Crosslin was traveling from the right
side of the image to the left.
This morning, the MAX tracks on East Burnside just east of I-205 (at SE 97th Ave) caused Portland resident Thomas Crosslin to crash his bike. Thomas crosses these tracks every day on his commute from East Portland to downtown and says he’s an experienced rider. He shared a letter with me that he wrote to TriMet in hopes they might do something to fix what he sees as a serious safety issue.
I decided to share Thomas’s letter to raise awareness of this crossing and to show that it’s not just novice riders who have trouble navigating around streetcar and MAX tracks. It’s also important to note that this specific set of tracks has been on our radar as a safety issue for over five years.
“This crossing is Dangerous with a capital D.”
— Thomas Crosslin, in a letter to TriMet
Back in March 2007, BTA Alice Award winner and long-time former member of the City of Portland Bicycle Advisory Committee Sharon Fekety, fractured her arm in three places after crashing on these tracks in the same location. In response to that crash, TriMet first advised people on bikes to dismount and walk bikes across MAX tracks. A few months later they promised to launch a full-scale review of tricky bike/MAX crossings. (To my knowledge, no results of that study have ever been released, and I’m awaiting word from TriMet as to whether or not it ever actually happened. UPDATE: see end of post )
Here’s another view (looking west on Burnside) of how the tracks cross the road at this location…
Here’s the letter from Crosslin:
I start every day on my bicycle, riding to downtown from Outer SE Portland (east of 205) and today started out perfectly normal. Then everything went wrong – I fell on my bike on the MAX tracks on Burnside where they cross just east of the 205 bridge.
I cross these tracks every day, and every day I try to pick a speed and line across the tracks that I HOPE will deliver me safely to the other side. Today was different, I can’t tell you what was different, my speed, angle were off, I didn’t hold my breath correctly, or perhaps I flinched. Either way, as I hit the black pads on that crossing, my bike and my body parted company…
Today I was lucky, there were no cars near me, as my line across the tracks takes me from the right side to the left side to try and get as close to a 90-degree crossing as I can. A Train came up behind me, and politely waited while I removed myself from the track bed (the driver even pulled up and asked me if I was ok – kudos…)
I’ve written in about this crossing to both Trimet and PBOT, about how dangerous this crossing is, about how someone is going to get more than a bruised knee and some abrasions (this mornings toll) someone is going to fall and then get run over by a car. This crossing is Dangerous with a capital D.
I work in Manufacturing. We have 3 categories of safety related incidents, Near Miss, Incident and Recordable. Since I did not need to be transported to medical attention, I suppose that I would rate this in the incident category – Please Trimet, Please, do something about this crossing before you have a Recordable… I don’t want to see anyone killed at this crossing – especially myself.
For the record, I am not a Trimet hater, I use the service daily for the Downtown to Beaverton section of my commute, and I generally love Trimet. My Trimet pass is the single best benefit that I get from my employer. I cross many RR track crossing during my commute, all except this one have concrete infill for the track bed. In fact a couple of hundred feet east of this crossing is another crossing that has concrete infill. The crossing with concrete are not slippery, it’s just this black material (whatever it is) that turns slick as snot in the rain.
Please, please fix this!!
We’ll let you know when/if TriMet responds to Thomas’s concerns.
UPDATE 1: I just heard from Sharon Fekety, the woman who broke her arm in three places at this same location five years ago. Turns out after trying to work the TriMet system for a few months she eventually gave up:
“I was passed down the line and followed up with many TriMet employees but finally just gave up. Now I either avoid that intersection or dismount and walk. I can’t afford another broken arm. I hope that Mr. Crosslin has better luck that I did and continues to pursue it.”
UPDATE 2: TriMet spokesperson Mary Fetsch has supplied me the pages dealing with this intersection from their Light Rail Pedestrian and Bicycle Crossing Final Report published in September 2008. Download the PDF here. I am still awaiting details about any follow-up actions that have been taken by the agency to remedy safety concerns.