Gorge Ride tests legs and MAX train capacity

[This ride was part of Pedalpalooza. See more of our Pedalpalooza coverage here.]

Dedicated Gorge riders were rewarded with this spectacular scenery.
(Photos by Dan Liu)

According to ride organizer Shawn Granton, yesterday’s Midweek Gorge Ride was expected to draw about 15 or 20 riders. Three years ago, the first version of this ride attracted just nine riders.

Yesterday, there were 46 of us.

“…from committed cyclists to occasional commuters to the underemployed and curious who took the opportunity dust-off that old garage bike to go see the Columbia River Gorge from a new perspective.”

Not just dedicated racers or bike-tourers either, but the whole gamut; from committed cyclists to occasional commuters to the underemployed and curious who took the opportunity dust-off that old garage bike to go see the Columbia River Gorge from a new perspective. There was even one intrepid soul huffing and puffing his way up to Vista House on a rusty Huffy, complete with squeaky chain and a wildly wobbling wheel — an impressive feat on a 40-mile round trip ride.

46 bikes managed to
fit on one MAX train…for a
few stops at least.

The ride got off to a bumpy start. In order to make the ride an experience of Oregon’s natural beauty — and less a commute through East County — the original plan was to take the MAX light rail out from Hollywood Transit Center to Ruby Junction/197th ave. Our initial attempt to purchase 46 tickets from the two broken ticket machines was surpassed in comedy minutes later when we attempted to fit 46 bikes and bicyclists onto one Blue Line train. Note: what might work for Zoobombers doesn’t fly with larger bikes.

This was, in retrospect, perhaps not the best idea, but one worth trying in order accommodate the varying riding abilities of the group. The train operator gave us the boot at E 102nd & Burnside — a generous 60 block boost, but still leaving us 95 blocks short of our ride start point.

The riding outside the city was serene.

We worked hard to be courteous, clearing the doorways at each stop for people to board and de-train. However, as we were all getting off at 102nd, we heard the driver say over the intercom something like: “This is why bicyclists have a bad reputation.”

At this point we started to fume a bit. The request to detrain was reasonable, the attitude and animosity were not. Most of us decided to pedal up to Ruby Junction to ride off some frustration, hoping to give the fourteen other, less-experienced riders an additional, mixed-mode transit boost. However, we were only to discover that the next MAX operator would not let more than eight onto their mostly-empty train! The riders we had left behind decided to ride up Burnside to join us, rather than be embarrassed again.

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Artist Carye Bye did a series of
bike portraits along the way.

A few of us called TriMet immediately to complain, and to gain some clarity on why people were being booted from a mostly-empty train*. While our attempt to fit all 46 of us wasn’t the best idea, 15 bikes on a mostly-empty train seems perfectly reasonable. Public transit can be and has been a great boon to cycling, allowing bicyclists to really spread their wings across the whole Metro region. None of us on the ride wanted to think of TriMet as being a potential barrier to mixed-mode transportation, but we were faced with one instance of that fact yesterday.

[UPDATE: Here’s what TriMet Bike Programs Planner Colin Maher says:

“TriMet policy is that bikes go where there is a bike or wheelchair symbol but you can’t block the aisle with a bike. There is no set limit, but 46 bikes clearly does not fit within this policy. I understand the challenges and logistics of pulling off a multi-modal group ride, but at the same time TriMet has to balance the need of all passengers and we have to keep the aisles clear for people to get on and off the train.”


Made it!

The ride up from Fairview to Vista House isn’t easy, but after our urban transit adventure (and many pints of amazing strawberries from the Troutdale fruit stand), the ride seemed easy and all the more pleasant. Shawn gave us a brief history of the Historic Columbia Highway, and we proceeded to make the climb up to the Women’s Forum and Vista House. Between four flats (!) and our TriMet trials, it took us five hours to ride 25 miles.

But was it worth it? You betcha! It was a beautiful day and a beautiful ride. Check out my photos; Carye Bye also took some great shots and wrote up a report here.

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