Usually when I go to an event like Bridge Pedal I’m running and riding around like crazy, trying to get good photos and talk to as many people as I can. I enjoy that tremendously, but this time I brought the family along to savor the spectacle with them (and 18,000 or so fellow Portlanders). It was nice to just ride and not be in full reporter mode.
We planned on doing the 10-bridge route, but arrived at the Morrison Bridge only to hear that the route was closed so we started with the 8 and 6 bridge riders.
Once at the start, I noticed Rick Baumann, the man behind it all. I can’t imagine the amount of stress on this guy’s shoulders that must come with shutting down so many roads and bridges and trying to make 18,000 people happy.
I noticed a lot of families and young kids on the ride this year. There were tons of trailers, tag-along bikes, and even intrepid little dudes like this guy, who did it competely solo.
We didn’t bring a map, assuming that the course would be easy to follow. We were wrong. It was pretty confusing out there (or maybe it was just us) and we ended up missing the connection down to the Sellwood Bridge (there was no signage and no volunteer at the turning point) so we crossed the Ross Island Bridge twice.
At the west end of the bridge I was amazed to see none other than Aaron Tarfman set up with a couch, welcoming riders as they passed. Aaron wanted to make a point about how much more livable our city could be if more people used bikes to get around. His sign read, “Public roads for public people.”
We took our first rest break on the Fremont Bridge. I was eager to dismount and snap some photos off my bike.
Just like last year, City Commissioner Sam Adams was atop the bridge greeting riders. This year he passed out a very cool, new foldable, wallet-sized bike route map that the city just printed up. They were a big hit, especially with Timo.
Finally off the bike I was able to take some candid photos:
- Here’s PDOT’s Timo Forsberg and Adams’ chief of staff Tom Miller.
- I have no idea what the story was with these guys, but they looked hot!
- This is Tyler and his friend Tyler. They might look familiar.
- This guy was pulling a load of balloons and making all sorts of funny creations out of them.
- And check out my dearest little Danica. She’ll be one year-old this week!
Due to our late start, and excessively long break on the Fremont Bridge, we brought up the rear of the 10-bridge riders. This made for a lonely ride up Highway 30. Once we finally got into to St. Johns, there was more trash than riders so we took our time and stopped at Burgerville for a blackberry shake and some onion rings.
So that’s how it went for us, now I want to hear about your experiences! How did Bridge Pedal go for you?
I remember last year was super crowded and chaotic, which prompted a recent high-level meeting to discuss possible improvements. I also remember all the feedback from Commissioner Sam’s blog last year.
Do you think Bridge Pedal was better or worse this year?
[You can view more photos in my Bridge Pedal Gallery.]
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Oh boy. The Bridge Pedal.
I’ve come to the conclusion that this is a ride I can’t do any longer. I’ve always considered the Bridge Pedal to be dangerous, especially for those of us who probably ride every day anyway and don’t *need* the bridge pedal to ride most of the bridges, but enjoy it anyway. But I’ve always considered it dangerous for us, because while we’re strolling around trying to have fun, there are two groups of people that make it very very risky, IMHO.
#1 – People that seemingly NEVER ride a bike and are weaving and wobbling and not watching for other riders. You see far too much of this on the Bridge Pedal. I’m all for people getting out and riding, but it scares me when I see kids messing around almost running side to side into other people or someone who isn’t sure of him/herself wobbling side to side. Or worse, someone who thinks they know what they’re doing and thinks it’s a good idea to ride through the pack at a high rate of speed when everyone else has been slowed down by a log jam on the course.
#2 – People that think that Bridge Pedal is a race and they’re trying to “win”. So they do things like ride into oncoming vehicle traffic in order to avoid slowing down. This happened constantly yesterday. Especially over the Ross Island Bridge. It was extremely dangerous. Guys and gals decked out in Discovery and Phonak and club gear racing into oncoming traffic, cars honking and slamming on the brakes, all so they can get a little ahead. Oh my.
The bottom line is that the bridges were JAMMED for someone reason. At least they were when my wife and I were out there. So much so that basically everyone (except for the afforementioned cyclists riding into oncoming traffic) walked their bike across the two first bridges. After spending the first 6 miles either walking our bikes or trying to stay as far away as possible from people who were endangering us, we decided to bail.
I’ve done the Bridge Pedal many times. And I love it. But there are people that just ruin it by not being patient or not practicing rudimentary bike handling and courtesy. So my wife and I bailed and rode up to the zoo, over the top and headed back home to Beaverton out to our favorite breakfast spot near Hillsboro. We still got 22 miles of scenic riding in. It was much safer and fun (riding over the top of the zoo either direction is always challenging and fun) and since we were riding from home, riding to breakfast, etc. it was just like some other day where we decided to go for a fun ride.
We kept our Bridge Pedal T-Shirts. We’ll just wear them ironically now, I guess. I used to love the Bridge Pedal, but it’s just not fun when there are people riding it like it’s a criterium and others are riding it like they need training wheels.
After witnessing all they cyclists riding into oncoming traffic, I’m starting to even question the wisdom of the Bridge Pedal for two reasons.
#1 – I get the impression that some people (cyclists or motorists) look at it like “that one day that cyclists are allowed to ride on the bridges”.
#2 – The cyclists riding into oncoming traffic (and given the numbers and what I say, I would say they number in the hundreds, maybe 1,000) aren’t exactly acting as good embassadors for cyclists.
So I’ll just keep doing my commute and doing other charity rides. I’m done with the Bridge Pedal, though.
I had alot of fun this year and hardly walked my bike , but the lack of signs was confusing. I started with the 6:30 10 bridge group and at one point thought I missed the Marquam by going over the Hawthorne instead. Luckily, after looking at the back of one of the 10-Bridge vests, I realized I was still on track. Yes, I should have looked at the map, but I thought the route would be clear enough – won’t make the same assumption again.
Even with the slight confusion, it was great fun. I ‘ll be back again next year.
I didn’t make it this year, but I spoke with several friends who did the ride. Last year, I did ride and the signage and directions were really bad. I missed two or three bridges and very few of the volunteers seemed to know which way to send people. I heard they were going to “fix” those problems for this year’s ride. Well, from what I heard from my friends and in your summary, the directions were just as bad this year. My friends tried to do the 10 bridges, but ended up crossing the Hawthorne twice and the Ross Island twice. When they made it to Sellwood, there were a ton of 8 bridge riders who weren’t supposed to do that bridge and were completely lost. As much as I like the ride, it gets really frustrating when they don’t provide very good directions and the volunteers know less than the riders about which direction to go. I’m glad a lot of people get out there on their bikes. I urge the organizers to put a little more effort into their route planning and directions so that it isn’t quite so frustrating.
I took a friend this year on the 8-bridge Women on Bikes ride — I know with people confused, showing up late and with the general chaos involved in the event, it’s hard to keep things running smoothly. Overall I thought the bridge crossings were a little less unpleasant (I didn’t have to get off and walk my bike on the Ross Island or Marquam as last year.) But I must have been in a heavy group heading up to the St. Johns Bridge, as we were absolutely crawling all the way down Hwy 30 and then up the big hill. For some reason, the St. Johns bridge exit crammed people down to one lane, which was extremely difficult when two the two bridge lanes were packed to begin with. I know car traffic is a priority, but that spot was particularly car-centric yesterday (and staffed by a rather unpleasant police officer to boot.)
I rode the 8-bridge route with a couple family members. We also did not take a map, but there was never a doubt where we were to go. There were volunteers everywhere, and I never got pointed the wrong way. We only had to walk our bikes perhaps 100 yards getting onto the Ross Island bridge. There were quite a few other times that it was slow, but easily rideable.
I did feel it was dangerous a fair amount of the time. If you stayed close to the person in front of you, watching the scenery wasn’t possible. If you dropped back, someone immediately moved into the “opening”. There were many, many cases where someone nearly hit my front wheel while moving sideways w/o looking. I was also quite nervous going around the sharper corners, as some folks got the idea they could cut the corner even though there were other riders there!
I was glad to have done the ride, but I’m not sure I’ll feel the need to do it again.
A child about 10 or so crossed my path a couple times very near my front end. The second time I asked him to watch before turning abuptly. A bit later I heard a bike crash right behind me. I looked back and saw him down. His crash was immediately followed by another rider running over the down bike. It, too, crashed. Fortunately there was plenty of help of immediate aid to the both of them.
This was my 2nd BP. The first was several years ago when there were many more children with poor cycling skills. This BP seemed to have done a better job either educating parents or isolating the children and inexperienced riders.
Regardless, there were far too many stretches where riders exhibited poor skills. Coming down off the I5 and I405 bridges was like skiing down a bunny slope full of beginners wandering too and fro with abandon, most too fast for their everyone’s good.
This is by far my favorite event of the summer – I agree the signage could have been better, very much appreciated the folks at the bottom of the Freemont making their own signs and helping direct the 6 bridgers in the right direction. Rather than just complain, I plan to get involved and try to help with some of that for next year.
It’s all about expectations – 18,000 people on 10 bridges in a short amount of time – it’s gonna be crowded – but it is oh so cool to look up the river and see every bridge covered in bikes.
And, if a few of those rusty bikes manage to get out of the garage a few more times as a result – then good dead done.
No, it’s not for everyone – but for those of us who look forward to it all year, and are willing to be patient – it’s still the best thing going. Thanks to all who organized and help put it together.
This was my first Bridge Pedal experience. I have to agree with many of Preston’s points. Yeah, it is sketchy. My group never had to walk across any of the bridges (we started the 10-bridge at about 7:10am), but we still spent the 30-something miles mixing it up with thousands of dangerously inexperienced and careless riders. Has anyone ever died in this event? I think from now on I will just volunteer atop the Fremont or Marquam (and enjoy my time on the other rideable bridges during my everyday jaunts around town) as it seems course marshalling is what this ride needs more than anything.
This is a suggestion for locations where the bike lanes are alongside motor traffic, such as the Ross Island Bridge. Install temporary reduced speed limit signs for the motorists along with the “fines doubled” used in construction zones. It seems that for a few hours cyclists are worth the same legal considerations commonly given to road construction crews.
I concur with the comments of Preston. Up to St. John’s was especially bad, with lots of people weaving in higher gears than they should have been or, just getting off in the middle of the road and walking.
Perhaps a good option for confident cyclists, who don’t mind begin in with vehicle traffic, would be to open the 2 (?) bridges that are normally closed to cyclist traffic for an hour in the afternoon, so we/they could do the other bridges independently.
That said, I think any event with 18,000 people on bikes that doesn’t end in a riot is amazing, so kudos to all of the people who helped pull it off.
Bridge Pedal, The Good:
Another absolutely gorgeous day for riding. Thank “providence.”
The awesome sight of looking down river from the Fremont Bridge and seeing every other bridge in view packed with riders.
Packed with too many riders, and an unhealthy mix of paces and abilities. The Express Start” for the faster of the 10-Bridgers was supposed to separate them from the rest of the pack. I thought it worked prettry well until the 10-Bridgers came to the Ross Island Bridge and suddenly merged with dawdling groups of families and kids who seemed to want to ride all over the road. Several close calls as the faster 10-Bridgers mixed with the slower 6- and 8-Bridgers. These groups then merged with later-starting 10-Bridgers heading to the Hawthorne, and chaos ensued. Many riders ended up on the wrong routes, having to double back through downtown to get to wherever they wanted to be.
Saw no serious accidents or injuries.
Saw (and had) several scary near-misses.
The many wonderful, friendly, generous volunteers.
The many generous volunteers who didn’t know the route. No signage. More confusion. How hard would it be to have colored arrows at key intersections?
This is becoming a signature event for Portland, and it’s possible to have q great time if everyone keeps the mood easy-going and friendly.
A handful of people aren’t clued into the above.
How about another stab at better route planning next year? And is there a way to separate the faster – say 18 mph and up – riders throughout the entire ride? Or at least until the freeway bridges?
Anyway, thanks to Providence, the volunteers, the cops and the city. I’ll be back next year.
I toyed with the idea of doing it this year, but quickly changed my mind when I realized it would cost $70 for the family. That seemed a bit, well, insane for the privilege of riding the same bridges I ride all year (well, except for Fremont), with a bunch of folks who ride their bike once a year.
I was glad we decided not to do it. After talking to friends, every single one described it as “chaotic” or “dangerous,” and said they would never do it again.
overall, it was a great time. next year, i hope they open up more lanes in several locations. it got way too crowded way too often (not just on bridges), such that i have a blister on my index finger from riding the brake.
if you’re looking for a race, this ain’t it. if you’re looking for beautiful views, to ride your bike on the freeway, and a couple wide-open speedy downhills, though, this is a pretty sweet opportunity.
two of the three people i’ve seen falling over during two bridge pedals are toe-clippers who can’t ride in crowds very well because they don’t want to put their feet down. (these people probably consider themselves very experienced.)
i don’t mind giving kids a little extra room so they can participate, too, but i’d hoped the staggered start would keep them out of the way of the grouchier non-breeders. for whatever reason, it didn’t. short-, medium-, and long-riders all ended up jumbled together most of the time.
but again, i had a great time, and many thanks to the folks who worked hard putting this together.
The Bridge Pedal rocks.
It’s a really fun event. OF COURSE if you put that many people into one event there will be more kids, inexperienced riders, speed demons, photo hams, PEOPLE NOT WEARING HELMETS FOR PHOTOS… and all the other stuff that goes with it. This was my third. I spent a lot of time this year picking up toppled traffic cones and sawhorses, as well as asking for a straighter line from people. Most of the people on this site are more experienced. It is, in my opinion, our job to led by example and to teach everone less experienced than we are how to ride safely.
The Bridge Pedal can be difficult… the thing is to accept it for what it is and enjoy it.
Yes, the event was a bit chaotic. But heck there were 18,000 people out there! I felt my experience and the overall planning this year were improved over last. Two thumbs up to the deviation from the Springwater bottleneck.
We only walked over one bridge. Signs, volunteers and a decent amount of attention helped make the route clear, (the map did not). The mix of riding skills was interesting. But the majority of patient and easy-going folks ensured an enjoyable experience.
Perhaps a few words about the goals of the event and appropriate riding etiquette included in the mass email beforehand would be helpful. I agree it would be an improvement to slow down impatient racers and keep them out of the oncoming vehicle travel lanes as well as keep the swervers and b-liners better in check. How about an associated bicycle safety clinic offered the weekend or day before the ride? It would be a great way to both: encourage and inform less experienced riders, as well as improve the event for all.
I disagree. I’ve come to the conclusion that this event isn’t for the more experienced. Even those that got out early (as someone rightly pointed out) ended up having to merge on Ross Island with the masses. I’m all for the Bridge Pedal. But if it’s going to continue to grow and be a signature event, I can’t safely participate. Not when it feels like 80% of the riders either never ride the rest of the year, don’t know how to ride cautiously, or think that it’s their God-given right to ride into oncoming traffic so they can go faster. I’m glad many of you didn’t have to walk. My wife and I walked over two bridges before we bailed and headed for the zoo.
I guess my conclusion is that for us, at least, we’d rather do our own ride every day than risk getting injured/killed doing something that we do many days out of the year anyway (i.e. ride over the bridges).
1st time participant. Decided to do the 10 bridge ride the nite before with a couple of friends and their 2 year old daughter. I pulled my 18 month old daughter in a burley trailer. No problems. Not one. Route was super easy to follow thanks to the volunteers and the map (which we didn’t have to check once). No overly close calls with other riders. Never had to walk (we did have to stop a couple of times just before getting onto a couple of bridges.) Paid no mind to riders going fast and weaving. I dunno…I’m surprised that others found it overly chaotic and the route had to follow. Started at 7:30 and finished at noon. A big thanks to all the volunteers.
Well, there are 18,000 people. So I suppose it depends on when you start.
Great pics. I enjoy the journalistic style.
A modest proposal:
The underlying problem with Bridge Pedal is the artificial scarcity of non-motorized bridge time. Rick, to his credit, has been able to monetize the public’s desire to see their city from some of the best public venues available. However, the public does not owe Rick his monopoly gate-keeper status.
It is time for the City of Portland itself to put on a *day long* Bridge Openhouse. Instead of a mere 6:30-11:30 access time, let the people of Portland enjoy *their* bridges for the *entire* day. The demand is obvious. It would only increase if it were made more available and made to appeal to more than cyclists.
One could even have early morning cyclist-only times for those that must pretend at being Lance. And late afternoon pedestrian-speed only times (with heavy cycle/equine-police enforcement) for those that fear any metal contraption that moves faster than a slow trot.
Outlandish? Methinks not.
1st BP. Wacky! Wild! Wonderful! Loved it! Bikes, bikes, bikes, and more bikes! What do I want for BP? More bikes! (Oh, and more Porta-Potties and more water) I’m sure the route can be tweaked to improve flow and accomodate many types of riders. It’s a fun ride not a race.Riding in a group of 18000+- will naturally require a more “relaxed” pace and certainly more tolerance. If you want to promote the bike culture you have to put “butts on bikes”, that’s the only way. It won’t happen through the pontification of the elite, it takes the participation of the “unwashed masses” to create the change. BP does that in spades! Messy? Probably. Necessary? Absolutely. Please don’t ever limit the number of riders, just get better at organization. (Didn’t have to walk my bike across any bridges, didn’t see any crashes, didn’t get lost.) Best part of the ride? The cruise down Willamette Blvd. Shade, views, and the thoughtful neighbors who were playing the violins and the wonderful folks that had their sprinkler aimed into the road for the refreshment of the riders!
I would like to add another comment- maybe next year there could be designated cell phone stopping points where people can stop and talk – I saw a few people cycling with one hand and talking on their cell during the BP. Ok , maybe a few out of 18,000 is a tiny percentage (not enough for designated spots), but I feel it is a safety issue that could be addressed in literature or emails.
I would like to point out that there were way too many peoplke named Darrell on the ride. There were at least two of them shadowing me at all times, and I found it a little disconcerting.
This was my 7th or 8th BP. My friends and I usually ride fast, but this is a day to ride with our kids and have fun…safely. Yes, they fixed the bottlenecks from last year, but created new ones this time.
I totally agree with West Cougar…we need more time, and maybe more lanes. Dave (#3) and KC (#11) also hit the nail squarely.
A few of my favorite fusterclucks from this year:
– 6:30/10-bridge start. No start banner or organized queue until 6:20 or so. People who were oh-so-obviously not 15mph riders pushing to the front of the pack before “go” was said. What happened to the 100 or so people at a time waves? That helped a lot, especially when there was a narrowing right at the banner!
– Route monitors flagging 10-bridgers away from the Hawthorne when we were supposed to cross it.
– Route monitors flagging 10-bridgers back toward Sellwood, rather than down under the MLK Viaduct to reach the Ross Island. This caused a lot of folks to use a Ross Island Bridge off-ramp to access the bridge, crossing 3 lanes of live (and dare I say pissed-off) traffic, especially TriMet buses. For the number of bikes crossing the RIB, one lane was not enough…especially when half a lane is taken by a Burley Trailer. That’s what led to faster riders moving into the travel lane…no space and we could ride at the speed of the car traffic.
– Rose Garden Rest Stop – there was a need to flag the first right turn off the Broadway Br. as a “rest stop bypass.” Too many folks trying to ride thru the reststop doing unsafe battle with walkers and people grabbing a banana or pottie stop.
Maybe there’s a way to stage it such that faster and/or 10-bridge riders do the “downtown” bridges first, and then do Sellwood and St. Johns as a big oval to finish. That would help spread the traffic out and reduce the co-mingling of fast vs. slow, experienced vs. wobblers, etc.
Most of the comments commented that it was “dangerous.” Though, at times, it was a bit sketchy, there were no absolutely dangerous moments. I saw no bad crashes, and I saw no medics on the scene of one. What I saw were a lot of people who don’t get out much… getting out. This is a good thing. It’s the bridge pedal, not some club ride. It’s going to be crowded. It’s going to draw lots of people who don’t ride a lot. But it’s not dangerous. You just have to resign yourself to slowing down and smelling the roses for a change.
What people have to remember that this is a bike ride for the entire family. It is not a race. Be patient. It is impossible to screen people for riding skill and many people who are usually confident on a bike might not be so confident in a large crowd. There were so many people I saw on expensive road bikes and all decked out for a 50 mile training ride who were riding fast through crowds of people with little cycling experience. These are the people who made things most difficult. For god’s sake, if you want to ride fast, there are at least two club rides you can go on with like-minded individuals.
The biggest beef I have with the organization was not really the lack of signs (though for people wanting to come later, better signage might help), but it was the way the course varied in road space; sometimes 3, or even 4, lanes, sometimes 1 lane, with the changes being abrupt and causing all sorts of backups and problems. I don’t think this can be solved except by getting more volunteers to warn cyclists of potential backup areas and to get people to slow down before plowing into the narrow areas.
This was my second BP… and I noticed that while a few things were fixed, other things seemed to be a problem. Overall, though, my little group of 4 had a really good time.
I agree that the view from the top of the freeway bridges of all the other bridges with bikes on them was amazing. The weather was great, and the volunteers were friendly.
The Ross Island Bridge… hm. I don’t know if 2 counts as always, but it always seems like that’s a problem!
We did the 8-bridge ride, and somehow came up to the RIB on the off-ramp to the ODOT truck. No directions, flags, peopel waving, whatever showed us the correct way to go, so a rather large amount of us went that way. Luckily, the ODOT workers were stopping all lanes periodically to let the bikers on the bridge, and I have to admit that was the only point where we got off our bikes and walked.
But the RIB is frightening, and I can’t imagine that the Sellwood is any better. Closing these bridges both directions for the short amount of time it takes to get all of us through would probably be a good idea, except for the fact that too much car/truck/bus traffic would be inconvenienced.
I enjoyed not having to come to a dead stop on the freeway bridges, either of my own accord of because everyone around me stopped for bananas… which happened last year. 🙂 My own fault, I was cruising on the right-hand side of the bridge.
And I definitely agree with the other posters here: THE BRIDGE PEDAL IS NOT A RACE!!!!!! I can’t tell you how many times people in full kit zoomed past me, sometimes dangerously, sometimes not. Seriously. This is not your training ride. Is there any way to turn the BP into a 2-day, racers one day and the rest of us the other day, bicycling extravaganza??
We only witnessed one accident at the end of the route, a woman got caught out by the railroad tracks. Luckily, I took a first aid class two weeks ago. Even luckier, I didn’t need to use my skills. 🙂
All in all, we had a great time, and intend to come back next year. Maybe do the 10 bridges….
I thought it was another great ride and much improved from last year. Sure, better signage at confusing intersections would be a nice addition, but if they keep this same route for next year they’ll have a much better idea where it’s needed.
To echo what others have said, it’s a fun, slow-paced, family ride. I don’t go on the Bridge Pedal expecting to go fast. I go out expecting to go slow and to ENJOY going slow. If I have to walk my bike on a bridge I enjoy walking my bike on a bridge with 18,000 other people. What could be better than that?
This was my first…and absolutely last Bridge Pedal. My experience was horribly negative mirroring much of what has been detailed here. My litany of woe is as follows:
The express start is a complete joke! I expected to see riders who could hold 15 MPH or better like a club ride instead, I see 250 pound guys on spotless Wal-Mart bikes (probably purchased Saturday night), hybrids with Burley trailers, and full suspension MTBs with knobby rubber. A good number of these riders din’t appear fit enough to hold that pace going downhill with a tailwind and as a result, we virtually crawled for the first 4-5 miles of the route. (I know this isn’t a race and I am not an elitist velo snob but would like to pedal faster than a crawl.)
Great signage Bridge Pedal! I can’t recall any signs with color coding pointing out turns for the various rides but I’m sure they were out there, right? You also have some very well trained volunteers also. After getting caught behind the sloooowwww yellow train crossing the Hawthorne, the crack BP team directed us express orange vesters back on to the Sellwood loop so that we got a lovely second tour of SE Portland and Macadam Ave. While annoyed, I remained positive at the thought of turning this into a 50 mile jaunt as I could always use the miles and I knew I wouldn’t bonk as you don’t burn up much glycogen at less than 10 MPH.
The Ross Island was a real treat! Firstly, please let the “cyclists” know that shifting in advance of inclines is recommended. Of course, we weren’t going very fast due to that out-of-service Tri-Met bus going west in the middle of the pack with several hundred riders walking their steeds behind it. If you wanted to stay upright on two wheels, you only option was playing chicken on the left side of the cones with oncoming eastbound SUVs. That actually seemed the more attractive option.
Marquam – after fearing for my life trying to hold a line amidst screaming and slaloming yahoos on the descent to the bridge approach, the real fun was bobbing and weaving up the entire climb when said yahoos forgot about that important shifting thing. (Hint for next year: you use the triggers / levers on your handlebars to find other gears Lance!)
Fremont – This is where my entire ride goes south. On the approach those pesky hills and shifters play havoc with the less experienced members of the peloton. In a four block stretch I witness three minor pileups and narrowly avoid two myself. As I turn to climb the bridge, I am reminded by some very friendly locals that Jesus loves me and that he is coming very soon. I smile and certainly hope that I won’t be meeting Jesus somtime in the next ten minutes because I sense something bad is going to happen.
About 50 feet or so from the Fremont’s summit, I am packed in a little cluster of about six bikes traveling at the speed of snail. A couple on MTBs with platform pedals are about 3-4 feet in front of me. They either don’t get out much or go crazy at the sight of a bargain because he blurts out, “Honey! Let’s get our picture taken!” and proceeds to grab both brakes as hard as possible.
You probably know where this is going – fools to the left of me, jokers to the right and only about 2.5 nanoseconds to extricate myself from the right SPD. Unfortunately, I require 3 nanoseconds to unclick and I can yell, “S*#t!!!” our tires kiss at .5 MPH, the bike loses all momentum and I topple over.
So here I am laying on I-405 scraped and bleeding from a half dozen places and…and…I am waiting for a glance, an apology, an “Are you O.K.? that doesn’t come. Nope, the happy and oblivious couple keep walking their machines over to the free photo line. I scream a few choice words…no acknowledgement. A kindly individual helps me unclick from the left side and thoughtfully grabs my shoulder before I can grab my multi-tool and dispense a little lycra clad frontier justice. Thankfully the low speed crash does no real damage other than a little road rash and after a few moments to cool down, I decide to head down towards Highway 30 and the bridge I really wanted to ride across.
I let gravity do its work and accelerate me towards NW Portland when I catch a bogey approaching from my nine o’clock and it is the most dangerous menace of all: An eight year old slaloming and bouncing along on his suspension forked junior MTB. I grab my brakes to avoid what could be a nasty wreck and the old temper comes roaring back. I call for the kid’s parents because their spawn is going to get someone killed. I quickly glance back uphill to see a few roadies tearing downhill not knowing where this kid is going to go next.
At the bottom, my nerves are frayed and my emotions are shot. I sit in the parking lot at Wild Bill’s debating whether to continue towards the St. John’s. With my car sitting only a mile away in The Pearl, I sadly decided to pack it in and quit while I was ahead.
Going into the ride I knew about the crowds, the slower pace, and the relative lack of riding skills that I would encounter but I was not prepared for the scale of such things or the poor organization. I really WANT to support such events but I fear that someone is going to get killed or paralyzed and very soon. I also don’t expect that Portland riders are going to get collectively smarter either. For all of our complaints about inattentive drivers and dangerous streets in PDX, I have never been more scared during a ride than I was yesterday. Perhaps we as a community are no better than those we disparage? This morning, I rode to work through heavy Beaverton and Northwest Portland traffic and felt a sense of calm. I never thought that I would find rush hour drivers more predictable and courteous than fellow cyclists. (Disclaimer: When referring to BP, “cyclist” used very loosely.)
I had fun, but it was a little sketchy at time. There was no one there at the start to say, okay time for 7:00 starters, etc. People were just hanging around. I think it would be great to close all the bridges for that 5 hours, but I know that’s not possible as people do have to drive to work across the river or whatever.
Doughnuts were good, but what happened to free Cliff Bars?
Watergirl at #24 writes:
“Maybe there’s a way to stage it such that faster and/or 10-bridge riders do the “downtown” bridges first, and then do Sellwood and St. Johns as a big oval to finish. That would help spread the traffic out and reduce the co-mingling of fast vs. slow, experienced vs. wobblers, etc.”
I’d really love to see something like this. Sure, the BP isn’t a race, but a lot of people like to ride 15-20 mph because they’re comfortable at it and they can do it safely riding with others at the same speed. That said, I don’t think there’s any excuse for faster riders to think of BP as an 18,000 rider peloton.
Maybe when Naito Parkway gets fixed it’ll be easier to separate riders into starting segments and times based on their average speed. How about one block (or whatever) of Naito set aside for 20 mph and higher, another one for 15-20, another one for 10-15, then one or more for Just Cruising. Stagger the start times so there’s enough separation that the groups don’t merge later. Not foolproof, but maybe worth a try.
This year’s “Express Start” was presumably an attempt to get faster riders off first, but it didn’t work that way. Too many slow and inexperienced riders up front, too many Phonak wannabees coming up from the rear.
I second everything Brad (2 above) says. I was very disappointed in this ride for ALL those reasons and more. I observed and dodged horrible falls, crowds jammed into narrow streets/lanes, riding brakes more than pedalling, frustration with volunteers yelling out directions at the last minute, not being able to stop at stops b/c they were mobbed and didn’t want to risk getting in a mangle with idiot riders, so many more frustrating thoughts. I tried to educate people on cycling etiquette (by calling out where I was and comforting younger riders that didn’t have a clue what they were doing) and feel that helped at times, but most of the riders were HELPLESS.
This was my first and LAST Bridge Pedal. I now know that I should have gone at 6:30 or earlier, but then come to find out that didn’t matter anyway, those experienced/faster riders were meshed in with the masses anyway.
I think it’s a very dangerous ride, the streets weren’t in very good shape and it wasn’t organized very well.
Hmm… I haven’t ever ridden the BP, but it sounds like the scene is similar to a multi use trail on a nice weekend summer afternoon. Not a place you can expect to go fast, but you will always see that one dude with aero bars trying to break his time trial record dodging strollers, joggers with headphones, and irritated with all the kids on training wheels. What is the more dangerous element in our society? The kid learning to ride on a bike path or the guy hauling ass through a crowd of people? Maybe BP would be more fun with a change of equipment and attitude? Not saying equipment is everything but I bet it a ride like this might be more fun on a beach cruiser, relaxed and chilled, than all geared up, clipped in on 23c tires trying to maintain a quick pace.
Fast rides are overrated.
This was my 2nd BP. I moved to Portland from Durham, NC in late July last year and thought it would be a great way to see the town. Last year was great, with the exception of a guy I saw take a fall going downhill coming back from St. Johns Bridge. I thought the voluteers and support were extraordinary and thought, I have moved to biking heaven. This year’s was a disappointment. I got “lost” (aka off-course) twice, but knew the order of the bridges thanks to the vest and made my way around. There was a section coming off the Marquam to the exit ramp where two routes crossed and we had to stop, just around a blind turn, which was very dangerous. Again, I saw a guy wipe out coming down the Marquam this year. Both accidents were with guys on nice road bikes and by themselves. So in spite of the mass of people and the complaints by “roadies” of others making trouble, the two worst accidents I saw were solo and by experienced appearing riders. I hope the route is revised next year to avoid the confusion and crossing of routes. If you want to go fast, get up at 4 and line up just behind the police escort and go for it. For the rest of us, a nice 12-15 mph pace with a few slow downs is fine. I can crank the 20 mph+ with the club “racers” any other day.
This was my husband’s and my first time doing the Bridge Pedal. We are both intermediate level riders who have starting biking to work this year. We did the 10-Bridge Pedal.
Overall, we had a great time and plan to do it again next year. The things that made it most unpleasant and/or had more to do with other riders than the event organization. There were constantly people riding outside the cones in front of or into oncoming traffic—this doesn’t garner any respect for bicyclists wanting to share the road. I was very angry when I saw one woman doing this with her small child on the back of her tandem—fine if she wants to put her life in danger, but her kid would have been the first one hit.
I think it would also be a good idea to have young children start even later. They put themselves and other cyclists in danger. Staggering times was a good idea but I don’t know that people actually adhered to this and certainly no one was checking and I don’t know how you would without causing more delay. That being said I think that would be key and to perhaps have even more staggering.
In this situation you have do ride extremely defensively and carefully but we pretty much expected that with 18K riders. The problem is with other riders who ride like there the only ones out there, weaving in and out of and turning in front of other riders without looking. I wonder if they ride on the road like this and for the first time I could see why some bicyclists make some motorists nervous or angry—they can be equally as bad and unpredictable drivers as motorists. One guy rode ride into my left handle bar and bent my left mirror and he just rode on apparently oblivious.
We didn’t find the route confusing except for the one area around Ross Island that people have mentioned. There were volunteers yelling instructions when we went by but signs would have been better.
I think there were a few places they could have made the route wider to ease congestion and would have had minimal impact on car traffic. It seems like they could have done this on St. John’s Bridge—give the peddlers 2 lanes and have the motorists share the other 2 lanes since there didn’t seem to be much car traffic anyway.
As many people have already said, this event is NOT A RACE. I don’t know why anyone who is only interested in biking that way would even bother with this event as there is not any way you can go full tilt on this ride. I’m not a racer and I could not go as fast as I always wanted to go and had to get off and walk a couple of times. On the flip side of that were the slower riders who insisted on staying to the far left. This annoys me on a bike as much as in a car. Perhaps signs along the route reminding slower riders and children to stay right would be helpful.
All that being said, we really enjoyed the ride. This should be seen as an opportunity to get more people excited about riding bikes, not turned off by them. Once people are hooked you don’t have to pound them over the head about driving so much. It’s starts with commuting to work, then longer rides, then you start challenging yourself to see how often you can get by without your car. more bikes=less cars=safer streets for everyone=everyone’s happy including the racers who will truly be able to have the left lane!
This is also a great way to see our city from a different perspective and be in a fun, social environment with other cyclists. I think it is an amazing feat of organization and I’m proud to live in a city that has such a great event.
We will be back next year!
This was my first BP… on a unicycle. 🙂
I’ve done it in years past on two wheels and was a bit nervous of the fusterclucks I had witnesses but figured I’d give it a try.
Things seemed to move along better than years past, it was really only the start line that sucked, well that and hearing “Hey what happened to your other wheel?” 18,000 times.
Here is a pic of the 5 other guys that I uni’d with.
BTW: Most of us did the 24 mile route.
if you wanna ride hard, don’t do the bridge pedal do a wheelman ride or something like that, if you want to catch some good views of the city from some bridges that you would normally drive in a car over, then do the bridge pedal, chill out and use your skills that you have built up from years of riding to avoid the swerving kids, slow down to 10mph and smile. Take a digi camera and a good attitude and enjoy a few hours at a slower pace 🙂
Here’s my first draft, quick and dirty solution for those of us who want a quicker ride:
This “Express” ride is 10 bridges only. ( A 10 bridge “citizens / family” ride starts at 7:30)
It starts away from the main gathering areas (Rose Quarter?)and hits all of the downtown bridges first, finishing with a long Sellwood to St. John’s loop.
The start area requires passing through a “gate”. To get into the express start you must have the proper ride vest and a road bike with drop style handlebars / bullhorns+aero set-up for triathletes. (No MTB, Hybrid, Cruisers, or trailers allowed)
No riders under age 14 permitted.
In my opinion, this serves the needs of faster riders with minimal organizational effort and the start is easier to police. Also, it sends a signal that this is for faster roadies but families and leisure riders can still enjoy the full 10 at their pace and their time.
This was my first Bridge Pedal, I’ve been biking regularly for 12 years, and commuting regularly for 5 years. It was fun, I got good exercise, people were amusing, but it has problems too, though I think they are relatively minor. I was on the 10 bridge, 7:30-11AM, here are my thoughts…
The start location was freaking confusing, but we found it (so maybe not confusing enough). Start times? We just got into what appeared to be a line of folks wearing our vests and followed.
Some volunteers, bless them, were yelling where to go when routes diverged, some held up signs. The signs were better, especially if sign-holders also yelled (it made me want to read the sign that I otherwise might have missed). I only got to hear half the direction from those who were yelling.
** Cyclist resources
Though the port-a-potties were frequent, water stations were not and it seemed they offered little cups. Most cyclists know to carry bottles, and the water stations should have been water bottle refill stations rather than cups which don’t offer enough water, are wasteful, and tend to become litter. I was appreciative of the banana, bagel, water station after the St. Johns. Lot’s of people at the stations… Not too many though (I got what I needed with minimal wait.
Overall I don’t think the ride is particularly dangerous, though I was involved in one collision on the Steel bridge, which was absolutely packed with people. Police responded quickly, plenty of people around with cells phones and even the MAX guy stopped to call it in. The person I was in the accident with had lost his track and wobbled into me. He went down and scraped up his hand pretty good. Help was nearly instant. I hope the damage was only surface… I’ve seen worse accidents in 5k and 10k runs on foot.
At the beginning of the race Can’t recall if it was the Sellwood, or the Ross Island but riders were driving into oncoming traffic, one nearly got hit by an SUV. Scared me, cuz I was in his trajectory if he had bounced off the SUV.
Children, I love to see kids on bikes, and parents with kids on bikes. Let’s face it though, some folks just don’t know how to maneuver a bike (kids and adults). This poses a danger to others. Everybody makes mistakes, and I can’t think of any way to make it safer for those who are confident but simply don’t have the experience. Even cyclists who were all decked out with mirrors and lycra were wobbling. They bought the package but didn’t bother to use it until BP. I was very pleased to see children who knew how to handle their bikes better than some adults. I also witnessed a couple of families who rode as one unit, sheparding the children, and making sure they stayed out of harms way.
** Biggest complaint
I didn’t get to see the Sprocketts on the Freemont bridge, this is really why I signed up…
I don’t know. When I was 13 I could motor. I don’t know how you fix this except to bring a different set of expectations. From my experience yesterday, the fully equipped roadies were the biggest problem. The inexperienced cyclists were dangerous, but at least they were going slow. I would say, Brad, that if you hit someone’s tire, maybe you weren’t paying attention to them? I’m not saying that’s the case, just wondering. I was there too. There were a lot of unexperienced and discourteous riders. But I managed to avoid hitting anyone. I don’t think that’s just luck or that I bailed part way through. I think it’s also a tribute to the fact that I didn’t show up expecting to go fast and I expected the worst out of the inexperienced cyclists. So I was prepared. What had my wife and I bailing, to be honest, wasn’t so much the inexperienced cyclists. Bridge Pedal is all about enjoying the ride. It was just the ugly mixture of those cyclists combined with the Lances who don’t understand that it’s okay to unclip during the Bridge Pedal.
One more thing, Brad. My wife did Summit to Surf on a hybrid. And rode well. She did a number of triathlons on a hybrid before “graduating” to a road bike. I personally honed my skills on a mountain bike with slicks and lost over 170lbs. biking 35 miles a day on a mountain bike.
So your suggestion about checking bike style… it’s a little silly. Experienced, talented riders ride mountain bikes and hybrids just as frequently as yahoos who barely dust off their saddle ride $5000 Postal replica road bikes. I don’t think there’s a definitive sniff test for who’s going to be a good cyclist to be near on the bridge pedal. I think you just bring a good attitude, come better prepared and educated (for those who are wobbling all over the road) or (like my wife and I) figure out that the ride just isn’t for you.
This was my first BP decided to do it at the last minute. Signed up for the 8 bridge, went over 8-bridges, but Sellwood wasn’t supposed to be one of those. A few extra miles were added to the trip. 🙂
I am only an occasional rider so for me there was a lot to take in. It was a bit of a cluster at the beginning. I was scheduled to start at 7:00 but when I got to the start point (about 10 minuts early) it sounded like they were sending people off as they wanted to go. So I went. Which worked out fine and I didn’t end up in too much traffic.
I would say that simply reading the little map pamphlet before I went (I had time to kill)helped me to remember some important things…like to stay to the right if I am going slowly, and to let people know if I am passing. I don’t know that people would take a class, but to have clear hints on-line with those reminders would be helpful. Even just a continual slide show on the website with bike etiquette information would probably have helped a lot of people. (A separate link for safety would be good, but for the people who won’t look, put it in front of their faces.) Put signs up along the way with the same reminders and have volunteers yelling out those reminders too.
I would absolutely do it again! I kept thinking that for people who had not done it before (or who were just learning about the city) it was a perfect day for it. The weather was ideal, hearing the trains coming through (and having to stop for them) made the setting that much better, and feeling for a little while, like the roads were traffic free and safe to ride on was so cool! I also loved when I heard riders thanking the volunteers.
Yes there were frustrating parts (people stopping suddenly for pictures, rest stops, unclear where they wanted to go) but it seems like a lot of that could be taken care of by well placed volunteers reminding people that, for example, a rest area was coming.
As for you more experienced bikers, help the rest of us learn the rules of the road. Give us friendly reminders along the way and lead by example. Let people know you are coming. I was passed by plenty of more experienced riders (I guess they looked the part, who knows if they really were) who never let me know they were there.
To me, it was well worth the ride! I’d do it again.
Idea to relieve congestion and open the way for speedy bikers: 3 (or more) starting points, perhaps the 3 rest stops.
Starting point 1, the 10 bridge route would assume it would have the speediest group included, so it’s route would be the the longest before it crosses the next rest stop/starting points 2 or 3. This route could also have staggered starts for speedies, then not so speedies. Hopefully by the time these folks cross points 2 or 3 those points will have been long cleared of starters.
Starting point 2, the 8 bridge route, and starting point 3, the 6 bridge route would have correspondingly less distance before crossing the next points in their paths.
This would put all bikes on the road at about the same time, but they would be separated by miles of empty road. Instead of 1 huge line of 18,000 bikers, there would be 3 lines of 1/3 as many each. If the routing is engineered well enough they would rarely ever even see each other, let alone crash into each other.
This would also have the benefit of fewer cyclists commuting to one meeting point. This might also enable Tri-met to be able to handle bikes on busses/max because they would be going to different starts.
Another idea to relieve congestion: no starting points.
Just open the entire route over the duration of the event. Cyclists could enter or leave the route anywhere they want to. (Of course there is nothing to stop people from doing this already. Is there?)
The start and finish line is a vestige of racing that is perhaps not appropriate for this event. Removing that constraint may enable more freedom in how the event is thought about by everyone involved.
RE: Brad 28: I don’t think you’re cut out for the BP. It seems as though you really need a more challenging venue and that’s ok. Just don’t expect the BP to be that venue. It is what it is; a bunch of dorks on bikes with all their silly hats, funny bikes, and kids in trailers. It’s a good thing, kind of like a two-wheeled love-in! Just relax and enjoy, be grateful for the opportunity.
This was my eighth (I think) BP, and I had high hopes seeing the route for the 10 bridge ride. Heading up McLoughlin seemed like just the ticket to spread people out. I started toward the front of the “express riders,” as I do every year, partly because I ride faster and partly because riding in a crowd with other “regular riders” is less stressful.
I was somewhat dissapionted to find, then, that upon crossing the Hawthorne Bridge I found myself merging with a crowd.
I was further dissapointed by the lack of signs. 18,000 people at 25 bucks a pop – one would think that they could have sprung for signage. As a result of this lacking, I and a hundred or so others found ourselves heading to Sellwood a second time. I came to ride, so I was not dissapointed to have ridden more that I had expected to.
I think, as many have noted, that the merging of the “express riders” – those of us who do ride faster, and to avoid stress start early to do so – with those riding a more leisurely pace was a bad idea. Neither pace is bad, or out of place – but having these two groups mingle is bound to be stressful for all.
Otherwise, as every year, I enjoyed the ride.
My second BP and I brought along two other riders who loved it. Started about 7:15 a.m.
Best: I did all ten this year! Last year I didn’t know the bridge names yet and was waved off Fremont the wrong way and missed St. John’s. No walking, stop and waits, like last year’s at Marquam and Springwater.
Worst: People riding very slowly three across and chatting, blocking all traffic. Cyclists doing downhills at full speed with their babies/ toddlers behind them in bouncing trailers. Saw several wrecks, one with an ambulance required.
This was my first Bridge Pedal, and I wasn’t expecting much after all the comments about last year’s ride. However, I thought things were handled pretty well considering how many people were out there, and the only time I really had to stop for a prolonged period was at the very odd bottleneck just before the Ross Island bridge.
I didn’t have to walk over a single bridge by starting earlier in the day. I did, though, see a number of speed demon cyclists, weaving in and out of traffic and other riders, trying to see how many times they could do the 10-bridge ride in a day. I thought it was great to offer the first early start to those wanting to ride the route fast, but I was disappointed to see the racers back on the road with the families, impatietly complaining about everyone else. Ride the course as many times as you want, dudes, but when the kiddies and families are let lose, it’s time to slow down and appreciate the ride.
As for me, my sole complaint seems to be the same as everyone else’s: bad directions. Many crucial turns had no signs or volunteers, and sometimes the volunteers didn’t know what to do. On the Ross Island, the lone volunteer was directing riders into oncoming traffic! With almost 20,000 people paying at least 20$ each, they can’t afford signs? Have they never heard of Dan Henrys? Having weary teenagers screaming out directions is just about the worst possible way of directing traffic I can dream up.
Overall, though, I had a great day. I had a new bike, I had my honey, and I had root beer on top of the Marquam! Wheeeeee!
Preston – if I had a bike length or two I would completely blame myself for the accident. The problem was that the sheer number of riders places you in tighly packed groups with no room to move hence, everyone needs to be aware that their actions effect others. (Just like congested freeway traffic – know the four corners of your car and be aware of where the other cars are. Then again, no one understands safe, defensive driving any longer.) I certainly didn’t expect these buffoons to lock up the brakes and dismount a good 20 yards from where everyone else was dismounting.
Perhaps BP could also place banners signifying dismount zones and through traffic lanes? That could help the flow and minimize the random stops that lead to wrecks.
Plenty has been said about the BP, but I want to chip in one minor point: clipping into pedals in the BP is just flat dangerous, to yourself and the people around you. It’s far to crowded and slow-paced for that. You don’t need them anyway. I switched to platform pedals and spun up the St. John’s bridge climb with a 30# child in tow without breathing hard.
Point taken, L. But when those of us who do clip in are promised by the BP an “express” start for riders spinning 15 MPH or faster (and presumably crossing every bridge in advance of the later start waves) then we assume we can ride our regular gear.
Thanks to the organizational and traffic direction cluster…. that placed me in the masses, I was stuck with what I brought to the dance. It was a little too late (or early for River City to open) to buy and install some platforms.