PDX vs SEA Swing Gates: Who will win?

I hate being called a MANSPLANER. I'm am NOT. Most recently BikePortland featured an articled about how hard it is to open the swing gates across TriMet's tracks. The video of the the person in the wheelchair should have been enough to convince anyone that these gates are bad. What happens when people with front loading cargo bikes try to get across?

The task is not easy. Watch the video:

@TinyHelmets is so flexible and strong. When I see something like this I wonder how I would manage this exact scenario. Taking little kids out of the bike to maneuver is not helpful at all. So, if I would have to do this with a front loading bike I would also keep the kids in. Plus, it's raining. That only would add to the drama. I know. Then someone commented how this whole thing was exaggerated and how she was doing it wrong. Oh yeah!! You try it. Worse part, I commented. This resulted in me being called a MANSPLANER.

Why do people claim they can do anything better when they have ZERO experience? Lifting a cargo bike is not possible when loaded up with kids and stuff. Lift it over the fence. You are doing it wrong. So, I can sympathize with trying to hold the bike, open the gate and getting across before the choo choo comes.

I am a woman of action. Knowing Seattle has gates just like this I ventured out on a wet cold day to reenact this on my longtail bike. My Xtracycle Edgerunner has all the weight in the back so the challenge was going to be different. You should also keep in mind I have a BionX on there and my kid is a heafty human. In the trailer days I recall trying to get across these tracks and found it just as difficult.

Here is my video

The Seattle swing gates open out. When you finally make it across you push the gate. Unlike PDX I have three door options. It's like a surprise, which one will offer me a prize. I hope I win tacos with door #2. Actually, I had surveyed the other side and it's a tight squeeze for my long bike. Door 2 was going to offer me a better chance of making it across. Plus, I had 3 doors unlike the crossing in PDX.

As you can see I do a lot of dragging to get the bike positioned well enough for me.

Along this whole stretch this is the one crossing with these gates. I recall the gates at all intersections but when we looked we saw nothing. What does it look like without the gates?

It's nice and open. The Light Rail has other areas that require pedestrians to cross the tracks and those are in the Rainier Valley along Martin Luther King. In none of those locations do we have swing gates. It's plain open access. So, I am really unsure why we have swing gates at that one intersection. 

SODO Trail: Not beautiful but it's a separated path
Personally, this area of town is not in the middle of Seattle, not connected to anywhere and does not have places of interest for me. If you need to go to SODO it's for a purpose not for a stroll. It's an industrial area with a path that connects to nothing. We escaped by biking on some sidewalks and taking the Bus Only transit lanes on 4th because I do that.

S. Jackson biking West
Once getting across the streetcar tracks we can safely navigate ourselves to the core of downtown.

As you can see, bike issues are not just in one place and our respective DOTs need to do better for pedestrians and bicyclist. I don't go to SODO often but avoid obstacles like that stupid swing gate. By making walkable/transit friendly cities you need people with different abilities to access them. If anyone can explain to me the one swing gate we have along the light rail tracks call me, I want to know why.


  1. I don't know about Portland, but in Seattle the SODO gates are where the Link light rail tracks cross S. Holgate St. The gates are for pedestrians, not cyclists. Cyclists ride in the street where there are no gates. The sidewalk on the north side of Holgate is barely satisfactory even for pedestrians, and the south side of Holgate has no sidewalk at all.

    1. Not everyone on a bike is comfortable standing on S. Holgate with drivers coming down that ramp. Just across the street along the path their is an opening to cross easily with no gates. This doesn't explain why out of the whole length of the Light Rail their is only one swing gate.


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