Highway 26 leading into downtown Portland is a traditional route sometimes used by Zoobombers. They call it “the Hellway” and it is simultaneously feared and revered by many.
While it’s usually legal to ride bikes on Highway 26, because of a sewer construction project, currently the Hellway route is off-limts. In early June one Zoobomber had a serious crash. That mishap and the illegal Hellway riding got some bad PR when the story got picked up and reported on by KGW-TV.
These events prompted a complaint by Central Precinct officers to the Traffic Division.
In response, Traffic Division Lieutenant Mark Kruger sent out a video crew to see what was going on. After watching the videos he was “appalled”:
“It was insane, they were riding down Highway 26 and through the tunnel without lights, surfing into traffic lanes…it was only a matter of time until someone was killed.”
Concerned for public safety and wanting to uphold the temporary prohibition of bikes on the highway, Kruger immediately set up a meeting to talk with the Zoobombers about the problem.
Last Friday Kruger and Traffic Division Commander Marty Rowley, along with a representative from Zoobomb (Reverend Phil), local bike lawyer and veteran bike community member Mark Ginsberg, someone from the Parks Department and officers from Central Precinct all came to the table.
Much to Kruger’s surprise, the talks went very well and Reverend Phil agreed to take back the concerns to the Zoobomb crew. Both sides agreed to revisit the situation the following week.
Last Sunday Kruger again sent out his crew to check on the Zoobomb and was very pleased to see that no one rode the Hellway and that everyone had lights.
Kruger, who also participates in monthly Critical Mass meetings, is now trying to set up another meeting to talk about how to keep the Hellway safe once it officially re-opens to bicycles in the coming weeks.
I think that the Police have chosen dialogue instead of a harsh crackdown really shows how far the bike community has come here in Portland. From my perspective, the Zoobombers are committed to enjoying themselves and maintaining the good vibe of their group much more than hassling with cops or causing problems.
Kudos to everyone involved and I hope the constructive dialogue continues.