“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
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.