Gravel - Cycle Oregon

Who climbs over a train when they’re tired of waiting? These guys

Posted by on November 10th, 2017 at 1:56 pm

Today Portlander Mark Graves (who happens to be a photographer and reporter for The Oregonian) just happened to be waiting at a train crossing at SE Clinton and 12th.

You won’t believe what happened next. Or maybe you will. Heck, maybe you’ve done it?

As you can see in the video he posted to Twitter, several people — tired of waiting for the train to move along – picked up their bikes and then climbed up onto and then over the train!

This seems bonkers to me. I’ve been held behind a few trains in this area over the years and I have to admit I’ve let my mind consider doing this; but I’d be too scared. Scared of the potential injury consequences and scared of getting caught and/or shamed if someone saw me do it (can you imagine the field day on local media and Twitter if “the BikePortland guy” got caught doing this?!).


When I first saw Mark’s tweet, I figured a lot of people would use the video to confirm their bias against “those stupid bicyclists.” The reality is, behaviors like this are mode-agnostic. People do just as crazy things in their cars. Our friend Jessica Engelman said, “I’ve seen people in cars drive up onto the sidewalk, make a U-turn, then go the wrong way up a one-way street when stopped at that intersection by a long freight train in an attempt to drive around. So yes, some people in cars attempt to do the same thing.”

Long waits for trains is a big issue in the central eastside and inner southeast. The railroad companies still use manual switches, which means a human has to come outo and adjust the tracks by hand. We’ve heard TriMet is trying to get new, automatic switches paid for in their Division Transit Project so their new, “faster” buses, don’t get caught waiting.

Have you ever done this? Any ideas on a better solution than portaging bikes cyclocross-style or doing dangerous things in our cars to get through?

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and

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NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. 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

  • NH November 10, 2017 at 2:10 pm

    Waiting for trains there can be frustrating, and it is out of the way to go around safely, but it isn’t so far out of the way to make this ever seem worth it. There’s the Lafayette Street bridge if you keep following the Orange Line southeast, and there’s the Hawthorne Bridge if you go northwest. Both go over the tracks, so you’re guaranteed to be able to get through safely. How far out of the way those are of course depends on your origin and destination, but either seems better than crossing a train. The other dangerous thing about this is you have no way of knowing when another train might come on the second track. Crazy.

    I do think it was a huge missed opportunity when the Orange Line was put in that they didn’t build a pedestrian/bike bridge over the tracks and streets around this area though. With a sufficiently gradual approach, such a bridge could safely get people across the streets and tracks.

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    • J.E. November 10, 2017 at 2:40 pm

      Actually, there’s a much closer solution: the Powell underpass near SE 17th (access point is just south of SE 19th and Tibbetts). Depending on your exact starting point and destination it’s about a one-mile detour, so maybe not worth the trek if you’re on foot, but doable on a bike. (Pro tip if you are on foot and in a hurry: grab a Biketown at SE 12th and Division, cycle to the Powell underpass, return the Biketown at the Clinton MAX Station, or vice-versa). You will see the #70 bus make a similar detour, accessing the underpass via SE 21st, on occasion.

      Good news is that TriMet has received approval from the feds to receive back the excess Orange Line funds necessary to build the planned (but never constructed) Gideon Street Overpass. It should be completed by mid-2019. Big thanks to the Hosford-Abernethy Neighborhood District, Bob Stacey, and individuals who submitted testimony for the Central City 2035 Plan for continuing to push the city and TriMet for this bridge!

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      • dan November 10, 2017 at 3:01 pm

        Aren’t there generally people living in the Powell underpass? I would hesitate to bike through there.

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        • Christopher of Portland November 10, 2017 at 4:26 pm

          I went through there about two weeks ago and the only thing living down there was some fenced off equipment but I’ve seen how bad it gets and understand the hesitation.

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      • Jennifer Rohner November 13, 2017 at 9:58 am

        Thanks for that info about the Gideon Street Overpass. I was wondering what happened to it and if it was still going to be built. Right after this construction was completed, I was in this exact situation, and observed several people hop the train to get through. I was late to work because of the delay. 🙁

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        • Carie W November 13, 2017 at 11:11 am

          I’m curious how long did you wait? Sorry it made you late.

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    • Chris I November 10, 2017 at 3:06 pm

      This is a very active set of tracks, as they are the sole north/south line on the west coast. Amtrak trains will come through here at 50mph, next to stopped freight trains.

      Of course, stopped freight trains can suddenly move, when the engines start pulling on one end, you get a sudden shift that cascades down the train. This behavior is both stupid and illegal.

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      • WylyQuimby November 12, 2017 at 3:11 pm

        This action was dangerous to be sure. It was also legally foolish.

        The obvious violation is ORS 811.455: Failure to stop for railroad signal, which is a Class B traffic violation ($260 fine territory).

        Maybe a lawyer could chime in on this scary possibility: I’m not sure if you could be charged with under trespassing laws, but railroads have a lot of legal protection in Oregon. See ORS 164.255:
        1) A person commits the crime of criminal trespass in the first degree if the person:
        (c) Enters or remains unlawfully upon railroad yards, tracks, bridges or rights of way;
        (3) Criminal trespass in the first degree is a Class A misdemeanor.

        A Class A misdemeanor is punishable by up to a year in jail and/or $6500.

        Just don’t do it.

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    • was carless November 14, 2017 at 3:41 pm

      I’ve had to wait an hour before for a train to clear the tracks. I was stuck in a car with cars all around, so I was unable to turn around and get out of there.

      That can drive people to do crazy things.

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  • Bald One November 10, 2017 at 2:13 pm

    Automatic switches will only improve this marginally – there will still be very long waits here, it’s just that the trains will be going back/forth with shorter delays and stoppage time in-between their forward/reverse cycles.

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    • Hello, Kitty
      Hello, Kitty November 10, 2017 at 11:25 pm

      TriMet will be running their new-and-improved #4 buses through this intersection. It’s not clear to me how a newfangled high-speed super bus will work with random, long-duration blockages of the road.

      Maybe the passengers can climb through the train, and board a bus on the other side waiting to whisk them quickly downtown?

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      • Momo November 11, 2017 at 12:00 pm

        Well, to be fair they are planning to use the 8th Ave crossing, which is blocked less often than 11th/12th. But it’s still concerning, given part of the point of the transit project is to have improved reliability. I think it should just continue to use the current Line 4 route over the Hawthorne Bridge. Sure, there are bridge lifts sometimes, but never during peak travel times. Whereas trains come randomly and you never know when they’ll be slow or stopped.

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  • kathryn November 10, 2017 at 2:15 pm

    I am pretty sure that they are rebuilding the ped bridge that used to go over the tracks and Powell there.

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  • Pfeif November 10, 2017 at 2:16 pm

    They are just getting in some last minute cyclocross skills for the last couple of races!

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  • Joe November 10, 2017 at 2:32 pm

    yes i have done it only one time.

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  • Joe November 10, 2017 at 2:33 pm

    BTW love the team work helping last guy..

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  • Alan Love November 10, 2017 at 2:39 pm

    I wasn’t there today, but yesterday at this same spot during the morning commute, a VERY long freight train was rolling north at a good clip and I thought to myself “this won’t take too long”. Then the train slowed. Then it stopped. Lots of train to the north, lots of train to the south. No easy way around it. Several minutes later, the train slowly started rolling SOUTH. After several more minutes it stopped. Again. And waited. Again. For a long time (obviously my sense of time was distorted by now). Then it rolled North. Again. VERY. SLOWLY. During each of these frustratingly long stops, groups of people with and without bikes steeple chased over the knuckles as pictured above. Dumb? Sure. I didn’t participate myself, but I can understand their actions. The situation was quite comical in retrospect.

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  • SilkySlim November 10, 2017 at 2:40 pm

    I used to do that, but haven’t in a while, and probably won’t do it again. It can be really inviting, especially when you have one of those lower cars with handy steps. Slipping between two big boxcars is way more intimidating (I’ve done that on foot, never carrying a bike).

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  • dan November 10, 2017 at 2:43 pm

    I’ve done this once, during a road training ride when I was stuck on Front Avenue out towards Gunderson. Very dumb to do with slippery cleats on, but the trains appear to park there for essentially forever. I have also biked into the yard where those trains go and been able to bike around the end of the train before. I asked people working in the yard if that was OK and no one seemed to think it was an issue.

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  • Joe Adamski November 10, 2017 at 2:54 pm

    The Waud Bluff Trail improvements and bridge were in part a response to this concern. Workers on Swan Island would park up on the top and walk down to their jobs at Freightliner, UPS,etc. A train blocking the tracks were frequently climbed over. I do not recall any injury or death, but it certainly was a worry.

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  • Brent Langland November 10, 2017 at 3:00 pm

    That intersection is the worst! I’ve spent a lot of frustrating commutes there waiting for trains and/or poorly timed lights. I know some of the issues have to do with increasing safety, but the long waits can sometimes cause people to act more carelessly as they try to make up time (for example the people in this video).

    It bothers me that they didn’t do more to try to make it all flow more easily while they were working on the Orange line. It feels like they are just trying to move too many modes of transportation through the same choke point.

    I’m not a traffic engineer, but it seems any long-term solution for this area will have to remove at least some of mode conflicts.

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  • Social Engineer November 10, 2017 at 3:02 pm

    Trains blocking bike routes is not just an Eastside problem.

    Long trains cause delays at Naito, NW 9th, NW 15th, etc. all the way along the main line in Northwest Portland. It’s a lot more rare to see trains stopped completely blocking the road in this stretch but it does happen which can paralyze traffic.

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    • Todd Boulanger November 10, 2017 at 3:38 pm

      …and in Camas, Washougal, etc…this is the reason why most big cities raised (or tunnelled) their tracks in the city cores…though now Portland’s core has reached the once “remote” industrial area of the CE…

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  • Just1Person November 10, 2017 at 3:06 pm

    I go through there all the time on foot. They keep to themselves. Doesn’t bother me too much but I’m always on the lookout for orange caps.

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  • BB November 10, 2017 at 3:11 pm

    I’ve ridden miles out of my way to detour around stopped trains. Not sure if its ever saved any time but I’d rather be riding than standing.. or climbing over active rail traffic for that matter.

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  • rick November 10, 2017 at 3:12 pm

    When will the Gideonvstreet bridge get built ?

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  • soren November 10, 2017 at 3:14 pm

    “I’ve seen people in cars drive up onto the sidewalk, make a U-turn, then go the wrong way up a one-way street when stopped at that intersection by a long freight train in an attempt to drive around. So yes, some people in cars attempt to do the same thing.”

    Not really the same thing at all, IMO. The train jumpers are voluntarily putting themselves at risk* while those who drive the wrong way on a one-way street are endangering other road users.

    I would also argue that adults engaging in risky behavior that can only harm themselves is the least of our worries when it comes to transportation safety.

    *probably fairly low given how long it takes for a train like that to accelerate

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    • J.E. November 10, 2017 at 3:37 pm

      Some context: I was replying on twitter to Jonathan’s comment that “ppl will see this and think it’s something to hold against “cyclists”… as if drivers wouldn’t do the same if they could.” So I was echoing his use of the word “same” in terms of motivation, rather than the actual behavior. I otherwise agree with your assessment that the two are not equal in their potential impact to other road users present, and I would hope for one to receive a much harsher response from law enforcement than the other.

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      • soren November 10, 2017 at 3:47 pm

        apologies for missing the context…tried to find the twitter comment but could not. (i suck at twitter.)

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    • Hello, Kitty
      Hello, Kitty November 10, 2017 at 11:30 pm

      The real danger is there is an Amtrak train coming by on the other tracks at 60 mph that is not apparent to people hopping off the train on the far side. Then *whamo*.

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      • 9watts November 11, 2017 at 10:18 am

        I don’t mess with freight trains, but have now twice escaped from the Coast Starlight just North of this location after sitting on it for 18 hours and getting frustrated with some hangup at the Steel Bridge which has a tendency to stall the Northbound Amtrak train.

        Amtrak does not go anywhere near 60 in this location. I’d venture more like 20mph. Heck Amtrak hardly goes 60 mph anywhere on the West Coast. 😉

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        • Hello, Kitty
          Hello, Kitty November 11, 2017 at 1:26 pm

          Going southbound it easily goes 60mph at this location.

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        • turnips November 11, 2017 at 4:49 pm

          how did you manage that?

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          • 9watts November 12, 2017 at 8:11 am

            I figured that opening the door would probably trigger some kind of alarm, so I opened the window-in-the-door and hopped out. I did ask the others standing in the area with their luggage if they’d be so kind as to hand me my bag. The first time I did this they looked at me like I was an escaped convict and froze, but then cooperated if uncertainly when I repeated my request more urgently.

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        • Chris I November 12, 2017 at 9:18 pm

          Cascades trains commonly hit 79mph between Eugene and Seattle. This section probably sees speeds in the 40-50mph range.

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          • David Hampsten November 13, 2017 at 11:56 am

            I was on one such train about 10 years ago that hit a pedestrian near Kelso. The train stopped for 45 min to let police do an investigation, as the body was located in 2 chunks a half-mile apart. The train was not yet at full speed, so it was “only” moving at about 60 mph. The pedestrian was apparently crossing a railroad bridge, illegally of course.

            I’ve also been on portions of the Empire Builder and the California Zephyr where the train was moving much faster than freeway traffic. In both cases, I was told we were moving at 100 mph.

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      • soren November 11, 2017 at 2:59 pm

        not disagreeing. people who intentionally put themselves (and only themselves) at risk despite warning signs, flashing lights, and physical barriers are probably not a vision zero priority.

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        • Hello, Kitty
          Hello, Kitty November 11, 2017 at 3:21 pm

          I would disagree. The fact that risking life and limb (literally) seems preferable to using the infrastructure as intended suggests there is a major problem.

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          • soren November 13, 2017 at 11:17 am

            ok…i’ll bite.

            why is this risk something that should be prioritized based on vision zero principles and how would vision zero mitigate this risk?

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            • q November 13, 2017 at 12:15 pm

              In a general sense at least, this is something Vision Zero should address. Not that tens or hundreds of millions should be taken from other projects to bury these tracks, but to remember that the best design solutions are to avoid conflicts in the first place, versus creating or leaving the conflict, then adding warning signs and flashing lights.

              So if somebody dies climbing over this train (after ignoring all the perfectly clear warnings) then the best response might be not to add more warnings, or bury the tracks, but to avoid creating similar future situations where people will be tempted to take dangerous steps to avoid long delays.

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              • soren November 14, 2017 at 10:45 am

                agreed. (i used the word “prioritize” intentionally.)

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              • q November 14, 2017 at 1:50 pm

                soren, yes, I saw your “prioritize” and I saw after I posted my comment that it may come across as a criticism of your comment, which it wasn’t meant to be.

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        • meh November 13, 2017 at 7:21 am

          Yes because the engineer of that other train isn’t a consideration. Nope he only has to live with the memory of creaming some idiot who is jumping trains. Let’s not go into the impact that this would also have on the family and friends of the idiot jumping the train. No one else is ever impacted by idiots doing idiotic things and risking their lives.

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          • soren November 13, 2017 at 11:13 am

            my comment referred to vision zero full stop.
            vision zero does not concern itself with the hypothetical emotional trauma of engineers.

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            • q November 13, 2017 at 12:18 pm

              No more or less so than it concerns itself with hypothetical emotional trauma of other drivers who run over people.

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            • meh November 13, 2017 at 1:11 pm

              And vision zero is not just about inconveniencing drivers, it’s about a system and infrastructure that everyone has to buy into. If they can’t follow simple rules about safety then don’t expect vision zero to work at any level

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              • q November 13, 2017 at 1:40 pm

                “And vision zero is not just about inconveniencing drivers”?

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              • Hello, Kitty
                Hello, Kitty November 13, 2017 at 1:48 pm

                Then screw it… I’m out.

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              • q November 13, 2017 at 1:49 pm

                “If they can’t follow simple rules about safety then don’t expect vision zero to work at any level.”?

                I don’t have a lot of sympathy for people who get hurt because they ignore rules. On the other hand, Vision Zero IS in large part an attempt to reduce injuries and deaths caused by people who “can’t follow simple rules about safety”.

                What percentage of injuries and deaths are caused by drivers speeding, not signaling, running stop signs, failing to yield, driving while drunk or texting, etc.? All those are failures to follow simple rules about safety.

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              • 9watts November 13, 2017 at 2:27 pm

                commenter who goes by meh here writes things like that…

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              • 9watts November 13, 2017 at 2:28 pm

                thank you, commenter q. Excellently put.

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              • meh November 14, 2017 at 8:05 am

                Yes q because a pedestrian or cyclist has never done anything to get themselves killed on the road. Once again the idea of being entitled and special and exempt from the actual rules just removes you from the moral high ground.

                Yes everyone has to buy into vision zero for it to work.

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              • soren November 14, 2017 at 10:48 am

                “everyone has to buy into vision zero for it to work.”

                citation? evidence? link? buehler? buehler?

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  • bikeninja November 10, 2017 at 3:19 pm

    You sure these folks are climbing over, and not just climbing aboard for the latest in low cost multi-modal transportation. This could give riding the rails a whole new meaning.

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    • Alan 1.0 November 10, 2017 at 9:29 pm

      …and ‘rails to trails,’ too.

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  • B. Carfree November 10, 2017 at 3:24 pm

    While on my bike waiting for a long, slow train one fine (read rainy) day that stopped still for several minutes, I joked with a pedestrian standing next to me that she could just hop on over, but I wouldn’t dare do so in my funky road-cleated cycling shoes. She looked at me in horror and told me that a friend of hers tried that the prior week and got his legs chopped off when he fell as the train started to move.

    Prior to that, I had been tempted. However, something about the way she looked in recounting that tragic amputation just chilled me.

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    • BarnOwl November 10, 2017 at 8:55 pm

      Yeah she was totally messing with you

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      • B. Carfree November 10, 2017 at 11:59 pm

        The incident was written up in our local paper. Even so, she may not have known the guy and was just a great actress. I cry at movies or even when I tell a sad story, so it may not even take great acting to move me.

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    • Pete November 11, 2017 at 1:07 pm

      I watched my classmate Joey lose his legs slipping under a train. I won’t go near those damned things, no matter how slow (or stopped) they appear to be.

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  • bikeninja November 10, 2017 at 3:29 pm

    Until 2009 oregon law prohibited trains from blocking and intersection for more than 10 minutes during the day and 15 minutes at night. When my wife worked at the City of Albany, before that time, they would frequently arrange with ODOT to have the railroad fined for blocking major intersections. A court case in 2009 resulted in a ruling that state law could not overrule federal law, so Oregon’s law is no longer enforced. So effectively the railroads block intersections for as long as they like. Who said we don’t have an untouchable monarchy here in the U.S.

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  • Todd Boulanger November 10, 2017 at 3:40 pm

    How about a Portland bicycle infrastructure first?!…install bicycle trebuchets at all congested freight crossings?

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    • Justin M November 11, 2017 at 12:59 pm

      I feel like this idea has been floated here before…

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      • Stephen Keller November 11, 2017 at 11:42 pm

        I propose a test launch on 4/1/2018.

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  • Roland Klasen November 10, 2017 at 4:13 pm

    I’ve done it by the Columbia Blvd water treatment plant. The train hadn’t moved an inch in 15 minutes, I don’t see a problem with it.

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  • Peter Hass November 10, 2017 at 4:18 pm

    I’ve jumped on trains both stopped and moving when I was younger. Never carried a bike across one. I can see how a stopped train would be tempting especially if one person crosses it successfully. I do know trains are unforgiving and stopped trains are very unpredictable. There’s a lot of risk involved with this stunt…compounded by trying to carry a bike. Not something I’d do at this point of my life.

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  • Dan A November 10, 2017 at 4:21 pm

    Actually, this was just an urban cyclocross race. You can hear the cowbells…

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  • Jeff B November 10, 2017 at 5:00 pm

    I got stuck headed South on Naito at the crossing by the Steel bridge one night. Train was stopped for at least 15 minutes before I decided to bail. I wanted to hop through so bad (pedestrians were)… but I was on a Biketown. Lugging all 45 pounds of that thing between the cars seemed far too risky for me. But I wanted to so bad. Instead I carried it up the stairs of the Broadway Bridge to get across the river…. woof

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  • Todd Boulanger November 10, 2017 at 5:30 pm

    Perhaps the CoP should require future redevelopment buildings along these crossings to have a pedestrian and bike over crossing linking each side (and to activate these second story add …retail/ bars to both sides…)

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  • Joseph McGinley November 10, 2017 at 6:02 pm

    I witnessed this on Saturday getting brunch at Pine State Biscuits. First, noticed the line of cars outside the window. Then, looking around, I could see the beast standing still. It stayed that way for a good 30 minutes before it started moving again. The correct yet expensive solution would be to completely grade separate the freight rail tracks in the central eastside. I suppose you wouldn’t need separate them everywhere, only the crucial intersections.

    I can’t imagine if I lived near the SE Clinton MAX station, worked downtown, and missed my train because the intersection was blocked by a freight train. That kind of situation causes people to lose their jobs. Unacceptable in my opinion. It’s too bad Federal law trumps Oregon law when it comes to freight trains blocking intersections. Oregon law has the right idea in the regard.

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  • mran1984 November 10, 2017 at 6:11 pm

    Road shoes are no fun for this. MTB shoes are a bit better, but still little fun if a jump is required to complete the crossing. Flip flops are a challenge. Now I stick to the stairs under Hawthorne and the stairs off of Naito to avoid the dreaded stall that the RR appears to enjoy.

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  • SD November 10, 2017 at 6:23 pm

    Those steps are inviting.

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  • JeffS November 10, 2017 at 7:10 pm

    I’ve personally stood around for way too long waiting for trains and the thought has definitely crossed my mind.

    The only thing that concerns me is if something happens:
    a) the injured cyclist sues for damanges
    b) some safety “advocate” sues for infrastructure expenditures

    If not, then I’m not bothered.

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  • Matt Meskill November 10, 2017 at 7:40 pm

    I jumped on a moving train years ago when I was walking to work. It wasn’t going all that fast. I wouldn’t do it again. I think it’s actually a pretty serious offense, legal-wise, isn’t it?

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  • Alan 1.0 November 10, 2017 at 9:32 pm

    …and ‘rails to trails,’ too.

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  • Random November 10, 2017 at 9:42 pm

    The all-time “trying to get avcross a slow-moving train” story.

    Taking an unexpected trip from Chicago to Iowa…

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    • psyfalcon November 13, 2017 at 8:41 am

      Chicago, where there are no raised crossings. One guy at work tries to get there an hour early because there are 2 or 3 at grade crossings. 20 minutes can be over an hour here.

      Plus the horns. Train horns…

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  • random November 10, 2017 at 9:44 pm

    The all-time “trying to get across a slow-moving train” story.

    Taking an unexpected trip from Chicago to Iowa…

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  • RilosRevenge November 10, 2017 at 11:34 pm

    I’ve done this just after the West end of the steel bridge on front Street. It wasn’t a big deal, who knows how long I would have been there.

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  • JJ November 11, 2017 at 6:55 am

    Virtue signalling yes. News no.

    Come on Bike Portland you are better than this. Where are the new routes, community outreach, product reviews, and small Portland based bike business news. Bike travel journalism. Maybe a race report. Anything?

    Heck isn’t there a hipster bmx-fixie-bike jam-alley-cat-cx-midnight-naked-Christmas bike ride you can report on?

    This is tabloid fodder and really not worth your time.

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    • Lester Burnham November 13, 2017 at 9:31 am

      I wonder how many copycat offenders we’ll see after they saw it here on BikePortland?

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  • Adam R November 11, 2017 at 9:13 am

    Why the Orange Line Max Project didn’t add s pedestrian bridge at SE 12th & Clinton area is ridiculous. Most of the bike and ped traffic is heading to/from the OMSI direction on the newly installed multiuse path, and is heading to/from SE Clinton bikeway – which is THE OTHER SIDE of the train tracks.

    Add to that a MAX stop right there, which, again, sees most if its ridership come from the neighborhood the OTHER SIDE of the tracks, and you have a ready made disaster waiting to happen.

    The freight trains take a good 20 mins to pass through WHEN MOVING. Add in any stopping time, and you can be looking at a 30 min delay.

    There needs to be a pedestrian overpass here. Period.

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    • rick November 11, 2017 at 10:18 am

      Note the related Gideon street bridge article.

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      • Adam November 11, 2017 at 10:40 am

        In my opinion, the Gideon St bridge is still too far away from the intersection for most people to go out of their way to use. It still needs to go in, agreed.

        But there REALLY needs to be a bridge overpass AT the 11th/12th/Clinton hot mess of an intersection.

        People who are 45 seconds away from missing their MAX train to work are NOT going to walk/run 12 blocks out of their way to get around a stopped freight train. They are going to climb over it, and in all honesty, I don’t blame them.

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  • X November 11, 2017 at 10:02 am

    I’ve crossed tracks away from a grade crossing but never actually climbed over a train. Getting hit by a train–totally avoidable. No thanks. When time is critical I don’t take grade crossings, there’s usually another way. If it takes five more minutes to follow a route to work that isn’t subject to a fifteen minute delay, that’s the way to go.

    The Tillikum Bridge, despite its annoying approaches, gives people South of the tracks a way to cross the river that has no freight rail crossings and no bridge lifts. The conspicuous problem with the Morrison Bridge as a bike and pedestrian route is that it is subject to bridge lifts -and- the East side approaches are trapped behind the freight rail tracks. A person crossing the Morrison by human power has to plan in 20+ minutes of lead time to be sure of arriving downtown on a schedule. If PBOT isn’t planning a workable bike/ped overcrossing of the freight tracks right now, what are they for?

    Here’s a thought: How about a shuttle service designed to carry 15 bikes and 30 passengers (they don’t all have to sit) running on a constant loop between SE 7th and SW 3rd? I think one vehicle could run six times an hour. If it fills up, run two at commute times. The same solution could work on the St. Johns Bridge. If the vehicle moves at the speed limit it would also have a certain traffic calming effect. A purpose-built vehicle would be expensive, but a low floor bus with some seats removed could be used on an experimental basis. Give people using mobility devices first priority loading, and make it free to cut dwell time.

    TriMet has a big job to do running a network that spans three counties. I’d like to see them given more resources and yes, tax me for that. I’d also like to see them experiment with providing loop shuttle services where few practicable (safe, quick, attractive) routes for human powered travel exist between areas of dense population and commercial areas.

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    • soren November 15, 2017 at 8:40 pm

      bridge lifts are more common on the hawthorne bridge (due to the lower height) and it is the most heavily used bridge in portland.

      the morrison bridge sees little use by people cycling because it has a crappy facility that is not connected to our bike network in any meaningful way.

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  • MB November 11, 2017 at 10:25 am

    A perfect time to wait patiently and drink the beer you have in your backpack.

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  • Peter W November 11, 2017 at 10:26 am
  • Adam November 11, 2017 at 11:04 am

    It’s not just bikes and peds that do this, as the article touches upon. Car drivers act like idiots around blocked train crossings too.

    At the Steel Bridge on NW Naito, the freight trains stop for 20-plus minutes at a time. And remember, this is just the STOPPING time. I’m not even talking about the additional time the train is moving through the crossing (another 20 mins).

    That’s 40 mins of standing/sitting there waiting to get through the intersection.

    I’ve seen cars manouver around the plastic barriers into the two way cycletrack on Naito, then back up down the cycletrack two blocks, and out into the Steel Bridge onramp intersection.

    I’ve also seen car passengers get out of their cars, LIFT UP the train crossing barrier, and hold it up so that the car driver can drive under the barrier, and do a sharp u-turn while the train is stopped.


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  • Ed B November 11, 2017 at 1:02 pm

    Got caught there just several hours ago racing to get to the Showers Pass sale ahead of the crowds. The damned freight was just frigging not moving at all. After waiting in despair, imagining others beating me to the half-price rain pants I coveted, I did see a pedestrian walk up and over. between 2 cars and seriously contemplated doing the same with my bike. Gave that up for the same reasons as all of you above. Fortunately the train moved on soon after and you’ll be relieved to know that I snagged a pair of Refuge pants my size for ONE THIRD lowest retail cost. So Good sometimes does triumph. Maybe we can still defeat fascism. But can we ever get a bridge across those tracks at that crucial intersection or a rule reasonbly limiting those trains delays there?

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  • Brian K Boucher November 11, 2017 at 3:12 pm

    Cross is coming

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  • Damien E November 11, 2017 at 4:48 pm

    I was one of these folks last weekend (Sunday, I think it was) – wasn’t just bicyclists, though. Peds too – that day, the train was parked for over 45 minutes. I didn’t happen to have my bike with me at the time, or I probably would’ve ridden around it. As a pedestrian, though? Climbing over took all of 30 seconds.

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  • John Lascurettes November 11, 2017 at 5:22 pm

    This isn’t much different than getting stuck at a bridge lift — except that bridge lifts are probably longer on average and you can’t exactly elect to jump the open span. 😉

    The worst wait on Broadway I’ve ever had was 40 minutes (they’re usually about 12 minutes total). I’m not kidding. I’d have gone down to the Steel, but I swore it had been so long that it had to go down at any moment. I did see a charter bus attempt to turn around on the bridge. He couldn’t do it. So that was entertaining (and dangerous). If a lift is going to take that long, I wish the lift operator would get on the loudspeaker and make some kind of announcement to the bikers and pedestrians at least. I know they have one because I’ve heard it used before — at least on the Broadway I have.

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  • q November 11, 2017 at 9:22 pm

    It’s going to be embarrassing for Portland if people start needing to do this to get over the new Portland Art Museum lobby.

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  • Charles Ross November 12, 2017 at 9:46 am

    I wrote this yesterday in the Oregonian re: the same incident:

    I had a friend who was a retired engineer. He told me that when trains had cabooses and people riding in them they had to be very careful about initially moving the train and moving the train over the crest of a hill. There is a small space in each coupling holding the cars together. When a train moves from a standstill that tiny space is added up with each car and could amount to the length of about half a car by the time the energy reaches the last one.

    If there were forty or fifty cars in front of those bicyclists that stored up energy could have killed them as the train started to move.

    At least they were wearing helmets!

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    • Chris I November 12, 2017 at 9:22 pm


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    • Mick O November 13, 2017 at 10:54 am

      Am I wrong to think that there is quite a bit of noise that happens when this is going on, in advance of the phenomenon reaching you. I would think one’d hear it happening before the danger struck. I might be way off base though.

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      • q November 13, 2017 at 11:01 am

        Yes, lots of clanging bell sounds and flashing lights.

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  • Brian K November 12, 2017 at 1:24 pm

    As a former member of the National Hobo Association, if would advise a lot of caution moving around freight. It is very easy to lose a limb or die.
    That said, seeing the video brought back memories.

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  • SE November 12, 2017 at 4:37 pm

    >>Scared of the potential injury consequences and scared of getting caught and/or shamed if someone saw me do it (can you imagine the field day on local media and Twitter if “the BikePortland guy” got caught doing this?!).

    aren’t you the same “BikePortland guy” who publicly proclaims that he does NOT wear a helmet when riding in town ?

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    • q November 12, 2017 at 5:16 pm

      Do you understand the differences between climbing over a train and not wearing a helmet? As in illegal vs. legal, shameful vs. not shameful, etc.?

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    • soren November 13, 2017 at 11:21 am
    • q November 14, 2017 at 7:43 pm

      Unless I’m totally misunderstanding it, your comment seems to illustrate what people have discussed in other articles in regard to what happens when public safety campaigns and police reports zero in on helmet wearing.

      Somehow we’ve gone from helmet wearing might be a good suggestion, to helmet wearing should be required, to–from your comment–not wearing a non-mandatory helmet is somehow equivalent to illegally ignoring a train signal and illegally climbing over a train with your bike on your shoulder to avoid a wait.

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  • Kittens November 12, 2017 at 9:11 pm

    The fact these tracks have not been trenched and buried decades ago is a real testament to the lack of long-term strategic thinking on both the RR and the city.

    Think of the tens of millions of dollars lost to sitting in traffic, freight, cars bikes, peds. All waiting.
    `The cost to the environment in emissions and noise pollution from the train horns.
    In diminished real estate values of adjoining properties.
    The real and intangible costs of the dozens of lives lost on these tracks alone over the proceeding decades.

    And it is not like any of this is bound to get better as this neighborhood becomes more popular and the city denser. Nor is the solution going to be cheaper.

    So… Why are we waiting again?

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    • Chris I November 12, 2017 at 9:23 pm

      Maybe they can trench I5 and the railroad line at the same time…

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    • Hello, Kitty
      Hello, Kitty November 12, 2017 at 9:27 pm

      The opportunity is probably gone. The time to do it was before the orange line was built, when there was room for a temporary track adjacent to the current one.

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      • 9watts November 12, 2017 at 9:29 pm

        The anticipated Pacific Subduction quake will offer more opportunities. 😉

        Mr. Silver Lining

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        • rachel b November 13, 2017 at 4:57 pm

          Yay! Glass half full! 😉

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          • rachel b November 13, 2017 at 4:58 pm

            It’d be a dream come true for many new Portlanders. Make over! Clean slate! At last! The Portland of my dreeeeeeeeeeeeeams…….

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    • David Hampsten November 13, 2017 at 12:03 pm

      In general, for flood-prone areas such as Portland (1996?), railroads won’t trench, but in such cities they do sometimes elevate the track, such as in most East Coast cities, in Europe, and in Spokane Washington. Very expensive in any case.

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  • B. Carfree November 12, 2017 at 9:26 pm

    Funny story. A former neighbor of mine had a similar adventure. A friend of his convinced him to hop on a freighter in Eugene by telling him that they all stop at Oakridge, about 40 miles upriver, where they would get off and catch a returning train. Of course they got on an express train bound for California. They spent a cold night going 60 mph with no shelter from the wind and ended up in Sacramento. I don’t remember how he got back home.

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    • Mike Quigley November 13, 2017 at 7:28 am

      As long as we’re talkin’ railroad thrills, here’s one.

      I was a youngster back east when steam was transitioning to diesel. At that time some tracks had long, deep trenches down their centers which were full of water so that steam locomotives could drop hoses and suck up water on the go without stopping. When diesel came alone those trenches were dry, and we kids would get down in them and let the trains roll over us.

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  • onegearsneer November 13, 2017 at 10:25 am


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  • I wear many hats November 13, 2017 at 10:39 am

    Do it all the time with the bike shouldered. Its no more dangerous than riding in traffic. You can hear and feel when the train starts moving.

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    • q November 13, 2017 at 10:50 am

      There are reasons not to do it unrelated to your own safety.

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  • Brent Shultz November 13, 2017 at 10:49 am

    This is a great way to get killed. Oof. If that train jerks forward/backward (as they often do), you’re 175% screwed. Sometimes we just have to wait, as awful as that might seem at the time. #comeonidonthaveallminute

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  • Catie November 13, 2017 at 1:24 pm

    I was stuck here many times, especially late in the evening when I was returning home to Clinton St from the Espanade. I love the comradarie that the bikers as more people arrive and talk about alternate routes and share libations or snacks. I’ve seen people jump this on numerous occasions. It can be stopped for 20+ minutes but I’ve never been brave enough to do it myself.

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  • PNP November 13, 2017 at 2:19 pm

    Wow, apparently patience isn’t an option. I’ve been stopped by trains that I thought were never going to move again, but it’s not worth risking life and limb, and perhaps legal problems.

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  • rachel b November 13, 2017 at 4:49 pm

    Yikes. I don’t see the train situation getting better. UPRR has pursued quite a growth jag–in Portland that’s meant more trains, longer trains in the past 1-15 years, due to oil and coal. When that started falling off a little, they turned to intermodal freight, and it’s only going to get thicker out there, both on our rails and our roads. This article’s from 2015 but it’s comprehensive and very informative. Better profit margins than Google! UPRR!

    “Today Union Pacific is investing heavily to expand its best growth business: intermodal freight. So-called intermodal cargoes are typically finished products such as electronics, clothing, or appliances that are shipped in corrugated steel containers or trailers. The containers often travel long distances by rail from one hub to another. Then they’re loaded onto trucks—more than one mode of transportation is the “intermodal” part—and hauled a relatively short distance—say, 50 miles—to a Walmart or Target warehouse.”

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    • rachel b November 13, 2017 at 5:06 pm

      Why doesn’t the City hit up UPRR for the $$ to do the work that could be done to clear these clogs (i.e., making tunnels, overpasses, etc.)? They’re (UPRR is) rich as Croesus! See the link above! Better profits than Google! And my impression is they’re using our city as a conduit for transport, more than anything. Bald One would know better than I… What, exactly, are we getting from UPRR for tolerating all the fallout of their incredibly intrusive business? The trucks trucks trucks, the diesel fumes, the noise, the inconvenience, the traffic problems? Does anyone know?

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      • Bald One November 15, 2017 at 12:02 pm

        Yes, we need an un-biased economic impact statement of UPRR for the city of Portland. PSU, any takers?

        As best I have been able to tell, the UPRR activities in the City of Portland mostly benefit the regional economy (Ore/Wash/Id) and don’t provide too many jobs in Portland, relative to their enormous footprint. But, their hub activities in Portland do contribute an enormous amount of local pollution and traffic congestion from all the trucks (remember, they are mostly a trucking outfit, getting all the containers between trains and in/out of the rail hub yards around town). So, they have a huge negative impact on the city environment, but provide relatively little local economic benefit (rather than regional benefit). And, of course, all ownership is not local.

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  • Matthew in Portsmouth November 14, 2017 at 12:09 pm

    I’ve never, ever been in such a hurry that I wanted to pick a fight with a railroad train.

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  • q November 14, 2017 at 1:06 pm

    Yes q because a pedestrian or cyclist has never done anything to get themselves killed on the road. Once again the idea of being entitled and special and exempt from the actual rules just removes you from the moral high ground.
    Yes everyone has to buy into vision zero for it to work.
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    That’s very dramatic but it has nothing to do with anything I wrote.

    Here we have an article strongly criticizing cyclists for unsafe behavior. Few comments here, and none of the several I’ve made, defend their behavior. All of mine relative to the cyclists are negative.

    Then you wrote “If they can’t follow simple rules about safety then don’t expect vision zero to work at any level.”? So I reply that actually, Vision Zero AIMS at mitigating the damage done by people who don’t follow simple rules. But because I listed things drivers do wrong, you ignore everything I’ve said that’s critical of cyclists, and jump to the conclusion that I think pedestrians and cyclists never do anything wrong, that I (who drives more than bikes) feel entitled, special, exempt from rules, and (although it makes no sense) removed from the moral high ground.

    How tiresome.

    I didn’t list things cyclists and pedestrians do wrong because this whole article was already about what they did wrong, and almost all comments by others already criticize them also, and also because the number of safety problems caused by drivers who “can’t follow simple rules about safety” is so high. I also didn’t expect to be judged negatively for not giving equal time in my one comment to problems caused by cyclists or pedestrians.

    Too bad I didn’t preface my example that was critical of drivers with yet another critical comment about cyclists, on top of the several others I already made. Maybe I should have said something like, “I don’t have a lot of sympathy for people who get hurt because they ignore rules” in response to the cyclists climbing over the train.

    Oops, that’s exactly how I DID start out my comment. So again, I have no idea how you came to your weird conclusions.

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  • Ben Guernsey November 15, 2017 at 5:22 pm

    I have never jumped a train as above, but would consider it in that situation. Since there was a ladder right there in the video and a fair amount of space it doesn’t even seem that dangerous compared to getting aggressively passed by some jerk in a hurry.

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  • Jake Terrell November 15, 2017 at 9:13 pm

    HAHA! No Comment. I can’t imagine myself jumping that high, it surely multiply my bones!

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