Union Pacific Bicycle Re-routing

One of the cool things about biking around town on bikes is that you can basically avoid any and all congestion or major choke points that motorists or transit is forced to succumb to. There are a few choke points that we’ve become very aware of in the cycling community. The reason is that Trimet has connected some of the latest and greatest of Portland’s bicycling infrastructure to some of the latest and greatest transit infrastructure in the city. Right where that major connection point is there’s the major Class 1 Union Pacific railroad crossing in southeast Portland. Here’s a map of where the crossings are that stymie these two major connection points of bicycle and transit infrastructure.

The basic layout of the area with bicycle routes highlighted. (click for larger image)

The basic layout of the area with bicycle routes highlighted. (click for larger image)

On the map you can see the railroad lines running across the southeast region, with two at grade crossings near SE 8th and then at SE Milwaukie/12th Ave. At the SE Milwaukee/12th Crossing the major bicycle mixed use path for cycling and walking is parallel to the tracks on the southwest side of the tracks. When a train stops along these tracks the area is effectively divided between the two sides. On just the northeastern side of the tracks happens to also be the Clinton St bicycle greenway.

This is one of the busiest greenways in the city. Thus, having the railroad there is seriously inconvenient during rush hour. The latest billion plus dollar project did nothing to mitigate this problem and regularly causes massive back ups that spread all the way to Powell, 12th and 11th St, up Division, and push drivers onto Clinton and onto other streets that they are NOT SUPPOSED TO BE USING as an arterial road.

That’s all a huge problem for the increasing number of motorists in the city. However, for us cyclists there are actually some super easy ways around this back up. Of course, it would have been ideal that the route would have had a way for cyclists to get over the tracks here, to complete the actual major connection between these two highly used routes – but we don’t have that. So here’s the next best alternate routes if you see a train blocking the route.

NOTE: Do NOT climb over the train. If it snaps back IT WILL KILL YOU. I’m not even slightly joking about this, and most people are obliviously unaware that this happens. So they think, oh – it won’t just take off and I can climb over it. This is NOT TRUE. Hundreds of poeple are killed a year by doing this dumb manuever and trying to climb through the train. Also note, if you climb over the train and the railroad police catch you, they are NOT the kind and friendly Portland police. They’re used to dealing with hobos and generally aren’t held to the same friendly standards of normal police (and the normal police aren’t always friendly, especially if you don’t fit into cookie cutter Wally Cleaver appearances). Anyway, you’ve been warned, just don’t jump over the train – I don’t want to read about splattered remains or dismemberments (don’t look unless you want a brutally horrid remind of how you die when you’re sliced up or smashed by a train).

So anyway, on to the great alternate routes us cyclists can easily take (and pedestrians but it’s a good 15 minutes longer).

Alternate Route:  The Clinton to Powell Bypass

Click for full size image of the Clinton Powell Alternate Route.

Click for full size image of the Clinton Powell Alternate Route.

At point (A) is where the Clinton Street Greenway and the cycling mixed use path infrastructure connects.

From the northeast side of the tracks, the second you realize a train is on the tracks, cut back to 19th (C) and head due south to Powell. There you’ll see a mixed use path sidewalk that head down and under the railroad overpass. This path (B) is seperated from Powell and is a very safe and easy route. On the map you can see the solid green line, where you can then loop back around and onto the new infrastructure and head south, north, or even further down Powell westward if you’d like.

If you’re coming from the southwestern side fo the tracks you’ll be riding parallel to the tracks anyway, which gives you an immediate idea of the train and where it sits. If that path is blocked continue toward Powell and take the same underpass (B) parallel to Powell and then turn left on 19th (C) and head back to Clinton. Of course, you can head whichever way from there, but getting back to Powell is super easy.

Either way, total travel time is about 4-5 minutes extra. If you’re a fast rider then you’ll likly lose no more than 2-3 inutes. It’s easy, seperated from automobiles most of the way, and a very calm route to ride.

Alternate Route: McLoughlin Viaduct Bridge Bypass

The MLK/Grand McLoughlin Alternate Route. Click for full size image.

The MLK/Grand McLoughlin Alternate Route. Click for full size image.

If you’re coming down Lincoln or anywhere out of the immediate southeast that is northeast of the railroad and north of Division, it is arguably easier to head over to Lincoln and cut onto the sidewalk across the SE Grand Ave/McLoughlin Street Viaduct Bridge overpass (or whatever it’s called) and then down the pedestrian sidewalk paths onto and back to the Caruthers Street bicycle infrastruture or just head down Water Ave directly onto the bridge cycle-tracks.


So even though there appears to be a complete gap for getting over or around the railroad infrastructure here, there are some pretty easy and acceptable routes to mitigate the problem. Cheers, and happy riding!

MAX Line Skateboarding Adventures!

Today on the way home I rode my bike down to the Tilikum and across to the eastern shore of the river. There I boarded the Orange Line MAX north. The next MAX pulled into the station shortly after my arrival and I racked my bike. I threw the lock on it since I planned to sit on the raised floor section away from my bike.

Once up on the raised floor section I sat down and pulled the laptop out to get some work done while riding. Tons of people boarded at the PSU stop and each subsequent stop, it was after 16:00 so a lot of people were heading home.

As the train approached Burnside and began to cross the driver rang the bell rapidly and started to apply brakes a bit harder than one might expect. However the driver let up quickly and a guy stood on the north street corner of Burnside with a defeated look.

I wasn’t sure what, but he was looking at the MAX intently as we continued onward past where he was standing. We missed our light into the Davis Street Station Stop so we stopped just short at Couch Street. There this same individual came quickly up to the side of the MAX and looked undernearth. He looked relieved but unsure.

The driver popped the side window and asked, “Can you safely get it?” He confirmed with a nod of his head and a verbal yes at the same time. The driver then said, “go ahead and get it.” The guy leaned down in front of the MAX.

To the side I could look over and see where he was leaning down in from the MAX. He was definitely in a position that if the MAX lurched forward he’d easily be caught, crushed, and killed. It would easily be a very painful way to die. But the driver of course held the train steady. In the mirror I could see him working something out from under the train.

Then he stood up and I saw what he had retrieved. His skateboard had slid out from under his feet and managed to land under the MAX as it had passed by on Burnside. So here he was, relieved, that it had stayed entirely intact, and just been pushed along by the lower bar in front of the wheels of the MAX.

All emergencies diverted! Onward we rolled, skateboard destruction averted!

Boarding Behavior, Bonkers, and How-to for Transit Usage in Cascadia

I was riding the Yellow Line as it changed to an Orange Line one morning. It reminded me of something. One of the thigns in Portland, and largely the Cascadia region peoples, among transit systems is the poor boarding behavior of bus and light rail riders. Here’s a quick sitrep of the dumb stuff we Portanders, Seattleits, Vancouverites, Vantuckians (Vancouver USA).


The first problem is boarding. We Cascadians seem to forget, almost entirely, that mass needs to be displaced from a space before other mass can take that space. So what do we do that shows are complete obliviousness to this reality? We all clump around the entrances of the bus or the light rail vehicles as they arrive for boarding and deboarding. It doesn’t matter if there is one door, four or six doors.

The way this happens is people walk up and surround the door. You might ask, “Why is this a problem, they have to board?” Well yeah, they do need to board, but first people should exit – or displace themselves from the vehicle – before more people board that vehicle. It’s simple physics people, and we often fail miserably. Don’t block people from exiting, we are good at it, but stop doing this dear Cascadians. In the end, it’ll help us all.

Ride Clumping

The next thing that the Cascadian people do is board and them clump by the door they board. I don’t understand this effect, except I do, but I don’t understand why we humans can’t resolve it more easily or resolve it through experience. Most of us Cascadians riding transit are experienced riders. We know how the system or systems work but we still clump near the doors. We often just stand instead of sitting, then we look around confused and dazed while we’re all stuck near the doors shoulder to shoulder while the mid-section of the bus or the light rail vehicles have plenty of space. Even worse, we’re all clumped while there are available seats to sit in.

So let me lay this one out bluntly. Here’s what you do when you board a transit vehicle.

  1. Shutup and sit the down. This should be the easiest thing ever, but just work on it, because obviously it is hard for some reason.
  2. If you can’t sit down, then move away from the doors and stand there. Also shutup.
  3. If people are clumped, move through them to the open area and stand (or sit if they’ve neglected the seats). Then shutup.

If we Cascadians can pull this off we will all do dramatically better when riding transit. We’ll have more space, easier flows and easier movement on and off vehicles. If we get good enough we might even have faster service! Shockers!!!

Transit Sleuth