home

Reader Story: St. Johns Bridge: Portland, how about a warning?

Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on May 2nd, 2012 at 6:59 am

St. Johns Bridge, Portland OR
A visitor finds that
even the sidewalk isn't
that nice to ride on.
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

[Editor's note: I am excited to publish the first reader story submitted through our new Share Your Story page. Please keep the submissions coming! — JM (currently in Siesta Key, Florida ;-))]

This story was submitted by Peter Herreid of Madison, Wisconsin:

Portland is the cool West Coast cousin that bike enthusiasts, planners, and politicians from Madison visit and come back gushing about the bikeways, light rail, and urban growth boundary. My wife and I were there in mid-April and have since been rolling out daily dispatches on MadisonBikeLife.com.

So, one day we had just biked a nice tour of northeast Portland’s bike boulevards, or “neighborhood greenways” as they are referred to locally, and wanted to cross the Willamette River to get to Forest Park. The Portland Bureau of Transportation’s bike map, which had till then faithfully served us, showed the St. Johns Bridge as having a "multi-use path closed to motor vehicles." Fortunate for us we thought, because it was the only bridge up and down the river for miles, so off we went.

"The inescapable reminders of my own mortality to my left and to my right acted as blinders so that I walked most of the bridge looking down at the pavement immediately in front of me, taking deep breaths."

Approaching the bridge, the sidewalk didn’t exactly look like a multi-use path, but the road looked too dangerous to bike, so we stuck to the sidewalk. Now, you should know that heights make me nervous. I wasn’t sitting upright on my rented Dutch bike anymore. I was tucked low, nearly into a road cyclist’s racing position.

Before the first tower, I was walking it up the sidewalk. Although the railing was high enough above my waist that it would take a conscious decision to jump over, it was not reassuringly high above my waist. Looking down to my right, through the bars of the bridge railing I could see warehouses, docks, and boats on the Willamette, all toy-like in the distance, yet all too real. To my left I couldn’t see much, but could feel the swoosh of each passing truck and then the heavy mist of rain droplets and road wash left in its wake. I couldn’t tell if or how far the passenger side mirrors were hanging over the sidewalk, but imagined them as baseball bats swinging through the air, just feet from my head.

Granted, I was safe walking straight ahead as I normally do, but the inescapable reminders of my own mortality to my left and to my right acted as blinders so that I walked most of the bridge looking down at the pavement immediately in front of me, taking deep breaths. The enclosed passages within the bridge towers did each provide a respite. I took the time to read all of the crude teenage graffiti lining the walls.

The St. Johns Bridge was surprisingly out of character for the bikeways we encountered in Portland. The beauty of this historic bridge would be enhanced by some decent bike accommodations. I read that Portland lost out on an opportunity to rehab the bridge with decent bike and pedestrian facilities in 2005. We hope another opportunity soon arises! In the meantime, PBOT should put a “Scary!” warning on its bike map. Like this:

Fortunately, Forest Park made up for the experience on the bridge. After pushing our bikes up and up Springville Road to the park’s entrance, it was a wonderful ride through the forest with glimpses far down into the river valley. From up there, the St. Johns Bridge didn't look nearly as intimidating.

— Thanks for sharing this Peter. This bridge is a huge black eye for Portland. Thankfully, ODOT has recently taken note of concerns like yours. Back in February, after a man was struck and injured while biking on the bridge, ODOT announced they would move forward with some bike safety improvements. Hopefully your story reminds them that we're still waiting.

Email This Post Email This Post

Possibly related posts


Gravatars make better comments... Get yours here.
Please notify the publisher about offensive comments.
Comments
  • Blake May 2, 2012 at 7:28 am

    I also wanted to get across the St. Johns bridge, after getting a flat tire at the bottom of Germantown Rd., but the sidewalk was too narrow and the bridge too high for me. Instead, I walked 6.5 miles to Portland. Would be nice if the bridge had a bike path/sidewalk closer to this: http://weliketobike.files.wordpress.com/2011/05/new-ridin-dirty-vid.jpg

    Recommended Thumb up 1

    • middle of the road guy May 2, 2012 at 7:37 am

      Perhaps you should consider bringing along patches. That's cheaper than retrofitting the bridge.

      Recommended Thumb up 20

      • spare_wheel May 2, 2012 at 8:28 am

        and patch kits cannot fix crappy unsafe infrastructure.

        Recommended Thumb up 19

    • dan May 2, 2012 at 3:29 pm

      I'm confused on two points. How is the sidewalk too narrow to push your bike? It's plenty wide for that.

      And if "the bridge was too high", how would an improved sidewalk help?

      Recommended Thumb up 9

      • Marid May 5, 2012 at 12:15 pm

        Some people fear the metal road decks next to them on the Hawthorne Bridge. I imagine the St. John's would be downright frightening to them.

        Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Schrauf May 2, 2012 at 7:32 am

    Too late to improve the sidewalk, after the opportunity lost several years ago. But it seems dense sharrows in the right lane each way, along with large signs at the start of the span and apex of the span saying something crystal clear like BIKES ALLOWED FULL USE OF LANE AT ALL TIMES would be adequate for less than $100,000.

    And then if necessary, occasional "undercover cop on bike" stings to help encourage general compliance. Buzz a bike, get beat up by the cop's friends waiting in squad cars at the other end of the bridge. Okay, okay, maybe only a citation. =)

    Recommended Thumb up 16

    • Chris I May 2, 2012 at 7:54 am

      Even easier, re-stripe the bridge with one auto lane in each direction. A 1' median with divider will still permit for 5' bike lanes each way with 2' buffers and slightly wider auto lanes. The only tight section would be at the west end where a left turn lane would be needed, and the bike lanes would have to be 4' without buffers. The bridge itself is not a bottleneck, just the intersections at each end. The double lane configuration just encourages speeding and dangerous behavior.

      Recommended Thumb up 22

      • Chris I May 2, 2012 at 7:56 am

        I didn't mean to say "easier" at the top. "Better" would be the word. This would take more money, but would attract more than just the 2% of Portlanders that are brave enough to take the lane on this bridge, even with sharrows.

        Recommended Thumb up 1

    • BURR May 2, 2012 at 6:27 pm

      good luck on that undercover cop on a bike thing.

      PPB promised something like that to the BAC way back in the mid-90s, but it never materialized.

      Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Deeeebo May 2, 2012 at 7:45 am

    Obviously this guy never rode across the Sellwood to put things in perspective. Personally I really enjoy the heights/ views/ etc provided by the bridge and the rasised sidewalk sure seems to provide more protection than a painted white line does. Oh well. De gustibus non est disputandum.

    Recommended Thumb up 14

    • matt picio May 2, 2012 at 9:56 am

      He's from Wisconsin - the highest point in the state is 1950' above sea level and only 900' above the state's mean elevation. Hills and tall bridges aren't a common occurrence in the Midwest. And do you really want to introduce *any* out of state folks to the Sellwood Bridge?

      I disagree with Jonathan that the St. John's Bridge is a black eye for Portland. More like minor road rash. The real "black eye" would be the Ross Island Bridge, followed by the Sellwood Bridge, and the lack of a river-level route on the west side from the Sellwood to Lake Oswego and West Linn. There are no adequate bike/ped facilities crossing the river currently between the Hawthorne Bridge and the Canby Ferry - at least until either the Oregon City Bridge construction is completed or the new Sellwood Bridge is constructed. The St. Johns Bridge at least has sidewalks on both sides which are up to code - the Sellwood and Ross Island bridges don't even have that.

      Recommended Thumb up 23

      • dan May 2, 2012 at 3:15 pm

        I agree with Matt. I'd ride across the St. Johns bridge any day to never have to ride across the Sellwood or Ross Island Bridge ever again.

        Recommended Thumb up 6

      • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) May 3, 2012 at 6:48 am

        I disagree. The St. Johns is absolutely a black eye... both from a design perspective and from a community perspective because of how ODOT caved to freight interests despite the facts on the ground. It's also a black eye that activists didn't speak up and say, "Hell no!"

        This could be/should be a major attraction like the Golden Gate Bridge... where people not in a car can use and enjoy the bridge in safety and comfort. Instead it's a motor-centric danger zone.

        This bridge will get more bike/walk friendly. The question is how long are we willing to wait?

        Recommended Thumb up 10

      • wsbob May 5, 2012 at 12:08 pm

        "I disagree. The St. Johns is absolutely a black eye... ..." maus/bikeportland

        Quite a few people in their comments to this story, don't agree with or appreciate Bikeportland publisher-editor Maus's potshot description of Portland's St John's Bridge as a black eye...which it's not.

        And maus is wrong too, in suggesting that at the time the St Johns Bridge was refurbished, people didn't speak up for a better provision for bikes to cross the bridge on the bridge deck rather than the sidewalk. Check the comments to past stories, here and in other local media. Plenty of people did speak up.

        It could be, that the bridge deck didn't get bike lanes back then because the numbers of people actually in need of being able to cross the bridge wasn't sufficient to justify that provision. This morning, I tried to locate bike traffic counts for the bridge, but without luck. Maybe some of you reading have them. Show us the numbers, both before and after the refurbishing that would support provision of bike lanes on the bridge deck.

        There are a number of types of members of the community and road users that ODOT had to consider in deciding how to configure the bridge deck. Commuters and tourists are members of that community, as is the freight industry.

        Something I suppose I'd like to know is, if the bridges four main travel lanes were reduced to two main travel lanes and two main travel width bike lanes, as some people have suggested, would that aggravate traffic conditions on and leading to the bridge, and if so, by how much more than it is already ? (because the simple fact is, during commute hours, motor vehicle traffic on the Hwy 30 side of the bridge already backs up way down the long approach to the bridge, even onto Hwy 30's shoulders that people use for bike travel.).

        Another question: Would reducing the bridges posted 35mph speed limit to 25mph aggravate or reduce bridge congestion, and if so, by how much?

        We could use some real answers rather than potshots. The St John's bridge is an exquisitely designed, beautiful bridge. Referring to the bridge in unjustified disparaging terms doesn't help us bring the bridge's deck to a configuration that's more practical, safe and enjoyable for use whether people are traveling by motor vehicle, by bike, whether they're going to work... hauling stuff to make a living...or traveling for recreation.

        Recommended Thumb up 1

        • wsbob May 5, 2012 at 12:10 pm

          correction:

          "... It could be, that the bridge deck didn't get bike lanes back then because the numbers of people actually in need of being able to cross the bridge by bike, wasn't sufficient to justify that provision. ..."

          Recommended Thumb up 0

  • DK May 2, 2012 at 8:22 am

    I love the St John's bridge. One of my favorite in town, along with the two I5 spans (NO CRC!) They are classics.

    The bike accomodations aren't the best in town but the sidewalks seem plenty safe to me. Of course, heights don't bother me much.

    It is nice to get some feedback from an out-of-towner.

    I'd be in favor of improvements, provided they don't detract from the bridge's character. ...But, if there's money to spend, how about widening the shoulders on Skyline blvd? It's a popular bike route with blind corners throughout and enthusiastic sports car drivers checking the cornering performance of their rigs at higher than speed limit speeds.

    Recommended Thumb up 8

    • wsbob May 2, 2012 at 9:02 am

      "...This bridge is a huge black eye for Portland. ..." maus/bikeportland

      Meager provision for bike travel across the bridge does not make out of what is perhaps Portland's most beautiful bridge, a black eye for the city.

      It doesn't hurt for city officials interested in bringing tourism dollars to the city, to hear the impressions of tourists, about how hospitable they found the city's infrastructure to be.

      Blake, first comment to this thread: besides plenty of patches, possibly a spare tube; some people even carry a spare tire. And of course, pocket change for bus fare could have saved you the 6.5 mile walk to town.

      Recommended Thumb up 8

    • Mike May 8, 2012 at 3:48 pm

      Or at least speed bumps on more sections of the busiest areas of skyline

      Recommended Thumb up 0

  • pdxt May 2, 2012 at 9:25 am

    I biked across this bridge for the first time on Sunday. I took the sidewalk from E to W and was not comfortable at all. There were people walking and I had to stop and walk my bike past them, and then there was someone cycling against traffic and I had to get off my bike once again, and then I got nervous because the blind corners around the towers were just asking for someone to be "hiding" in them. I used the roadway on the way back and was MUCH more comfortable.

    Recommended Thumb up 5

  • Dan V May 2, 2012 at 9:30 am

    I'm in agreement that sharrows will do next to nothing to cause the heavy truck traffic to move over. It needs to be a bike lane each direction with one traffic lane each direction and a "moveable" lane that switches based on time. I work next to it and can see that the traffic flow is not enough to justify two lanes in each direction (unless you want to facilitate the speeders to pass people going the speed limit). As to the 2% bike number, a lot more bikes would use it if it wasn't such a white-knuckle experience.

    Recommended Thumb up 3

    • are May 2, 2012 at 9:55 am

      PBoT should be able to use a rather simple logic tree here. one, bikes should be on the roadway rather than on the narrow sidewalk. therefore, two, whatever accommodation is made for bikes on the roadway should at least slightly reduce the risk presently offered to a cyclist who chooses to assert the right travel lane. three, the primary risk is from motorists speeding, and from the fact that with two travel lanes in each direction, some overtaking motorists will want to try to split the right lane. therefore, four, motor traffic should be limited to one lane in each direction, which should also have the effect of calming speeds. a buffered bike lane with perhaps a modest diversion device at each end should accomplish this.

      Recommended Thumb up 23

      • Charley May 2, 2012 at 2:56 pm

        HEAR HEAR!!!!

        Recommended Thumb up 2

      • ScottB May 4, 2012 at 4:51 pm

        Apart from the fact it's a state facility, and therefore not under the jurisdiction of PBOT, sounds good.

        Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Chris May 2, 2012 at 9:37 am

    The St. Johns Bridge is not a "huge black eye." It's not a great crossing on a bike, but its better than most similar bridges of that generation. You can ride the sidewalk with safety or the road with a little less safety. There's not that much traffic. Bike lanes on the roadway would make it great.

    Recommended Thumb up 10

  • Henrik May 2, 2012 at 9:54 am

    @ Deebo - my sentiments exactly! Sellwood bridge is f'n scary!

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • maxadders May 2, 2012 at 2:22 pm

    Yes, and the Golden Gate Bridge is a "black eye" for San Francisco. I wish they'd tear that rickety old piece of junk down.

    Recommended Thumb up 9

  • Blake May 2, 2012 at 2:28 pm

    Yes, I should have had a spare tube, but no, I could not have taken the bus. It does not run on the weekends.

    Recommended Thumb up 5

  • Ian Marshall May 2, 2012 at 2:56 pm

    While it is nice to hear what visitors have to say about our bikeyness, it seems that Peter's main problem is that he was scared of the height more than anything, so it really makes his complaints invalid. I have been riding over St Johns for 20 years, and about 10 years ago I started using the road. I have never had a problem with motorists on the bridge, and before that the sidewalk worked just fine. As posted above, it's still better than Ross Island or Sellwood. And I use the road over Sellwood as well.
    I agree calling it a Black Eye is ridiculous, maybe a few times in my life I have seen more then 20 bikes or peds on the bridge at one time, 99% of the time it is empty of bikes. It's pretty easy, if it's busy take an extra 30 seconds and go slow to get around others, or get in the road.

    Recommended Thumb up 3

    • Atticus May 2, 2012 at 3:52 pm

      I have to say that motorists do have a problem with bikers on the roadway. I like to walk and ride much more than I use my car. But when I do drive across the bridge one guy on his bike makes, I don't know 20-30 people, all switch lanes back and forth to accommodate that one guy. It creates a hazard. As a driver I'm happy to share the road pretty much everywhere. I feel the St John's Bridge is the rare exception where the biker and walker need to share the sidewalk.

      Recommended Thumb up 2

  • Jerry May 2, 2012 at 3:07 pm

    Thanks Peter for the Mad City perspective. I love your proposed map edit. You should send it to Portland Parks so it can be in the next version.
    We are a little provincial here, taking for granted what we have and assuming it is the same everywhere. I think the St. John's Bridge is beautiful architecture in an even more beautiful setting. Yup, it is high, and it is scary. I don’t know how long you were in town, but I’d bet that was not the first and last time you saw those two things. (snicker).
    Since I’m a chicken I usually walk across the St. John’s but it is a great opportunity for sight-seeing. Biggest urban park in the country? Check. Deco bridge by Brooklyn Bridge architect? Check. Skyline? Check. Maybe the map should read, “Pretty. Scary.”

    Recommended Thumb up 3

  • Atticus May 2, 2012 at 3:13 pm

    The bridge is loved by our community. It's not ideal for bikes, but fortunately much of the city it. Carefully share the path with walkers or walk your bike across. It's a pretty short walk really.

    Recommended Thumb up 4

  • Oh, Sh... May 2, 2012 at 3:17 pm

    Here's a thought.... go where there are bike lanes!!!!!!! If there isn't one on the bridge then use the sidewalk. If your not comfortable, then don't go across the damn thing! Same with Sauvie Island.... All bikers should be removed until there are approved bike paths... I don't know how many times I've had a biker not look for traffic coming and swerve around the biker in front of them and almost pull right in front of me... If I honk so they know I'm there, then I get the bird! GO WHERE THERE ARE DESIGNATED BIKE PATHS!!!

    Recommended Thumb up 3

    • jeff May 2, 2012 at 4:17 pm

      I have a thought, why don't you learn what Oregon law is concerning bicycle use on roadways and start getting used to the fact they're not going anywhere?

      Recommended Thumb up 23

    • Dick Pilz May 2, 2012 at 4:22 pm

      The roadway IS a state approved bike lane. Go drive in some other state if you cannot handle that law of the road. Perhaps you need a refresher. Get a driver's manual and read it.

      I say this as someone who spends 99% of his road mileage inside a car. And, yes, I stop my bike at stop signs.

      Recommended Thumb up 13

    • Nathan May 3, 2012 at 1:39 pm

      Thanks for all of the exclamation points. Here are some things that might be of interest!

      Oregon Revised Statute for bicycle usage
      http://www.oregonlaws.org/ors/814.400
      The first law says that other than exceptions laid out later in that, "Every person riding a bicycle upon a public way is subject to the provisions applicable to and has the same rights and duties as the driver of any other vehicle concerning operating on highways, vehicle equipment and abandoned vehicles..."

      So riding bicycles within Sauvie's Island is, in fact, legal despite there being no bike lane. Isn't that interesting!

      In fact, it is legal to ride on every public highway in Oregon excepting the following freeway segments:
      PORTLAND AREA
      I-84: from i-5 (Mp 0) to:
      122nd street (Mp 10.25) Eastbound
      sandy blvd (Mp 15.14) Westbound
      US 30: east of the Jefferson street interchange (Mp 73.35)
      I-5: from beaverton-Tigard highway interchange, Mp 292.20
      to delta park interchange, Mp 306.70
      I-205: North of the oregon 43, Mp 8.82
      I-405: whole length
      US 30: From i-405, Mp 0 to 23rd street, Mp 1.99
      MEDFORD AREA
      I-5: barnet road (south Medford) interchange, Mp 27.58 to the
      Crater lake highway (North Medford) interchange, Mp 30.29.

      Drivers also have an obligation to pass these bicyclists safely with accordance to this little law: http://www.oregonlaws.org/ors/811.065

      Thanks for your concerns and for your safety.

      Recommended Thumb up 1

    • Marid May 5, 2012 at 12:32 pm

      Not helpful.

      Recommended Thumb up 0

      • Marid May 5, 2012 at 12:36 pm

        Silly comment system. Grrr. My comment was regarding Oh, Sh..'s comment. Telling people to ride bike paths is essentially telling them not to ride at all. Unless we duplicate the entire network of roads with bike paths, bike paths are just luxuries.

        Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Tom Hardy May 2, 2012 at 4:45 pm

    Bike paths or not, Markings or not, signs or not. My father showed me that crossing the St. Johns bridge was not safe anywhere BUT the roadway. The sidewalks have not been improved over the years since I first crossed the bridge the first time in both directions in 1953. I have crossed it many times every month since and never on the sidewalk. Of course I always wear bright clothing and have tail lights. I have not crossed it yet in an ice storm though.
    I have never been stopped by law enforcement although sometimes the police did look at me like I was crazy after he followed a semi past me on the up hill and then passed the same semi going downhill.

    Recommended Thumb up 2

    • Mo May 7, 2012 at 11:23 pm

      Agreed. Roadways are to be shared spaces, and it's perfectly legal and safe to use them. Four lanes means a wider bridge where cars can more easily safely pass a law abiding cyclist.

      Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Brian May 2, 2012 at 5:51 pm

    The portland marathon and bridge pedal and stp are such memorable events for a number of reasons, one of which is because participants get such great access to this bridge.

    Recommended Thumb up 2

  • Joe Adamski May 2, 2012 at 6:00 pm

    as a commuter route, the SJ bridge sucks, because sooner or later, you are going to have to cross US30, aka St Helens Rd, with frequent high speed, high volume traffic and poor facilities. This is BEFORE you get to Bridge Ave and onto the bridge. What good does it to to make improvements on the bridge and neglect access TO the bridge?

    Recommended Thumb up 4

  • Ed R May 2, 2012 at 6:18 pm

    The 2005 redo was cynical and manipulative on the part of ODOT, and those there who know details will privately admit this. The bridge had been closed for a very long time for a massive and long due rehab. Naturally it was the time to re-access traffic patterns and use. A study indicated the need for 4 lanes was only at either end, and 2 lanes could suffice for most of the bridge. ODOT was under pressure to adapt to 21st century patterns (I.e. increased bikes use) but at the time was still dominated by auto-centric if not outright anti-bike thinking. In a manipulative ploy ODOT made noises about accommodating bikes to silence critics and bury active public discussion. At the last minute, before striping etc was to be done, it was suddenly determined that 'accommodation couldn't be made for bikes after all'. (Sorry!) Insiders will tell you it had never been intended to be done, only a pretend offer to sedate those who would otherwise not have kept silent. Nice, eh?

    Insiders will tell you now that the culture there has changed, many of the anti bike crowd is now gone - retired, passed away, what have you and the agency is more accountable and responsible today. Great; we'll hopefully soon see what is put forth to right the injustice and deceit of 2005. I ride the bridge, in the road, and take the lane - as ODOT suggested cyclists should after the botched redo (but likely calculated most would not want to do, which proved true) When I get the honks, shouts and close cutting motorists indignant at my presence I always have ODOT to thank for it.

    Recommended Thumb up 9

    • Andyc May 2, 2012 at 6:37 pm

      Thanks for the insight. I always wonder what backward thinking kept this bridge at four lanes. It seems pretty terrible driving an automobile across it with people speeding past you, really narrow lanes, oncoming freight, etc. One day I may bike across this bridge again. Who knows. For now I walk the sidewalk when I feel like connecting to the hell that is riding on highway 30.

      Recommended Thumb up 2

      • Joe Adamski May 2, 2012 at 8:09 pm

        The 'backward thinking' is primarily the truck freight haulers. Fear of adding time to passage thru SJ ( time IS money, esp in transportation) led to a strong backlash at any proposal to reconfigure the bridge. There also was not a cohesive effort to push back at ODOT.
        While most bridges in Portland are under the control of Multnomah County, the interstate bridges and the SJ are controlled by ODOT. And freight users have always had a strong voice. ODOT may be 'making nice' with a shared lane on the SJ bridge, but it is window dressing for the most part. Freight still rules.

        Recommended Thumb up 6

    • kittens May 3, 2012 at 12:53 am

      hard to imagine an entire state-wide dept changing gears so quickly (6rs), if it is true, great!

      Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Supercourse May 3, 2012 at 8:12 am

    Don't be afraid to walk it...... it's really more enjoyable than the ride. Might even see an eagle whose wondering if your edible.

    Recommended Thumb up 1

  • Suburban May 3, 2012 at 8:40 am

    There is such a constant fuss about this bridge. It's a great connector and the pavement is in good shape. If you are comfortable pedaling at a walking pace you may also legally use the sidewalk.
    We live in paradise and still find fault in such a marvelous accommodation. To those who do not want to ride it; swimming is still an option.

    Recommended Thumb up 5

  • john May 3, 2012 at 11:05 am

    I guided some French bicycle tourists once to the bridge, they obviously just flown in. I told them to not mess around, just take the lane and ride across. (I think it was during the construction)

    Here's what I have been saying:

    When they redid the bridge in 2005, an idea I kept writing about was to make it a three lane bridge. Single lanes for the first half/feeding the bridge (well because there are single lanes "feeding" the bridge..) and double lanes Exiting the bridge (which you need because of light cycles) .

    As far as traffic, They need to start writing speeding tickets!! Everytime I drive across, I don't go over the speed limit, and get passed by everyone. What the Hell ? Speed Limit is 35 (and it should be 30) , why are people doing 45 , 50 plus !! It's like the bridge is dragstrip or something? I would set the speed at 30 and enforce it. That would go a long way to help with the interaction with cyclists and pedestrians. And also prevent some of the

    Recommended Thumb up 1

    • Chris I May 4, 2012 at 7:07 am

      People speed because they have 4 lanes and no obstructions except for the occasional cyclist. It's the same reason people speed on Barbur south of Portland.

      Recommended Thumb up 1

  • esther c May 3, 2012 at 11:16 am

    A good fix for the St Johns would be one of the car lanes turned over to bikes with a separator for safety. The other 3 lanes for cars with the middle lane changing directions with rush hour. Towards downtown in the morning and towards St Johns in the evening.

    But I am as big a wuss as anyone, and I don't find the St Johns particularly daunting. I ride on the sidewalk at my usual old lady pace. I like to stop on the top and enjoy the scenery. I love this bridge. My husband and I occasionally ride from Kenton to the bridge, across and back home.

    Recommended Thumb up 1

    • dan May 3, 2012 at 12:14 pm

      Yes! I like to stop at one of the "turnouts" on the bridge sidewalk to eat a granola bar after lapping Sauvie.

      Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Joseph E May 3, 2012 at 12:11 pm

    I was planning to ride to Sauvie island for the first time this weekend, via the St John's bridge and Hwy 30. But after reading this story and many comments, I've decided against it. Taking a bike trailer with 2 kids over this bridge doesn't sound good. I will have to try it by myself sometime, first.

    Meanwhile, Clackamas County has nearly finished a very nice path along the Trolley Trail, between Milwaukie and Gladstone. The whole thing will be very nice once the signs are finisihed, except for the crossing at Hwy 99 in the middle:

    View Larger Map

    Maybe we will go down there instead.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Unit May 3, 2012 at 12:43 pm

    We can thank the Port of Portland and the Freight Lobby for the dismal biking conditions on the St. Johns Bridge. ODOT simply gave in to stronger political interests. It's an industrial access bridge, other people just happen to be allowed.

    Recommended Thumb up 1

  • GlowBoy May 3, 2012 at 1:15 pm

    Can't say I mind riding on the 'sidewalk' of this bridge. Guess my fear of heights isn't too strong (and I'm from Minnesota FWIW), because for me the larger annoyance is having to slow down twice to dodge around the towers. In any event I find it infinitely preferable to taking the lane on the bridge deck.

    It's no worse IMO than the Ross Island Bridge (which I ride several times a week) and far, far better than Sellwood, which I ride more often than the St. Johns.

    To the bigger picture, maybe someone not from here is shocking and disillusioning to find all this substandard infrastructure in America's most bike-friendly city. But that's just an indication of how far we have yet to go, and even how much further the rest of the country has yet to go. We certainly aren't Copenhagen or Amsterdam, and we shouldn't rest on our laurels.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Eric May 3, 2012 at 5:33 pm

    I live in St Johns and was mailed today a notice that sharrows are going to be painted on the bridge. It also reiterates that bicycles are allowed to take the lane.

    People drive way over the speed limit on the bridge though, not the easiest route to cycle.

    Recommended Thumb up 2

  • Zaphod May 3, 2012 at 6:35 pm

    I have a dream of the right lane in both directions becoming a barrier separated bike lane and widen the motor traffic lanes. The same designer who did the Golden Gate did this one. It would be great to see the same level of enjoyment by *people*... we're not defined by our mode of transport right? Maybe a few restaurants/cafes might open up on the E side as a result of having this bridge become a destination in itself as the GG has. Helping the economy, keeping it local.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

    • Joe Adamski May 4, 2012 at 4:02 pm

      no connection to the Gate, other than the similar design. I am thinking you are talking about west side, as east side ( St Johns) many good restaurants. St Johns is a pretty good place to ride, its the US30 side, with all the highspeed traffic. I would love to see improvements that foster ridership and patronage of area businesses.
      I just think ODOT is trying to put lipstick on a pig. You can build separated lanes across the bridge, but once you hit US30, you are on your own.

      Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Tom Hardy May 5, 2012 at 3:53 pm

    US 40 may be a little intimidationg but as I mentioned earlier. I have been riding St. Johns bridge since I was 8 years old in 1935. I have also been riding Hwy 30 to Sauvis island and Astoria since then. Not every year to Astoria though. I also mentioned I wear bright clothing. I have never had any trouble. I stay away from the seemingly popular suicide black clothing like the plague. I figure I have traveled SJ over 14,000 times in the time I have been riding, and as I said earlier I do not do the sidewalk "EVER"!
    And Yes I did it today as well on May 5, 2012.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Tom Hardy May 5, 2012 at 3:55 pm

    OOPS!!! 1953 on the last.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

    • dan May 7, 2012 at 4:38 pm

      Ha! I was just doing mental arithmetic on your first post and saying "Wow, what an athlete at 85!"

      Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Mike May 5, 2012 at 10:55 pm

    I just got a letter in the mail today from ODOT that sharrows will be installed mid to late May, or whenever it's dry enough. Hopefully it makes a difference.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • John Reinhold May 8, 2012 at 6:57 am

    I love the St. John's bridge, however I can also see how it can be slightly intimidating. I certainly would not ride over it with my daughter who can be wobbly and less controlled as her speed picks up and the long downhill of the bridge allows a lot of speed to be picked up unintentionally. The sidewalks seem narrow once you get going too fast. :)

    That said, I think there are two things to consider. One is what everyone has been talking about, how to reconfigure the bridge and whatnot to make bikes' access better. Fine, that is all good thought.

    The second thing, and what I feel is the main problem, is why the hell did Portland/Metro make the bridge purple on the bike map? There is *not* a dedicated bike route, the sidewalk is too narrow to accommodate bikes in both directions or bikes+pedestrians simultaneously. Also, the towers would be unpleasant to negotiate on the longer tandems or cargo bikes, or with trailers and tag-a-longs. This stretch should be orange, like they colored the approaches on the west side. It is doable, yet not exactly a perfect bike experience.

    That said, it is my favorite bridge to ride over simply because of the beauty and views. I would not call it a serious black-eye on biking in Portland. The Ross Island bridge is a black eye (which may be less relevant after the new MAX bridge is completed). The Sellwood used to be terrible but we are fixing that.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

- Daily bike news since 2005 -
BikePortland.org is a production of
PedalTown Media Inc.
321 SW 4th Ave, Ste. 401
Portland, OR 97204

Powered by WordPress. Theme by Clemens Orth.
Subscribe to RSS feed


Original images and content owned by Pedaltown Media, Inc. - Not to be used without permission.