Biking through inner southeast Portland got a little easier Tuesday with the opening of the Gideon Overcrossing.
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.
The new bridge is very similar to the Rhine-Lafayette Overcrossing TriMet built over the tracks about a half-mile away in 2015.
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)”.
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.
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 email@example.com
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