Support BikePortland - Journalism that Matters

Parks Bureau considering changes to tricky Springwater path intersection

Posted by on January 8th, 2015 at 11:37 am

Springwater path at Oaks Bottom-2

Temporary stop sign at exit of Oaks Bottom path where it joins Springwater.
(Photos by J. Maus/BikePortland)

An intersection on the Springwater Corridor path where a serious injury collision happened last spring could be updated with new safety measures in the coming months.

The path’s intersection with Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge (about 3.5 miles south of downtown Portland) is in a valley where path users often have high speeds and sight lines are very poor. The Oaks Bottom path — which is on a slight downhill itself — goes under a railroad track tunnel just before it pops out onto the Springwater at a “T” intersection. Last year that perfect storm led to a very serious collision.

Springwater path at Oaks Bottom-1

T-intersection where Springwater
and Oaks Bottom paths meet.

On the morning of May 30th a woman was riding northbound on the Springwater path. According to witnesses, as she came to the Oaks Bottom intersection, another rider suddenly appeared in front of the underpass. The woman on the Springwater grabbed her brakes and flew over the bars, suffering major lacerations in her face. From reader tips and witness accounts we received at the time, it was a very scary situation (more than one person mentioned “lots of blood”) and the woman had to be escorted off the path via ambulance.

Advertisement

Southeast Portland resident Harth Huffman spends a lot of time cycling in the area as well as working on service projects in the Oaks Bottom refuge. He rolled up on the collision last May and helped the wounded rider and feels something should be done to improve the intersection. “I regularly witness uncertain behavior from riders coming out of the tunnel as well as riders coming down that hill. Nobody seems certain of how to be safe there… My experiences continue to convince me that something should be done in that spot to improve cycling safety.”

When we scouted the location this week we noticed a temporary stop sign and orange traffic cones had been placed at the intersection. We then asked the Portland Parks Bureau if they were aware of the safety issues and whether or not there were plans to address it. To our relief, they are considering some improvements

Here’s what Parks spokesman Mark Ross shared with us via email yesterday:

“We have been made aware of some challenges at the intersection… Cyclists have the responsibility for adhering to the stop sign, and to look both ways before entering Springwater Corridor traffic. Portland Parks & Recreation is reviewing whether it may be possible to add some further safety improvements at and/or around this intersection; possibly including signage and striping. We will continue to evaluate possible measures and funding…”

Another idea Huffman has shared with Parks is to place a large convex mirror on the path(s) to improve visibility.

If funding is the only remaining issue, now would a great time to tell Parks to make this project a priority in their 2015-2016 budget. They had a public budget hearing last night, but you can still leave feedback via this online survey/feedback tool (until January 13th).

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. BikePortland is an inclusive company with no tolerance for discrimination or harassment including expressions of racism, sexism, homophobia, or xenophobia. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

70
Leave a Reply

avatar
24 Comment threads
46 Thread replies
0 Followers
 
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
41 Comment authors
PattyOpus the PoetmehJonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)GlowBoy Recent comment authors
  Subscribe  
newest oldest most voted
Notify of
Paul
Guest
Paul

The photo seems to indicate an even greater danger of someone turning right off The Springwater into the tunnel colliding with someone exiting the tunnel. I don’t see a major problem transitioning from the Oaks Bottom path onto The Springwater if the Stop sign is obeyed.

Dave J.
Guest
Dave J.

The solution here seems pretty dang simple. Just put a gate with an unlocked door on it near the exit to the tunnel, that way cyclists would have to dismount, open the door (no latch, but it would always close after being opened), then get back on the bike. Put “gate ahead” signage coming down the path towards the tunnel, perhaps even a flashing light on the gate. Wouldn’t bother pedestrians, and would slow down cyclists.

Adam H.
Guest
Adam H.

Install a bike roundabout to force people riding too fast to slow down.

Champs
Guest
Champs

The key to safety is making access trail users stop, just like they’re supposed to, when they come to a T.

Mirrors do nothing to slow people down. I have doubts they will even be standing a year from installation; maintenance is not this city’s strong suit.

If you want a cheap fix, add speed bumps in the tunnel. If you want a good fix, pave a chicane just east of the tunnel and enforce it with a ditch or barriers.

Carrie
Guest
Carrie

The gate and gravel ideas are terrible. That’s a hard turn — any direction you take it (I take it twice a day, once going to work and once going home). I’d hate to have to deal with gravel there (or turn left OFF the Springwater into a gate and have to stop, slowing me down even more on the ‘main road’). I also extremely dislike the stopsign (it’s been there for at least the 18 months I’ve been riding this route). It takes up nearly half the path, so there is no room for two bikes (or a bike and a pedestrian) in that entry space under the trestle at the same time — it actually makes me want to go faster through that narrow pinch point, with the sign there, than slow down and stop because I feel really vulnerable to a head-on collision.

I dunno what you can actually do there other than have a permanent STOP sign (that doesn’t take up half the path!). And enforce it, just like you do other STOP signs. It’s aweful that the woman was hit and hurt so bad, but my colleague was hit and hurt badly by a vehicle that didn’t stop at a stop sign two months ago. We can’t keep all people from being stupid.

Wondering
Guest
Wondering

What’s good for the railroad is good for cyclists heading N or S: an overpass.

davemess
Guest
davemess

Is this a major issue? How much use does the trail and tunnel actually get from bikes? I’ve only ridden it once or twice, but if I remember it dumps you out into a small parking lot on 99 (and 99 is pretty tough to cross here). I don’t usually see many people turning onto it or coming out of it when I’m on the Springwater.

It’s sad there was an incident last summer, but is this kind of issue all that common?

SilkySlim
Guest
SilkySlim

Second the vote for riders to exhibit some common sense when coming out from under the trestle. On both a good and bad note, that access point is pretty rarely used (besides me and Carrie above!!). Kind of an oddball spot to connect, and even less used now that folks are transitioning to SE 17th. Last thought: some lights down in that dip would be pretty nice during the winter months.

Cory Poole
Guest

Simply jog the trail to the west a few yards. The jog will have a traffic calming effect and the distance to the west will increase sight lines.

Ted Buehler
Guest

A general comment on this —

Greater Portland is chock full of dangerous intersections for bikes.

Most of the infrastructure like this was designed and built in the 1990s and early 2000s, when bike traffic was only a fraction of what it was today.

Other infrastructure with similar hazards was designed after 2009, when Portland had already achieved its “Platinum Ranking” and no longer had aspirations to be superlatively fabulous for bicycling. (& Bicycle Backlash post 2011, and slashed budgets, post 2010). And with the loss of superlative aspirations comes safety compromises as bike facilities are cut to the bare minimum through mid-project budget cuts, called “Value Engineering.”

This results in many dangerous spots for bicyclists in today’s riding environment. More bicyclists than older facilities were designed for, and safety compromises in more recent facilities.

This is something that’s actually pretty easy to get moving on. Not get everything fixed, not right away, but to call attention and get improvements made to the dangerous spots *before* a bicyclist ends up with sever facial lacerations and a lot of blood on the ground.

The way to do it is to COMPLAIN.

Call 823-SAFE
email SAFE@portlandoregon.gov

Tell them what locations in your regular riding routes are dangerous.

* One location per call/email.
* Keep the complaints as location-specific as possible. With plenty of location detail.
* Tell them its a safety problem for you personally, and explain exactly why.
* Try to avoid cluttering the report with “and City Hall is a bunch of slackers that are slave to the auto interests” type of comments.

I’ve done this with lots of spots around town. I’ve encouraged other people to do the same. I and others have dog-piled on a few. And it brings results. Potholes get filled, branches get trimmed, low-hanging obstacles get marked, signage gets clarified.

It doesn’t work every time, but it works pretty often. The “Single Email, Single Problem” technique often results in PBOT, ODOT, or MultCo workers coming out and making that minor fix required to make a dramatic improvement in safety.

I encourage ya’all to try it out. Wherever you have a close call, see a close call, or see a pattern that will result in close calls/crashes, spend a couple minutes a week on your favorite communication mode/device to make a simple request that a repair be made.

Otherwise, it’s “death by 1000 cuts.” For every person that switches to bicycling as their primary transportation mode, another bicyclist will be taken out of the mode pool through injury or fear of injury, because the infrastructure design can’t safely handle as many bicycles as it has now, and routes are deteriorating in quality because of the city’s complaint-based repair priority system.

Do it before you and your friends become victims of inadequate infrastructure.

Ted Buehler

bloodcircus77
Guest
bloodcircus77

So the rider jammed on her brakes and lost control? Sounds like user error to me. Put some signs up warning of cross traffic and call it done. You can only do so much to protect people from themselves.

John
Guest
John

The solution is simple: just build a Hovenring.

matt
Guest
matt

Also on my wish list for this intersection would be to fix that rectangular pot hole in the middle of the path. Also, fix the drainage. Huge puddle form down there during heavy rains and I almost wiped out going through one a little too fast in the dark a few months ago

pdx2wheeler
Guest
pdx2wheeler

This whole stretch is made treacherous by people biking way too fast to react properly to unexpected events. Lots of Fred’s treat this area as there personal training course, drag strip. I learned my lesson once, and I won’t take my young daughter near it in fear that she might get destroyed by one of those idiots.

Spiffy
Guest
Spiffy

if most people that bike also drive then they already know to yield their right of way when approaching from the side of a T intersection…

however, a lot of cyclists don’t drive, so a stop sign would be in order… maybe mounted overhead and painted…

Spiffy
Guest
Spiffy

Cyclists have the responsibility for adhering to the stop sign

what’s the law you’re breaking when you run a stop sign on a MUP?

as a side note, I hate when they put a stop sign on a MUP before a street crossing… I stop, then the cross-traffic stops to let me cross, but I’m the one with a stop sign… quagmire!

Paul H
Guest
Paul H

It’s certainly a substandard intersection.

One thing I’ve noticed that no one has yet mentioned is that visibility is worse in the summer—when there are more people using both paths—than in the winter because the foliage thins out in the winter, making it somewhat easier to see other riders approaching the “T”. Also, winter riders are more likely to be using a headlight during their commutes.

William Henderson
Guest

I use this tunnel every single day and the real issue isn’t so much that people don’t stop as it is that they don’t keep right. When heading west under the tunnel, in order to see to merge safely, you need to pull up pretty far – all the way under the tunnel and out into the Springwater path. However, if someone is turning off the path to go east under the tunnel, they are going to wham right into you – even if you stop – if you are not fully over to the right. Frequently, people who are turning left (i.e. to go south on Springwater) will start pulling left to make their turn and are out in the middle of left of the path by the time they merge. I’ve almost hit someone doing this a few times, and have learned to ring my bell and slow way way down when turning off of Springwater to go under the tunnel.

Hence, I think the best solution here would be some sort of paint or physical barrier to indicate to westbound (merging) riders that they should keep to the right, stop, and then merge. This would also indicate to eastbound (turning) riders that they should execute a wide turn, so that they end up on the right side of the narrow path under the tunnel. Here’s a crudely drawn picture what I mean:

http://i.imgur.com/vY2smJs.png?1

Rob
Guest
Rob

The original design of the Springwater trail called for a bridge here. It was pulled from the project due to a shortfall in funding.
I’ve ridded this route just about every workday since it was built and curse the engineer who designed it. As someone mentioned above, the Sprinwater really should be several feet to the West at this point to provide better lines of visibility. It might take a permit or two, but it can and should be done.

kittens
Guest
kittens

I also don’t see why this has to be so complicated. Why are we continuously trying to reinvent the wheel? We have a solution. its called a STOP SIGN and stop line. Jeez…

caesar
Guest
caesar

I am astounded by the over-anaylsis here and by what appears to be the pervasive opinion that somehow every intersection should and can be made nearly hazard-free. There’s been one documented crash (not a death, mind you, but there was “lots of blood” ) and a few “close calls” and suddenly the intersection is a death trap that must be modified using mirrors, speed bumps, gravel (really? gravel?!), complex asphalt striping, rigid obstacles, sirens, razor wire, armed guards, volunteers handing out free coupons to rider safety classes at the local REI, lasers, USB charging stations, free WiFi, hidden cameras, and pictures of our mom’s wagging their finger at us with a recriminating expression.

It’s a T intersection, folks, with limited visibility of approaching traffic. That’s it. Just like thousands of T intersections in any European city, where streets are narrow and buildings encroach closely upon the edge of the street / road /lane, making it difficult if not impossible to see who is approaching from the opposing direction.

If we really want to fix this problem, let’s just call Copenhagen and ask them what they do. I’m sure whatever it is will be a sensible solution.

Terry
Guest
Terry

A double-door gate (left and right side) that pushes forward to open, with a yellow caution reflective sign affixed to the gate door surface. When the gate is opened outward, the yellow caution sign will be visible from the Springwater path. The gate would be placed such that the open gate door would not protrude onto the Springwater path.

Patty
Guest
Patty

Gang, the original just-opened trail had a “Caution – Cross-traffic does not stop” sign coming from Oaks Bottom toward Springwater. I wonder if this is still in place? I think striping and a stop sign are good ideas. But I must say after 14 years in trail construction and watching the user behavior after – cyclists on trails don’t pay much attention to designers’ best efforts.