The Worst Day of the Year Ride is February 11th

Woman riding bike struck by MAX train in Gresham

Posted by on December 17th, 2010 at 4:58 pm

At about 2:20 this afternoon, a woman attempting to cross E Burnside on SE 181st Avenue was hit by a MAX train. The woman remained conscious at the scene and sustained non life-threatening injuries (a possible broken leg).

According TriMet spokesperson Bekki Witt, they believe the woman on the bicycle was heading southbound when she heard the audible warnings going off and saw a westbound Blue Line MAX train pulling into its station to her right. When she proceeded forward through the intersection, she was struck by the eastbound train. “She thought it was the westbound train, but didn’t see the eastbound train coming,” said Witt, basing her information on witnesses and police interviews taken at the scene.

View looking south on SE 181st crossing Burnside. The westbound MAX platform is to the right.

The MAX has a “split station” at this location where the eastbound train stops at a platform to the east of the intersection (to the woman’s left) and the westbound train stops at a station to the west (on the woman’s right).

There were 50 people on the train and the line was delayed 40 minutes. Witt says standard policy in these situations is for the operator to be immediately relieved of duty and given a blood/urine test. We’ll keep you updated if necessary.

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  • Jackattak December 17, 2010 at 5:13 pm

    Gah! Poor girl! Glad she’s OK for the most part and nothing life-threatening. Hope she gets back in the saddle soon and doesn’t let this get her down.

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  • wsbob December 17, 2010 at 5:28 pm

    “split station” In the picture, I don’t see crossing arms that would come down over 181st to block road traffic from proceeding across the tracks when trains approach the station. What signaling is there to halt traffic? If whatever signaling is there was working properly, what accounts for this collision?

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    • Mindful Cyclist December 17, 2010 at 5:48 pm

      Generally speaking, I don’t see many of the arms that come down in E Portland like there are in Beaverton.

      Sounds like there were two trains and she got confused of which train was going which way or she did not see the Eastbound one because it was hidden from the incoming Westbound one.

      Regardless, I am glad she was still conscious and if she got away with only a broken leg, she is pretty lucky as it could have been a lot worse.

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      • Paul Johnson December 17, 2010 at 6:58 pm

        Beaverton also doesn’t have the trains running on-street except on Lombard.

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    • Paul Johnson December 17, 2010 at 6:57 pm

      Crossing arms are not required for railroad crossings. Heck, signals aren’t even required for crossings (trains always have right-of-way at crossings, unsignaled crossings count as yield unless explicitly posted stop). This particular intersection does have signals, so I strongly suspect the bicycle-equipped idiot (I can’t bring myself to call this person a cyclist with the information available) is at minimum guilty of failure to obey a traffic control device. The fact that her stupidity caused a chain reaction of delays, thus inconveniencing the entire eastside, is inexcusable, and in a just world she’d be on the hook for compensating folks for time lost.

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  • Sean G December 17, 2010 at 6:07 pm

    wsbob – There are no guards at these intersections. SE 181st is five lanes and a pretty busy street, I used to go through this intersection quite often.

    If the signals were working correctly, the woman on the bike would have been crossing against the light… cross traffic on Burnside would have a green light, and the crosswalk would have a stop signal.

    Luckily for her, the eastbound train would have been slowing down to enter the station on the opposite side of 181st. I hope she has a speedy recovery and the train driver (whose view would have been blocked by the westbound train) is OK and back to work soon.

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    • Spiffy December 17, 2010 at 8:29 pm

      this is exactly how I pictured it happening too… it’s an unusual MAX stop so you don’t expect it…

      now I know what the delay was that people were talking about on the green line…

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    • wsbob December 17, 2010 at 10:53 pm

      Sean and some and everyone else that has, …thanks for thinking about and answering questions about what signals relative to the passing of trains, exist at this intersection that road users and pedestrians should be considering before proceeding to cross the tracks.

      Especially when the signals are on, but even if they aren’t, people have to acquire the habit of looking down the tracks before actually crossing the tracks. Once it’s in front of your field of vision, the trains are a 200′ long wall, that can block the view of a train coming from the opposite direction on the other set of tracks, if such a train happens to be coming.

      The trains are fairly loud at a brisk speed, but as the trains reduce speed to stop at a station, they’re very quiet quite a ways distant from the actual station stop. Almost whisper quiet. For people that don’t look before crossing, on these two points is where it can be really easy to make a mistake and get too close to a train.

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  • Shetha December 17, 2010 at 6:12 pm

    This intersection is one I have ridden through hundreds of times on my commute. The traffic signals control the traffic flow to coordinate with MAX trains. Similar to downtown. I doubt the woman had a “green” if two trains were coming. So sad to hear of the collision and I hope the lady is OK.

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  • Bob R. December 17, 2010 at 6:13 pm

    The signals in that intersection feature regular automotive signals (green/yellow/red) and pedestrian (walk/don’t walk) signals. Additionally, a flashing indicator icon of a train flashes whenever a train is approaching the intersection from either direction.

    Pedestrians (and cyclists using the crosswalk) should honor the pedestrian signals even when in the median platform area.

    Looking at a Google Street View photo (which may be out of date), it seems that one element missing here which is present at newer max stations is a large “Look both Ways” sign in the trackway.

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    • cyclist December 17, 2010 at 6:26 pm

      Reason number one why cyclists should get in the habit of obeying traffic signals. I’m truly sorry she got hurt and hope that the damage done was minor, but the lesson here is that a red light should not be considered optional, whether or not you think it’s safe to proceed.

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      • Paul Johnson December 17, 2010 at 7:04 pm

        If you travel, it’s a good idea to read up on the local ordinances, though. For example, Idaho allows bicycles and Oklahoma (as of last month) and Missouri allow bicycles and motorcycles to treat a solid red light the same as a stop sign. That said, in such situations as today’s accident, even if it is legal to proceed on solid red when clear, it’s still not legal to enter the intersection when there’s cross traffic coming…

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        • CaptainKarma December 17, 2010 at 9:26 pm

          Why motorcycles?

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          • Paul Johnson December 17, 2010 at 11:39 pm

            State lawmakers are apparently under the impression that the sensor loops are scales and that motorcycles and bicycles are too light to trip the sensors, and stopped two-wheelers have a tendency of getting rear-ended on 65 mph highways with traffic lights.

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      • q`Tzal December 17, 2010 at 7:20 pm

        All road users need to be aware of their surroundings


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    • Paul Johnson December 17, 2010 at 6:59 pm

      The signals in that intersection feature regular automotive traffic signals

      Fixed that for you.

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      • Paul Johnson December 17, 2010 at 7:02 pm

        Hmm, strikethrough didn’t happen on the “automotive” part as intended.

        Any rate, the signals apply to all traffic when present, in the absence of more specialized signals (such as transit, bicycle and pedestrian signals). Some places (sapulpa, ok, for example), intentionally leave pedestrian signals dark until someone presses the button so quicker pedestrians can legally cross on green, while the rest can press the button to light the signal and wait for a walk sign (though once the pedestrian signal is lit, pedestrians do have to wait even if the traffic signal is green).

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        • Bob R. December 17, 2010 at 7:15 pm

          Yes, point taken on “traffic” rather than “automotive” but I hope you see that I was merely attempting to describe the signal configuration for that intersection.

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    • Spiffy December 17, 2010 at 8:34 pm

      this accidents supports my theory about those blinking train signs being a waste of money… there’s already a red light, and the extra signal doesn’t seem to be helping…

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      • middle of the road guy December 18, 2010 at 12:27 am

        Not when you choose to ignore them.

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  • Eric December 17, 2010 at 6:30 pm

    Sounds to me like she ran a red light.

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  • Red Five December 17, 2010 at 7:40 pm

    Please tell me we’re not gonna crucify Tri-met for this one?

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  • Marcus Griffith December 17, 2010 at 8:04 pm

    Hope she is okay.

    Look BOTH ways around tracks.

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  • Tourbiker December 18, 2010 at 3:35 am

    Trains stop on either side of that Intersection means that the train had to have been stopped shortly before entering, lower speeds means she is dang lucky.

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  • EastPortlandGal December 18, 2010 at 11:09 am

    First, this accident happened in Gresham, not East Portland. Second, very few MAX crossings along the blue line to Gresham have crossing arms. Most just have ordinary traffic signals.

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    • Red Five December 19, 2010 at 8:39 am

      Is there really much difference between East PDX and Gresham?

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  • the other one! December 18, 2010 at 1:36 pm

    Let’s also remember that there is a LOUD Max train signal, that goes clang clang clang when trains are MOVING. I guess it’s always better to be alive wrong, than dead right. Best wishes to her and hope her hearing wasn’t affected.

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  • Mike December 18, 2010 at 2:46 pm

    Perhaps she was late for an appointment.

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    • suburban December 18, 2010 at 7:21 pm

      The word “perhaps” is well used in your post.
      As many of such “cyclist meets moving object” stories, questions abound. However, you may have confused your own thoughts for a relevant inquiry. Your mind, while important to steer your life, will be more helpful to us, the readers, with either another sentence, or a more useful single sentence. I identify with “being late for an appointment” and I also ride bikes and trains. It is mindful to bring hard questions to all such situations, and parties involved there within. Thanks for beginning to ask the hard questions.

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  • Mike December 18, 2010 at 10:15 pm

    Chuga chuga chuga choo choo!!!!

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  • Alex Reed December 20, 2010 at 4:22 pm

    People who are giving this woman grief,

    Let the person without sin cast the first stone.

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    • Paul Johnson December 20, 2010 at 7:43 pm

      Why grief people who have a legitimate complaint with stupidity? The world would be a better place without people like her. The real victims are anyone who was delayed by her stupidity, and the MAX spanked her for it. If I were on the train, I’d have gotten her info so I knew where to send the invoice for my lost time.

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      • Alex Reed December 22, 2010 at 6:17 am

        Paul, maybe there were no extenuating circumstances, in which case you are right in that she acted stupidly, and hopefully she learned something.

        But maybe there were extenuating circumstances not recorded in this article! It’s pretty short, and doesn’t include the woman’s perspective. That’s why I think it’s a good idea to give her the benefit of the doubt.

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  • Paul Johnson December 22, 2010 at 6:24 am

    That’s right up there with the “She slipped, fell, landed on his member” argument for adultery. It just doesn’t wash.

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