Bicycle Safety Guide and Countermeasure Selection System


Path and Roadway Intersections

Portland, Oregon

Prepared by Mia L. Birk, former Bicycle Program Manager, City of Portland, and George Hudson, former senior designer for the Portland Parks Bureau. Both currently work for Alta Planning + Design.


The Springwater Corridor is a 16-mile paved shared-use path that extends from Portland's inner eastside to the adjacent suburbs of Gresham and Boring. A rail-to-trail conversion, it follows power lines and is part of a larger trail system in the Portland metropolitan area known as the 40-Mile Loop.

Over half a million people use the trail annually. There are 28 locations where the trail crosses a roadway, offering an interesting case study for managing trail-roadway crossings. Almost all crossings are at locations away from existing roadway intersections, thus few before and after safety or functionality comparisons can be made. However, qualitative observations are offered where appropriate.


Evaluation of trail-roadway crossings involves analysis of the traffic patterns of vehicles as well as trail users. This includes traffic speeds, street width, traffic volumes (average daily traffic and peak hour), line of sight for both roadway and path approaches, and trail user profile (age distribution, destinations).

The existing crossings fall into the following categories:

  1. Uncontrolled, marked crossings: unprotected crossings include midblock crossings of residential, collector, and sometimes major arterial streets.
  2. Routed to existing intersection: in certain locations, the trail emerged quite close (within a few hundred feet) to existing intersections and was routed to use the existing signal.
  3. New signalized crossings: in four locations, new signalized crossings were installed at major roadways due to the traffic volumes, speeds, and projected trail usage.
  4. Grade-separated crossings: three grade-separated crossings were in place at the time of acquisition of the corridor. Two additional grade-separated crossings were constructed after the trail was installed. The trail takes advantage of the presence of these grade-separated crossings.

Type 1: Uncontrolled/Marked Crossing

Uncontrolled, marked crossing of a local street.

Uncontrolled, marked crossing of a local street.

Most of the minor public roadway crossings along the Springwater Corridor are serviced by unprotected crossings consisting of crosswalk markings and signs. Where trail crosses a public roadway, trail users are required to stop for roadway traffic. At private driveway crossings, motorists are required to stop for trail users, as indicated by stop signs and marked crosswalks. These crossings have a low volume of traffic and are not public street right-of-ways.

In each case, the crossing design took into consideration vehicular traffic, line of sight, trail traffic, use patterns, road type and width, and other safety issues such as nearby schools.

These crossings have the following characteristics:

Evaluation and Results
No crashes between a trail user and a motorist have been reported. The private driveway crossings typically serve large industrial complexes, and their access across the trail is permitted by the trail managing agency (the City of Portland). There have been no issues at these private driveway crossings.

Two of the three median refuge islands have landscaping. The landscaping has been subject to damage from automobiles.

Type 2: Route Users to Existing Intersection

The trail leads users very close to a major intersection at Southeast Linnwood and Johnson Creek Boulevard. This intersection went through a major redesign shortly after the Springwater Trail was built. Trail designers recognized the potential for improving safety by diverting trail users to the newly signalized crossing.

Major intersection at Southeast Linnwood and Johnson Creek Boulevard.

Major intersection at Southeast Linnwood and Johnson Creek Boulevard.

In addition, the former rail line crossed an existing intersection at Southeast Bell and Johnson Creek Boulevard at a diagonal through this intersection. The intersection was signalized prior to the construction of the trail. Trail users now utilize the existing signal, crossing each street one at a time.

The crossings have the following characteristics:

Evaluation and Results

Trail routed to Johnson Creek/Linwood signalized intersection. Trail users cross using crosswalks.

Trail routed to Johnson Creek/Linwood signalized intersection. Trail users cross using crosswalks.

No collisions have been reported. Trail users complain of having to cross two crosswalks at Bell and Johnson Creek, thus requiring them to wait for two signal cycles.

Type 3: New Signalized Crossings

There are four locationsSoutheast 82nd Ave, Southeast Foster Road, Southeast 122nd Ave, and Eastman Parkwayalong the Springwater Corridor where the trail crosses a major roadway of above 15,000 ADT. In all four cases, the crossing width was greater than 60 feet, the nearest intersection more than 350 feet away, and all had anticipated trail user volumes of greater than 100 per hour. Trail designers felt that new signalized crossings would be necessary to facilitate safe travel, and thus developed a signal warrant analysis that projected use through trail user numbers from the Burke Gilman Trail in Seattle, Washington, and user counts on a one-mile built portion of the Springwater Corridor in Gresham, Oregon. Each location was also analyzed for sight lines, impacts on traffic progression, timing with adjacent signals, capacity, and safety.

Trail users activate the signal as follows:

At Southeast 82nd, Southeast Foster Road and Southeast 122nd Avenue, the crossing includes a median island to reduce the crossing distance; signal activation in the median for those unable to cross the entire roadway in one movement; and advance warning signs for motorists.

Evaluation and Results
The signalized crossings have been effective, safe, and functional. Since their installation in 1995, there have been no reported collisions, with an estimated 500,000 annual users. Trail users note that although they must activate the signal and wait for a green light, motorists have gotten used to the signal and frequently stop before they get the red light. Traffic engineers report minimal interference with nearby signals, given the relatively distant spacing from the nearest signalized intersections.

Flat grade with sight lines at the 82nd Avenue and 122nd Avenue crossing.

Flat grade with sight lines at the 82nd Avenue and 122nd Avenue crossing.

Type 4: Grade-separated Crossings

There are five grade-separated crossings on the Springwater Corridor. These crossings consist of both over and undercrossings of roadways. Interstate 205, Highland Road/181st, and Telford Road were existing grade-separated crossings developed in response to the presence of the railroad.

Hogan Road and the 7th Street Bridge, both in the City of Gresham, are roadway improvement projects built after the trail was constructed. At both these roadway crossings, the roadway goes over the trail, and Johnson Creek is immediately adjacent to the trail. The Hogan Road crossing was implemented first, while the 7th Street Bridge project followed a few years later. Both grade-separated crossings were built in anticipation of high projected vehicle volumes and speed.

Bicyclist loop detector signal activation at one of the trail crossings.

Bicyclist loop detector signal activation at one of the trail crossings.

Key characteristics of these undercrossings include:

Motorist view of the trail crossing at 82nd Avenue and 122nd Avenue.

Motorist view of the trail crossing at 82nd Avenue and 122nd Avenue.

Hogan Road, having been the first of the two undercrossings to be constructed, had several shortcomings. Placement of the trail at the two-year flood plain elevation resulted in regular flooding and closure of the trail. With each flooding event, sediment from the creek was deposited on the trail, requiring regular clean-up. The approach to the undercrossing did not facilitate complete visibility through the undercrossing area, resulting in unsafe feelings among users along the approach. Lighting installed in the underpass area was vandalized, requiring the lights to be retrofitted with metal cages. To meet ADA grades on the trail approach, a switch back ramp was incorporated on the eastern side of the undercrossing approach. Turning radii used on this approach tend to be a bit tight for bicyclists' comfort. Today, about half the trail users opt to use the alternative, at-grade crossing route in lieu of the Hogan Road undercrossing, regardless of creek conditions.

Bicyclist view of the trail crossing at 82nd Avenue and 122nd Avenue.

Bicyclist view of the trail crossing at 82nd Avenue and 122nd Avenue.

These lessons learned were incorporated when the 7th Street Bridge project was proposed. Key characteristics of this undercrossing include:

These improvements resulted in an undercrossing that has been well-received and equally well-used by the public.

Conclusions and Recommendations

Trail crossing designs tailored to the site characteristics (type of cross-street, traffic volumes, street width, traffic speeds, proximity to existing intersections, etc.) have resulted in well-functioning trail-roadway intersections with no reported safety problems to date. Experience with some undercrossings highlighted the importance of good design, including open approaches with good visibility and consideration of site environmental conditions.


Mia Birk
President, Alta Planning + Design
Portland, OR 97214
3604 SE Lincoln St