Site icon BikePortland

Videos show difficulties navigating TriMet’s swing gates

Buffered Bike Lane with a bike symbol and arrow pointing forward

A new video just released by veteran transportation reform advocate Doug Klotz (we profiled him back in November) shows that the new swing gates installed by TriMet along the Orange Line in inner southeast Portland pose a significant barrier to people in motorized wheelchairs.

In the video, Joe VenderVeer, a former chair of the Portland Commission on Disability, can be seen struggling to open the gate. After lots of trial-and-error, VanderVeer does get through — but only because of his amazing chair-driving skills and a dazzling reverse spin move.

Joe VanderVeer trying to use the gate.

TriMet’s swing gates have been roundly criticized by cycling and walking advocates because of how they unecessarily limit use of the path along the new Orange Line. TriMet says they are needed for safety (there is both a light rail and heavy rail line and it’s a no-horn “quiet zone”).

When we first reported on the gates back in July, TriMet heard a wave of opposition. The gates were then officially opposed by City’s pedestrian and bicycle advisory committees.

The bike advsiory committee was worried about “the operating difficulties they will impose on members of the traveling public” and the pedestrian committee said, “swing gates still create an unnecessarily difficult barrier for people using wheelchairs and other mobility devices. No one deserves that disadvantage when there are better ideas on the table.”

TriMet changed their plans in response to these objections; but they still moved forward with swing gates at SE 11th. To bolster their case for the gates, TriMet released a video of their own showing a wheelchair user easily getting through.

Klotz remains concerned for users like VanderVeer. It’s a concern he first raised last summer. People with limited hand movement to control their chairs, he said in a BikePortland comment on July 16th, “will not be able to use these gates.” Now he’s got the video to prove it.

We sent TriMet the video and asked for their response: “Now that the gate installation is complete, we are monitoring how they work. We appreciate users’ observations and feedback.” You can tell TriMet what you think via their comment page.

UPDATE: Here are two more videos that show local women trying to get through the gates with their loaded cargo bikes:

— Jonathan Maus, (503) 706-8804 –

BikePortland can’t survive without paid subscribers. Please sign up today.