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No Tilikum crossing for Bridge Pedal this year

Posted by on February 8th, 2016 at 12:16 pm

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Turns out it was a rare treat.
(Photo: M. Andersen/BikePortland)

If you were one of the 20,000 or so people who crossed the Tilikum Bridge during Bridge Pedal last year you are now a part of history.

That’s because it won’t be included in the 2016 version.

After years of construction and anticipation, TriMet’s Tilikum Bridge opened to the public on Sunday, August 9th 2015. It was sweet timing for Bridge Pedal participants, who earned bragging rights for being part of the first wave of people to ever go across it. The bridge was the marquee attraction for last yeart’s event and it featured prominently on all four routes. But the Bridge Pedal/Tilikum relationship might have been nothing more than a torrid a one-day stand.

“Our priority is to keep MAX, buses and Portland Streetcar operating and we are unable to halt it for this event.”
— TriMet

Rick Baumann, the organizer of Bridge Pedal, told us he wanted to put Tilikum on the route again this year (the 21st annual ride slated for August 14th) but a new TriMet policy made it impossible. Since last year TriMet no longer allows permits for events that cross their streetcar and light rail tracks. That means the 20,000-plus riders of Bridge Pedal would have to stay on the northside path and enter and/or exit from the Springwater path near OMSI and SW Moody. “That is an impossible configuration for Bridge Pedal,” Baumann says. (Note that Baumann added bus traffic would not have been impacted.)

Last fall he asked TriMet to suspend MAX and streetcar service until 10:30 am on the Sunday morning of his event and was told by the agency they were unwilling to do so.


bridgepedalmap

When I asked TriMet why Tilikum was left off this year’s route, they said it was Bridge Pedal’s decision. When I asked Baumann, he said it was TriMet decision. After a follow-up with Baumann, he acknowledged that technically it was his decision. “I guess you could say I chose not to apply to include Tilikum Crossing, but I did so only because I was told the request would certainly be denied.”

After Baumann emailed TriMet about his decision to leave the bridge off the route in 2016, TriMet replied by writing, “TriMet certainly enjoyed partnering with Bridge Pedal in August for a momentous opening event. However, we think you have made the right decision.”

When asked about the decision on Friday, TriMet spokesperson Mary Fetsch told us, “Our priority is to keep MAX, buses and Portland Streetcar operating and we are unable to halt it for this event.”

Halting rail traffic is certainly not in TriMet’s interest, especially coming off a 2015 where it posted its worst record of reliability in over a decade. The Oregonian reported last month that one way TriMet hopes to imoprove reliability is by new, “policies and procedures that prioritize getting trains moving.” It appears Bridge Pedal is one of the first victims of that policy.

While some people might be disappointed, it seems to me the big thrill of Bridge Pedal is pedaling a bridge that’s usually open only for driving (like the Marquam and Fremont). Because the Tilikum is the only bridge where driving is not allowed, you can pretty much have that same, thrilling Bridge Pedal experience on it 24/7/365.

— Jonathan Maus, (503) 706-8804 – jonathan@bikeportland.org

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30 Comments
  • rick February 8, 2016 at 12:26 pm

    Move it to SW Terwilliger by OHSU

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  • DanG February 8, 2016 at 12:29 pm

    Tilikum really wasn’t designed to handle that kind of traffic anyway. With the railings on both sides, it can feel claustraphobic when crowded. I do look forward to seeing how the new Sellwood bridge performs.

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  • Chris I February 8, 2016 at 12:36 pm

    It’s pretty easy to add it to your ride to/from the start of the event. I know that’s what we’ll be doing.

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  • Adam H. February 8, 2016 at 12:41 pm

    It is perfectly reasonable for a transit agency to not want to have their rail lines obstructed for a good portion of the morning. Having a functioning public transport system should take priority over a voluntary recreational ride. It’s not as if the MAX can be rerouted.

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    • Spiffy February 8, 2016 at 1:39 pm

      TriMet is different than most light-rail transit agencies in that their rails are on the streets where they can conflict with people…

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      • Social Engineer February 8, 2016 at 2:08 pm

        Actually it’s quite similar to most modern light rail systems in this respect. Charlotte, Dallas, Denver, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Phoenix, Sacramento, Salt Lake, San Diego, San Jose, etc. Even Seattle, which has the country’s most advanced and expensive light rail (built to pre-metro standards in most segments), still has at-grade sections along MLK Way.

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      • Chris I February 8, 2016 at 2:31 pm

        Not true at all. Most cities around the world with quality mass transit have some form of surface running rail transit:

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_tram_and_light_rail_transit_systems

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      • Adam H. February 8, 2016 at 3:52 pm

        This is not the case in Europe, where nearly every major city has surface tram lines that run along rails at street level.

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  • Champs February 8, 2016 at 12:44 pm

    Swing gates, prohibited events, locked up until it had Orange Line operations funded.

    This “Bridge of the People”—a name nobody asked for—sure feels like TriMet’s special toy, and they’re not sharing.

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    • K'Tesh February 8, 2016 at 7:59 pm

      Whenever I talk about it to someone, I always make sure to tell them about my friend Kirk Reeves, who the bridge should have been named for.

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  • John Lascurettes February 8, 2016 at 12:46 pm

    Since last year TriMet no longer allows permits for events that cross their streetcar and light rail tracks.

    Wait, doesn’t the Bridge Pedal cross MAX lines elsewhere on its routes through the city? And wouldn’t this also affect the WNBR in June and several foot races throughout the year?

    Recommended Thumb up 14

    • Adam February 8, 2016 at 12:59 pm

      For the two longer rides it does cross the tracks near the end of the Bridge Pedal. When you are coming south down Interstate you cross the Blue, Red, Green, and Yellow line tracks as they go to the Steel Bridge at the transit center. You then continue south another block, and then take the eastbound traffic lanes westbound over the Steel bridge.

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    • Oliver February 8, 2016 at 1:20 pm

      To say nothing of the parades.

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      • Beth H February 8, 2016 at 8:10 pm

        The Rose Festival is much bigger and older than the Bridge Pedal, and generates far more tourism revenue than the BP does. Trimet likely not be allowed to simply abandon a partnership with the City and the Rose Festival Association in order to remain consistent on a stated policy of when they delay rail operations.

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    • Spiffy February 8, 2016 at 1:41 pm

      “Wait, doesn’t the Bridge Pedal cross MAX lines elsewhere on its routes through the city?”

      that was my first thought so I went to the Bridge Pedal map and the route avoids all rail crossings…

      Recommended Thumb up 4

  • Murtagh February 8, 2016 at 12:47 pm

    This is an interesting policy choice. As a follow up question for Trimet, ask where the Rose Festival Parades are going to be routed this year. Both the Starlight and Grand Floral parades cross the MAX lines multiple times, as well as bisecting the transit mall, all at a time when the number of people riding Trimet is likely at a yearly apex.

    Recommended Thumb up 8

  • Paul Hirschmann February 8, 2016 at 1:20 pm

    Won’t miss it on bridge pedal. Had to walk over it last year anyway.

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  • dan February 8, 2016 at 1:27 pm

    No one does Bridge Pedal anymore – it’s too crowded

    Recommended Thumb up 37

    • Branden February 9, 2016 at 12:52 pm

      So crowded in fact now that poaching part of the route isn’t even fun anymore

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  • Social Engineer February 8, 2016 at 1:54 pm

    Why can’t TriMet be this firm when the Grand Floral and Starlight parades are being planned? The disruptions those parades cause on normal downtown service is ridiculous and shouldn’t be allowed to continue.

    For instance, the Grand Floral Parade is still allowed to run in the WRONG DIRECTION down SW 10th Avenue.

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    • Adam H. February 8, 2016 at 1:57 pm

      My guess is that the city (and ODOT) are so firm about minimizing inconveniences for drivers, that they pay little to no attention to other modes.

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  • mw February 8, 2016 at 1:56 pm

    They must still have the old maps up on their website then, because they still show the Fremont Express ride going over the Tilikum

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  • paikiala February 8, 2016 at 2:09 pm

    Translation:
    “we built a light rail bridge and added some space for pedestrians and bikes, because we had to, and didn’t really intend it to operate safely for all three at the same time”

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    • Chris I February 8, 2016 at 2:34 pm

      The bridge pedal is not typical usage, by any stretch of the imagination. I’m not sure if you have done it before, but it makes Sunday Parkways look like the Oregon Outback ride. You have thousands of inexperienced cyclists operating on unfamiliar streets and bridges. Traffic jams and crashes are a regular occurrence. The only option to use the Tillikum would be to shut down all bus/MAX/streetcar service during the ride.

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      • Psyfalcon February 8, 2016 at 10:27 pm

        No, but the at grade crossings aren’t exactly forward thinking either. An entire new bridge and you can’t cross the rail lines without gates and waiting for the trains.

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  • Tom Hardy February 8, 2016 at 2:12 pm

    Bridge pedal will need to go under the Tillicum by the opera house. Other wise it would have to go through the pull gates.

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  • SE February 8, 2016 at 4:58 pm

    >>its worth record of reliability in over a decade

    worth=worst ?

    Recommended Thumb up 4

  • Dwaine Dibbly February 8, 2016 at 5:26 pm

    Baumann should have applied to include the Tilikum and let Trimet say no and be the bad guys.

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  • J_R February 8, 2016 at 7:08 pm

    TriMet’s new motto: We don’t care; we don’t have to.

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