(Photos by J. Maus/BikePortland)
The opening of the Gibbs Street Pedestrian Bridge in July 2012 came amid much fanfare. The $13.6 million span over Interstate 5 provided a much-needed connection between the Lair Hill neighborhood and the burgeoning South Waterfront.
While it’s a beautiful bridge to walk and bike on, it has one major flaw. There’s no ramp to make bicycling easy and smooth at the transition to the South Waterfront side.
Once you get to the east side of the bridge, the design requires people to: carry and/or push their bikes on six flights of stairs with only a narrow and hard-to-reach wheel gutter to ease the task; or use an elevator.
And unfortunately, the elevator — which is by far the preferred option if you are biking, especially with kids and/or with a large bike — has proven to be unreliable.
The elevator closed for repairs or inspections five times in its first two months. And now we hear it’s broken again. Ben McLeod has flagged the issue on Twitter and he’s been conversing with PBOT about it. Here’s his original tweet:
— Ben McLeod (@bentonmcleod) February 25, 2014
We’ve also received an email this week from a reader who uses the bridge every day. Geir E. wrote:
Is it only me, or has this elevator proven to be a complete piece of crap? I have tried to use it a few times a week over the last month (with a stroller, not a bike) and it has been out of service about 50% of the time. What is the experience from your readership? Are people (with and without bikes) happy with the bridge and the elevator?
And if my observation is correct, that it is broken down most of the time… are they planning to do something to improve the reliability?
We followed up with PBOT spokeswoman Diane Dulken. She said PBOT was aware of the issue and would get it fixed the same day. She also said there are plans to improve the signage so that it’s easier to communicate when the elevator isn’t working and give people easier ways to report issues.
It was also down for repairs in December, Dulken confirmed, and she assured us that PBOT is “looking into the reliability of the elevator.” Beyond bikes, the City is also concerned about how the elevator closures impact ADA access.
As for the wheel ramp on the stairs, back in October 2012, PBOT said they were working on a project that would bring a “major improvement” to the design.
Since that post, we haven’t heard anything about the project or about progress to improve the situation. Asked about it this morning, Dulken said the project manager who was in charge of the project is on vacation and she’ll plan to follow up about it next week.
We’ll keep you posted.
In the meantime, take your chances that the elevator will be operational and get ready for a good arm workout if you have to use the stairs.