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County re-thinks cemetery detour: Bikers will be flagged through work zone

Posted by on August 9th, 2013 at 10:54 am

Multnomah County has revised their detour plans for a construction project that was going to close the popular bicycle route through River View Cemetery near the Sellwood Bridge. After our story on Monday, County spokesman says he heard from many people concerned about the safety of the proposed detours (which included a gauntlet-running uphill on SW Taylors Ferry Rd.). Here’s more from Pullen via the official County statement:

“After we announced an upcoming construction closure of a road in Riverview Cemetery last week, we heard from bicyclists concerned about the safety of alternate east/west routes. This week the project team worked with Riverview Cemetery staff to revise the traffic plan so that bicyclists and pedestrians will be able to use the road during construction of the new cemetery entrance from August 12 through September.”

This is welcome news for the many people who rely on the bike-friendly paths through the cemetery on their daily rides. But it comes with a stern warning and a threat about going back to the original plan if people do not use caution while going through the work area.

“Typically, public access would not be permitted inside a work zone,” reads the statement, “The cemetery and project team are willing to maintain public access to trail users as long as users comply with these safety rules and follow the direction of flaggers and traffic control devices. If users do not comply, the trail will need to be closed for public safety.”

Here are the details of the plan, followed by a map provided by the County:

  • The construction zone includes about 100 yards of the road in a steep, curving section above the funeral home near the entrance from Hwy. 43 (see red line in attached graphic).
  • A narrow path (3 – 4 feet wide) will be maintained along the edge of the work zone. The path surface will shift from pavement to gravel, surface conditions will change daily, and heavy construction traffic will be nearby.
  • During work hours (typically from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays), flaggers will direct traffic at each end of the work zone. Bicyclists will need to dismount and walk their bike through the work zone for safety.
  • The trail will be open during some non-work hours. Trail users should use caution when passing through the area at non-work times, especially at night. The cemetery closes the road in the late evening.
  • The cemetery road remains closed to all motorized traffic above the funeral home from August 12 until late September. The funeral home can be accessed from Hwy. 43 during construction.

– Click to enlarge –

It’s great to see Multnomah County reverse course with this plan. Thanks to everyone who emailed the County with concerns. It reminds us of what ODOT did last month on the St. Johns Bridge, where an initial detour plan was particularly onerous for bicycle riders, so they worked with the construction crews to maintain access during the closure. What these examples show is that large agencies listen to your feedback. It also underscores how little redundancy and how few safe and direct connections there are for bicycling in our road network.

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  • Spiffy August 9, 2013 at 11:52 am

    if they think people are going to walk their bikes through that section then I expect them to close the access off the first day when many people will violate the walking rule…

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  • Gerik August 9, 2013 at 11:55 am

    Among all those involved, once again, Richard Marantz was a key voice urging action and getting results. My hat is off to him for his sustained efforts.

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  • Jolly Dodger August 9, 2013 at 12:29 pm

    Walking a few hundred yards is a small price to pay in comparison to the near death experiences many will most undoubtedly have on the diversionary detour routes. Thanks Jonathon, for guiding the discourse and helping us find the means to help ourselves….yet again. Leading the way where other media outlets fumble for a grip on community.

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  • Andrew Holtz August 9, 2013 at 12:38 pm

    While it would have been nice to get things worked out in advance, it is indeed good to see flexibility by the County and the contractor. Constructive suggestions were put forward and people listened.

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  • Fixedale August 9, 2013 at 12:48 pm

    If they are going to require dismounting and walking and if the Cemetery owners agree, wouldn’t it be easier to walk alongside the funeral home and up the short incline to the next switchback? They could build a temporary on-grade stair out of 2x material and avoid all pedestrian traffic through the red colored switchback/loop on the diagram. I know it doesn’t effect every rider but walking on gravel with clipless road cleats is a good way to destroy them.

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    • Mike Pullen August 20, 2013 at 5:38 pm

      We looked at that option but it was too costly to create a temporary path through the steep terrain of this private cemetery. Thanks for the suggestion.

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  • Ian C. August 9, 2013 at 1:08 pm

    Once again I say they should consider closing the route to downhill bike traffic. Taylor’s Ferry is not a bad alternative going down. The beautiful curves of the cemetery road are too glorious not to bomb down, and I doubt even my own willingness to dismount and walk after such a rush. Uphill bikers on the other hand are a meek and obedient species who will surely be respectful and careful as they move through the area.

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    • Chris I August 9, 2013 at 2:15 pm

      Not everyone is confident enough to “bomb” down Taylor’s Ferry. Why not let the riders choose?

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  • Elliot August 9, 2013 at 1:11 pm

    This sort of listening, flexibility, and quick reaction to make improvements is exactly what the Portland Metro area needs to do to demonstrate our leadership in active transportation.

    Excellent work, thank you Multnomah County!

    Other transportation project managers around the region, take note. (I’m looking at you, PMLR…).

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  • EE August 9, 2013 at 1:25 pm

    Wow! It feels so good to be heard. Thanks JM, for this awesome forum. It made a difference — and very possibly spared serious cyclist injuries or fatalities on a treacherous stretch of road. Kudos to Mike Pullen for considering the input of concerned cyclists, and facilitating a quick remedy.

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    • Mike Pullen August 9, 2013 at 3:07 pm

      EE, thanks for the kudos and thanks to Bike Portland readers who shared their concerns and suggestions with the project team. The new plan should be a big improvement for trail users. Please follow safety rules when passing through the work zone, so this can be a win/win for all concerned.

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  • Granpa August 9, 2013 at 1:26 pm

    Bikers who refuse to obey the walk bike requirement only reinforce the stereotype that they are elitist to whom rules don’t apply. I hope they don’t ruin it for other riders, and against my first inclination, I think riders will obey the flaggers.

    The cemetery provides a great service to cyclists in Portland. However it is not the pervue of private property owners to provide bike routes. If Macadam had a safe route or if the trolly alignment were reconfigured into a bike route (that would be awesome!) then riders would not be dependent on the remarkable generosity of the Riverview Cemetery owners. That the public sector has not provided a Portland to Lake Oswego route is on par with its worst failures.

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  • Dave Price August 10, 2013 at 7:59 pm

    I will graciously walk 100 yards up and down to have a much safer option. I’m very thankful for EVERYONE that helped keep this route open!

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  • Todd Boulanger August 10, 2013 at 11:13 pm

    Yes. This is great news for the trend of bike and ped friendly work zones.

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  • Kevin Wagoner August 12, 2013 at 7:37 pm

    I think this issue highlights the lack of safe routes to and from the SW. There isn’t a good option due to the lack of cycling infrastructure. I’m happy to see they tried to come up with a safer option instead of offering up Taylors Ferry.

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  • Joe Reid August 15, 2013 at 9:03 pm

    Can anyone confirm that the detour was still available as of August 15? I have been finding other ways to work since I would rather drive than cycle on Hwy 43… Please, self-styled “rebels”, don’t ruin this lucky detour for all of us.

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    • Mike Pullen August 16, 2013 at 9:21 am

      Bikes can still use the cemetery route during the day. The flaggers may ask you to walk your bike through the work zone.

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  • Dan August 17, 2013 at 7:16 am

    I have noticed this past week that consistently the upper gate was still closed and locked at or before 6am where most of the summer it was open as early as 5am. Anyone notice this? Anyone have info? This has forced me to bomb Taylors Ferry…wondering if this has to do with the construction?

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    • Mike Pullen August 19, 2013 at 2:58 pm

      Dan, To my knowledge the hour when the upper gate is unlocked is controlled by the Cemetery and does not have anything to do with the Sellwood Bridge project.

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