Good times, bottlenecks mark 12th annual Bridge Pedal

Posted by on August 12th, 2007 at 3:37 pm

[Updated (see below) at 10:20am, 8/13]

The back-up before the Ross Island Bridge. (File photo)
View the full gallery or watch slide show below.

If you were one of the lucky ones that beat the gridlock and massive bottlenecks, this year’s Bridge Pedal was probably a great day of riding.

Bridge Pedal 2007-5

The Start line from the
Morrison Bridge.
(File photo)

Unfortunately, for many riders (including me and my crew), it seemed like every few miles of pedaling was followed by a major bottleneck.

At the approach to the Ross Island Bridge, some riders spent close to an hour on their feet. They tried to make the best of it by doing “the wave” and ringing bells, but I don’t think anyone expected (or enjoyed) such a long wait.

All the walking and waiting meant that thousands of riders missed out on the festive bridge parties, music, and free food and drink samples.

Bridge Pedal 2007-20

Dining on donuts at the
South Waterfront rest stop.
(File photo)

The back-ups also meant that more riders than usual had their ride cut short and didn’t get to cross the Fremont Bridge (it closed at 11:30).

On the bright side, a few friends of mine avoided the bottlenecks and reported a fantastic day of riding. And, as usual, there were lots of smiles and even with all the gridlock, the Bridge Pedal spirit could not be denied.

The highlight of my day was running into Wes Robinson. Wes was happily pedaling the bike he won in the BikePortland.org Raffle back in November!

So how’d it go for you and your crew? Did you beat the crowds, or was this year more like Bridge Walk?

Check out my my photo gallery or the slide show below (sorry there are no shots of the Fremont or St. Johns Bridges, I didn’t make the cut-off time to ride them!).


Created with Admarket’s flickrSLiDR.


UPDATE: Reader Chris Sullivan sent in this 3:43 minute long video of the ride.

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Drew Barnard
Guest

Great ride, but I agree with the massive congestion. I was stuck in the middle of the massive \”wave\” right in front of the Ross Island, which was pretty fun despite the pile up 🙂

a.O
Guest
a.O

Somewhat disappointing. The bottlenecks started right away on McLoughlin down to the Sellwood. I walked the Hawthorne then waited for 20 minutes for the Ross Island before bailing and looping back to the Hawthorne (westbound) to pick up the Marquam. Saw a nasty wreck complete with ambulance on the descent. Then I had to walk the Broadway also! At 11:30, I was told there was no support up on the St Johns, but I rode up there anyway and found the lane still closed. Finally, up on the St Johns \”after\” the ride, I finally hit the appropriate density of riders.

I still had a good time, of course, but they\’ve got to stagger the riders more. I paid for 10 bridges, but really only got 6.

BURR
Guest
BURR

like a lot of other cycling events in PDX, this ride has become a victim of its own success.

Nancy
Guest
Nancy

We were in que by 7:05a.m. and hit the first bridge by 7:25. We still experienced a log jam at the Ross Island, but it was more like a 10 min. wait.

The rest of the ride was fantastic!!! We got a few fast, strong runs and a great downhill on Greeley – weeee!

Mr. Viddy
Guest

Awesome.

Erik
Guest
Erik

As a first time rider I did the 8 bridge ride and started out at the front of the pack. It was a little slow over the Ross Island but after that I could go at my own pace. I had a fantastic solo-ride and was done before 9. I wish every ride could be like today\’s.

Brad Parker
Guest
Brad Parker

Always take the early rides. They are funner and you can avoid hold ups. First dibs on free stuff. If you like to ride fast, go one the 8 Bridge or the 10. The 6 Bridge are better for familys and little ones. Remember This is for fun, not a race.
Thanks
B

pdxrunner
Guest
pdxrunner

I was stuck trying to get on the Ross Island for almost an hour. Last year the Ross Island bridge was two lanes wide. This year they cut it down to one lane; of course there is going to be a bottleneck if you do that. Poor planning if you ask me.

Grant
Guest
Grant

I think they should consider capping the registration at, say, 15,000 next year.

Mike Perrault
Guest
Mike Perrault

Grant, why cap it? I understand that the waits were lame and no matter how many awesome waves came past we were still standing but we should appreciate this \”problem\”. It means that there were too many people who wanted to come out and ride!

Maybe they could just have this event more often.

Certainly poor planning had something to do with this, but so did the fact that more and more people are catching the fever! Which is great if you ask me.

Mike

Jessica Roberts
Guest
Jessica Roberts

I don\’t understand why the organizer doesn\’t cap attendance. Every year I see a quote from him in the paper about how \”attendance this year will be higher than ever before,\” but clearly every year there are more and more complaints about crowds, safety, bottlenecks, etc. It seems irresponsible and, ultimately, harmful to the safety and success of the event to just keep letting it grow without making any major changes to accommodate more people.

n8m
Guest
n8m

great pics jon

Steve
Guest
Steve

Cap it? Why? Providence has no reason to limit the riders as long as the rider numbers continue to increase without having an increase in overhead. As long as we are willing to put up with the waits they won\’t change a thing.
My only complaint is about the lycra-clad wannabe racers who were weaving in and out of other riders. I actually heard a guy talk about a paceline and maintaining a cadence. OMG, its a freakin\’ fun ride, no purse money or ORBA points!!
On a lighter note, this was my 4 year-old son\’s first Bridge Pedal, and he (and his Dad) had a blast on the 8-Bridge ride on his tag-a-long.

brettoo
Guest
brettoo

As much as I enjoyed my first ever bike views from the Marquam and Ross Island bridges, I feel ripped off because the sponsors\’ poor planning meant that those of us who arrived at the Fremont bridge after about 1120 (thanks to the massive bottlenecks earlier) didn\’t get to ride it, as it was about to close. Riding the Fremont was one of the main reasons I signed up in the first place, and I plan to demand a partial refund, because I showed up at the assigned time and place and didn\’t get to ride it.
There\’s no excuse for that kind of poor planning after this many years. I never saw any free snacks or other freebies we were supposed to get, except for some chocolate milk.
I loved the feelings of empowerment, solidarity, courtesy etc., not to mention some sweet views, but the sponsors\’ poor planning also means that I\’ll mostly remember this one for their incompetence resulting in disappointment for at least dozens and perhaps hundreds of riders who didn\’t get what they paid for.

beth h
Guest

Jonathan — some really terriffic photos. Thanks for sharing.

As for the bottlenecks — honestly, these first began to creep into the event several years ago and are a part of why I stopped participating. (The other part was that organizers no longer allowed shop mechanics to offer their services as rolling volunteers in exchange for admission to the event. When I have to pay 25 bucks to go for a bike ride in Portland, I\’ll ride somewhere else.)

Frankly, capping attendance is going to be impossible on this one. It\’s just too popular now. Enforcing any sort of cap would be ridiculous to even try. I know at least ten people who found it quite easy to sneak into the ride at several points along the route (two actually saved their vests from previous years and with 10,000 other riders they blended right in!). The ride has simply gotten too big to avoid bottlenecks, and too big to cap effectively and realistically.

I say let the bottlenecks continue for a couple more years. People who can\’t stand it will agitate for a second ride date; OR they\’ll opt out in favor of a less crowded bicycle experience.

Bridge Pedal serves to inspire people to ride their bikes more. When they do that, they usually find other opportunities to ride that don\’t require as much standing around and don\’t cost so much. I see no problem with either approach.

Bridge Pedal remains a great bike event and serves a good purpose. It\’s fine as it is.

Todd Boulanger
Guest
Todd Boulanger

As a former Bridgepedal rider, I had a blast this year handing out swag and seeing all the funky bikes and costumes.

A suggestion…perhaps set up a thru lane for bikes on the top of the Fremont Bridge so those that want to make up time and avoid the clustering crowds at the booths can do so without pushing folks – important for those trying to make up time to hit all 10 bridges (flats and crowd bottlenecks). (This could be placed next to the walking lane.)

sheldon
Guest
sheldon

I agree with the sentiments of capping attendance at 15,000-16,000 and I really think the decision to do so rests with the City. After all they are the ones issuing the permits.

It is great that this is such a popular event, but congestion isn\’t my real concern. A serious accident is inevitable (like the one where a 12-year old cut off a female rider resulting in a broken elbow and $10000s in medical bills).

I didn\’t ride this year, but have taken my daughter in a burley the past couple of years. I love sharing in the experience with my daughter, but it has become so stressful dodging all those inexperienced riders (of all ages) who weave all over the place.

Mark C
Guest
Mark C

We got caught up in the Ross Island wait and decided to turn around (along with several others) after 20 minutes or so and rode north to join the ride before crossing the Burnside Bridge. From there, it was ok, although we had to walk across the Steel Bridge.

I am kind of leaning toward a cap as well, if there is somehow a way to enforce it. There were simply too many riders trying to get through too narrow spaces. If they don\’t cap it we\’ve probably participated (as a family) for the last time, although I might do the 10-bridge on my own and start real early.

mmann
Guest
mmann

Been looking forward to this for weeks – one of those things i want to do every year and other things happen, so we made it work this time. I had my 6-year old daughter on the tag-a-long, my wife had our 20-month old in the Burley, my son rode, and we formed a team with our neighbor and 2 kids across the street. Registered start time for 6-bridge ride was 8:45, but took us until almost 9:15 just to cross the line, and when we turned the corner and saw that line for the Ross Island, we were ready to bag it. stuck it out, but that line was over 45 minutes. Smoother after that – saw three riders go down hard and stay down just past Burnside bridge (scary) and made the Fremont with 5 minutes to spare. Freebies? Food? Swag? Never saw any – everyone was packing up on the bridge as we topped out – they were even out of the Vancouver/Portland maps, for cripes sake. Yeah, it was great to see bikes to the horizon, but also that constant reminder that \”the bridge is closing, the cars are coming.\” My dream? No cars, all day long. start times extended. More lanes (we got squeezed to one lane several times.) And next year I want a donut.

VR
Guest
VR

Split it into two weekends. 1 weekend have the 8 and 10 bridge rides. The next weekend have the 6 bridge ride.

Cap each event at 10,000 riders.

That way you still get 20,000 riders total, yet things should flow SO much better, and the roads will be that much clearer that much sooner which should make ODOT and the City happy.

SKiDmark
Guest
SKiDmark

Could always shut down the bridges for a few more hours.

a.O
Guest
a.O

beth h, your comments make no sense. The bottlenecks caused you to stop riding the event, but it\’s fine as it is. Duh. *You\’re* no longer waiting in the huge lines. The goal is to create a good experience for people. Not everybody else cheats the CCC and BTA out of their hard-earned money like your friends. You people should go apologize to the volunteers. You\’re part of the problem.

Darren
Guest
Darren

Why cap a great ride? Why not expand it? Instead of asking for less, ask for more.

Close more bridges in both directions, open up 2 lanes for bikes, and load up some \”feeder loops\” to stagger bikes at bridges. Wouldn\’t you rather ride laps through some cool neighborhoods while a bottleneck clears than act like typical auto traffic and sit and stew?

Why not have a secondary starting location someplace on the east side that dumps riders into the gaps of the current route?

And how about some \”alternative\” routes that have more bands and more parties and more freebies along the way? Would you skip the Fremont for free breakfast?

Rather than all of us ending at the overworked waterfront why not have several \”final destinations\” that lead us away from congestion. Maybe the Zoo or Kelly Point Park or somewhere along the Springwater corridor.

I think we should get creative rather than just limiting the fun.

Darren

Jordan
Guest
Jordan

As in years past, I decided that I ride the bridges enough during the week on my commute. So I went out to the Tillamook State Forest and had wonderful mountain bike ride on Gales Creek and the new Sickr Lars trails with some friends and my wife. The trails are in great shape!

Andrew Berkowitz
Guest

Great post, Darren. I love the idea of making the event into a Portland event instead of just a bridge event. Clearly there\’s just not enough space for all these people at one time, so why not think about a way to spread it out city-wide.

joeb
Guest
joeb

I’m with SKiDmark and Darren. I’d hate to see this capped, like to see 35,000 bikes. How about the last wave taking off 5PM to finish by sunset?

I was complaining about meeting downtown at 6:20 on a Sunday morning. But I guess that was the right thing to do. It was a great day! The view from the top of the St. Johns bridge was a solid stream of bikes going out of sight. It was a profound feeling… a profound day.

bicycledave
Guest

Those are great ideas Darren. I agree wholeheartedly with more not less. Don\’t cap adapt. Darren for President in \’08.

mmann
Guest
mmann

I like the way this discussion is heading. Wouldn\’t it be great if the Bridgepedal morphed into a city-wide Ciclovia, with all the major arterials turned over to bikes and pedestrians? Lets try it once, bridges included, but spreading out as well. If it catches, it could become a monthly thing. Imagine MLK (or 82nd!) turned over to bikes and walkers for a whole Sunday.

Javen
Guest
Javen

I left the Fremont and started heading for St John\’s right when Starbucks was closing up. Last year, I remember the pedal up St John\’s was somewhat dangerous and congested. This year, the ride up there was nearly empty. Surprisingly, they still had a lane roped off for cyclists. I arrived just before they started packing up the food. They had peaches and mini bagels. After I waited for my family and friends to catch up, they had completely closed down and were handing out bags containing 32 mini bagels.

I think Portland shouldn\’t be so eager to get cars moving. Give the cyclists their time. It feels like the party gets crashed when they end it early like this–all of a sudden, the Bridge Pedal which is known for its friendliness becomes spread out. I don\’t want to finish the ride with only 3 people in sight. I want to finish the ride with 30 people in sight. It\’s a lot nicer that way.

Back on the happy side, I\’m glad Portland didn\’t attempt the Springwater Corridor this year. That was a total mess. In time, they will learn the secret to minimizing delays. They really should have given at least 2 lanes on the Ross Island.

Matt Picio
Guest

This was my second Bridge Pedal (my first was 2 years ago, I was out of state last year).

This year, the waits were no longer than my previous ride, except for the Ross Island bridge, which was completely ridiculous. I\’d rather see them close the entire bridge completely for Bridge Pedal, if that\’s possible (I leave that up to the traffic flow experts).

I was not able to start on time, mostly my own fault. We got going shortly before 8am on the 10 bridge ride, and made it to Fremont about 5-10 minutes before the bridge closed. With the exception of the first rest stop, every other stop was being torn down or was already packed up when we got there. (the Ross Island traffic jam really hurt us there, with that 45 minute delay)

We ended up leaving the ride at NW Thurman, and packing the ride vests, and riding up to St. Johns on our own, and then riding to Mocks Crest before turning east and riding away from the bridges altogether. So, I got to do 9 bridges (really, who needs Broadway, anyway?) 😉 and then have a nice pleasant ride back into SE Portland – about 45 miles total for the day.

I don\’t plan to ride next year – I plan to be part of Team Sofa and promote car-free living to the one-time and seldom riders who may not be aware that car travel is merely the dominant paradigm, not necessarily the best one.

I did have a lot of fun on parts of the ride, though, and the traffic jam on 8th? was the largest group of cyclists I\’d ever seen before in one spot – most impressive.

Grant
Guest
Grant

I agree that the best solution would be to make it last later into the day, hold it on 2 weekends, or close more lanes. But I don\’t see that happening. There were FEWER lanes open to bikes on the RI Bridge this year than last year; that\’s insanity.

Aaron
Guest
Aaron

Sorry that you didn\’t get to see this Jonathan, but the couch-pedal was hugely successful. Mostly due to Steph and Sara\’s magnificent personalities. Dozens of people came by just because they knew us and of course that attracted more people. One of them had the idea of creating a tourist spot, so we took people\’s photos of them sitting on the couch. I went through all the postcards and we did great advertising for The Towards Carfree Conference. We even had local celebrities Janice McDonald and Sam Adams stop in to say hi.
I\’ll post photos as soon as they arrive.
Aaron

anon
Guest
anon

Gut feeling here… the Bridge Pedal can handle even more riders it just needs to be super organized.

Cecil
Guest

Aw, just expand it to include the Longview and Astoria bridge crossings – that will cut down on the riff raff 😉

joeb
Guest
joeb

Hey Darren, how about the entire stretch of I405 for a feeder loop? The Banfield for an alternate start? BTW, what is car traffic like during Bridge Pedal. I\’ve never noticed.

joeb
Guest
joeb

There seemed to be a lot more volunteers this year. Must be veteran pedalers like Matt opting out of the ride while staying in the middle of it. Not a bad idea…

Thomas
Guest
Thomas

I paid $37 for a six bridge ride and all I got was this lousey tee shirt.

Ross Island sucked completely. We left the ride after waiting forever.

The organizers were out of their league. Anyone paying attention over the last few years could have seen this coming.

Expand the hours and access. Don\’t try to limit the participation.

Thomas

Anonymous
Guest
Anonymous

To me, this was a big disappointment. I am a blue ride rider, with a six year old on a one-speed. So I know that I am part of the problem.

We rode the Pedal two years ago for the first time and after walking the Ross island and the Marquam, vowed not the return. But my son convinced me to go again last year and it seemed like they learned a lot of lessons and things went well.

But this year was another disaster. We started right at the earliest start time for the blue wave but still walked the Hawthorne, had a 45 min wait at the Ross Island (and we were lucky!).

They screwed up the course and again merged the two waves on the Steele (another walk).

And support was closing up on the Fremont even though thousands of riders were still on the course.

I think with better management they can get a handle on this. This year, they were staggering the blue entries but the red wave was entering (and clogging) the Hawthorne unabated. This was bad planning.

And they MUST figure out what they want to do with the RIsland. Going from five lanes of cyclists to one lane is just idiotic.

Either close the R Island outright except for ONE buslane or take it off of the route.

paul
Guest
paul

To me, this was a big disappointment. I am a blue ride rider, with a six year old on a one-speed. So I know that I am part of the problem.

We rode the Pedal two years ago for the first time and after walking the Ross island and the Marquam, vowed not the return. But my son convinced me to go again last year and it seemed like they learned a lot of lessons and things went well.

But this year was another disaster. We started right at the earliest start time for the blue wave but still walked the Hawthorne, had a 45 min wait at the Ross Island (and we were lucky!).

They screwed up the course and again merged the two waves on the Steele (another walk).

And support was closing up on the Fremont even though thousands of riders were still on the course.

I think with better management they can get a handle on this. This year, they were staggering the blue entries but the red wave was entering (and clogging) the Hawthorne unabated. This was bad planning.

And they MUST figure out what they want to do with the RIsland. Going from five lanes of cyclists to one lane is just idiotic.

Either close the R Island outright except for ONE buslane or take it off of the route.

olivia
Guest

Oh, so that\’s what the couch area was! I couldn\’t stop, but I sure was intrigued. I liked your asphalt poetry on the ride up the Fremont ramp.

The highlight for me was meeting Killer Dave and getting a couple of free loaves of his bread! A real treat.

Brian
Guest
Brian

This was my second ever BP and I took my 4 yr-old son along on a trailer bike.

I signed up for the 6 bridge ride but had contingency plans to bail after 4. I think we could have done all 6– my son handled things really well and barely fussed during the lengthy wait before Ross Island. But time and events conspired against us and we crossed the Burnside just after the 11:30 \”cut-off\” time.

We played leap-frog with the police \”sweep\” car and it bacame kind of a game for my son.

Plus– I helped out three other PDX neighbors! Fixed two flats and tuned up the brakes on a third. At this point all the free tech support was busy packing up on the bridges so these folks were facing a nice walk back to home or car.

One thing: I paid $12 for a shirt for my son. Bizarrely we got a 2001 edition shirt. I didn\’t notice this until we got home. My son doesn\’t care, obviously. I thought it a bit weird. i even like the design better than the 2007 graphics.

Final analysis: My son had fun so the event was a success. Next time we\’ll go earlier.

Being able to drift ALL THE WAY over into the passing lane on the freeway just before climbing up onto the Marquam?

Priceless. Not a damn car anywhere in sight! Beautiful!

Alan
Guest
Alan

Great ride – one of the best BPs ever for me and my daughter. We left the 8 bridge starting mark at 7:40, got caught up in the \”walking\” approach to Ross Is (but didn\’t walk even 5 minutes) and, even though there were some crowded sections, we never had to walk again (altho the approach to St Johns is steep enough to make walking tempting).

The people were friendly. Really appreciated the pipers on top of the Fremont Bridge – they were great!

I don\’t know if there are any riding stats to back this up, but it seemed to us that there were a LOT of 10-bridge riders and a LOT of 6-bridge riders, but not so many 8-bridge riders. The 8-bridge riders have to start early too (7:30 was the last printed starting time), so that may have helped thin out the crowds too.

So, if you want to ditch the crowds next year, plan accordingly.

Steven Kung
Guest

My teenage daughters and I worked our volunteer shift then joined the ride and experienced something quite magical.

THOUSANDS of human beings exhibited tremendous patience and camaraderie despite the unexpected 1-hr-plus standing in congestion before the Ross Island Bridge.

I also saw many car drivers flipping off the barricade volunteers on Front Street due to the 1-block auto traffic congestion at the Hawthorn Bridge on-ramp closure.

To me this is evidence that holding handlebars instead of steering wheels miraculously brings out the goodness in people.

I will continue to support the Bridge Pedal because I know things will improve, in the long run.

Hubert
Guest
Hubert

I did a Bridge Pedal of a different kind. 5 quaint, historic, beautiful covered bridges, from days gone by, plus miles of scenic farmland, a full day of riding with zero congestion, all at a minimal cost of $25. Covered Bridge Ride out of Albany. Don\’t spread too far tho, wouldn\’t want congestion.

erikv
Guest

After participating for several years in a row, my wife, two kids and I had a horrible experience at the bridge pedal. Overcrowded, people crashing into my kid trailer, 30 minute porta-potty lines (try convincing YOUR two year old to wait 30 minutes to pee), and the fight to get over some of those bridges was horrible.

Seriously, I could care less about a free 1oz Starbucks frapacino sample…I just wanted to ride my bike over the bridges with my family.

This was a few years ago. I can only imagine the gridlock this year.

Never, ever again.

Cabbol
Guest
Cabbol

We should just join this event with a carfree day and close the city to cars. Other cities are doing it, I can\’t think of a better time then this. After the event instead of a mass exodus people can linger around all day and enjoy the carfree atmosphere.

Murray
Guest
Murray

I\’m sorry, but this event sounds horrible. I would love to be up on the Fremont Bridge someday, but the price of getting up there is not worth it. I still don\’t fully understand why capping this event is unrealistic.

I like the idea proposed in a previous post about spreading it over two weekends.

Anonymous
Guest
Anonymous

I think there are easier things to do than limiting attendance! For example, the most anticipated bridges were saved until the very end of the longer rides. These were also the first bridges to reopen! What were they thinking?

On top of that, staggering the starts so that the shorter rides started ahead of the longer rides at just the right time they all met up at once didn\’t help.

Turn it around for the longer rides. They head out and cross the bridges that close first. Maybe it\’ll be a few more miles, but at least more than a few of the people who signed up for those rides will have the chance to actually participate in them. While they\’re out chasing down those bridges, the shorter rides can get a good start plugging away at the rest without the ten bridge guys desperately trying to hammer through the crowd to make up time. Different routes for different rides. Everyone gets to participate, and we still get the gridlock photo opportunities when everyone meets up towards the end of the ride.

snapper
Guest
snapper

i think this event has the potential to be something like the Bay to Breakers of Portland. you would think that by the sheer number of people who show up at this ride, organizers would realize that portlanders really do take it seriously.

this was my first time and despite all my delays (45 min before the ross island, forced to skip st. johns) i was just astounded with the mix of riders that were out there.

if we are getting people out on their bikes that don\’t normally get on one, it seems like a small price to pay to open up one more lane on the ross island or have support a little longer on bridges. i mean come on!!! it doesn\’t make sense why you wouldn\’t considering the turn out!

i think organizers should take pride in this event and try even harder to make it an enjoyable experience for everyone. for one measly half day out of the year, can\’t this bike \”friendly\” city let the bikes really take over the town?

Amy
Guest
Amy

I don\’t think a cap would do any good. We also had friends wearing previous year vests, and now that we were aware of the possibility, we saw hundreds if not thousands of people wearing old vests or no vests. (They could\’ve gotten old ones from the promoters.) Many people asked if the money goes to nonprofits or Providence; Providence doesn\’t seem to motivate people to be benevolent. What percentage goes to BTA?

We started at 8 and ended up doing 8 – picked up the ride on the East side after Morrison, walked Hawthorne, spent an hour at the Ross Island approach, had to walk Steel Bridge, then were told at 11:03 a.m. that it was too late to go up Hwy 30 to St. Johns. Obviously others had no problem up there later so we should\’ve blown past the volunteer. No worries though, rode Broadway on the way home. Didn\’t stop for food, swag or water – no time after the logjams.