I used the Lafayette Street Bridge for the first time last week. And I liked it.
The bridge was completed by TriMet in 2015 as part of the Orange Line MAX project and creates a connection over railroad tracks in the Brooklyn neighborhood between SE Lafayette and Rhine streets. It’s the only crossing of the tracks between Holgate and Powell (major arterials).
I used it as a way to get back to the Willamette river (via the Orange Line) from the industrial area off of SE 21st south of Powell. I was visiting Portland Design Works and a few of the employees there raved about the bridge — saying it makes their daily commute much easier. They also said the elevator had been very reliable. I was worried about reliability since the elevator that services the Gibbs Street Bridge under the Aerial Tram in south waterfront has been anything but. (Note: TriMet manages the Lafayette Bridge, the City of Portland manages the Gibbs Bridge.)
When we first reported on the bridge in September 2015 we said it would, “be a useful link to people looking to head east or west using the bikeway on Gladstone Street, including people moving between downtown Portland and Reed College, Woodstock and Creston-Kenilworth.”
So far my hunch is that it’s been a success. I base that partly on how easy it was for me to use last week — and also because I haven’t heard a peep about it from anyone.
Have any of you incorporated it into your daily riding? And if so, how do you like it?
UPDATE: Thanks for all your comments. Here is some feedback we heard from readers via Twitter:
Okay, I suppose, but I'd rather have a ramp.
— Jerry (@gwhilts) November 7, 2016
we take it several times a week & it's nice
— Paul Souders (@axoplasm) November 7, 2016
— Jonathan Maus, (503) 706-8804 – email@example.com
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It’s a nice facility to use – clean, reliable, surprisingly quick – and kids love it! I’d say the physical elevator itself is definitely a success.
Some of the rules, etc. around it though… For one thing, it’s officially illegal to ride your bike on the bridge. I just ignore it, like everyone else I see with a bike there, but absurdities like this just add to the alienation that people who bike feel from our government policy regarding transportation.
The approaches on either side leave a little bit to be desired, though. On the west side, southbound, you have the choice of either riding on the sidewalk from three blocks or crossing the street twice to stay on the bike facility until Lafayette. No big deal, but less than ideal given that the entire street was redone at the same time as the bridge went in. On the east side (and this is the real deal breaker), there is lots of high-speed, impatient cut-through motor vehicle traffic on SE 22nd and Gladstone at commute times (and the narrow door-zone lanes on Gladstone add no comfort at all).
So, although it exists in a convenient spot for me, I don’t use it personally unless a freight train is blocking the tracks up at the environs of 12th & Clinton. I travel out of direction to Clinton instead because of the inconvenience and discomfort of the surrounding streets.
Bike riding bans are absurd. They send the message that the government doesn’t trust us to ride bikes without running over kids – as if they think we’re all racing road bikes at full speed or something. I just ignore those paternalistic rules anyway. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
I love the absurd “no bike riding” signs in many public garages (Vancouver had a few) that have bike parking racks…so no bike riding to your parking spot!…even though car drivers can drive to the spot next to it. LoL
Yup. Also the bans on cycling in Pioneer Courthouse Square and Director Park are ridiculous. I’ve been yelled at by the rent-a-cops there for riding at walking speed. What kind of public square doesn’t allow slow cycling?
It’s common in other municipalities and on college campuses. If foot traffic is spread out enough that riding among peds at slow speed is safe, I pedal as little as possible using just one foot and let the other hang just over the ground.
yes, I push as if on a skateboard…
Still trying to get the pieces of kid off my bike after my last road ride…
Now how about those silly laws where the government doesn’t trust us to drive safely.
If you are going to flout select laws, don’t get aggrieved when others do as well.
Can you think of any other standards that might be relevant to whether one gets aggrieved rather than legal/illegal? Don’t get aggrieved when I think that you sometimes comment on this forum to rile up other people rather than to speak your true, thought-through opinions.
Cyclists don’t kill 30,000 people per year with their bikes.
As a driver, bicyclist, and pedestrian, I get much less aggrieved when someone jaywalks than I do when someone drives their car through a red light. Not all rules present the same danger when broken. Not all vehicles present the same danger when breaking the same rules. Would you be so quick to use a specific example of “if you want to roll through stop signs on your bike, then don’t get aggrieved when someone decides to drive their SUV down a busy sidewalk”. Both would be selective flouting of laws.
Kudos for using “flout” instead of “flaunt”, BTW.
So you really don’t care about Vision Zero?
Infrastructure alone will not bring about Vision Zero. To reduce the risk there will have to be rules, that everyone will have to abide by to make everyone safe.
It seems that you only care about your convenience over reducing risk. Yes it is a small risk, but velocity and mass make you higher on the food chain than a pedestrian. For that reason a MUP style bridge like this one will require risk reduction by having cyclists walk their bikes.
Well, I actually do have my concerns about Vision Zero. Optimizing on only one variable (direct deaths in traffic collisions) does have the potential to ignore lots of other, also valuable variables (deaths from cardiovascular illness because of cycling not performed e.g. because of inconvenience from excessive laws like this; deaths from floods and heat waves exacerbated by climate change exacerbated by people driving rather than biking or walking because biking or walking is inconvenient because Vision Zero is interpreted to, human joy from being outside rather than cooped up in a car, improved child development from the independence of being able to get around on one’s own before the age of 16, etc).
No, I don’t think that we should interpret Vision Zero so as to require walking bikes on all MUPs. The risk to pedestrians is extremely small compared to the benefit to society of people biking.
If you have been on this bridge, you know that the bridge is short (so no one is going to get up to high speed biking) and the sightlines are good. There’s really no need for this rule in my opinion.
Non sequitur. That’s a long stretch from “I should be able to cycle at a safe speed in a public plaza” to “I really don’t care about Vision Zero”.
Because you demand that drivers abide by the same paternalistic rules. If you decide which rules to follow why doesn’t everyone else get to?
Because bikes and cars are not the same thing. It is really hard to hurt someone with a bike. You have to really try. In a car ,all you have to do is move a toe.
“…the same paternalistic rules.”
When do we ask drivers to get out and push their cars because it’s just too dangerous to operate them under combustion power?
Not all rules are the same, and not all vehicles present the same amount of danger when breaking the same rules…our neighbor state of Idaho has discovered this to some extent.
I’ve found using 21st instead of 22nd helps (although you still have a long-block on 22nd, but you can be signaling a left turn for a while and thus “justify” riding away from the edge of the street).
Thanks! I forget to do that sometimes, just following the sharrows on autopilot 🙂
but you have to use 22nd for the last block before Gladstone… 21st doesn’t meet Gladstone… 21st to bush to 22nd is the bike route…
I totally dig it, use it almost daily on my commute. On the logistical side, it gets me onto the Orange Line parallel infrastructure just barely a mile into my commute, meaning that a grand total of 3 of my 5 miles riding is nicely separated from the roads. The elevator comes quickly when summoned, and fits two bikes easily, three if you love your neighbors. Amazed at how many people still do the stairway bike carry move, but it is CX season….
And on an aesthetic sense, it is a pleasure to get that bit of elevation for a few moments. While the immediate view is 75% train yard/industrial, you still get a nice moment up above the world.
Trainspotters love the view. Amtrak trains go thru there along with freight trains. Replaced a very rickety and outdated crossing built in the 1940’s.
haven’t been forced to use it…
I live SE of this, though mostly east, so I’m able to go north before I get west enough to need this… and I can go south to Bybee is I’m heading to Sellwood…
I wouldn’t use it if I were on 21st and needed to get to the orange line, unless I had a flat… I’d simply go a few blocks north of Powell via 21st and connect to Clinton heading west… yes it’s twice as far, but the only wait is crossing Powell… assuming you were heading north to the river and not south…
I agree… 21st to Clinton seems a better route (if you’re headed that way, at least). It feels more “continuous” than taking the elevator does.
Hm, I disagree. Depends on what you’re doing and what your preferences are. I don’t like mixing with motor vehicle traffic – or hearing it honestly – so taking SE 21st and waiting at that light at Powell doesn’t sound like as much fun to me as taking a sweet glass elevator that whisks me up and down with a cool view. If I have the kids with me, the elevator wins hands down.
Yes… this is purely a personal preference thing. I prefer moving, and dislike dismounting, but I can see how others might decide differently.
It’s good to have choices.
I also prefer to keep moving… if I was getting to the light at 21st as it changed I might take the sidewalk west…
Curious to know the dimensions… as in whether a 10′ long cargo bike would fit?
I dunno about 10′, but I’ve ridden it a number of times with my Bullitt.
We ride through it with a tag along bike, probably around 8′ total. Only a few inches to spare.
I took the Gibbs Street elevator on Halloween. It was a fittingly spooky ride, replete with strained creaky noises and popping springs like the Tower of Terror. When it came time for my return trip out of that nice little neighborhood up there, I opted to take the stairs down. I believe I will take them up next time too.
This bridge is popular with Cleveland high school students who commute via the Orange line.
I very glad to read that TRIMET installed a “bike thru” style elevator vs. pull in / back out style…
…this is one design element we spent quite a bit of discussing during the station area circulation design meetings for the CRC.
Its common design sense but often seems to be unknown for some project designers (pubic and private) who do not think of bicycles as transportation vehicles…or at best that bikes are light weight sporting vehicles (vs. moms carting kids in a bakfiets, dad carrying lots of groceries or grandma/pop with age related straight issues) that the user can just flip around to exit…or back up through pedestrian crowds at transit stations.
It does allow you to pull through, but if the elevator is like the Gibbs St Bridge, then you usually have to get off anyway to hit the floor selection. Outside of the needed door open and close buttons, I don’t know why these elevators have floor selections inside the elevator. The buttons external to the lift should be smart enough actuators to trigger a trip up or down after the door closes behind you.
The buttons are easy to reach from the saddle unless you’re riding a bakfiets.
Good point…about the button access. So button access for a bike friendly transit elevator (2 levels):
1) floor buttons/control panel placed on the side walls of the elevator car; or
2) buttons placed on the entry / exit wall of the elevator car but close enough to be pressed as you roll in but with a door closure delay…
Even friendlier would be an elevator that can sense people arriving and cycle automatically, going to that level, opening doors for a little while or until no more people are sensed outside and then going to the other level. The only buttons needed would be to re-open doors and maybe to force it to cycle.
Since PDW moved over here, the elevator has been out of order once and was fixed within a few hours. It’s a great link to the path along the Orange line. I lived in this neighborhood 15 years ago and I loved hanging out on the old bridge but it was terrible if you actually wanted to get a bike over it. The only thing I’ve come to realize is that when the light at 21st and Powell is red, lots of cars will take a right on 20th rather than waiting to turn at 21st. They fly down 20th and often run the stop sign at Lafayette.
We ride through it pretty frequently (2-4x/wk) on the way to school. The kids love it.
It has only been unvailable a few times, and there’s an acceptable alternative through the Powell ped underpasses to 17th. The stairs are short-ish, not too bad going up if you have a standard-issue bike, and the wheel gutter works OK for downstairs trips.
Thumbs up from me, probably commute that way 1-2x / week when I’m too lazy for the Springwater. Elevator has been very reliable (I recall only one occasion when it was out of order) and I’ve seen the cleaning crew up there fairly often, so it seems to be well looked after. Big shout out to the cleaners in fact, as they’re always very friendly and helpful. Personally I’ve found the Orange line route into town quicker than continuing N on 21st and heading through Ladd’s etc, and it’s certainly safer.
The only idiosyncrasy I’ve noticed is that after you’ve called the elevator and stepped/rolled in, it announces “Going Up/Down” once the doors have closed behind you, but doesn’t, unless you’ve actually pushed a button to tell it what you want. I’ve had a few dopey daydream moments standing there waiting for something to happen before I snapped out of it. Very, very minor post-first-world problem, more indicative of my own forgetfulness than anything else!
Ha! The first time, “going up!” had me fooled for quite a while. Glad someone else mentioned it.
Many more bridges like this are needed !
Why did the authorities remove the pedestrian bridge over the railroad tracks at SE 16th at SE Brooklyn to SE Gideon? The Orange Line should have built a second bridge like the Lafayette bridge over the tracks.
“Budget” AKA no political will to remove auto lanes in order to provide a necessary transit corridor, therefore TriMet had to buy and demolish lots of buildings which is expensive.
I ride it about one day per week, usually both eastbound and westbound, on a tandem. I don’t know the exact dimensions, but there’s enough clearance. Based on the length of the tandem, I’d guess the inside measurement is about 9 feet.
I’ve ridden the elevator with other bikes, but never with a pedestrian.
I’ve never had to dismount to push the buttons; I simply stay to the side and stretch to reach the button so there’s clearance for anyone getting off.
I’ve never noticed the signs saying no riding on the bridge so I always ride across the bridge. I seldom encounter others on the bridge during my rides, but those are off-peak times.
The west elevator was out of service during one of my crossings.
The wheel gutters are inadequate during wet weather because the steel channels are slippery when wet.
I like it! It was essential this summer as I rode my son to and from Trackers. I also have business deliveries and random kid trips that are made easier because of it. It was pretty thrilling for my son to go over the bridge as a VERY long freight train went under it.
I also find the “No Bike Riding” rule to be absurd. It strikes me as one of those knee-jerk bans similar to the bike ban that existed in the Rose Quarter bus mall area. No real reason to do it other than an assumption that somehow bikes are inherently dangerous and the only way to manage said fear is to ban them. And like the Rose Quarter ban, which was eventually abandoned, it merely makes lawbreakers out of otherwise safe and courteous people who are just trying to get to where they’re going with the least amount of fuss.
I love this elevator, and my kids use it everyday (CHS students). My gripe is that it is REALLY hot in there on sunny days. They are essentially greenhouses with no vents — on 80+ days I’m sure it’s over 100 deg in the afternoon.
I like it.. but it’d be better if it were further north, like… at Clinton. I commute from Lents to Downtown. There have been a couple of times the elevator has been closed, and the stairs are difficult, but … overall, it’s pretty good.
I love it! And starting next week I’ll be using it twice daily for my commute to and from downtown. I much prefer it over Clinton & 12th because I don’t have to worry about being stuck behind the trains.
It also allows me to get off of SE 52nd faster by taking Gladstone instead of Clinton.
I use it occasionally, without any particular or specific motivation for changing my usual (26th -> Clinton) route. It’s reasonably nice, and like others I completely ignore the ridiculous, unnecessary rule to dismount.
I find it’s pretty slow-moving, though, so I sometimes take the stairs. One thing I wish could be changed would be to have the elevators on both ends move in sync by default rather than both defaulting to the lower floor. Seems like it would be more efficient, but that’s just the engineer in me optimizing the algorithm without enough data.
But when coming from downtown I do like having that as an alternative when there’s a freight train.
This elevator / bridge / elevator over the tracks has been a good addition to get in/out of the urban “island” that is the Brooklyn neighborhood (isolated by highways and railroad tracks). I think most comments above have summed it up well.
It’s large (holds 4 bikers, also bike+trailer). It’s convenient. It has remained in a good state of operation (the one time I spoke to the elevator repair person there, he said the maintenance needs of these two elevators have given him a “job for life”, so I only hope that tradition is observed for the long term future).
Although, they did remove the old set of stairs/bridge on the North side of Powell (Gideon), when they replaced the old bridge at this site, so we got one better one and lost one poor one. (We used to carry our bikes across the RR tracks there right at 17th/Tibbetts, but they have put up fences, now). This new one seems to be in a good location. And, they did not destroy the ramp underpass 2 blocks north along SE Powell (the old Octopus – actually improved it by grade on one side), so I frequently use that option instead of the elevator to get from one side of the tracks to the other side in order to use the 17th Ave flyover of Powell. (PS. Unless you time the elevators perfectly, the underpass remains faster, and you don’t need to worry about getting stopped by the Max train crossing).
The stairs are pretty good, and most pedestrians choose the stairs and leave the elevators to bikers. Problem with the bike gutters on the stairs: they are not easy to negotiate due to the location of the hand rails.
So far, my main issue with the elevators are the dangerous temperatures reached in there on sunny, summer days. The double-pane glass box that is the elevator(s) get really hot sitting in the sunlight all day – it’s a sauna. It makes me too nervous to go inside and let the door close on me on those summer afternoons, wondering if that will be the day the elevator gets stuck. So, I use stairs or take the Octopus on those days.
Access issues on both sides of the bridge: Alex summed up well above. Some cyclists choose to “salmon” the bike lane on 17th for a block to avoid the double cross of that street for the South / Eastbound direction. East side issues with freight, parking, and speeding cars, and I assume they are scrubbing the chrome, cadmium, and arsenic from the air over there better than in the past (@Bullseye Glass).
With the additional infrastructure coming to this area as part of the 20’s project (they will put in a diverter at SE Holgate/28th, improve bike lanes on 28th S of Holgate) soon, I hope they can also improve the car/bike/freight conflicts from 22nd / Gladstone down to 22nd / Lafayette (and also the right hook potentials at Gladstone/26th – it’s still a little sketchy with impatient commuters and freight mingling. But, this route has become popular.
The bicycle tire trays weren’t really thought out, but don’t really see them that often in the US. Definitely need to have at least 12″ offset from handrail. Integrate it with the steps instead of tray and tripping would be non-issue.
Want to second the issues with Gladstone and 22nd and Bush and 21st. Auto traffic cuts those corners at higher speeds usually trying to overtake bicycles before the turn, hopefully cyclists remain vigilant and we don’t see anyone get hit.
One issue no one has brought up is that the ADA ramp at the elevator is sometimes blocked by Lorentz Dunn vehicles, usually a Tahoe. Additionally those red vehicles belonging to the firm whip around the corners and speed thru the area. I spoke with the receptionist about that and the parking and she said no one there cares and that the they receive plenty of parking tickets.
We took it on a group TNR ride once, what a mess if you have 200 cyclists. It is not bad alone, but I am 13 feet long with cargo trailer…..it Wouldn’t work loaded.
Personally, I think elevators should be avoided at all costs. Tall bike’s can’t use them, low capacity. It took us ten minutes to all get across….i guess next time we should shut down Powell or Holgate nstead then.
Seriously though, the Clinton/14 th crossing if ever built and the Reedway McLaughlin overpass slated for th 1-10 year timeline needs to be ramped.
I’m a daily user and I like the elevator- but the east-side one ceases to function when there’s been a heavy rain. And the gutters on the stairwells are unusable for my cargo bike. I’ve had to give up and cross powell unsafely on a few occasions.
We can do better than a smooth-metal-no-traction-in-the-wet-45-degree angle-lean wheel gutter that’s mostly blocked by a railing. Really. We’ve learned these lessons already, we just don’t implement what we’ve learned.
To be fair, there is an exhaust fan on the ceiling that I’ve seen running on hot days. But it doesn’t even come close to keeping up with the passive solar radiation inside the cube. Ask an HVAC engineer.
poor trade off for the old bridge and the neighborhood skate park. TriMet should really fund a replacement for the skate park, and let the locals build it, like the last one.
It’s worse than you think… we lost the old bridge and skate park and got nothing in return except empty promises. This bridge replaced an old and rather scary bridge (which I was sad to see go) in more-or-less the same location.
Many of the commenters seem to live/ride from North to South to access the bridge. For those of us who live South of the bridge where it is our only good (I don’t count Holgate as good) crossing of the tracks north of Bybee, this bridge has been amazing. It is So Much Easier to get to CHS, Clinton St area, and Division than our options before it was put in place. The direction finding would be annoying if you were approaching it from the North West, but again for those of us coming from the South West it’s great.
I love this bridge!! It really was a necessity, since the only other ways to cross the tracks were Holgate (busy four lane arterial, no bikelanes), or Powell (busy four lane arterial, no bikelanes).
My only gripe:
Trimet REMOVED the Brooklyn St Bridge ten blocks down or so across the tracks, and vowed they would replace it. They never did. I’m still stinging over that.
My wife and I live in Creston-Kenilworth immediately to the east. We use the bridge several times a week, sometimes everyday, either walking or biking, using the stairs and elevators. I agree the elevator ventilation is horrible on hot days. Yes the buttons seem ‘dumb’ and repetitive, the voice announcing floors…pointless, but overall we enjoy it. It allows us to ride from our house on 28th to Waterfront Park without ever needing to share a busy street with cars. The auto traffic on 21st and 22nd must be watched especially at corners where cars/trucks don’t necessarily recognize a biker’s right to the roadway. When approaching on 17th from the north I don’t cross 17th to the west-side bike lane, I stay on the east-side on the sidewalk and ride around behind the gym/garage businesses on my way to the elevator.
It sucks i was just there with my stroller and elevator was out so we were screwed.
Is there not a ramp for people in wheel chairs? If the elevator goes out we are screwed