Eyewitness describes bicycle rider’s collision with MAX train

Streetview of where our eyewitness commenter was stopped in his car while he watched the collision unfold. The red lines show the path of the bicycle rider. The crossing and collision is marked with an “X” in the background.

On March 13th a man riding a bicycle was involved in a collision with a MAX light rail train in southeast Portland. We haven’t heard much in the way of official updates in the case, but thanks to a comment left on our story yesterday we now know more about where and how it happened.

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The Friday Profile: Portland’s idea man has a big plan for eastside biking

Buffered Bike Lane with a bike symbol and arrow pointing forward

This is veteran transportation activist Jim Howell’s new concept for the central east side: a bike-rail corridor and second-story commercial district running over the Union Pacific railroad tracks and across three bridge landings.

Welcome to the first of a new feature on BikePortland: a brief look at the life or work of an extraordinary local person.

Jim Howell.
(Photo by J.Maus)

When Jim Howell was 37, he organized the first demonstrations that eventually turned Harbor Drive into Waterfront Park. At 40, working as an independent architect, he drew up the design for Northeast Portland’s Woodlawn Park. At 41, he sat on the citizens’ committee that recommended Portland’s first MAX line. At 48, while working for TriMet, he engineered the west-side bus node now known as Beaverton Transit Center. At 51, he co-founded a private van service between Portland and the Oregon coast, a predecessor to today’s Wave bus. At 77, he co-created the plan that became the most prominent alternative to the Columbia River Crossing.

Now, two months before his 80th birthday, Howell has designed his first transportation concept that puts bikes front and center.

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Via Reddit, man shares account of being hit by MAX train

Buffered Bike Lane with a bike symbol and arrow pointing forward

TriMet released this image of the man who was hit and
the operator who came to his aid.

A man posted on Reddit this morning about his harrowing experience of being struck by a MAX train. He said it happened at a station somewhere near the northeast Portland/Gresham border and that his use of headphones directly contributed to the collision. Here’s “fehu’s” post:

I was on my way to work, and got off at my stop in Northeast Portland/Gresham. I had my headphones in like a dumb ass, and went to cross the intersection before my train had left.

I mounted my bike, like I do every day, and went to cross the intersection. When I noticed the train, it was about 20 feet away, and my body was dead in the center of the tracks. I turned a sharp left, because I knew I couldn’t push past it in time. My front wheel got caught in the track. I unclipped from my pedal, put my foot down, and pushed myself and the bike about six inches back.

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TriMet’s problem intersection on E. Burnside also includes bike/MAX collision

Buffered Bike Lane with a bike symbol and arrow pointing forward
Portland Twilight Criterium 2008-6.jpg

Well known local rider, bike advocate,
and lawyer Mark Ginsberg collided
with a MAX train while crossing E. Burnside
in January 2011.
(Photo © J. Maus)

The intersection of E Burnside, 97th Ave, and the I-205 multi-use path seems to have a worse safety record than I first realized. It’s more dangerous than I realized when I posted about Sharon Fekety’s nasty tumble on the tracks back in 2007. It’s also more dangerous than I realized when I posted about the spill Thomas Crosslin took Wednesday morning while biking to work.

I learned about both of those incidents (not to mention others shared in comments) before I knew that noted local lawyer (who specializes in bike law), accomplished bike racer, daily bike commuter, and long-time Portland citizen activist Mark Ginsberg was involved in a collision with a MAX train while bicycling through that same intersection in January 2011.

According to Ginsberg, he was riding the north on the I-205 path with a friend after a long ride. When the I-205 path gets to E. Burnside, it switches from the west side of the freeway to the east side. To make this switch, the route directs bike traffic onto the south sidewalk of the E. Burnside overpass to go east and then it takes an abrupt left turn to go north via the painted crosswalk on E. Burnside (see graphic below). This turn shifts a rider’s eyes view from looking directly east to looking north and midway through the intersection is a set of MAX tracks.

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Woman riding bike struck by MAX train in Gresham

Buffered Bike Lane with a bike symbol and arrow pointing forward

At about 2:20 this afternoon, a woman attempting to cross E Burnside on SE 181st Avenue was hit by a MAX train. The woman remained conscious at the scene and sustained non life-threatening injuries (a possible broken leg).

According TriMet spokesperson Bekki Witt, they believe the woman on the bicycle was heading southbound when she heard the audible warnings going off and saw a westbound Blue Line MAX train pulling into its station to her right. When she proceeded forward through the intersection, she was struck by the eastbound train. “She thought it was the westbound train, but didn’t see the eastbound train coming,” said Witt, basing her information on witnesses and police interviews taken at the scene.

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