Urban Tribe - Ride with your kids in front.

Thoughts on carrying bikes as Gibbs Bridge elevator closes again

Posted by on September 25th, 2012 at 10:06 am

Annual BAC facility tour-15

A sign of disrespect? Or a minor inconvenience?
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

On the eastern end of the new (and carfree) Gibbs Street Bridge over I-5, there are two options: You can either carry/push your bike up or down the many flights of stairs, or you can wait for the elevator. When the elevator is not working — which has been the case four times since the bridge opened in July — you are left with only one option. And, as I noted earlier this month, the stairs can be challenging if you have a bike.

This morning, the City of Portland announced yet another closure of the elevator. This would be the fifth closure in just two months. Is this elevator unreliable? Is it time to improve the stairs to make them easier to navigate with a bike in-arms?

According to PBOT spokesperson Dan Anderson, only one of the five elevators closures was due to needed repairs. Three of them were for routine maintenance of a new elevator, and the upcoming closure (which could last up to two weeks starting tomorrow) is for a state inspection required for the bridge to get final permitting approval.

wheel gutter on gibbs bridge

Anderson says PBOT wanted to open the bridge as soon as possible, so they have been operating the elevator under temporary permits.

While it’s comforting to know that the closures thus far aren’t reason to think the elevator is unreliable, it does make me think about the quality of the stairway option. At the moment, the wheel gutter is a narrow strip (just a few inches wide) of flat pavement tucked under the railing at one edge of the stairway. Using the gutter isn’t as easy as it should be, especially if you are carrying groceries, kids, have a cargo bike, and so on.

I’ve heard from PBOT staff that they are considering a project to improve wheel gutter. The question is: Should PBOT spend time and money to make the wheel gutter easier to use? (Hint: They will not do the project unless they get more public pressure to do so.)

Ideally, this (and all other bridges built for bike access) would come with ramps; but a long bicycle ramp (which could be used by wheelchair users as well) adds considerable cost to a project. We saw how this played out on the Waud Bluff Trail design, where there’s no elevator option at all and people on bikes will be forced to walk their bikes (due to steepness) and carry their bikes up/down the stairs.

This bridge/stair access issue is an important one to think about when we design for bicycle users. Should we be building new bridges — especially ones built specifically to promote active transportation — that require people to carry their bicycles down many flights of stairs? Would we ever build something that requires people to get out of their cars and push them? What would Copenhagen do? Or, should we just be grateful we have any bike access at all?

UPDATE: I found a few photos of how wheel gutters are done in Europe. The images below are from Amsterdam and Frankfurt and they were taken from a presentation of bike facilities given by PBOT traffic engineer Rob Burchfield following a European trip a few years ago.



Both of these designs are significantly better than what we currently have at Gibbs.

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. Thank you — Jonathan

  • patrick September 25, 2012 at 10:15 am

    What about wheelchair access? What if its an emergency and there is no power? This was bad planning.

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    • Randall S. September 25, 2012 at 10:32 am

      Exactly what kind of “bridge emergency” are you imagining here?

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      • Spiffy September 25, 2012 at 11:22 am

        I’m thinking a huge fire that rings the neighborhood and leaves the bridge as your only escape…

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        • Chris I September 25, 2012 at 11:58 am

          It’s still an improvement over the previous conditions. Jump a few fences and try to cross I-5?

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        • Indy September 25, 2012 at 1:40 pm

          You are right. We should have thought of the fire rings that spread through the waterfront constantly. Mothra be damned, this is the Portland threat we’ve been warned of many times to the population’s ignorance.

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          • Spiffy September 25, 2012 at 2:54 pm

            I see you’ve figured out the real threat from Japan. Now they’re on to you! run!

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        • Jeff September 25, 2012 at 2:16 pm

          We live in an imperfect world that will not protect you fully.

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      • Michael September 26, 2012 at 6:02 pm

        A day late, so maybe no one will read this, but the emergency wouldn’t be for the bridge but for the person who uses a wheelchair or other mobility device. that person would be stranded. bike riders and wheelchair users have shared interests with respect to physical access. this is why a ramp would have been the optimal solution for all users.

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  • Slammy September 25, 2012 at 10:15 am

    Just Danny MacAskill that thing…

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  • Spiffy September 25, 2012 at 10:20 am

    how much would a ramp have cost?

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    • Chris I September 25, 2012 at 11:59 am

      I thought they said it would have doubled the project cost…

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      • Spiffy September 25, 2012 at 3:06 pm

        yikes! yeah, that could be a deterrent…

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    • jim September 26, 2012 at 8:49 pm

      I think a ramp would be less money than an elevator, especially when you include the long term costs.

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  • Kris September 25, 2012 at 10:22 am

    If it was a matter of expense, surely a ramp or corkscrew would have been cheaper than an elevator? It would never even occur to me to walk my bike up stairs (or use an elevator *shudder*) rather than take a longer route and stick to roads.

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    • Esther September 25, 2012 at 12:12 pm

      Given the height, a ramp would have to be pretty long & large (the bridge is taller than the Hollywood MAX station overpass, I think) to comply with ADA requirements.

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      • Spiffy September 25, 2012 at 3:07 pm

        I like how they did the Hollywood MAX station access, long ramp on the side with room, and switchbacks on the side without.

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  • Spiffy September 25, 2012 at 10:22 am

    ok, going to be a broken record here, but…

    they should have spent the money on a ramp…

    public (and TriMet) elevators are well known to be unpleasant… I always have to remember to take a deep breath before I enter…

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  • Chris Smith September 25, 2012 at 10:26 am

    I would definitely vote for putting some effort into a better wheel gutter as immediate remediation.

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    • Dave September 25, 2012 at 12:15 pm


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  • Indy September 25, 2012 at 10:28 am

    I live in a house with 25+ steps, and my 9&11 year-olds carry their own bikes up daily. Is this *really* that big a deal?

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    • John Lascurettes September 25, 2012 at 10:34 am

      For you and your kids, no. Nor is it for me. This does not mean it’s not an issue for countless other people due to physical limitations (mobility or motor limits) or pragmatic limitations (aforementioned cargo bikes and such).

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    • Nick September 25, 2012 at 10:34 am

      Catering only to the strong and healthy is elitist and exclusionary.

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      • 9watts September 25, 2012 at 11:20 am

        It is interesting to ponder an equivalent situation for motorized infrastructure. A new piece of roadway is installed. Five times in the first month a piece of that new infrastructure important to traversing that section is closed because of permitting issues or routine maintenance. I wonder why I can’t think of a good example? Oh yes, a new parking garage opens and the toll booths keep getting shut down all the time.

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        • Spiffy September 25, 2012 at 3:15 pm

          perhaps one of the many Portland bridges had issues that cause it to be closed a lot when it first opened…

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      • Chris I September 25, 2012 at 12:01 pm

        Would you rather have this bridge and another one like it somewhere else, or would you want just this bridge with a ramp? That is the choice, because a ramp would have doubled the project cost.

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      • Ray Ogilvie September 25, 2012 at 7:00 pm

        Yeah, where is the tram to the summit of Mt. Hood going in?!

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) September 25, 2012 at 10:36 am

      We’re talking about well over 100 steps in the Gibbs case Indy. I think it’s a big deal. Think about a mom or dad with a trailer attached to their bike and/or a big longtail or cargo bike.

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      • Elliot September 25, 2012 at 11:10 am

        Jonathan, to answer your question “What would Copenhagen do?”… they wouldn’t. It’s flat. The highest point in the entire country of Denmark is lower than the summit of Mt. Tabor.

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        • Spiffy September 25, 2012 at 3:16 pm

          I think if they closed the roads (e.g. ramps) up to Mt Tabor there would probably be a public outcry…

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        • Barbara September 26, 2012 at 10:25 am

          Yes, it’s flat, yet they still need to cross lots of waterways (with clearance for boats) and busy streets.

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      • Mike September 25, 2012 at 12:05 pm

        Would you be putting that big trailer or cargo bike in the elevator or would that Mom/Dad probably be using a different route?

        Was there no opportunity for public input when this bridge was being planned?

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        • KYouell September 25, 2012 at 1:22 pm

          As someone who travels almost exclusively by bakfiets with 2 kids in it, I have assumed this part of town is just off-limits to us. This bridge, and knowing that Jonathan went on a ride where a bakfiets was part of the group & managed it successfully, means we can go new places. No, the current wheel well won’t work for us. No, a better wheel well probably won’t work for us. No, we don’t want to be excluded. No, we don’t expect to be catered to. Yes, I would vote for a better wheel well because I expect to be able to move up to a lighter system to move us around and it would be great not to need the elevator.

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          • Sunny September 25, 2012 at 2:16 pm

            I don’t know, I got mine up the wheel well.

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  • Randall S. September 25, 2012 at 10:36 am

    They should have done the wheel gutter right in the first place. It’s not like it’s hard to Google “wheel ramp” and find a dozen pictures of the proper way to do it. I love Portland, but seriously, it seems like bicycle transportation planners are actively avoiding using proven design.

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  • Elliot September 25, 2012 at 10:42 am

    I’m sure a ramp was considered during bridge design, but quickly eliminated as a possibility.

    From Google Earth, the elevation differential between both ends of the bridge looks to be about 80 feet. Maximum ADA slope for a ramp is 1:12, so a ramp would have to be 960 feet long, or about four city blocks. But wait! ADA also requires a 5 foot long flat landing for every 2.5 foot rise. This creates 32 landings and adds another 160 feet in length, bringing the total to 1,120 feet, or over a fifth of a mile.

    If you make this a straight line in any direction, we’re talking about nearly a half a mile of out of direction travel to access the ramp and ride up it to the top of the tower to meet the bridge. Is that better than stairs?

    If you create a set of switchbacks 11 switchbacks about 100 feet long, assuming the ramp is 14 feet wide, you have a structure with a footprint of about 100 x 150 = 15,000 square feet, or half a city block. Is that an efficient use of real estate in one of Portland’s densest neighborhoods?

    I can’t speculate on the cost of what a structure like that might be, but it seems quite obvious that a ramp for a structure of this height isn’t a practical solution.

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    • Kris September 25, 2012 at 11:17 am

      A straight ramp might be impractical, but I don’t see anything to rule out a corkscrew like we have on the East side of the Morrison.

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      • was carless September 25, 2012 at 3:09 pm

        The corkscrew on the Morrison is flat-out illegal to build today. Here’s why:

        1) you normally cannot use curved ramps for ADA
        2) the Morrison ramp is WAAAAY too steep for ADA. 1:12 is the steepest you can do
        3) As Elliot noted, it needs flat sections every 2.5′ of rise 5′ long

        Also, building a ramp that spirals back over itself would be very expensive structurally. And the Morrison ramp is probably considered too narrow for a high-use path.

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        • Kris September 25, 2012 at 5:41 pm

          There’s nothing that prevents a corkscrew ramp from having flat sections. They could easily be added every course, or half course, or third course, so that they aligned. They also needn’t be as steep as Morrison’s, nor as narrow. But as for the width, I’ve passed cargo bikes on those ramps quite comfortably, and you need to take into account the fact that there those ramps are meant to be one-way. There’s one on each side of the underpass.

          If the curve isn’t compliant with the ADA, well, that’s unfortunate, but it doesn’t prevent shorter straight ramps with flat, curved landings every course. And as for the price, I’d like to see some data on that point, but I doubt that the cost difference relative to a straight ramp would be prohibitive.

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    • Pete September 25, 2012 at 11:25 am

      I think you nailed it. Ramps are not a panacea, they are often impractical and dangerous – hence the elevator. Proper wheel ramps for the stairs would be great though. I would use them just for the exercise, but then again I ride a bike that’s light enough to shoulder easily. I have a hard time believing that certified professional civil engineers are as stupid as random Internet blog commenters allege.

      But then again, here’s an example of a ramp that accelerates you nicely into a nasty intersection: https://maps.google.com/maps?q=201+Moffett+Park+Drive,+Sunnyvale,+CA&hl=en&ll=37.404815,-122.019592&spn=0.002001,0.002293&sll=37.269174,-119.306607&sspn=11.602766,18.786621&oq=201+moffett+park&hnear=201+Moffett+Park+Dr,+Sunnyvale,+California+94089&t=h&z=19. The image is out of date so you see it before the stop signs and street markings they added after a girl was hit by an inattentive driver last summer. My office is above the circular patio you see in the adjacent building; you don’t want to know about the accidents I’ve seen here. I ride over it occasionally for errands and can attest that you can get hauling without liberal application of the brakes; fortunately my commute takes me a much safer route. It should give you a rough idea of the real estate required of a ramp (even circular one) on the Gibbs Bridge though.

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      • Spiffy September 25, 2012 at 3:20 pm

        those ramps dump you onto a sidewalk and bike lane, not an intersection…

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        • Pete September 25, 2012 at 4:05 pm

          Note that they dump you into a bike lane heading the wrong direction, mind you, or a crosswalk into nowhere. There is no sidewalk on this road, anywhere. There is now a stop sign for the bicyclist at the bottom, as well as flashing stop signs for cars in either direction. Improvements to this road were actually pointed out in the BP Monday Roundup (in the context of bike lane painting) earlier this year (http://bikeportland.org/2012/05/14/the-monday-roundup-178-71589, though the linked article appears defunct).

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        • davemess September 25, 2012 at 4:16 pm

          And that ramp simply goes over a road, not a drop of over 80 feet.

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    • matt picio September 26, 2012 at 7:22 am

      I think the real question to ask is: when an ADA-compliant option like an elevator is part of the project, why does the ramp have to *also* meet ADA standards? Here we have a situation where if, for any reason the elevator cannot function, people in wheelchairs (or a Bakfiets) cannot negotiate the bridge – period. Yes, the Morrison ramp isn’t ADA-compliant, but a structure like that, while noncompliant, is PASSABLE with difficulty.

      Projects like this should *absolutely* have a fully ADA-compliant method of passage – but if those projects use a means of providing that compliancy which can be shut down due to technical issues, there should be a non-mechanically-dependent means of access which is not solely restricted to people who have the capability to negotiate stairs. In this situation, a corkscrew ramp seems appropriate.

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  • spare_wheel September 25, 2012 at 10:42 am

    SW Sheridan crosses under I5 and is a couple of minutes away. It beggars belief that this facility was pitched as bike friendly.

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    • Art Fuldodger September 25, 2012 at 11:13 am

      s_w, unfortunately the Sheridan route under the freeway leaves you fairly marooned to the north of all the Ross Island Bridge road-spaghetti. So if you’re headed for the residential neighborhood south of the Ross Island, or west of Naito for that matter, this route doesn’t seem to work very well for walking/cycling. Cool little sneaker route, though.

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    • anon September 25, 2012 at 11:23 am

      But Sheridan doesn’t really have good access — I regularly ride down from Hillsdale, and I just can’t see a good way to get over to Sheridan. The Gibbs St Bridge, as annoyingly imperfect as it is, is still a great connector for SW neighborhoods.

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      • Alan 1.0 September 25, 2012 at 12:36 pm

        Art F and anon — how about these routes?

        – from Terwilliger or Barbur, east on upper Sheridan to SW 3rd to Arthur and under Naito (several options from there to the lower part of Sheridan and on to Moody);

        – from top of Gibbs Street Bridge, Gibbs to Grover to SW 1st, then Woods to Barbur or 1st on north to Arthur and under Naito (then options).

        I’m just looking at maps, I have not ridden those, I’d rate them as Duct Tape and Baling Wire Status, but it looks like they are bikeable and maybe better than 100+ stairs with no wheel gutter.

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        • Spiffy September 25, 2012 at 3:21 pm

          how intuitive are those routes when you’re looking down onto the south waterfront wondering how you’ll get there?

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          • Alan 1.0 September 25, 2012 at 6:01 pm

            Not intuitive at all! They aren’t even totally obvious on a map since they have to duck under Naito at special crossings. That’s part of why I rate them DT&BW Status (not Gold or Diamond). But they work for those that know them, and signs pointing to them could be added at the top and bottom of Gibbs St Bridge, and sharrows or street signs could mark the routes.

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            • davemess September 26, 2012 at 8:04 am

              and you’d best not try it not as Sheridan is completely closed for construction. Even when it is open it’s not a very convenient or easy alternative.

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      • Sunny September 25, 2012 at 2:57 pm

        The “secret” route going north on kelly and past the top of gibbs st bridge is to continue north on kelly until it dead ends at a cul-de-sac and take the short footpath to the west sidewalk of hood, go north around the corner to corbett and continue north to sheridan. A nice bum showed me. It really shortens the route.

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    • Paul Souders September 25, 2012 at 5:50 pm

      I worked for 3 years in Lair hill and routinely went from work to OHSU on the waterfront for medical stuff. I still commute through these neighborhoods to get to my new office downtown. I know these “shortcuts” well and they’re all lousy.

      To go from Lair Hill to S. Waterfront (about 4 blocks in a straight line) requires a mile-plus detour, with super fun highway riding (Naito, Barbur and/or Kelly). It’s daunting to me and I’m one of those “strong/fearless” riders.

      Without the bridge, the first ped/bike crossing south of Sheridan is Corbett @ Hamilton, about a mile away (and to get to the Corbett viaduct requires ANOTHER detour at Boundary to cross Macadam).

      How many eastside bike commuters would tolerate a route that forced a mile-long detour (on highways, with no bike lanes, up a hill…)?

      The Gibbs bridge for all its faults is a welcome piece of infrastructure. It cuts that mile detour almost in half. I’d vote for upgraded wheel gutters, when the elevator is out the bridge is dang near impossible for bikes — and I’m used to shouldering my bike up stairs for fun. I tried tying a cowbell to my panniers but it’s not the same.

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  • mikeybikey September 25, 2012 at 10:52 am

    You know I really didn’t pay much attention to this bridge before because I thought it was just another transportation corridor, but I was wrong. Its a sweet cardio gym! With all the self-congratulating and PR hoopla, you think that they would have made it more clear that they spent so much money to make sure we all have such an awesome cardio workout facility! I can’t wait to get down there this afternoon and hit the steps. Carry my 55lbs-when-loaded bicycle up and down those stairs! I’ll tell my spouse about it! She’s pregnant and goes to OHSU. Once i tell her, I bet she won’t be able to wait until her next appointment to get over there and do some lift and carry.

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  • Alan 1.0 September 25, 2012 at 11:12 am

    Two weeks for an inspection?!

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    • Ted Buehler September 25, 2012 at 1:06 pm

      Alan — is this the semicircular wheel gutter you were talking about?

      Ted Buehler

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      • Alan 1.0 September 25, 2012 at 1:23 pm

        I have seen that bridge but I have not taken a bike over it. The one I recall was on the stairs of a highway underpass. As “tunnel” type bike routes go it was quite pleasant, wide and well-lit with yellow (?) tile on the walls.

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  • thefuture September 25, 2012 at 11:13 am

    Cyclocross commuting.

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  • anon September 25, 2012 at 11:13 am

    Not only is it annoying and strenuous to have to haul your bike up/down the stairs, it’s also dangerous. Clipless road bike shoes have NO traction on the soles and were not meant for use on multiple flights of stairs. Not to mention the general risk of slipping and falling in any type of shoes while carrying a large object. Could this be a liability issue for the city?

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    • davemess September 25, 2012 at 4:18 pm

      All the more reason you shouldn’t be commuting in road bike shoes. Get some commuter or MTB shoes. They’ll make a life a lot easier.

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      • spare_wheel September 25, 2012 at 9:54 pm

        road bike shoes are far more comfortable than commuter shoes. maybe you should try road shoes. see what i did there.

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        • davemess September 26, 2012 at 12:50 pm

          But I have commuter shoes, road shoes, triathlon shoes, and 3 pairs of mountain bike shoes. Each one is used for a specific purpose. It is just silly to me to commute in road shoes knowing that you’ll probably have to walk on both ends of the commute and then complain about how it stinks to walk in road shoes.

          I didn’t really see what you did there, went right over my head?

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          • spare_wheel September 26, 2012 at 1:33 pm

            telling someone to buy a different type of shoe is, IMO, not the best way to handle an infrastructure issue.

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    • spare_wheel September 25, 2012 at 4:26 pm

      This is all part of the long-term plan to make PDX more like CPH.

      As such, PBOT strongly discourages:

      1. The use of clipless shoes or sport clothing.
      2. Riding in the lane on a commercial street.
      2. Riding a bike at speeds that might frighten very young children.

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    • Duncan September 26, 2012 at 7:07 am

      shoes that you cant walk in sorta defeats the purpose of shoes dont you think?

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  • Terry D September 25, 2012 at 11:26 am

    As I have said before…I told you so. Stairs are a bottleneck and should not be built. Hopefully these mechanical “glitches” will work themselves out, but I doubt it. I think this will be a constant problem.

    As far as a ramp goes, since there IS an ADA acceptable option (when it works), we should make sure that a ramp is added to the end of the Gibb’s bridge when the Westside Riverfront Path is built to connect the two up. If it has to meander a little, so be it. If it can not be ADA complaint than also so be it, in the end this neighborhood will have tens if thousands of residents and workers and there needs to be a direct connection from the Gibb’s overpass to the westside trail…..without stairs.

    For now, add proper wheel gutters like they should have done with the FIRST $12 million. Considering the HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS of public investment this neighborhood has (and will) have combined with all the private investment we should AT LEAST be able to get at least one properly build bike ramp to connect the two main MUP’s in the region. The city should state publicly that this bridge is “Stage One” for the neighborhood…with the westside trail being “stage 2” and connecting them up being the final stage.

    Also, I visited the Waud Bluff trail site a few days ago….they had PLENTY of room to work with to build a ramp….this is another case of building only what was cheaply available because of pent up demand…not what really needed to be built. Dumb…dumb…dumb….After the NP Greenway Trail is built users will look at the stairs and think…”My, that stairwell is silly….I wonder why they did that?…Probably to save the trees..”(which have just been planted…)

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    • Chris I September 25, 2012 at 12:03 pm

      You can’t just say “So be it” about non-compliance and ADA. It’s the law, and all new structures have to comply.

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      • stace September 25, 2012 at 12:36 pm

        The elevator is accessible.

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      • Terry D September 25, 2012 at 12:57 pm

        We have an ADA complaint route. It just cost $12 million. The connecting ramp does NOT need to be compliant as long as there is a sidewalk from the riverfront as well, which there is one.

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        • Chris I September 25, 2012 at 2:59 pm

          And that’s exactly what the city will tell you when you ask for a ramp. “We already have a route.” Would you rather have a ramp here or a pedestrian bridge over I-84 east of Grand? Money is tight. We need to prioritize.

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          • Alex Reed September 25, 2012 at 4:39 pm

            Guess why money is tight? Because our government spends a huge amount of money on infrastructure for cars and leave crumbs for bikes and peds.

            $6 billion to help out Clark County commuters on their 20+ mile commutes by building the CRC? Sure!!

            $400 million on the Rose Quarter freeway expansion to temporarily relieve one of a multitude of bottlenecks on I-5 in the Portland area? Absolutely!

            $12 million for bikes and pedestrians? Are you kidding?????

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          • Terry D September 25, 2012 at 9:54 pm

            Our “limited resources” means not spending $4 billion in highway improvements until we have an integrated multi-modal street network for everyone. If we spent money equal to mode split we would have more than three time the bicycle funding than we have now and money for things like this would not be a major issue.

            Combine this with a VMT and either a carbon tax or gas tax indexed so it would increase proportionally to the inverse to the decrease in MPG we are seeing historically. Combined we would have a sustainable funding source instead of having to stretch out an ever increasingly smaller pool of money for an ever increasing backlog of needed projects.

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  • Schrauf September 25, 2012 at 12:01 pm

    The wheel ramp is a joke. The railing sticks out too far so the ramp is difficult to access. And worse, it is only on the uphill side of the stairs. They could not forsee people wanting to roll their bikes downhill as well, when there are over 100 stairs? Or we are supposed to walk down the stairs on the left side and expect other people to move?

    It’s almost like it is a prank by some bike hater who got his hands on the design plans.

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  • Dan V September 25, 2012 at 12:03 pm

    Most of the planning going into infrastructure seems to be penny-wise, but pound-foolish. We have Going, hyped as a great bike boulevard, without a good crossing of MLK, the lack of access for all but carry-able bikes for Waud Bluff and (sometimes) Gibbs Street, and let’s not get started on the “value” engineering attempts on the North Portland Greenway. It tends to leave bigger bikes (longtails, Bakfiets, trailers) out in the cold, and many of the “interested but concerned” riders get turned away by dangerous sections or intersections.

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  • Jonathan R. September 25, 2012 at 12:15 pm

    Not being able to lift your bicycle is not a crime, or a failing. I hope there is another way around that doesn’t involve stairs.

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  • Bikesalot September 25, 2012 at 12:27 pm

    Looks like they used the infamous stairway in the Gorge near Cascade Locks as a model. I can attest from bitter experience that a long wheelbase recumbent loaded for touring (or even out for a day ride) becomes a two person exercise on the stairs, often requiring removal of the load and an additional trip up the stairs.

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  • don arambula September 25, 2012 at 12:53 pm

    For a bridge that serves medical facility to not have 24/7 universal access is unacceptable. A ramp that is ADA compliant can be added this bridge. Could a a new design be initiated as part of a park planning effort for the Zidell Master Plan? A number alternatives that address ADA and Cost issues might be developed. One alternative might be a ramp/bridge that crosses over Moody and the sweeps north of the Zidell barge yards, connecting to bridge to the Waterfront.

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  • Ted Buehler September 25, 2012 at 12:58 pm

    If ya’all want to see wheel gutters on the stairs, take a minute and email
    with the message “Hi, could you add some wheel gutters on the Gibbs Pedestrian Bridge?”

    Then it’s on the public record that X # of people have made the request.

    Ted Buehler

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    • Ted Buehler September 25, 2012 at 12:59 pm

      You can also add other comments to your email, like:

      1) request: “And consider installing semicircular gutters, they work much better than angular gutters”
      (as per Alan 1.0’s BikePortland observations on July 20, 2012
      “I’ve found that bikes track better with half-circle wheel gutters than V- or square-section. Something about the single point-of-contact for the tire and/or not contacting the side of the tire doesn’t seem to climb out of the groove as much. YMMV Oh, also wide enough for fat tires.”

      2) note that the Oregon Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan supports wheel gutters

      Page 1-28:
      “Bike Stair Channel”
      “A bike stair channel assists bicyclists using stairs by providing a space in which to insert the bicycle wheels so that a bicycle may be rolled up or down a staircase.”
      [image of a V-shaped metal rail bolted to the side of a stairway]

      Page 7-17
      “Where a connection is needed to a destination or another path at a different elevation, a stairway can be used where the terrain is too steep for a path. A grooved trough should be provided so bicyclists can easily push their bicycles up or down.”
      [image of V-shaped metal rail, painted orange, bolted to a stairway.]

      See the document at

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    • gl. September 25, 2012 at 10:35 pm

      thanks, ted! done!

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  • jen September 25, 2012 at 1:49 pm

    honestly, i didn’t even know that WAS a wheel gutter. it’s narrow enough that it looks like the stairway was simply poorly-designed (which, of course, it was).

    in my opinion, while it is certainly important to me to have ramp access on any new infrastructure, the fact that this wasn’t implemented not only for cyclists, but also for those using wheelchairs, is ludicrous. elevators are a great way for those who are differently-abled to get from the top to the bottom (or vice versa), but having an alternate route just in case the elevator isn’t working (for whatever reason) is always a good idea.

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    • Spiffy September 25, 2012 at 3:29 pm

      when I first started seeing them I thought they were for water runoff… it wasn’t until I started reading BikePortland that I found out that they’re for bike tires… I’d only ever seen them in places with ramps so they didn’t seem to serve a purpose for bikes at the time…

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    • Pete September 25, 2012 at 4:23 pm

      It’s not, it’s a skate ramp for one-legged rollerbladers. Got to appease everyone you know!

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  • 9watts September 25, 2012 at 1:55 pm

    What about Trondheim’s hill lift? If they can do this why couldn’t we figure out a way to adapt it to this situation? Or maybe a pedal powered version? 🙂

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  • Jim Lee September 25, 2012 at 2:00 pm

    Saw a dude RIDE down those stairs yesterday!

    Do not forget “Jaffles and Wraps” just off the west entrance of the bridge. Matt serves a great lunch!

    Reminder to west side commuters–the aerial tram is FREE on the way down!

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  • David Amiton September 25, 2012 at 2:01 pm

    On the solutions-side of things, are there any alternatives to wheel gutters? They don’t seem like a very good option for long durations or heavier bikes. This isn’t my area of expertise at all, but I’m imagining an uphill zip-line, where an arm clamps to the bike’s top-tube (like a repair stand arm) and is attached on the other end to a cable system that’s embedded at chest-height above the staircase handrail. So you just secure your bike to the arm and up it goes, propelled by a hand-crank, ratchet, semi-passive assist, or an electric-assist system. Is there anything like this out there?

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  • Todd Boulanger September 25, 2012 at 2:11 pm

    The Gibbs Project…its puts back the “active” in the word “Active Transportation”.

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  • o/o September 25, 2012 at 2:15 pm

    i tried to use the wheel gutter with my bicycle down from the top. the wheels did not fit in well. Looking at million steps down was too much for me to handle. I backed it off and used the elevator inside. I dont ride there on regular basis.

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  • 9watts September 25, 2012 at 3:11 pm

    How about a funicular? Guy wishing to ascend has to wait until gal wants to descend. Both step into shaft. Zip.

    I mean the concept is already installed – right overhead….

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  • Lenny Anderson
    Lenny Anderson September 25, 2012 at 3:49 pm

    Maybe the City can try out a better gutter design on the Waud Bluff Trail stairs. Its three flights with no elevator option. Signage for the upper trail should not be final; I think any effort to forbid bikers from riding up or down is a non-starter. Folks will do it; they need to be reminded to yield to uphill traffic and pedestrians.

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  • mike September 25, 2012 at 8:20 pm

    As a year-round commuter from the upper Midwest I have to say, elevators, bike gutters and ramps…dear God grow a set, what a bunch of whining. It’s like a thread full of emos.

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    • Terry D September 25, 2012 at 10:05 pm

      I was a year around commuter from Wisconsin and I will take rain and hills over snow any day, but you can not understand the specific issues a city built in a valley next to an 1100 foot mountain range has unless you live in one. There are no mountains in the upper mid-west, let alone urban ones…..it took me a few years to get used to them after I moved here in the late 90’s. This is about constructing things properly the first time instead of having to constantly upgrade with ever increasing demand.

      In this city we are constantly trying to catch up it seems in every project….and never quite get it just right the first time even though PBOT tries ever so hard……

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    • davemess September 26, 2012 at 8:07 am

      I think this same thought many times reading these threads. But you have to remember that the readership of bikeportland is highly polarized (ie. the majority of people do not feel as strongly bout this).
      And we do have pretty high standards here in Pdx (but at the same time sometimes I think we need to remember how good we have it).

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    • John Landolfe September 26, 2012 at 8:39 am

      Mike, the bridge is the only way to cross 14 lanes of highway and the elevator lands a few feet from a daycare. I may have grown up biking in one of the coldest mountain towns in the lower 48, and I may not have kids or be a researcher hauling an extra set of clothes, but I can still empathize with different needs.

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      • spare_wheel September 26, 2012 at 1:47 pm

        sheridan is a usable route by bike. there is even a ramped bridge that crosses naito and gives easy access to marquam hill and all of laird hill (via SW 1st). pbot should have spend a few thousand on signage to make this route easy to identify.

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        • John Landolfe September 27, 2012 at 9:29 am

          For some commutes true and Sheridan COULD be the signed detour. But it’s also a mile out of the way and on a steep incline (no big deal for most bikes but pretty far for walking or trailers). It’s also part of the 2 year construction project to create a light rail bridge and thus closes for weeks at a stretch. There’s probably a backhoe out there right now. I’d hate to see the only route for walking/biking in a square mile look, on a map, like spaghetti and buried under a dozen direct connections by car.

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    • Emily Finch September 26, 2012 at 10:29 am

      Why would I want to grow a pair when most people with balls turn out to be weight weenies?

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  • C3 September 26, 2012 at 1:05 am

    Such a fuss over a wheel well. Yeah, the planners can’t make a good gutter on both sides (“fail” planners). How about an aerial tram for bicycles & wheel chairs. I heard those things work good.

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  • C3 September 26, 2012 at 1:10 am

    By the way, in our litigious society, what will the payout be to a person who knocks their teeth out with their own bike when those stairs get slippery as they hurry to work? Will that payout be less than investing in a gutter for both sides (now)?
    Come on planners, we gotta’ think this one through (um, b4 it’s built next time please). Where was the oversight committee on this project?

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  • Tyler w September 26, 2012 at 4:40 am

    I had to climb this the other day, its a beast with bike

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  • KYouell September 26, 2012 at 6:54 am

    dear God grow a set
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    Because if we don’t then we’re a bunch of wimpy girls? Sexist much? My bike + kids is 180 pounds. Yours?

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  • John Landolfe September 26, 2012 at 8:34 am

    Gutter issue aside, PBOT’s in a tough spot in terms of managing people’s expectations of this facility. As soon as the bridge and stairs appeared done, there was a clamor to open this part of the facility before the elevator was functionally ready. I think they made the right choice and offered people at least a partial solution, the only solution, to crossing 14 lanes of highway. If the bridge itself was still now under construction as they readied the elevator, we’d hear only rising excitement for the project.

    Few projects are born perfect and fully formed on day one. I actually can’t think of any. An expanded gutter is a very legitimate angle for improvement. The bridge arrives at a daycare, after all, and is the route to the largest research and medical facilities in the city (so people often need a change of clothes and more). But let’s not forget that the project is a step in the right direction and one of the best ways to get more improvements on the routes we take is by remembering to support planners on what they get right.

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  • Barbara September 26, 2012 at 10:36 am

    The Frankfurt wheel gutters are pretty standard in Germany for all type of public stairs (e.g. In train stations). They have two gutters so that you can haul a stroller up and down. You can also roll suitcases up and down. And yes you can use it for a bike, too, including trailers/tricycles if the have the right distance. I can’t imagine that simple wheel gutters like that are that expensive. Just some pouring of concrete or adding a steel well.

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  • Don Baack, Chair SW Trails September 26, 2012 at 11:26 am

    I served on the committee for the design of the bridge. Yes, we discussed but eliminated the ramp for cost reasons.

    We did not consider alternative bike groves as I recall, just specified there would be a bike grove.

    I and others did however request a illuminated sign to be posted at the west end of the bridge to tell folks with wheelchairs and bikes with burleys that the elevator was not working. We suggested such a light cold be turned on and off with a cell phone — folks in Iraq and elsewhere have figured out how to detonate bombs with a simple cell phone, surly a light could be turned on with one.

    If we had such a warning light installed at the west end of the bridge, it could be turned on by the PBOT dispatchers that watch the signals et al 24/7. That would tell wheel chair users and others that the elevator was closed and prevent them from the long journey across the bridge and back once they learn the elevator was not operating.

    PBOT has not deemed this a good use of funds. Of course none of the PBOT decision makers are in wheelchairs.

    SWTrails has once again requested an electric sign be placed at the west end of the bridge, and that a different bicycle grove be provided.

    Don Baack

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    • Terry D September 26, 2012 at 1:54 pm

      My question about the ramp I have been trying to get an answer from the is: “Have they left ROW to the river so a FUTURE ramp can be built once the westside MUP is finished and future capacity demands it??”

      I have received no response. Do you happen to know? It looks like the bridge is designed so they can just clip the front foot or so off and continue the MUP eastward towards the river at some future date….but I could just be overthinking this and it could just be a viewpoint for Mount Hood….

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  • Bike-Max-Bike September 26, 2012 at 12:58 pm

    Yup. The bicycle movement/advocacy in PDX can now focus on some POS, wanky workaround to a poorly executed piece of poorly designed infrastructure.

    I love that we have to get activated/motivated to fight for something that should have been installed in the first place. It’s like drivers need to hold a rally for adequate drainage on freeways.

    Didn’t they do any studies? Aren’t they trying to read the ‘interested but concerned’ riders?

    I am enjoying our new Aluminum Status from the League, aren’t you?

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    • 9watts September 26, 2012 at 1:28 pm

      Aluminum – that’s good!
      I think we have several things working against us here.

      + we here in the US have lost our touch when it comes to good design, with coming up with well-thought out solutions to interesting problems. Anymore we import most well made things, ideas, innovations. There are obviously exceptions to this overly broad generalization, but in terms of transport infrastructure I think we’d probably mostly agree that we tend to copy (belatedly and not always well) what others have figured out already. Limits (money, space, resources) can inspire creative solutions. Postwar Europe and Japan had all of those limitations. We had none.

      + we don’t often have the larger public discussion that could inform good policy decisions and design, or if we do the insights from those discussions don’t get incorporated into the project. We try; we have statutes mandating public involvement, and lots of process, and a smart, well informed public that gives great input when asked.

      + we’re still stuck in a separate but unequal world when it comes to funding allocations and public understanding of the societal value of more people biking, of the value of building infrastructure that invites that.

      Bold, imaginative, smart solutions tend to elude us.

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      • KYouell September 26, 2012 at 1:33 pm

        Spot on.

        And hi! That was me with the kids in the bakfiets at the cargo bike fruit tree picking. I didn’t realize that was you until Emily Finch told me. 🙂

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        • 9watts September 26, 2012 at 1:44 pm

          What fun – always good to put a face with a username. 🙂
          There have been several more fruit picking by bike events since then. The last one we had 10 bike trailers on one crew. It was a hoot.

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  • Stephanie B September 28, 2012 at 10:31 am

    Barbara, I’m glad someone finally mentioned strollers. Another reason to have double wheel gutters on the stairs, especially since this is a possible route to the nearby daycare.

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