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Citing safety concerns, TriMet wants “swing gates” at inner southeast MAX crossings

Posted by on July 16th, 2015 at 11:37 am

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TriMet says this still from a May 2015 on-board video which shows people on bikes near an oncoming MAX train, is evidence that safety gates are needed.

Saying they’ve observed dangerous behaviors by people using bikes during testing of light rail trains on the new MAX Orange Line, TriMet wants to install gates on two track crossings in inner southeast Portland.

“We share your interest in convenience and having welcoming bicycle facilities, but we have to balance that with safety concerns.”
— Jennifer Koozer, TriMet Community Affairs

TriMet reps made the announcement last night during a presentation (PDF) at the Bureau of Transportation’s Bicycle Advisory Committee. The proposal was met with serious concerns by members of the committee. They grilled TriMet with questions and did not give their support for the plan.

The four-foot tall gates would be installed at SE 8th and 11th Avenues and would be closed at all times (whether a train is coming or not), requiring people to swing them open in order to pass through (hence the name “swing gates”). For some people — like those with front-loading cargo bikes or other non-standard designs like recumbents, trikes, and so on — the gates could require them to stop and dismount two times.

Here’s the location of the gates at 8th:

se8thgates

And at 11th:

se11th

(Note that if you don’t want to use the gates on the path, you can ride in the street in a shared lane with people driving cars.)

TriMet Community Affairs Manager Jennifer Koozer said at Tuesday night’s meeting that the agency has been testing train operations in the inner southeast area for five months now. With a new light rail line adjacent to an existing (and quite busy) heavy-rail line (owned by Union Pacific) and new paths for biking and walking, TriMet considers this a “complex area.” They’re especially concerned about the double-threat situation where people cross one track and forget there could be another train on track next to it.

Koozer said TriMet has done everything it can to promote safety around the tracks, but, “We continue to see people go fast through these crossings without looking — even with lights flashing, bells ringing, and so on.”

At the meeting, TriMet Senior Safety Specialist Kurt Wilkinson offered an example of this behavior by sharing a video taken from the dashboard of a MAX train. The video (shared below), shows two people on bicycles attempting to cross SE 8th Avenue. As the MAX approaches, paid safety attendants can be seen warning them to stop…

As he showed that video, Wilkinson had a warning for BAC members: “A train going 35 mph [the speed they’ll be going between stations], needs 430 feet to stop.”

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In order to prevent what they see is an imminent safety issue, TriMet plans to do two things: adjust the timing of the warning signal lights and install swing gates.

Currently the signals flash at both track crossings, even if only one train is coming through. TriMet will decouple these signals to react to each track separately. They also plan to tweak the timing to the signals don’t start flashing until the train is closer. Both of these measures are mean to improve predictability and compliance. “If we give people better information,” Wilkinson said, “they’ll make better decisions.”

gatesexample

TriMet also plans to install eight swing gates. The gates would be installed on the path on both sides of the street at SE 8th and 11th Avenues and at the entrance to each track. The gates would have a very light spring and no latch, making it easy to swing them open. To enter the track area you would have to pull the gate toward you. To exit the track, you could just nudge the gate and it will swing open.

These type of gates are new to Portland; but not new to the TriMet system. They currently use them in Milwaukie and on the Green Line in Washington County. The video below (shared the BAC meeting) shows a person on a bicycle use the swing gate in Milwaukie:

Koozer told the BAC, “We know people who are riding bikes aren’t excited about this, because they slow you down.”

Once the issue was open to questions from BAC members, Koozer’s hunch proved to be spot on.

BAC member Kirk Paulsen asked about front-loading cargo bikes and was not pleased that some riders might have to dismount in order to open the gates. “What about an automated gate that opens with a button?” another member asked. Wilkinson said that’s not possible because gates with motors on them get vandalized and abused by the public.

“I appreciate the concerns,” added Paulsen, “But I think there’s a disconnect about observed problems and the fix.”

BAC member Leah Benson, owner of Gladys Bikes, questioned TriMet’s actions because they’re based only on test conditions (the Orange Line doesn’t officially open until September). “Trains aren’t even up and running yet,” she said, “What makes you think this will happen after the line is open?”

Committee member Kari Schlosshauer said it’s possible that the behaviors TriMet has observed are happening only because there have been so many changes in the area.

Wilkinson responded by saying they feel five months of observations during testing are convincing enough. TriMet didn’t include the gates in the initial project, he said, because they felt the sight lines were adequate and people wouldn’t be at risk. “But we’ve seen behavior over the last five months,” he said, “that we think warrants these measures.”

Another BAC member, Keith Liden, said if the gates are always closed by default they’ll lose their meaning. He also pointed out that being preoccupied with opening and closing a gate is a hazard in and of itself.

How would the gates work with crowds? Or with a quadriplegic in a wheelchair? And what about the crossing of the heavy rail tracks (which won’t have gates because they’re owned by Union Pacific)? “Does it really matter if a person dies on TriMet tracks or UP tracks?” a member asked. And if our region is serious about Vision Zero, why not slow the trains down in this area?

The BAC had a lot of questions. Committee Chair Ian Stude said they will compile all of it and send it to TriMet. “This is a very serious decision,” he said.

For their part, TriMet’s Koozer said, “We are expecting to move forward with the swing gates this summer. We share your interest in convenience and having welcoming bicycle facilities but we have to balance that with safety concerns.”

UPDATE, 4:18 pm: A few of you asked about wheelchair users. Below are two more videos TriMet showed at the BAC meeting. They show a person in a wheelchair entering and exiting one of the swing gates..

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J_R
Guest
J_R

If it requires someone to dismount from a bike, it is UNACCEPTABLE. If it won’t work for someone with a cargo bike, a tandem bike, or someone pulling a trailer it is UNACCEPTABLE. I watched the videos and I don’t think it will work for all users.

Trimet: Would you consider it acceptable if someone in a car had to get out to manually operate a gate to cross one of your tracks? Why should it be acceptable to inconvenience bicyclists more than motorists?

invisiblebikes
Guest
invisiblebikes

Agreed!

Why are pedestrians and cyclists being treated differently than people in cars? Shouldn’t the treatment of this crossing be the same as the traffic lanes that cross the same intersection?

Trimet needs to realize that they are being way overbearing and over stepping their boundaries in this situation.
I’ve used plenty of separated bike/ped track crossings in California where the commuter trains are going way faster than here. and all they needed (and used) was the signals and dropping barriers as the trains approached and crossed.

Trimet can do the same here and that is all we should except.

After all Trimet is fooling themselves if they think these swing gates won’t get vandalized, and I will bet 100 bucks the minute they are installed they’ll be propped open most of the time!

Colton
Guest
Colton

Why are the gates going to be installed facing the peds/bikes? Rotate them 90 degrees and let the tri-met operators get out and open them when they need to go through!

shirtsoff
Guest
shirtsoff

@Colton

HAHA.. YES! I appreciate your perspective in illustrating just how inconvenient and simply ridiculous the proposed gates are by suggesting a reverse of the situation. Thank you!

wsbob
Guest
wsbob

“Why are pedestrians and cyclists being treated differently than people in cars? Shouldn’t the treatment of this crossing be the same as the traffic lanes that cross the same intersection? …”

“…(Note that if you don’t want to use the gates on the path, you can ride in the street in a shared lane with people driving cars.)…” bikeportland

People on foot, bikes, skateboard, etc, not in motor vehicles, are vulnerable road users. They don’t have the relative protection, engine power, or size of most motor vehicles. People under the age of 16, generally aren’t driving, but they are free to use pedestrian crossings over train tracks. Trimet has obligations with regards to safety of its operations.

J_R
Guest
J_R

Would the outcome be any different if a Max train going 45 mph hit a pedestrian, a bicyclist, or a 7000 pound SUV?

Wouldn’t the safety of a motorist also be enhanced when crossing RR tracks if the motorist was also required to stop for a gate every time he arrived at a crossing?

If the SUV and other motor vehicles are protected or warned by use of automatic crossing gates, don’t bicyclists and pedestrians deserve similar protections and warnings?

wsbob
Guest
wsbob

Kids don’t drive motor vehicles. Unless this particular crossing is an exception, road users are likely making this crossing in far greater numbers than are people on foot, bike, etc. An automated crossing for them would probably be great, but it seems truer feels constrained by budget to go with a manually operated gate.

wsbob
Guest
wsbob

Correction: substitute ‘Trimet’ for “… truer …”.

david hampsten
Guest
david hampsten

For both sets of crossings (SE 8th & 11th), you still have the option of using the street. True, there are no bike lanes, but they are not particularly busy streets either. I expect faster riders will skip the gates and use the faster way.

Spiffy
Guest
Spiffy

11th is super busy at rush hour… bumper to bumper… even worse since they redesigned the area…

add a bike slowly weaving all over the lane in order to take the tracks at a perpendicular angle and you’ve got undesirable conditions…

this area will scare away riders of all skill levels…

Carrie
Guest
Carrie

I ride that intersection at 8th every afternoon at rush hour and there are a significant number of cars, often impatient, turning off division. I am so grateful I have a land away from traffic there (and I’m not afraid to take a lane).

Dave Thomson
Guest
Dave Thomson

Better get used to this idea. As more “protected” bike lanes and intersections get built cyclists either have to put up with slow and awkward facilities or ride in the street. Be careful what you wish for.

Eric Leifsdad
Guest
Eric Leifsdad

I’m wishing for designers who bike to work. Also hoping nobody will need to define “reasonable rates of speed” to contest their 814.420 ticket.

Spiffy
Guest
Spiffy

we’re not important enough for automated crossing arms…

jeff
Guest
jeff

you will be when one of you ignores the signage and gets squished on the tracks.

Tom Hardy
Guest
Tom Hardy

Only practical solution is a rod between the gates an the motor crossing gate. No additional motor needed.

scott
Guest
scott

Plus it is just really stupid. I’m not a toddler because I ride a bike, and people don’t always make great decisions just because they are in a car.

Aaron
Guest
Aaron

Agreed. I commute through the Milwaukie/12th and 8th/Division Place intersections and find it bizarre how the safety people at the crossing are going out of their way to give leaflets and verbal warnings to cyclists, but meanwhile I see no enforcement of drivers there at all.

Garlynn
Guest
Garlynn

Agreed. Why not just install automated crossing arms that come down when trains are present, and go up when trains are not? That’s what we do for cars. Our roads don’t have gates at RR crossings that make you stop your car, go out, and open the gate to drive across. Doing this for bicyclists is discriminatory. Automated crossing gates are the standard; smaller versions should be used in this and all instances for bicycle paths crossing tracks.

rick
Guest
rick

How about the blind and people with severe disabilities? How will service dogs open them?

S.
Guest
S.

This was my first response. I don’t see how this kind of gate could possibly be ADA compliant.

Doug Klotz
Guest
Doug Klotz

Per Ted Beuhler’s post further down, The Railroads get special exemption from the ADA, and apparently are allowed to use the swing gates. That doesn’t make them safe or advisable, though.

Huey Lewis
Guest
Huey Lewis

What about the miles and miles of tracks that have no gates at all? I don’t understand what’s so scary here that isn’t scary anywhere else.

david hampsten
Guest
david hampsten

From what I saw at the BAC meeting, what is really scary is not the Trimet tracks and their response, but the Union Pacific main-line tracks, with heavy freight trains several times a day (and more often at night) generally move very slow, plus 8 Amtrak trains/day moving at 45 mph (look closely at the aerial photos). No gates for those crossings. UP/Amtrak doesn’t require them, and Trimet isn’t allowed to interfere with the other system. PBOT, as usual, is doing nothing, even though they would be the logical agency to fix everything. Part of the Vision Zero thing, I suspect.

gutterbunnybikes
Guest

now now now, PDOT will fast track the gates for the commercial rail line, it’ll get put on the agenda October 2016, and within 30 years after that it’ll get implemented.

Gerik
Guest

I wonder how many lives these gates will save? As much as we know protected bike lanes work to keep people more safe than paint it seems like these gates could offer similar protection from trains.

Spiffy
Guest
Spiffy

I see lots of angry motorists in the future who are unhappy they’re dodging confused cyclists in this area who are trying to avoid closed gates…

Tom Hardy
Guest
Tom Hardy

Spiffy, substitute determined instead of confused. Spring loaded gates are too dangerous to be considered as a proper pathway for anything but pedestrians. They would need a very slow return to allow a fast retreat. Just think of trying to get out of the cage with the train barreling down on you in a wheelchair.

paikiala
Guest
paikiala

The article says they swing out for quick escape.

Captain Karma o
Guest

Will that be obvious for people under high stress?

Spiffy
Guest
Spiffy

and they also swing back into the people behind you trying to make that same escape…

paikiala
Guest
paikiala

Yeah, doors have that same problem????

Opus the Poet
Guest

That’s why we don’t put doors across train tracks.

Alex Reed
Guest
Alex Reed

What about those retractable arms they use for at-grade motor vehicle crossings? They seem like an ideal solution – they block the crossing when there’s a train coming (people would have to get off and pull their bike under them to continue into danger) but don’t impede when there’s no train. That means that they are less likely to be ignored when there is a train. Plus, less annoying for people biking.

If such retractable arms are more expensive – shouldn’t cost be no object? Isn’t TriMet giving funding back to the federal government?

davemess
Guest
davemess

Yeah, I don’t understand why those aren’t being considered? They have them on the max line out in Hillsboro/beaverton. We have them for the bridges.
The definitely should put some in at the SW Moody MAX crossing as well.

Why do we need to reinvent the wheel here?

jeff
Guest
jeff

the SW Moody crossing is dangerous man…someone (idiot) on a bike will be injured or killed there. Tri-met has folks out there now informing everyone and I still seeing riders blowing the warning lights almost daily.

davemess
Guest
davemess

Yes, I”m worried about that one. I know it would have increased the budget substantially, but I wish they had looked to put the MAX under the road and path (esp. since SW Moody was completely redone a few years prior).

Chris I
Guest
Chris I

That would put it in the flood plain. That was the whole point of rebuilding Moody. They could have done an elevated flyover, but that would have added cost.

Eric Leifsdad
Guest
Eric Leifsdad

Would that have anything to do with months of pointless red lights? I think that was some kind of training exercise to make sure nobody cares whether they are red or green.

Jayson
Guest
Jayson

I’m amazed that even with bells and flashing lights, people continue to act so dangerously. It’s not just the bicyclist who would be affected (likely killed). The operator’s emergency brakes might cause people on the train to get injured. Then there’s the disruption to transit service and blocked roads for hours for the investigation to conclude (lesser impact than human life, but still it’s another negative effect).

Slowing down the trains will not reduce the risk if someone’s biking too fast and not paying attention (as has happened downtown where trains travel about 15mph). It would likely still take 100’s of feet for a train to slow down. Unfortunately, it seems like the gates are a necessary evil, particularly if we are committing to Vision Zero. Boo…

Spiffy
Guest
Spiffy

it feels to me as if cars block the tracks more than people and I haven’t heard of any extra measures being taken to separate cars after incidents…

here we have no incidents but they’re taking action…

Bald One
Guest
Bald One

I’ve been down there recently with bells ringing and no trains in sight in any direction. They are testing many things, and I think a lot of people realize that the area is under test, and these people proceed with caution after observing the bells and signals.

They have done a poor job of building out the little details on the bike paths in this area.

Spiffy
Guest
Spiffy

closed gates with arrows pointing left and right generally indicate that you can’t proceed forward… I don’t see anything on the gate that indicates you can push/pull it and proceed through it…

Martha
Guest
Martha

Why can’t they use automatic gates like the ones that cross a road?

davemess
Guest
davemess

Because those haven’t been tested and accepted as typical infrastructure on the road for the last 50+ years……………

Spiffy
Guest
Spiffy

hilarious! that video example of bikes approaching gates being used as the basis for the gates is about as believable as the “this is your brain on drugs” commercials…

I see 2 cyclists cautiously approach and wait for the train to pass… no sudden braking… not looking the other way… just the usual response from somebody about to cross an active track…

nobody it taking TriMet seriously with this…

Indy
Guest
Indy

Uh, serious? This was a design screw-up from conception. This whole area is a disaster waiting to happen. Freight Trains, passenger trains, heavy commercial trucks, buses, cars, motorcycles, bikes, pedestrians, street lights, gates, a blind curve in both directions, train noises so common people ignore them, intersections that cross from every conceivable angle? Industrial traffic? So many signs you have to sit there for 20 seconds before comprehension?

It’s a complete clusterfuck.

> “He also pointed out that being preoccupied with opening and closing a gate is a hazard in and of itself.”

I absolutely agree with this. People will just get frustrated and prop them up, damage them, or otherwise find ways around this… within days.

ricochet
Guest
ricochet

hours.

Editz
Guest
Editz

Remember the good old days when these were around and it could be assumed folks had half a brain?

http://tinyurl.com/qcqa2ot

tnash
Guest
tnash

Fully agree. I tried it a out a few times instead of Ladd’s, and it Sucked, for all of the reasons you mentioned. Never again

tedder
Guest

So, in places where car drivers are in the habit of crashing into bicyclists, we’ll be getting swing gates for the car drivers, right? I’m thinking the first gates will be installed from the roundabout to SE Ladd, the left turn from Powell to 26th, and on Clinton. I’m sure they are going to install those at the same time, since they will prevent similar fatality rates, right?

Oh wait, it’ll never happen, because Cars Are Special. They have accidents. Bicyclists are out of control.

(I think this was Lizbon’s idea on Twitter, but I could have the source wrong)

lop
Guest
lop

The gates are to keep cyclists and pedestrians from killing themselves, not from hurting others. A better analogy would then be some sort of traffic calming that slows down all drivers in response to the occasional bad driver dying or getting hurt by flipping their car on a tight turn or something.

El Biciclero
Guest
El Biciclero

Or drivers crossing freight rail tracks—what do they do for that?

pdxfixed
Guest

This will lead to 100% of bike users taking the street instead of the path.

gl.
Guest
gl.

Pretty much. A gate will insures nobody will use this part of the path.

TonyT
Guest
Tony T

This is a very complex area and I can’t say that I’m surprised with TriMet’s concern. When I go through there, there is often a lot going on and I can easily imagine someone getting distracted by the wrong thing. I keep thinking that it will only be a matter of time before someone is killed. The whole set-up seems flawed.

The gate option seems pretty flawed too. Navigating these at rush hour, where you’ve got to handle several bikes in a row, I can easily imagine someone getting frustrated and just propping/tying the gates open.

I find the zig zag crossings that point you toward the potentially oncoming train to be more intuitive and simpler.

SJ
Guest
SJ

As a daily bike commuter, I’m always amazed at how dangerously people ride, despite design meant to increase their safety. These gates will likely prevent at least one death (of someone on a bike or walking, because of some kind of carelessness–earphones, inattention, inexperience, drinking, etc.). If I have to slow down or open a gate, I have to remember that I’m on a bike for a reason: I want to slow down at least a little; I’m not in a car thinking every light and sign is a hindrance.

soren
Guest
soren

this kind of 2nd class treatment in the context of a 1.5 billion project is completely unacceptable.

9watts
Guest
9watts

“a 1.5 billion project”
maybe it is the other way around… they have money left over, remember, and now they’re looking for/dreaming up ways to spend it.

shuppatsu
Guest
shuppatsu

Wondering what happened to the “safety trumps convenience” argument argument so prevalent in other BP threads.

George H.
Guest
George H.

Unfortunately many here really do think that cyclists can do no wrong.

ethan
Guest
ethan

To me, opening and going through two separate gates on a fully loaded cargo bike on an active train line sounds a LOT more dangerous than looking both ways when crossing tracks. I cross the MAX tracks and streetcar tracks every day on bike and walking and there’s never been any sort of issue. If there was a gate, it would just be frustrating, and possibly less safe (getting stuck between gates)

SilkySlim
Guest
SilkySlim

Apparently nobody here actually has been near these intersections or reviewed the locations.

The locations chosen are almost exclusively pedestrian crossing.

Doug Klotz
Guest
Doug Klotz

Cycling, I use the 8th avenue crossings, to get onto Division from the Tillikum path.

Spiffy
Guest
Spiffy

almost…

going SE on Division the bike lane dumps you into the 8th Ave sidewalk to the rail crossing…

the other options for cyclists aren’t great…

they failed to put in bike lanes when they remodeled, as they are required when redesigning a road… instead they gave us wide sidewalks… so now they’re essentially putting gates on bike lanes…

Buzz
Guest
Buzz

I use the pedestrian crossings on my bike too, several less signals to wait for that way, as opposed to using the road.

Ben
Guest
Ben

I didn’t think is was possible for this crossing to be more confusing and inconvenient, but I guess I was wrong! The signal phases are bizarre. There’s no indication of whether they’re automated or riders need to request a crossing. I still haven’t figured out how I’m intended to get from the bikeway west of 11th to Clinton.

I usually wait for green arrows at Tilikum Way and 11th, then turn left on red at 12th, then right onto Clinton. Is this what I’m supposed to do? I can’t tell. I’ve seen a lot of other riders cross 11th in the crosswalk, ride up the west side of 12th on the sidewalk, and cross at Clinton. Others just transcribe a slow curve through both streets and the tracks.

Adam H.
Guest
Adam H.

It’s confusing for me as well. Sometimes I’m expected to follow the bike signal (If I can see it, that is) and sometimes the walk signal. It’s all very inconsistent.

Heather
Guest
Heather

I’m confused. I watched that video through twice and it appears to me that all pedestrians and cyclists behaved appropriately? The two cyclists on the left were stopped about 4 feet from the fence and didn’t approach at a high rate of speed. Am I missing something?

Alan Love
Guest
Alan Love

I watched without audio, so perhaps there was some yelling from the Trimet guys on the other side of the fence? But I agree with you. I didn’t anything dangerous. Perhaps this is a lawsuit avoidance measure.

I cross the tracks of the red line out in Beaverton occasionally. There’s a bit of a forced jink to put you in the visual line of sight of a train coming and forces you to slow down a bit. It’s quite effective, doesn’t take up much room, and doesn’t require anything like a dismount. This swing gate that requires one to pull the thing towards you is just unnecessarily inconvenient on a regular bike, and would like prevent use by some (cargo bikes, loaded bikes, anyone with a disability).

Finally, if the motorized lift gate isn’t an option because of vandalism, why are they used for cars?

Doug Klotz
Guest
Doug Klotz

Wilkinson described a Tri-met designed powered swing gate they had installed in Hillsboro. He said people climbed on it and then pushed the button to operate it. Sounds like a failure of design by them. It was not a lift-up gate that he described.

9watts
Guest
9watts

I had the same reaction. Tempest + Teapot?

gutterbunnybikes
Guest

I actually think that a bigger concern is the fact there are no road gates on the north side of the tracks on 12th. With all the traffic coming off Clinton with multiple options of which way to skirt around and no gates at all.

Depending on the circumstance there are people that take to the sidewalk on the east side of the road and use the crosswalks to the south, other cross and use the sidewalks on the west side of 12th. I admit I’m guilty of using both methods.

Regardless of which is proper, there is no warning system before the tracks for those that are traveling south on 12th. Not even a line to designate a safe distance to stop and wait for train traffic to pass. This whole section wasn’t planned very well from the beginning, and the lack of it is becoming more apparent every time I ride that stretch.

spencer
Guest
spencer

how about they build bike infra’ without crossing tracks 15 billion times in one mile????

rachel b
Guest
rachel b

“Coozer said TriMet has done everything it can to promote safety around the tracks, but, “We continue to see people go fast through these crossings without looking — even with lights flashing, bells ringing, and so on.””

After spending 7+ years living in the Clinton neighborhood and then moving away because of the relentless, federally-mandated blasting train horns (yes, the trains were there when we moved there, but train traffic—all traffic–underwent a dramatic upsurge about a year after), we moved back only because we know the Quiet Zone is in place.

I came to the heartless conclusion years ago that people intent on ignoring already-overkill alarms, warnings, gates, signs etc. deserve whatever the hell they get. America is an eardrum-shatterer of nervewracking beepings, horn blastings, clanging bells, dire warning signs and save-us-from-ourselves gates and obstacles. It makes me want to throttle the scofflaws.

9watts
Guest
9watts

“It makes me want to throttle the scofflaws.”

It makes me want to throttle those (bureaucrats?) who insist on adding to the din.

rachel b
Guest
rachel b

Heh. 🙂

Jim and Becky
Guest
Jim and Becky

Any reason the bike/pedestrian lanes can go UNDER the tracks, tunnel like?

DC
Guest
DC

Well if the Vision Zero point applies to the train, that it should slow down in these areas, it should also apply to cyclists. A train slowing from 35 to 20 for a half mile may cost the riders 10 seconds or so. A cyclist dismounting, going through the gates also costs about 10 seconds. The idea for each is the small time cost can save a life…or am I missing something?

If we’re asking TriMet and its passengers (and motorists in analogous scenarios) to slow down to save lives, why is that unfair to ask of pedestrians and cyclists – especially when it’s their own lives?

9watts
Guest
9watts

Interesting. What about the relative dangers posed by the two modes? Does that factor into our assessment of which should throttle its speed?

mikeybikey
Guest
mikeybikey

From the pictures it appears that In order to exit this nonsense while riding the bakfiets, I would have to dismount the bike, leaving the bicycle with my children inside of it SITTING ON THE TRAIN TRACKS. What genius thinks this is safer than just letting people figure out how to not get hit by a train on their own? Stupid people, Stupid Ideas.

Spiffy
Guest
Spiffy

with most bike you can bump it open with the front wheel on your way out… it’s coming in that’s tricky…

George H.
Guest
George H.

This is probably the wrong time to climb on a giant cross about how unfair it is that cars and bikes aren’t treated exactly equal. If it took Trimet attendants to stop cyclists from crossing when a train is approaching, then those people ruined it for everyone (they just *had* to rush to save a few seconds….hmmm that sounds familiar to what motorists do).

We expect cars to suck it up they can’t save 30 seconds when we take the lane. Nobody’s going to suffer because *gasp* they have to dismount for less than that and open a gate.

Keep in mind that a LRT colliding with a pedestrian/cyclist at any speed will likely result in death. The indignation over this really seems like drama-queening.

soren
Guest
soren

so trimet’s solution to an infrastructure problem of their own making is to require many hundreds of people to stop, dismount, and open a gate. can you provide a single example of a similar facility where motorists are required to stop, exit their vehicles, and open a gate to proceed?

9watts
Guest
9watts

hear, hear.

Buzz
Guest
Buzz

Only in cow country

Alex Reed
Guest
Alex Reed

If there’s a non-obnoxious safety solution available (automated gates like are used for motor vehicle crossings) and money available to pay for it, protesting an obnoxious solution seems totally warranted.

Spiffy
Guest
Spiffy

if it was needed then it wouldn’t be unfair…

JJJJ
Guest
JJJJ

Can someone tell me what were looking at in the video? I see two bicyclists approach very slowly and stop well behind the safety line. I see two safety ambassadors casually leaning on the fence observing. Did they upload the wrong video…? Wheres the danger?

I think the fences are a fantastic idea, just as soon as every intersection gets one and drivers are required to open gates before proceeding across any bicycle lane.

Buzz
Guest
Buzz

I little OT, but I’m going to repost my comment from the SW Moody thread regarding the design and operation of the SE 8th and Division intersection, because I think it’s relevant to this discussion:

They still could have done a whole lot more to make some intersections, like the new SE 8th and Division intersection, more bike-friendly. This intersection was designed with right-turn slip lanes just like the ones being removed from other locations (e.g. both ends of the Hawthorne bridge); this is an obsolete and dangerous design for cyclists. Plus the signals at this location are biased for motorists; for example, motorists heading east on SE Division have a constantly green right turn signal to SE 8th unless a cyclist or pedestrian proactively activates the walk signal with the cross walk activator button.

Spiffy
Guest
Spiffy

as they slow motorists down in one place on the street they speed them up on another…

they just made the light at SE Foster and 65th a constant green for Foster and now peds have to use the beg-button… before it was timed and I didn’t have to beg to cross the street…

so they’re still prioritizing cars even while claiming not to…

davemess
Guest
davemess

I”m glad they changed that (although I haven’t gone through yet to experience). Most of the time that light didn’t have any cars or peds waiting. And I’ll be just as glad if they leave it that way when they put the bike lanes in next year and I’m riding through and don’t have to stop for no one.
Is it really that much of an ask to just push a button? You might get the light faster now sometimes.

lop
Guest
lop

Depends how they’re configured. Some are horrible, some are fine. Say a beg button has a minimum green time that’s reasonable, say thirty seconds, and as long as it’s been green that long it turns yellow the second someone requests to cross. Sometimes it’s like that, but with an unreasonable minimum green time of four minutes. Sometimes it’s just obnoxious, where instead of a minimum green time it’s on a timer, so that the light is green when the signal on either side is green. But instead of turning red with the other ones it stays green, and only goes red if someone requests to cross before it would’ve turned red. So it might be green for ten minutes, but still won’t go red for another two after someone requests to cross, no matter what traffic levels are like, because you got it at the wrong time in the cycle.

dan
Guest
dan

I commute with a trailer frequently, and don’t think I could get through these gates with my trailer.

Spiffy
Guest
Spiffy

I pictured my trailer getting caught and then a train approaches while I’m parking my bike to go back and unhook it from the gate… then my bike falls over on the tracks and I’m picking everything up in a hurry so I don’t get smashed like a mouse in a trap…

Adam H.
Guest
Adam H.

Why not build an overcrossing instead?

Buzz
Guest
Buzz

Agreed, many commuter rail systems have been actively eliminating at-grade crossings for many years due to their hazards; yet we’re still getting poorly designed new at-grade crossings, wtf?

davemess
Guest
davemess

I”m going to guess cost.

Adam H.
Guest
Adam H.

The PMLR project came in $34 million under budget. Surely there are enough funds for an overcrossing.

davemess
Guest
davemess

Also requires a decent amount of real estate.
Same type of debate we had about the lack of a ramp next to the OHSU tram, where a minimum angle of the ramp requires a lot of space.

John
Guest
John

My heart is set on a Hovenring.

Spiffy
Guest
Spiffy

they thought about it…

http://bikeportland.org/2010/09/15/light-rail-project-funding-gap-could-impact-bike-parking-access-39603

it would have cost too much…

now they have extra money…

sound like a job for Captain Hindsight!

Nathan Hinkle (NearlyKilledMe and The Bike Light Database)
Guest

It seems like if anything this would introduce a new safety hazard. The gates block the exit as well, meaning that it’s harder to escape from the ROW when a train is coming, especially if you have a larger bike, a trailer, etc. Trying to hustle your bike through the cumbersome gate while a train bears down on you sure sounds safe doesn’t it!

El Biciclero
Guest
El Biciclero

The gates appear to be pull-to-enter, push-to-exit; so you could just blast your way out without having to stop and pull open the gate. In Theory(tm)

Jeff
Guest
Jeff

Have they seen where the I-205 bike path crosses the blue line tracks at Burnside? If you’re heading south on the bike path and then turning west on Burnside, you can’t see the Eastbound Blue Line until it’s right on top of you. There is NOTHING, not even a signal (there is a signal to CROSS Burnside, but not one to make a right onto Burnside).

davemess
Guest
davemess

Yes that little intersection is terrible!

gl.
Guest
gl.

And yet they don’t have a gate!

Jeff
Guest
Jeff

EXACTLY.

Spiffy
Guest
Spiffy

I hate that intersection…

Christopher Sanderson
Guest

Why not just keep the paid attendants? They’ll probably spend more on EIRs, engineer fees, designers, and fabricating the gates than they would if they paid someone to hang out there and warn pedestrians and cyclists about a train. Hey, why not make a booth out of it, and move a few Trimet office jobs there? They can surf the internet while working, and get alerts when a train is coming. Ha!

Ted Buehler
Guest

The 2009 MUTCD provides two types of bike/ped railroad crossing controls. See Chapter 8: Traffic Control for Railroad and Light Rail Transit Grade Crossings:
http://mutcd.fhwa.dot.gov/pdfs/2009/part8.pdf

Swing gates are MUTCD approved. See Figure 8C-8 But they are not designed for a bicycle thoroughfare, as a person on a bicycle needs to stop regardless of whether or not a train is present. If bicycle volumes were very low and train volumes high, sure, put in “swing gates”.

Vertical gates, Figure 8C-6 are also approved. They appear to me to be the correct control device for these locations, because they allow free-flow of bicycle cross traffic when there are no trains present.

Ted Buehler

Doug Klotz
Guest
Doug Klotz

If you’ve ever watched a person with good arm strength try to reach out and open a door toward them while using a wheelchair, I think you’ll agree that the gates allowed in the railroad regulations are not an ideal situation. The railroad regulations are, I think, an example of the concept of universal access being diluted by those writing the regulations (perhaps), or the industry affected. Obviously those using a powered chair, with limited hand movement to control the chair, will not be able to use these gates.

The solution is out there, as my photo shows. I suspect it’s significantly more expensive though.

rider
Guest
rider

I often ride with both of my children on my bike, one in the seat up front and one in the seat on back. I don’t see how I would be able to navigate these gates when taking them to daycare. People using bakfeits would similarly have real challenges with these gates. I’m not opposed to safety measures and inconveniences caused by them, but these seem pretty poorly thought out. Also, that video doesn’t seem to show much in the way of danger. One bicyclist was fully stopped and the other was slowly rolling up to the fence showing intent to stop and stopped well before the gate.

Doug Klotz
Guest
Doug Klotz

Other jurisdictions have already addressed this. Use an automatic gate, like an auto crossing, but shorter. Beside it, put one of the outswinging springloaded gates, so no one can get trapped inside.

I’ll try to include a photo here:

http://www.cityblm.org/modules/showimage.aspx?imageid=1596

If this works, you’ll see an installation in Bloomberg (Odell) Illinois, for a High Speed Rail line. It has an automatic gate, as well as a swing gate for “escape”.

tedder
Guest

Great example of the “combined” gate/arm, Doug. Here’s another example of that same strategy in Pasadena, Calif: https://goo.gl/5Ni9PM

El Biciclero
Guest
El Biciclero

Yeah, but wouldn’t those arms get “vandalized and abused by the public”?

Doug Klotz
Guest
Doug Klotz

I like how they built a residential (?) building over the Light Rail tracks. Now THATS transit-oriented development. (Yes, theres an office building over tracks in San Diego too)

Spiffy
Guest
Spiffy

PERFECT!

Tom Hardy
Guest
Tom Hardy

Last Tuesday I was approaching the 5th ave crossing of Beaverton-Hillsdale highway on my bike and a local policeman pulled a U-turn in front of me and stopped. He apologized for blocking me and the lane as he turned to his radio to report that the railroad bar had been knocked off earlier by a motorist just before the train had arrived. When he was done on the radio, I asked how often it happens? He replied “About once a week.”
Hillsboro said it was a maintenance headache when some gangbangers broke a small swing gate?

Jack
Guest
Jack

I cross here at least twice every day on my commute. People walking/running/biking breeze right through because it’s entirely safe to do so. You can see 1000+ feet in both directions. The trains are not going to sneak up on anyone.

If TriMet is concerned that people are not stopping for buses/trains that aren’t there yet, TriMet has problems. Their video shows two people on bikes waiting patiently while the train goes by. What more is expected?

gutterbunnybikes
Guest

As much as I’d like to be proved wrong. I can almost guarantee you something will happen as someone traveling south on 12th takes off in a hurry -after a commercial rail goes by and rides/or walks right in front of a Max train. Not as big of an issue heading north since the freight line traffic would be obvious behind the Max.

Commercial trains are bigger, and make a lot more noise than the max does it would be very easy to fall for this trap – especially if one is in a hurry and upset that they had to wait for the freight train to begin with.

Since the Max isn’t running on a set schedule right now with crossing guards while they do their test runs, you can’t really say it’s going to be same as it is now once things get going.

jeff
Guest
jeff

I’ve seen Amtrak move through that intersection at well over 50mph on the UP tracks.

Psyfalcon
Guest
Psyfalcon

UP tracks wont have gates anyway.

Matt- Bike Milwaukie
Guest

I’ve been through the swing gates in Milwaukie repeatedly with a bike trailer over the last two weeks and it works well (although I wish they had put them on both sides of the tracks and not just the East side). It seems like a very cost effective way to solve a potentially dangerous problem of people not paying attention to the trains. I completely understand the concerns of folks with larger cargo bikes and perhaps there is some simple solution that can be devised to alleviate those concerns without electric motors and push buttons?

I know we all want to flow effortlessly along on our bikes, but the swing gates are a pretty small inconvenience compared to the many other good bike related pieces of this light rail project (not saying the project is perfect, because it is far from that).

Alex Reed
Guest
Alex Reed

I think you’re accepting the tiny amount of funding put towards bike infrastructure as a given. Why does safety for bikes have to be “cost-effective” even if obnoxious, while more-expensive automated gates for motor vehicle lanes that minimize inconvenience are totally normal? If there’s a solution that’s more convenient for bike travel and still keeps people safe, why wouldn’t we as bike advocates stump for it?

Convenience impacts use. Use impacts health. Health impacts everything.

Matt- Bike Milwaukie
Guest

There are a number of important bike/ped elements that got cut out of this project which didn’t get put back in when they had money left over at the end (stairs from the Springwater Trail down to the Tacoma station come to mind as one element). I’d rather spread the money around and get multiple elements built than invest a lot of $ in more expensive gates at these crossings (which I agree would be nice). There is only so much money to go around.

Alex Reed
Guest
Alex Reed

I agree that these are probably not the highest priority in absolute terms. I don’t know if TriMet is still open to suggestions for $ spending but if they are, maybe we could come up with a proposal together?

Doug Klotz
Guest
Doug Klotz

BTW, at the BAC meeting, I asked Wilkinson to bring to the Pedestrian Advisory Committee meeting next Tuesday, a video showing a quadriplegic using a power chair navigating one of these gates. His response was that they don’t see many quadrplegics in that area, and they can’t design for the 1 percent of folks that can’t use the gates.

Spiffy
Guest
Spiffy

ADA compliance is specifically for designing for those small minority of people that need ease of access…

they are required to comply to both the Bicycle Bill and the ADA and build decent infrastructure for all…

pixie
Guest
pixie

Awful. Having spent the last two weeks biking in the Netherlands, I’m disappointed to return to such immature transportation infrastructure in Portland, let alone the state or country. Bikes, pedestrians, trams, cars, busses, and pedestrians manage to coexist and cross paths without such a heavy hand over here. Granted, it’s a smaller country, etc., but Portland is small enough to work on transportation improvement for all modes, yet is already behind other U.S. cities in building a better overall system and not really doing much about it.

Perhaps we need a multi-jurisdiction entity to deal with transportation in this region. We might then have had a complete bike/ped path along all newly built light rail lines. Tri-Met is not in the bike infrastructure business, so it’s hardly surprising that it was never planned in the first place. Instead, we get piece-meal efforts that may work well in a limited fashion, but the lack of solid and safe connectivity, and the lack of adequate end-point bike parking options really constrains the ability to grow in this area.

david hampsten
Guest
david hampsten

“Perhaps we need a multi-jurisdiction entity to deal with transportation in this region.”

We already have one. It’s called Metro. They are utterly ineffective.

pdx2wheeler
Guest
pdx2wheeler

Maybe the trains could roll slowly, and safely, through this section to avoid avoidable collisions with humans? Also, a 25 cent bungee cord could easily be installed to circumvent this security measure.

rachel b
Guest
rachel b

I haven’t seen a train go at anything but a crawl through there for ages. I guess Amtrak may go at a faster clip? The tracks are congested and freight trains seem to go slowly through the entirety of Portland.

jeffb
Guest
jeffb

Amtrak does go pretty fast, relative to the freight trains.

Spiffy
Guest
Spiffy

Amtrak will have to slow down and stop for the line of people trying to get through the gate…

ethan
Guest
ethan

These gates are not good infrastructure. I don’t normally condone road violence, but if these gates are installed, I will deliberately hit them with my (quite large) bike at full speed every time I come across them until they break.

dan
Guest
dan

I think you might be on to something. I could see breakaway gates or arms here that would allow a cyclist to ride through — maybe at a reduced speed — and hinged so that they give way in front of the bike.

Psyfalcon
Guest
Psyfalcon

You should be able to do that one the way out at least. They have similar gates at some of the stations (not through streets, trimet!) and thats what I did after going through the first set.

Granpa
Guest
Granpa

I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. Leadership in City Hall with their meetings, committees and inaction mock the concept of Vision Zero. The bike routing at the end of the nation’s newest alternative transportation bridge is so poorly designed that it is a maze of confusion and before it even opens, afterthought repairs are needed to address safety issues that anyone with two wheels could have predicted years ago. If Portland is a magnet to the “creative class” , why wasn’t a Sim-City model run on the shared modes? Why weren’t bicyclists brought into the design process? (or if they were in the design process, why is it reflex to dismiss their opinions?). The town is being run by book-smart idiots.

scott
Guest
scott

Can we get swing gates at 100 yard intervals in the auto lanes on Barber? I’d support that.

q`Tzal
Guest
q`Tzal

Do the automotive RR crossings have a crossing guard?
If the answer is anything other than “YES, at all crossings” then there is nothing behind this than anti-bicycle bias.

I watched that first video purported to show evidence that these bike gates are needed. All I saw were stopped bikes.

Are we simply to take the word of someone who drove to a job that entailed standing around and watching bicycle riders going by?

These people were pre-biased with the mission of preventing “lawless & suicidal bike riders from killing themselves” and we expect that over the course of several days standing around they aren’t going to have grown that bias in to a firm grudge against bicycles in general?

Vision Zero: YES!
Equal safety for bikes, cars and peds: YES!

So that means they need to budget for crossing guards for all automotive, bicycle and pedestrian crossings at railways, not just punish the evil bikers.

Psyfalcon
Guest
Psyfalcon

I was going from the bridgehead area, to Clinton, on the sidewalk. I briefly stopped at the corner and one of the corner people started scurrying over quite quickly.

I’m sure they’ve been told that people with yellow helmets on commuter bikes are going to be throwing themselves into traffic, otherwise, why in the world would you need to hurry to an intersection where someone stopped? I suppose they could have been trying to be helpful, but I’ve never seen someone in that much of a hurry to be helpful.

Also, if you need temporary crossing guards for your new infrastructure… something is wrong with your new infrastructure or your risk assessment.

gutterbunnybikes
Guest

So am I reading the overheads right.

At 11th and 12th:

If you are traveling west off Clinton you’re suppose to cross 12th, head south pass the tracks, head west – turn towards the north before crossing 11th- push past those gates and zig zag your way north/northwest to cross 11th (by the parking lot) on the north side of the tracks, then turn south on the west side of 11th turn south over the tracks again – push through the other gates before heading west on the path?

I’ve ridden through there dozens – if not a 100 times, and that route through never occurred to me. I’ve just always turned south and headed west via the cross walk, or when going the other way I usually take the lane because it’s (kind of – little bit gray) a right on red if traffic allows – left on red onto a one way at 12th. Which other than at rush hour is always faster than waiting for the bike signal.

Psyfalcon
Guest
Psyfalcon

I think your first way is right. The crossings they want to gate for for going up the sidewalk on 11th.

The green bike lane going east towards 12th though is a bit of a head shaker to me. Why? All to get to Gideon where they could have just widened the path?

gutterbunnybikes
Guest

Think I’ll just stick with my way.

Not like there is a riding on sidewalk ban – not that there could be one either with the way that path is laid out.

Paul Souders
Guest
Paul Souders

Ugh. I have complaints but I’d just be piling on.

But I find it ironic that all the “bike” infra laid down around the Orange Line and Tillicum bridge, from 17th all the way to PSU, have had the effect of slowing my commute and making it more confusing. I avoid it as much as possible.

Makes me wonder who these “improvements” are for. It seems more like trying to protect TriMet and solo drivers from exposure to bikes and peds. Get back in your designated zone, nonmotorized citizens!

davemess
Guest
davemess

Yet another example that different levels of infrastructure are needed/desired for different types of riders.

Bald One
Guest
Bald One

You haven’t even seen the bus vs bike issues that will arise when they start pushing buses into that turn around and bus mall area there by 8th and Division Place – all across the bike path.

Concerned bicyclist
Guest
Concerned bicyclist

I’ve been stuck at this crossing for 45 minutes… so believe me, If i can make it across this before the gates go down I will. Also the gate timing is soo poor that you could wait up to 120 seconds before a train even comes down the tracks. Also the fact that there are 4 train tracks here means that I’ll do anything I can to get across. On a bicyclee the crossing is even worse coming down from clinton bike roads, you end up going down the wrong way against traffic, onto a sidewalk, and then end up on a sidewalk slash pedestrain sidewalk.

Eric
Guest
Eric

That video was totally anticlimactic