Cyclists on the St. Johns Bridge

A while back I posted something about how ODOT (Ore. Dept. of Transportation) had decided not to make cycling safe on the St. Johns Bridge. ODOT has caved into special interest groups and ignored the research on traffic congestion on the bridge. The result is a remodel plan that makes crossing the bridge dangerous for cyclists and pedestrians.

Now, the mighty BTA has written a scathing op-ed on the topic voicing their disapproval of ODOT’s decision. Here’s an excerpt:

The St. Johns Bridge is the only bridge spanning the Willamette River for five miles north or south. ODOT is currently planning to remodel the bridge in a way that endangers pedestrians and bicyclists, fails the freight community’s stated standards for trucks, and is nerve-wracking for everyday car commuters – even though all of these problems can be solved at no cost.

Under pressure from special interests, ODOT simply ignored the facts at hand. The result, if it is allowed to go forward, is a bridge that will continue to be unsafe for the quarter of the area’s residents who cannot drive.

HOW YOU CAN HELP

Write a letter telling the Oregon Transportation Commission (OTC) that you want ODOT to restripe the bridge with two wide travel lanes and shoulders. Here are some of the points you may want to use in your letter:

  • Two wide lanes are a win-win solution that benefits neighbors, helps businesses move freight, creates transportation choices, and makes the bridge safer for everyone.
  • A safer bridge connects residents of St. Johns and North Portland to recreational opportunities in Forest Park and with industrial job sites in Northwest Portland.
  • New striping solution doesn’t add to congestion or cost taxpayers any additional funds
  • Recent bike deaths remind us that transportation choices should be safe for all
  • ODOT’s job is to create good routes for ALL users, including cyclists and pedestrians

Address your letter to the Chair of the Oregon Transportation Commission:

Stuart Foster, Chair
Oregon Transportation Commission
355 Capitol Street NE
Salem, Oregon 97301

Please also CC Portland City Commissioner Sam Adams, the new Transportation Commissioner:

Sam Adams
Portland City Council
1221 SW 4th Ave #220
Portland, OR 97204

Finally, be sure to CC the BTA so the BTA knows how many folks have spoken up:

Evan Manvel, Executive Director
Bicycle Transportation Alliance
PO Box 9072
Portland, OR 97207

Thank you for supporting safe cycling in Portland!

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)

Founder of BikePortland (in 2005). Father of three. North Portlander. Basketball lover. Car owner and driver. If you have questions or feedback about this site or my work, feel free to contact me at @jonathan_maus on Twitter, via email at maus.jonathan@gmail.com, or phone/text at 503-706-8804. Also, if you read and appreciate this site, please become a supporter.

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Jessica Roberts
18 years ago

Update: a letter we sent today:

May 10, 2006

Jason Tell
ODOT Region 1 Manager
123 NW Flanders
Portland, OR 97209

Dear Mr. Tell:

On behalf of the Bicycle Transportation Alliance, I’m writing with concern about proper maintenance of the St. Johns Bridge sidewalk. The Bicycle Transportation Alliance is a non-profit organization working to promote bicycling and improve bicycling conditions in Oregon. Most of our 4000 members live, work and bicycle in the metro area.

On my suggestion, BTA member Stephen Gomez recently asked ODOT to sweep the sidewalk of the St. Johns Bridge. He included photos to show that it is obstructed by significant debris (including broken glass, parts of a plastic chair, and other detritus).

Stephen included me in his emails, and I assured him that ODOT, as the jurisdiction responsible for maintenance of the bridge, would be responsive to his legitimate safety concerns. Instead, he tells me that nothing was done for quite some time, and that finally, after repeated efforts on his part, perfunctory sweeping was done that did not remove most of the debris. As you know, bicycle tires are more vulnerable to debris than car tires.

As you know, the failure to provide adequate bicycle facilities on reconstruction of the St. Johns Bridge project was a tremendous disappointment to cyclists. The bridge is a major barrier for bicyclists in our region, and it effectively cuts off bicycle access between the St. Johns neighborhood and North Portland from Forest Park and job sites in Northwest Portland.

On the bridge surface, four narrow 10-foot lanes combined with high-speed truck traffic make bicycling hazardous even for the most intrepid cyclist, leaving only narrow sidewalks blocked by structural poles which bicyclists must share with pedestrians. And as the only bridge for five miles north or south, there’s no reasonable alternative route.

In as much as ODOT believed at the time that the bridge serves cyclists, ODOT is now responsible for providing safe and clear surface conditions. The BTA expects ODOT to routinely sweep the bridge sidewalk and to respond to citizen requests for maintenance.

I know you are sympathetic to the needs of cyclists and I would appreciate a response regarding ODOT’s plans to assure safe conditions on the bridge sidewalk.

Sincerely yours,

Jessica Roberts
Metro-Area Advocate

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[…] They also list safety as their number one priority. Hmmm. I wonder about this every time I ride my bike over the St. Johns Bridge. […]

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[…] They also list safety as their number one priority. Hmmm. I wonder about this every time I ride my bike over the St. Johns Bridge. […]

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[…] Given the controversial recent history of this bridge, one paragraph jumped out at me: “In 2005, the Oregon Department of Transportation spent nearly $43 million to complete a major overhaul of the bridge that included new decking, replacement of worn cables, an upgrading of seismic features, better pedestrian and bicycle access, and reinstallation of historic street lamps.” […]

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[…] Given the controversial recent history of this bridge, one paragraph jumped out at me: “In 2005, the Oregon Department of Transportation spent nearly $43 million to complete a major overhaul of the bridge that included new decking, replacement of worn cables, an upgrading of seismic features, better pedestrian and bicycle access, and reinstallation of historic street lamps.” […]

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[…] As part of an ongoing protest against how cyclists got shafted on the St. Johns Bridge last year, a group of “ciclonudistas” is rallying the troops for their second annual naked protest ride (here’s a report from last year). […]

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[…] As part of an ongoing protest against how cyclists got shafted on the St. Johns Bridge last year, a group of “ciclonudistas” is rallying the troops for their second annual naked protest ride (here’s a report from last year). […]