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Repairs to Esplanade (including bump fix) begin Monday

Posted by on November 24th, 2010 at 10:24 am

Eastbank esplanade ramp-2

Portland Parks will test a smoother ramp
nose (black piece) as part of routine
maintenance on the Esplanade.
(Photos © J. Maus)

Routine repairs to the guardrails of the ramps that lead to the floating portion of the Eastbank Esplanade are set to begin this monday (11/29). Also, according to Portland Parks and Recreation, the work will include the installation of a new “ramp nose” with a shallower slope than the existing ones. This test installation of a shallower transition piece comes in response to a crash back in July and concerns that the existing bumps are too severe and are unneccessarily jarring to bike riders.

This past summer, Ron Richings was riding on the Esplanade when the bumps on the ramps jarred his bike and led to a crash that damaged his bike and required shoulder surgery to repair his rotator cuff (which severed in three places). After that crash (which, along with others I’d heard about, validated concerns I’d had about those bumps for a long time), I met with Bob Downing, the Central Services and Asset Systems Manager the Portland Parks and Recreation bureau.

Eastbank esplanade ramp-1

The existing ramp nose is loud and jarring
when run over with a bike tire.

Downing inspected the ramps and agreed that something could be done to make the transition pieces smoother. Downing says the new ramp nose material will have a slope that’s about half as steep as the existing ones and it will be installed in a test location. If they work, Parks will replace the rest of them with the new material.

Parks estimates the entire project (the guardrail work, not just this new bump material installation) will take an estimated three to four weeks. People using the ramps will be asked to walk around the construction area, which will narrow the ramps to six-feet in some places. There will also be intermittent closures of up to five minutes at a time. The work zone will only be in effect from 7:00 am to 5:00 pm on weekdays and there will be unimpeded access at all other times (except for other users of course, which you should always be mindful of).

Stay tuned for a report on how the new bumps work.

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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. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

34 Comments
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    ilikeyournewhaircut November 24, 2010 at 10:51 am

    These little bumps are nothing compared to the potholes and old train tracks I have to cross to enter the esplanade near the hawthorne bridge.

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      spare_wheel November 24, 2010 at 12:55 pm

      potholes or railroad tracks are clearly hazards. these bumps were disguised as “features”.

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    keep portland weird November 24, 2010 at 11:30 am

    ride over those all the time, what a waste of tax payer money

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      el duderino November 24, 2010 at 11:58 am

      kpw, if you know they’re there, they’re no problem. If you don’t, & you’re at speed, they could be.

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        slow n' steady November 29, 2010 at 1:02 pm

        you shouldn’t be at speed on a multi-user path though. They work fine for the speed intended.

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    jram November 24, 2010 at 11:57 am

    i am glad these are getting an upgrade, but i am not sure how huge of a priority they should be. i know they are uncomfortable and unsafe at high speeds, but so are tons of other things we all see on a daily commute. i also don’t really get why ron’s incident is used as the “proof” of the inadequacy of the bumps (definitely not trying to be insensitive about ron’s injuries). from your previous post, it seems he wreck had little to do with the design of the ramps. if there are other incidents where these have caused problems, i think that would be much more convincing.

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    Myriah J. Day November 24, 2010 at 11:58 am

    I am very glad that this is happening. About three years ago, my fellow and I were traveling down. As we were going down, his front tire came loose and he went flying, only to land on his right side. Thinking that he broke his hip, the ambulance came and we went to the hospital. He broke his femur. I daydreamt for a period of time about trying to get some kind of signs posted to travel slowly, especially for bicyclists. The speed can get going a little out of control.
    A month later I heard about another cyclist breaking several vertebrae in the same exact spot.
    I think this action is a fabulous idea!!

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    MikeyLife November 24, 2010 at 12:17 pm

    I use the Esplanade alot for biking and running and have never had an issue with these “bumps.” I remember reading this account over the summer and thought it was proposterous that someone would point the stinky finger at the city about this. I wonder what would happen if everyone who had a fall off their bike could use tax payer time and money to fix it when it isn’t that big of a concern and there are far more needed repairs elsewhere.

    Also (again not to downplay Ron’s injuries), wasn’t the accident caused from a bungee cord coming undone and jamming his tire? That could have happened over any bump on any road and just happened to transpire at that time. Maybe bring it up with the bungee company or the maker of the bike rack? I think that people need to realize that the Esplanade is a shared space and go a safe speed and also to realize that biking can be dangerous and (unfortunately) accidents happen.

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    brandon November 24, 2010 at 12:19 pm

    This was a case of someone not riding at an appropriate speed and manner for the conditions. Instead of owning up to his mistake, he blamed a piece of infrastructure that should be jarring in order to slow things down & protect all users.

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    Tourbiker November 24, 2010 at 12:55 pm

    Only thing I have noticed bout em is they’re noisy.
    their solution (shallow the angle) will most likely lead to faster failure. especially if the material used is hard rubber. Going with previous posters that have mentioned..Ron’s Bungee cords were more at fault than the ramp.

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    Michael M. November 24, 2010 at 1:06 pm

    I look forward to gentler bumps, but I hope it doesn’t lead to more people riding too quickly through this area than already do. Bumps or no bumps, people need to exercise caution and show some respect to fellow users along the Esplanade. There are too many people riding bikes along here who don’t do either.

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      spare_wheel November 24, 2010 at 1:46 pm

      i ride the esplanade all the time and have rarely, if ever, seen riders going too fast or riding without consideration to others.

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    Spiffy November 24, 2010 at 1:12 pm

    I’d like to know some before and after dimensions of the rubber lips… hopefully we get a follow-up at the beginning of next week…

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    cyclist November 24, 2010 at 1:24 pm

    Jonathan: Your conclusion that the bumps led to the crash is questionable at best. The bumps caused a bungee to come loose. Any bump anywhere in the city could have done the same thing. This summer you refused to recognize the culpability that the cyclist had in the accident, and that seems to continue today.

    As with most other people in this thread (and the majority of the people in the thread this summer) I think you’re 100% in the wrong on this issue and frankly wish the city wouldn’t make the change. If the “friendlier” bumps allow people to ride more quickly down those ramps we’re more likely to see bad bike/ped interactions. I guess we’ll see.

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      Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) November 24, 2010 at 1:37 pm

      cyclist,

      the bumps jarred Mr. Richings, which contributed greatly to his crash. I have heard of several other such incidents and have also been annoyed myself with how jarring and loud they are.

      I don’t see this as an “issue”. I see this as something that simply needs to be smoother so that people do not experience this situation. The speed reduction/courtesy thing is an issue, but it should absolutely not be attached to fixing this problem.

      I look at our bikeways as deserving of the same considerations we give our roadways… If there was an analogous bump on an arterial street, it would not be tolerated by ODOT/PBOT.

      Also, this is not similar to a pothole because this is a design issue, not a maintenance issue.

      Also, I am very open-minded about stuff like this… and even after thinking about it for a long time and reading everyone’s comments both here and this past summer, I remain convinced that it’s a problem that needs to be addressed.

      Thanks.

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      Spiffy November 26, 2010 at 8:36 am

      actually I thought his wording was great with “led to a crash” rather than saying it was caused by the crash… even in the July story it says “causing a bungee strap to dislodge”…

      so nowhere does it state that the bump caused the crash… but that the bump was a trigger that caused events which resulted in a crash…

      I think everybody is clear that the loose bungee caused the crash…

      the bump is simply being blamed for its surprise factor since you rarely see a pathway designed for bikes with such a harsh transition…

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        slow n' steady November 29, 2010 at 1:12 pm

        Jonathan does not cache the earlier versions of his story so I cannot quote the original, but your quote seems like the updated language after complaints about the original wording which put more emphasis and blame on the ramps.

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    Oh Word? November 24, 2010 at 1:29 pm

    Since it’s a multi-use path, you should not be riding so fast that those bumps cause you to crash.

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    cyclist November 24, 2010 at 2:13 pm

    Jonathan:

    It’s apparent that on this issue you suffer from confirmation bias:

    “(which, along with others I’d heard about, validated concerns I’d had about those bumps for a long time)”

    The majority of the comments in this and the July article indicate that this is a non-issue. You may find the bumps annoying, but that does not make them a safety issue.

    Here’s a hypothetical. Say I’m change my tire and don’t tighten my skewer (or put the lugnuts back on if driving a car), then hit a pothole and the wheel flies off. Did the pothole cause my accident, or was it my fault for not properly reattaching my wheel? Most people would blame the rider/driver.

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    Jonathan Gordon November 24, 2010 at 3:25 pm

    I am continually surprised at how many people complain when the city takes an active step to improve our bike infrastructure. While our coffers are not limitless, it is not a zero-sum game. Here’s another instance of the city killing two birds with one stone, such that the overall cost will be lower since they’re going to be doing other related repairs in the area anyway. Sounds like smart, cost-conscious management to me. I’m looking forward to riding over the new ramp nose.

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      Steve B November 24, 2010 at 9:09 pm

      Well said, Jonathan! I completely agree with your sentiments.

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    Stig10 November 24, 2010 at 4:38 pm

    What a bunch of whiners we are. This is an improvement. How about just say ‘thanks’. That reminds me. Isn’t there a holiday tomorrow?

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    dabby November 24, 2010 at 6:07 pm

    I like these bumps…….. Noisy and fun… So big if you don’t notice them, you aren’t paying attention.

    I know why the bumps are there.
    I understand that smoother bumps may help some who might not be as aware.

    But I agree with others sentiment, and thought the same when read about this wreck before.

    This wreck was not the fault of these bumps…
    The bungee cord did it.. I heard it was standing there saying “I can’t believe I caused this.”
    The wreck described in the comments above, where the wheel came off, would obviously not be the fault of these bumps…I mean, come on…

    Sue Bungee, and the company that makes the things that hold your wheels on….

    But seriously,
    Upgrades are great.
    Thanks Parks Dept.

    Now if we could get a roof for the Polo Court?

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    Steve B November 24, 2010 at 9:08 pm

    The bumps really, really annoy me. I AM SO THANKFUL that Parks is going to try some alternatives. It’s totally a no-brainer, and I appreciate Jonathan & Ron’s followup and persistance on this issue.

    Some folks might feel that it’s a small problem, but it falls under the category of ‘annoyances’ that I’d put potholes, worn paint, wet leaves and such — when the city takes care of things like that, I appreciate it.

    HAPPY THANKSGIVING!!

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    Jonathan Gordon November 24, 2010 at 10:00 pm

    True story: After I made my comment above I rode downtown. On my way home, I took the Eastbank Esplanade. And just as I hit the ramp nose, my u-lock popped out of my pannier pocket. I kid you not.

    Now I know what many of you bungee-defending people are likely thinking: “That idiot/inept crybaby needs to secure his lock!” And you’re right, and I will. But I do think it’s telling that in over a month of me riding with my lock placed in that exact spot, this was the only time it’s ever come loose.

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    Timothy((())) November 24, 2010 at 11:31 pm

    Those bumps are sketchy on a skateboard too. Riding them last summer I thought the city was crazy to install them and wondered if there wasn’t a better engineered design. I thought about how strong they must be and also deal with constant height change and movement from the river. Not easy. I’m glad the City That Works is trying an alternative. Good luck.

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    jim November 24, 2010 at 11:36 pm

    they should add a few more bumps to help keep the speed down

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    CaptainKarma November 25, 2010 at 12:26 am

    Would Wal-Mart have one of these anywhere on their public access space? You know they would not. Their attornies & ins. would not allow it.

    I was an eyewitness to the accident. Nobody was going fast, it was very mellow.

    Most accidents happen when several or numerous factors combine to create an anomolous situation which would not have happened otherwise. The bump most certainly was a contributing factor as was the shabby bungee. I will not put a bungee nor anything else near my front wheel if not absolutely necessary. However, I have seen wheels pretzel from just the right g-force at the just-right angle over smaller bumps than that ramp, Your fork may even have a stress fracture that you don’t have a clue about, just waitin’ to give up the ghost.

    Its an easy fix to eliminate the bump factor and possibly prevent the exalted taxpayers from having to pay out on a huge lawsuit by a tourista on a WalMart bike that broke on the bump. I’m not even sure those ramps are ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliant as they are now. Compare their slope with the crosswalk curb-cuts.

    Anyway, yeah. A little compassion for Mr. Richings sounds good.

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      Michael M. November 26, 2010 at 11:48 am

      Wait…so when a person in a car has some incident resulting from mechanical failure or poor conditions or inadequate infrastructure it’s a “crash” or “collision,” but when a person on a bike has a similar incident it’s still an “accident”? Is that how it works?

      I’m still trying to grasp the finer points of Newspeak. Note that I’ve mastered the “person in car/on a bike” vs “motorist/cyclist” thing, but the distinction between “crash” and “accident” still gives me trouble.

      It’s Nineteen Eighty-Four all over again.

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    Dick Fitz November 25, 2010 at 9:54 am

    What are people doing to make them crash on these ramps? It seems pretty easy to gently pull up the bars a bit and you barely even feel the ends of the ramps.

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    dabby November 26, 2010 at 10:41 am

    Dick,

    People are not paying attention at these bumps…
    That is what is causing the crashes. The bumps are functional imanimate objects. Functional inanimate objects do not cause crashes…..(they do move to reflect water levels of course, but in relation to causing bike wrecks, pretty much inanimate)

    People just need a scapegoat to cover up their embaressment……

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    slow n' steady November 29, 2010 at 1:15 pm

    One thing I am curious on is if the new bumps will alert walkers and runners of an approaching cyclist like the other bumps did with there distinctive sound? When not biking the esplanade I appreciated the heads up.

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    El Biciclero November 29, 2010 at 4:39 pm

    I think people are missing the true nature of people’s consternation over these bumps: If a similar “feature” were designed into a roadway for automobiles, it would be painted white or yellow and called out so that drivers were at least warned of it’s presence. Signage suggesting an appropriate safe speed would be posted along with warnings. As it is, these ramp bumps are the equivalent of an unpainted speed bump in the road–something that would not be tolerated for an hour on a motorway, yet is left as-is for years on a bike/pedestrian way.

    So, yes, we should all pay attention and watch where we are going. We should all ride at a safe speed when there are pedestrians sharing the pathway. We should all use non-bungee methods of securing loads and should always check our QR skewers before every ride. But we should also expect the same level of concern and attention be given to the safety of bikeway design as is given to motorway design.

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    Dcyclo December 2, 2010 at 1:17 am

    I think it’s great that the parks dept. is fixing these things: with all the other crap we cyclists have to contend with in a day’s ride, isn’t it nice to know these won’t have a further share in it? And in that mien (to the “waste-of-tax-dollars” crowd), that Portland loses a possible future source of liability lawsuits? Let’s remember the old saw, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” and just be pleased with a smoother ride… Or, barring that, just that the cost of fixing these little ramps is a drop in the bucket relative to fixing the Sellwood bridge.

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