signed runs (bid) that come in and out of that area.
Time was of the essence. Other Operators and Supervisors were not given the opportunity to read or sign the petition in time. Some were not aware of it.
Give us some time, we will ALL sign it if need be.
Hey Tom [#31],
Thanks for expressing the opinion that you feel many more operators are on board with this ban. If I were a driver, and not a cyclist, I would sign it too.
I just need to ring the bell for Enforcement once again. We\’re seeing a prime example where the stop-sign-blowing and proceed-through-reds behavior of a few cyclists gives rise to an image of all of us as compromising safety on the roads. I wish it were just a few percent of cyclists contributing to this image, but it is alarmingly higher in my estimate.
Ride intelligently – follow the rules.
Enforcement is, after all, one of the 4 E\’s … universally considered an integral part of successful transportation infrastructure.
It is sorely lacking throughout the city, and it will be very much needed as we mix travel modes more and more.
The answer is NOT to ban bikes, but to step up Enforcement. The rules of the road apply to all users, and tends to render us more predictable out there. I have confidence in PDOT that the changes to the RQTC are well thought out.
I think the solution is pretty simple, as a few stings and tickets will tend to support better average behavior over time.
I\’m glad I don\’t frequent that section. I find riding around the TC with a left turn in a car lane and oncoming traffic to be uncomfortable and slightly confusing. I guess I\’d get use to it if I had too. A straight shot through the Bus mall would be really nice.
please don\’t pretend the bus drivers are willfully ignoring the bikers they see…the concern is for the folks that blow through there with no regard for the other flows of traffic. try and stop a bus on a dime when someone cuts into its path of travel; it\’s a real concern.
but, quite frankly, it\’s addressed by bike lanes, boxes and signage. once that\’s in, it\’s the usual rules of scofflaws and mindful drivers/riders
re: #15 \’To not allow access to cyclists through there is like denying drivers access to I-5 between Alberta and Weidler and forcing them to take Interstate Avenue instead. Can it be done? Sure, but it\’s slow, cumbersome, and inefficient.\’
To really make this a fair analogy the I-5 stretch between Alberta and Wiedler would also have to have multiple Amtrack train crossings and be used as a runway for the airport.
And if that happens, it\’ll be the first time that a sting has worked. Hey, enforcement is great and all, but let\’s be honest about its effectiveness. And remember: good design makes enforcement unnecessary.
Re\” We\’re seeing a prime example where the stop-sign-blowing and proceed-through-reds behavior of a few cyclists gives rise to an image of all of us as compromising safety on the roads.\”
I hate to be the one to inform you, but this same statement would be true if you simply replaced the word \”cyclists\” with the word \”Bus Drivers\”.
I for one have spent many, many years, as a working cyclist, watching the disregard bus drivers seem to have for the rules of the road, and the safety of vulnerable road users, let alone the safety of the passengers on the bus itself.
All one needs to do it sit at the corner of Third and Madison downtown to see the full effect of this. While that intersection has been drastically changed with the addition of a bike box, the actions of bus drivers have not.
And Tom O\’ Malley,
While I do entirely believe that all bus drivers/rail operators would sign right onto even a ludicrous petition such as this, I find comfort in a couple of facts:
The City, Dept\’s of Transportation, and the BTA would and will not allow their well thought out and implemented plans for cycle traffic through this area to be changed simply due to, and apparently through reading this petition, in the drivers own words, an inability to maneuver safely around cyclists.
Even if the City et. all did decide that following the recommendations of Tri Met operators was the thing to do, the public outcry would be such that it would never be overturned.
And, even if bicycle traffic is still banned from the R.Q. Transit Center, the majority of us will continue to travel through the middle of it safely, as we have for years.
As for the worry of bus drivers that it is not safe for buses and bicycles to mix?
Training , training, and more training is what you and your fellow employees may/do need. And possibly paying a little more attention to what you are doing.
For, as cyclists, the only real problems we have navigating around Tri Met buses and trains are those caused by the operators of such vehicles.
Thank you, and have a good day!
Please excuse my typo.
\”Never be overturned\” above should be \”would be overturned\”.
Another case of \”you don\’t tell me how to ride\” coming to bite us in the ass, along with the Ray Thomas observation that juries are starting to be more and more sympathetic to the driver in a crash regardless of fault.
Ironically enough, the only ones this won\’t effect are the riders who don\’t give a damn and will do what they want anyway. Not that I\’d say we are all interconnected in the peculiar human ecology of a city – no, that would be crazy talk.
Joel @ #20:
I don\’t have a problem with riding up Interstate. Two points, though:
1) There is no clear route between a major public transit nexus and a major bike nexus. This causes anarchy which is a hazard, and
2) the routes up Interstate and Wheeler are a bit hairy. I\’m happy (but wary) riding them but wouldn\’t want my kids riding it, but kids depend on bikes & public transit.
q\’tzal (#26) – not necessarily, it could be attached to the existing freeway bridges over those streets. Dropping them off at the SW corner isn\’t practical, the path would then need a large ramp structure like what exists at the Failing St. Ped bridge.
Your purple path would be even more expensive – that slope isn\’t built to hold an 8\’+ wide path. Also, It would hide that portion of the path away from both streetlights and witnesses, inviting crime. Also, my alternative means cyclists wouldn\’t have to cross MAX tracks at all when heading N-S. The orange path would need a huge structure similar to the existing bridge, and either an equally large ramp structure or a shorter, steeper ramp.
My bet would be on UP being more intransigent than ODOT or Tri-Met, since UP is not answerable in any way to the voters, and rarely susceptible to local pressure.
Seems to me the best solution would be for the city to plan a better, more clear route through the area for cyclists and ensure all other traffic is aware of that route as well. I personally don\’t care if it is through the RQTC or around it, though in all honestly I think I would rather have the buses in RQTC than all around it. It\’s easier to predict what they are doing when I know they all enter the transit center.
Okay, okay, I get it. You get off on the exhaust. But what other compelling reason is there for wanting to ride among the buses?
I do not care for multiple rail crossings with tracks running at acute angles. A mistake crossing those could send me to the ER. The bus exhaust just makes me need to use my inhaler. It\’s the lesser of 2 evils, IMO.
I do not care for multiple rail crossings with tracks running at acute angles. A mistake crossing those could send me to the ER. The bus exhaust just makes me need to use my inhaler. It\’s the lesser of 2 evils, IMO.
-Rose Quarter is a design mess– architectural licenses should be revoked over it– designers publicly shamed.
-because RQ is lame, I completely understand why bus drivers want to keep their lanes closed.
-I also understand why bikers want it opened– one can see the aesthetically clear riding path as they approach. And it\’s another instance when I say *Portland is bike friendy? HA*
-I adjusted to riding around– works better than I predicted. (after a couple of reprimands from security going through there on the sidewalk– I don\’t want to risk my day being ruined anymore)
I\’d like to see more barriers between bikes and buses, as I saw recently in many parts of Belgium. Freestanding curbs are not full protection, but they could alter the passage through many areas. However, the Rose Quarter TC, for those commuting from downtown to many parts of NE and N, is an invitation to catastrophe. We almost need a bike bridge or tunnel over or under the full disaster. Too many trains and buses and cars and SUVs all merging from too many vectors make it a lethality waiting to happen. I\’ve been righthooked there by a nice man in a car and at a different place there nearly slaughtered by an SUV whose clueless driver didn\’t bother to hang up her cell phone whilst crossing two lanes to make her right turn almost directly over me. Had I not been alerted by some sixth DumbDriver sense, I wouldn\’t be enjoying the prospect of hopping on my bike in a minute to head out for that same bottleneck! I registered a complaint with Trimet about a bus driver just last week, so this kind of controversy will only grow worse, I think, until we get more physical separation of the races, so to speak. OK, time to race off to work. Thanks for this great blogsite, Jonathan.
This morning, I used NE Wheeler Street to travel southbound through the RQTC @ 8:30 a.m., not exactly a dead traffic time. Apart from a few people waiting on the platforms, it was completely empty but for my bike and the 2 or 3 bikes behind me. It struck me as odd because there wasn’t the sort of buses / trains / service vehicles and pedestrian chaos that has been suggested.
Additionally, I’ve started going around the transit center on the east side as has been suggested, when heading north in the evening. There is traffic coming down that ramp, merging right to turn eastbound on Multnomah, while cyclists are merging left to turn Westbound on NE Multnomah. These vehicles are traveling at freeway speed.
I don’t see how this is safer.
Personally I’d rather take my chances with slow moving buses and 2900 years of driving experience.
Oliver, this has been an exceptionally quiet week, partly because of a holiday weekend, and because school did not begin until midweek. I was surprised at how deserted it was.
I was there both Tuesday and Thursday mornings. Many bicycliest went around on the old route, others walked their bikes through the TC, and others drove carefully, covering their brakes like bus drivers so. These riders were and majority, and there was never a probelm with these riders.
There were also an impressive number who blew the light at Multnomah, and raced through the TC with no regard from anyone, not for pedestrians, or their own safety. These are the riders we fear, not only for their safety, but for the safety of our passengers. There will be more passengers as time goes on to deal with at the TC.
Thanks for the compliment regarding our skill. A vote of confidence is always appreciated, and sets the tone for our day. Keep in mind that buses have more blind spots than many people realize, even more than semis. Bad things happen when we can\’t see you. None of us want to injure you.