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New Gideon Overcrossing offers new connections and relief from delays

Posted by on November 11th, 2020 at 3:51 pm

The new bridge as seen from SE 14th Avenue.
(Photos: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

Biking through inner southeast Portland got a little easier Tuesday with the opening of the Gideon Overcrossing.

A common occurrence that will hopefully happen less with the new bridge available.
(Photo: Betsy Reese)

The $15 million bridge goes up and over four railroad tracks near the 12th Avenue MAX Station, offering riders relief from long delays caused by freight trains blocking nearby intersections. These delays are so bad some folks risk life and limb by hopping over moving trains to get to the other side.

Construction of the new bridge was delayed by a kerfuffle with an adjacent business owner, but TriMet worked through that controversy and broke ground in spring 2019.

The new bridge is very similar to the Rhine-Lafayette Overcrossing TriMet built over the tracks about a half-mile away in 2015.

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To use the new bridge you can either roll into an elevator or take a few flights of stairs. The elevator works great. I only had to wait a few seconds for it to come after I pushed the button. It’s wide enough for two large bicycles side-by-side and you enter and exit from different sides so it’s easy to roll-on and roll-off.

You’ll also notice what PBOT refers to as, “cyclist-friendly stairways”. There are steel channels near the edges of the stairs.


These wheel gutters are designed to make it easier to walk your bike up and down the stairs. PBOT touted the design in an announcement yesterday, saying, “The bike gutters are a unique design and a first for Portland. The design was based on experience locally, and studies of what works and doesn’t work worldwide. The Gideon bike gutters were designed to prevent problems experienced elsewhere.” My bike has relatively wide tires (45 mm) and fit in the gutters just fine. All you do is line up your tires in the gutter and carefully roll. I found these easy to use going down, but much more difficult going up. My bike is heavy and my bars hit the wall a few times as I struggled to push it upward (see video). This is a big downside of wheel gutters that are so close to the edge. You have to tilt your bike away from the railing and wall to make it work.

From a bike network connectivity standpoint, this bridge is a huge deal. It connects the very busy bikeway on Gideon to the Clinton bikeway (via Taggart), making it much easier to safely ride between the Willamette River and the Hosford-Abernethy neighborhood. PBOT has done a good job with pavement markings to guide riders along. There’s even a new bikeway sign on Gideon that includes: “Clinton Bikeway (via Gideon Overcrossing)”.

Alicia and Wyatt Reese waving to the Amtrak.

While I was on the bridge yesterday I met Alicia Reese and her young boy Wyatt. “This guy loves trains and bridges more than just about anything in the world,” Alicia said, “So this is a very exciting development.” She was pointing to Wyatt who had already jumped out of his trailer and onto the upper path to see an oncoming train. “Look mom, here comes the Amtrak!” he shouted. Alicia said she would see people hopping trains in the past and the new bridge makes this daily ride with her son so much nicer. “I think this is really going to save lives,” she added.

TriMet built the bridge, but it will be owned, operated and maintained by the City of Portland.

Another bonus? Excellent views of the downtown skyline.

Have you used this yet? If so, I’d love to hear about your experience.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org
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NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. BikePortland is an inclusive company with no tolerance for discrimination or harassment including expressions of racism, sexism, homophobia, or xenophobia. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

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Hotrodder
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Hotrodder

After reading all the criticism of this new piece of infrastructure, I figured I should check out this boondoggle for myself, and I have never been so angry at the lever-pullers in city government. My beef? The elevator doors take several seconds to open(!). It might be as many as ten seconds(!). And, to make matters worse – as if that’s even possible – they don’t make the Star Trek “whoosh” sound.
Where the heck did the money go?

(The wheel-tracks work great, up and down, but so what? I’m still mad.)

My future votes have been cast.

David Hampsten
Guest
David Hampsten

A bike bridge without a ramp on each side. Sad.

GlowBoy
Guest
GlowBoy

Wheel channels need to be at least a few inches in from the railings in order to work properly. Disappointing if you can’t roll your bike nearly upright, and still not fixing the problems from older designs. Also, a stairway with landings and turns in it, that forces you to negotiate your tires into the tracks twice, is disappointing. I recognize that both problems are in part due to ADA requirements.

Javier Sodo
Guest
Javier Sodo

Hope to check it out this weekend. Thanks for the article!

Matt
Guest
Matt

Hmm, looks like those 45 mm tires fit, but not with a lot of room to spare. Tire widths have been trending upwards for a while, so this narrow channel seems an odd choice. Looks like a typical cruiser tire at 2 or 2.25 inches (51 or 57 mm) probably wouldn’t fit.

Matt
Guest
Matt

What will keep this bridge from becoming a hot new camping spot?

Pat Franz
Guest
Pat Franz

We live in the neighborhood and we were very happy indeed to see it’s open. We went last night and thought everything worked really well. The lighting is nice, not harsh, and bright enough to feel safe. And as Jonathan mentioned, the view of downtown is surprisingly nice. I can see it being our new favorite fireworks watching spot.

Eric
Guest
Eric

Happened upon this today when there was a stopped train on the tracks & was so glad! I took the elevator up and the stairs down, and I found the channels were the best of this type that I’ve ever used, much better than the Rhine overcrossing or the channel beside the stairs on the historic columbia highway (near cascade locks). Unlike the others, the bike tires don’t jump out of the channels because they are much deeper. a+ experience.

Ali
Guest
Ali

In response to some comments below- There’s no roof on the bridge, similar to the Rhine-Lafayette bridge down the road. Not a great place to camp, and I’ve never seen anyone camping in the Rhine-Lafayette bridge elevators.

nic.cota
Subscriber

I went yesterday afternoon and felt like it worked really well.

That being said, 3 small gripes:

1) The channels should have been designed with scuppers on each end to help ‘funnel’ the bike tire into the notch. It was difficult to thread both bike tires into it, especially since you have to lean your bike away from the handrail.

2) The alignment for the curb cut on the 14th side was a little frustrating as it angled riders to dismount at the elevator and not near the stair landing. The rest of the curb was a mountable design with a 1″ lip (per PBOT standard) and can be really dangerous if people are trying to ride onto the sidewalk at such an angle before dismounting.

3) There should be better way-finding signage at the 12th/Clinton intersection to direct people to use the crossing in case there are slow trains. I could imagine non-locals or new users getting off the MAX and not realize this great option a block away and still cross through stopped trains or waiting in frustration.

Todd/Boulanger
Guest

The bike ramp got it 70% right (?) – not sure why ‘they’ had to do a “special design”as the engineering of these ramps is very well known in Europe…and looks like the off the shelf Saris bike ramp would have fixed the steep walled gutter issue others have pointed out: https://www.sarisinfrastructure.com/product/bicycle-access-ramp and the FALCO ramp has a nice brush “friction” feature to slow the bike decent …

Small Picture:
– its great they put in an overhead crossing at this location as fracked oil trains and other trains are getting longer (1 mile) thus increasing wait times AND chance that peds would take a chance and cross with a train
– its good they had a pass thru design foe the elevator that can accommodate bikes + trailer…this was one point our committee pressed for strongly when designing similar for the CRC stations in 2008
– I took would rather use a cork screw ramp vs. a zig zag one

Big Picture:
– We as a design + investment community really need to tie the landuse and access needs together vs in isolation…I hope in the future these type of ‘isolated single user base’ facilities could instead have multiple user bases…like a longer pedestrian ramp that has a gentle slope to allow peds across a barrier AND plus serve a multi story building to help activate what would otherwise be a dead zone…etc.

Jason
Guest
Jason

You know, maybe with COVID-19 ravaging through close quarters, an elevator is a bad idea? Can we just go back to the old days where we had ramps and corkscrews? Not going to lug my bike up stairs.

jack
Guest
jack

Used the crossing for the first time this morning. It was great! Took the stairs up, no issues getting my 38c tires in the tracks and did not have to lean my bike (with panniers) any more than I would normally have in order to push it up anyway. Took the elevator down (with my mask on). They are quick, large, and clean. The whole area was well lit and I was super excited to not have to ride up to the Hawthorne Bridge to get over the tracks due the typical Wednesday 6:45am rail car.

Great work to all involved!!!!!

jack

Chris I
Guest
Chris I

Took the kids back on the heavy cargo bike yesterday and we tried out the elevator. This really is a first-class facility, especially the huge glass elevator. Having entry/exit doors makes it so easy with a big/heavy bike, and the kids loved the views and the trains. Hopefully the elevators stay in good shape and we don’t have any maintenance issues (I’m looking at you, Trimet elevators along I-84).

Pascual Perrin
Guest
Pascual Perrin

Used it today very cool. Unfortunately the north elevator has already been vandalized. Graffiti on glass and floor. Anything goes in Portland. Hardly worth building nice stuff anymore.