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TriMet says ‘leaning rails’ on transit mall now OK for bikes – UPDATED

Posted by on January 5th, 2012 at 11:53 am

TriMet initially intended these railings on the downtown transit mall for people to lean on while waiting for buses and MAX trains; but now they say bikes can use them too.

Yesterday morning I took the bus into work. When I got off at SW 6th and Stark I noticed two bikes parked on what look to be snazzy bike racks on the transit mall.

The bikes caught my eye because I remembered a story we did back in 2009 when the transit mall first opened where TriMet had a “no bikes” policy on these railings because they considered them “leaning rails” for bus and MAX passengers. The thinking back then, according to TriMet, was that once all the new (and expensive!) bike parking planned for the transit mall was installed, there would be plenty of bike racks available and these leaning rails would remain free of unsightly bike clutter.

Well, as my photo above attests, that’s not exactly how it turned out.

I contacted TriMet yesterday to ask if they still discouraged bikes from parking on the railings. To my surprise, they’ve had a change of heart.

“While the leaning rails were initially for riders waiting for transit,” TriMet Communications Director Mary Fetsch shared via email, “they are being used by cyclists and are now regarded as a shared space for both uses.”

This is good to hear; but I know — because of their strict aesthetic design guidelines for the transit mall — it still annoys TriMet to see bikes haphazardly locked to these railings. Fortunately, Fetsch says the City of Portland is working to install more staple racks on the mall in the months to come.

UPDATE, 1/5 at 4:48: Sorry folks, turns out that the TriMet spokesperson spoke too soon. TriMet now says that the leaning rails are indeed only for “pedestrians and riders” and the agency would like to remind everyone that you should lock your bikes to designated bike racks. Not these rails. TriMet’s Mary Fetsch says parking on these railins is, “A safety hazard for people boarding and de-boarding the train.”

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  • 9watts January 5, 2012 at 11:59 am

    Institutional adaptability is a good thing. Thanks for sleuthing.

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  • NF January 5, 2012 at 12:04 pm

    The transit mall design usually puts bicycle racks on the opposite side of the street from the transit stops themselves.

    This makes sense as a way to reduce clutter on the sidewalks, but it makes no sense for a bicyclist that may need to make a quick lock-up to catch a bus with an already full bike rack. As it is today the leaning bars are way more convenient.

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  • Spiffy January 5, 2012 at 12:47 pm

    sharing is good…

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  • John Lascurettes January 5, 2012 at 1:35 pm

    I have yet to see someone leaning on a leaning rail.

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  • Steve B January 5, 2012 at 3:21 pm

    Form over function was not a good move for bike parking, I hope we have learned our lesson. Beyond those who are hopping on Trimet and needing a place to lock up, it seriously hampered customer access to businesses on this side of the street. One of the most used leaning rails for bike parking is outside of Backspace.

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    • are January 5, 2012 at 6:09 pm

      there are several bike racks directly across the street from backspace. there are too few bike racks up and down the entire length of the traffic mall. nonetheless, people should not be locking up to a rail that was intended to provide transit riders a respite from the fact that, hey, there also too few benches for transit riders to sit on. but we know why there are too few benches, don’t we. maybe some similar thinking is behind the too few bike racks.

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      • Chris I January 6, 2012 at 6:58 am

        People sit too much as it is. Our society needs more leaning poles and fewer benches.

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  • dwainedibbly January 5, 2012 at 5:48 pm

    Isn’t TriMet trying to discourage people bringing bikes on Max? How about providing some bike parking, then?

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  • Paul January 5, 2012 at 6:18 pm

    Safety hazard? Ummmm

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  • Tim January 5, 2012 at 11:06 pm

    Well the rails were nice while they lasted. Now I’ll have to stand while I wait for my late bus

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  • q`Tzal January 6, 2012 at 8:44 am

    Congratulations JM!

    Your blog has such high readership that you can cause near instantaneous back pedaling amongst the most non-reactionary of bureaucracies.

    This mean you are definitely making a difference!

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  • Chad Berkley January 6, 2012 at 9:47 am

    Given that a) there are no signs saying not to lock a bike to these structures and b) they look like a good place to lock a bike and c) there are no other sanctioned facilities to which to lock a bike on the transit mall, I for one, will continue to lock my bike to them. I assume others will as well.

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    • q`Tzal January 6, 2012 at 4:04 pm

      Legally speaking: how is a “reasonable person” supposed to know that they are not allowed to lock a bicycle to one of these “leaning rails”?

      This is not a federal, state, county nor city law, this edict is an emanation from TriMet. How enforceable is a TriMet edict when the alleged violator is not on/in TriMet property like a bus or rail car?

      Does TriMet own downtown sidewalks now?

      What efforts has TriMet made to inform tourists and normal citizens that do not obsessively follow TriMet news that the act of locking a bike here is illegal?

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