Urban Tribe - Ride with your kids in front.

Oregonian blasts Bridge Pedal

Posted by on August 14th, 2007 at 9:15 am

Bridge Pedal 2006

The man behind Bridge Pedal,
Rick Bauman.
(File photo)

Continuing the drumbeat of dissatisfaction with this year’s Bridge Pedal is a front page story in the Metro section of today’s Oregonian that details the problems with the ride and grievances experienced by many participants.

Reporter Helen Jung opens the article with, “Officially, it’s called the Providence Bridge Pedal. But the annual bike ride over Portland’s bridges earned a new name Sunday — Providence Bridge Ped-debacle.”

Her story reveals new information about the now infamous Ross Island Bridge bottleneck:

“Although the ride usually reserves only one of the four lanes, Bauman said, in past years cyclists have dodged the traffic cones and commandeered the second lane. To satisfy safety concerns of TriMet, ODOT and police, race organizers this year put up yellow tape along the lane, restricting cyclists to a single lane, he said.

One lane wasn’t enough, Bauman conceded, which organizers hadn’t considered.

“I just didn’t see that coming,” he said.”

Bridge Pedal 2007-26

Walking the Hawthorne Bridge.
(File photo)

The article also included this line about crashes and overall safety of the ride:

He (Bauman) added that there were three accidents that he knew of, and that the event was a safety success.

And as for how to fix the problems?

“Bauman said organizers and state and local authorities will meet to discuss ways to improve the event, and may consider a cap on participants.

Bauman is personally against the idea, saying that he thinks it would create an “exclusiveness” that he doesn’t like. And Jones, despite her annoyance that she was unable to complete the 10-bridge ride she signed up for, agreed that the ride should not be limited — just better organized.”

Not capping the event, and focusing on better organization, seems to be the prevailing sentiment in the 80 or so comments left on my Bridge Pedal report.

The problems experienced on Sunday are nothing new. This event had similar issues back in 2005. After that ride, Bauman met with TriMet, ODOT, PDOT, etc… to figure out improvements and Transportation Commissioner Sam Adams asked for feedback on his blog.

Apparently whatever solutions they came up with didn’t work.

Perhaps this article in the Oregonian will provide renewed pressure on the ride organizers to finally implement aggressive and strategic changes.

Read Helen Jung’s article, “Bridge Pedal turns walkathon“.

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Thank you — Jonathan

  • dennis August 14, 2007 at 9:36 am

    How can he honestly say \”I didn\’t see that coming\” about the Ross Island Bridge? At some point there was going to be a bottleneck when they get that many riders out there trying to cram into one lane. It happened 8 years ago on the Steel Bridge.

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  • DK August 14, 2007 at 10:11 am

    Stagger the starts at different sites…A Sellwood start, Fremont start and waterfront start. This is where most of the people are coming from anyway…aren\’t they?

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  • Anon August 14, 2007 at 10:15 am

    If you have a record number of registrants, get a record number of portaloos.

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  • tonyt August 14, 2007 at 10:24 am

    There comes a time when there are simply too many riders for the current system. You can\’t put 10 gallons of water in a 5 gallon bucket.

    Limit the riders to 14,000, which is the number of riders that rode when the ride last worked. I think that was 2003.

    There is no reason why they need to allow for all those last minute registrations. If you can\’t plan and get your registration in at least a month before, then perhaps you\’ll get it in next year.

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  • rixtir August 14, 2007 at 10:35 am

    I have an alternate suggestion to limiting the number of riders.

    Limit the number. Then open a new division, also with a limited number. Stagger the divisions– either with later starting times, or even better, with different routes. Create as many divisions as necessary to accommodate demand.

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  • Jonathan Maus (Editor) August 14, 2007 at 10:40 am


    I used to think capping the ride was the answer, but after the recent talk of \”Sunday Parkways\” and ciclovias in Portland and after reading people\’s comments about Bridge Pedal, it seems to me that we should embrace the high demand for a bike-only day in the city.

    Perhaps the BTA (and others) can work with the momentum Rick Bauman has created with his ride to turn it into an annual \”Bike Day in Portland\” where we encourage 50-100,000 people to walk, bike, and rollerblade all over the city on closed freeways and bridges.

    Clearly there is the public will to make something like this happen… but is there the political will to make it happen? that\’s the big question.

    when will we let someone besides ODOT, the police, and other stakeholders dictate what\’s the best thing for OUR public roadways?

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  • rixtir August 14, 2007 at 10:44 am

    Three words Jonathan:

    The Rose Parade.

    If that godawful invention can close the city to autmobile traffic for one day, there\’s no reason not to take up your much better idea.

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  • Elly August 14, 2007 at 10:48 am

    It seems funny, and a bit prejudiced, that there\’s such resistance to dedicating lanes to such an enormous, well-publicized event that benefits everyone and inconveniences nobody. I agree with Jonathan — why not expand events dedicated to public exercise and community fun in public spaces? There\’s a much bigger demand for this than the people who pay 25 dollars to ride bikes in Bridge Pedal. Temporary ciclovias like Bridge Pedal (and permanent ones) should be a priority in our transportation plans.

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  • Jonathan Maus (Editor) August 14, 2007 at 10:53 am

    \”There\’s a much bigger demand for this than the people who pay 25 dollars to ride bikes in Bridge Pedal.\”

    I absolutely agree! If 20,000 people will show up at $25 a pop, than I think it\’s safe to say if it were a free event, open to all non-motorized traffic, we would easily get 100,000.

    What\’s the magic number for the powers that be to even consider something like this?! is 1/5 of our city\’s population enough?

    I wish someone would run for Mayor or City Council on a platform that included a massive, downtown street closure at least once a year.

    I would do everything I could to support that candidate!

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  • a.O August 14, 2007 at 10:57 am

    Capping is inconsistent with the fundraising goals of the ride and with the broader goal of encouraging more cyclists in Portland. *Staggering* start times and/or locations and appropriately sizing the routes would solve the problem consistently with the above-stated goals.

    Another good idea, to increase the enjoyment of riders of all skills, is to create divisions or even lanes based on preferred speed. Those who want to put along can and those who want to go a little faster (but still not at race speed!) can do so.

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  • a.O August 14, 2007 at 10:58 am

    \”I wish someone would run for Mayor or City Council on a platform that included a massive, downtown street closure at least once a year.

    I would do everything I could to support that candidate!\”

    I\’m going to need a couple more years to build my political base, but I\’ll hold you to that ca. 2012.

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  • BURR August 14, 2007 at 11:07 am

    this ride needs more lanes on the bridges, not less

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  • Chris Sullivan August 14, 2007 at 11:10 am

    \”Bauman said, in past years cyclists have dodged the traffic cones and commandeered the second lane\”

    Check out this video from the 2006 ride over Ross Island Bridge and tell me how anyone would know they\’re restricted to one lane:

    Professional planning is clearly the answer.

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  • Kronda August 14, 2007 at 11:19 am

    an enormous, well-publicized event that benefits everyone and inconveniences nobody.

    I\’d be hard put to believe that something as large as this \’inconveniences nobody,\’ but I do think it does much more good than harm and it is after all, only one day. I agree, a free version would be awesome.

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  • Ethan August 14, 2007 at 11:23 am

    I am curious to know how much of the proceeds go to good causes, and how much goes into Bauman\’s pocket. In the past it seemed that he was making a killing off the event, giving a sliver to BTA and others (by proportion) and living on the east coast . . . has any of this changed?

    Of course he does not want to cap the event . . .

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  • mtnbiker August 14, 2007 at 11:26 am

    Regarding toilets, \”Bauman said he heard no complaints and that the ride had the same number of toilets as always.\”

    Here\’s my complaint: We didn\’t get a rest area! (except at the finish line).

    Because of the backup, (and our being too late for the Fremont) our detour back to the finish line did not allow us to reach the ONE rest area on the 6-bridge ride. So between 8:45 and noon there were probably 1500-2000 people that passed no more than a half dozen toilets—all with long lines.

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  • Antonio Gramsci August 14, 2007 at 11:41 am

    I\’m with Jonathan and others here about a carfree day.

    Personally, Bridge Pedal looks to me like a big corporate money making event, sponsored by business interests, with a \”charitable\” angle to make people feel warm and fuzzy. Fine for yuppies who get one chance a year to dust off that bike in the garage and take it for a spin. But me, I roll my eyes.

    Now a carfree day on the other hand, THAT would be something. Something that everyone can participate in, without having to open their checkbooks. And I would gladly pay tax dollars to finance it, if organizing it was so expensive that financing were needed.

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  • Lenny Anderson August 14, 2007 at 11:47 am

    Jonathan is on the right track…more people, more bikes; more streets, bridges, etc. closed to motor vehicles. A real civic celebration of human powered travel, bicycle, unicycle, walking, jogging.
    Make I-5 southbound motorized traffic use the Marquam lower deck; I-5 northbound use the Fremont lower deck…close the upper decks for the entire day to motorized traffic.
    Make all the four lane bridges two lanes for the day…its a Sunday for goodness sake. Likewise Hawthorne, Burnside and other four lane arterials.
    This could be great fun. Have organized rides start at all sorts of locations following various routes to various destinations. But make it possible for groups to organize their own rides…Portland tends to over-organize anyway. Just turn the forces of human powered travel loose for a day.

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  • Brad August 14, 2007 at 11:51 am

    Another solution is to limit the number of bridges.

    Anyone can ride their bike across the Hawthorne, Steel, Burnside, and Broadway any day of the week. Why not just make Bridge Pedal a simply laid out loop that takes in Sellwood, Marquam, Fremont, and St.John\’s (long ride) or Sellwood, Ross Island, Marquam, Fremont (short ride)?

    Advertise the long loop as a \”need for speed\” ride starting at 7:00AM and recommended only for fit riders. Close the St.John\’s stretch two hours after the start. (Honestly, if you can\’t get down to the Sellwood and up to the St.John\’s in that time, you are not fit enough for that ride.)

    Everyone still gets to do the big photo-op bridges on the freeways and create a huge public \”Bike Fest\” in Waterfront Park (coordinate with Tour de Fat?)


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  • Kristen August 14, 2007 at 12:32 pm

    Elly, I assume when you say it \”inconveniences nobody\” you are only including bikes/peds/no one who drives. Car and truck traffic on the two Interstate Freeways that run through Portland were inconvenienced.

    Jonathan, turning Bridge Pedal into a big, day-long celebration of Portland and human-powered vehicles is a good idea. Let\’s all join the organizing committee and make it happen.

    Speaking as someone who has taken part in organizing large events for large quantities of participants (of a different sort than you get here), I can say that keeping on top of all the things that can go wrong (and will) is a tough job. I agree that it was naive of the organizers to not expect a bottleneck at choke points; the RIb has always been one of the choke points. I also find it naive that they were forecasting 20,000 participants and were unprepared for the number they got. Hm. Interesting.

    And to the person who wanted to know how much money was going into Bauman\’s pocket: Again, speaking from experience, I would guess very little, if any. It\’s a common fallacy that organizers get rich while participants get screwed.

    Seriously speaking, has anyone here a)offered their CONSTRUCTIVE criticism to the BP organizers; b) VOLUNTEERED to help with next year to solve the problems we see; or c) publicly refuted the Oregonian\’s anti-bike slant?

    (BTW: did anyone else find it funny that one of the sponsors, the Oregonian, was blasting the event they helped sponsor? Ha! Ha! Ha!)

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  • Joe August 14, 2007 at 12:43 pm

    I want to see 20,000 cars cross the Ross Island bridge in just 4 hours and restricted to one traffic lane.

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  • tonyt August 14, 2007 at 12:53 pm

    Actually, you and I do not disagree Jonathan.

    I said, \”There comes a time when there are simply too many riders for the current system.\”

    I was saying that for the current system there are too many riders. You are saying that for more riders, we need a different system.

    If the whole city was shut down for a day, that\’s a totally different accomodation. I\’m all for it.

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  • Darren August 14, 2007 at 1:45 pm

    Wait! Don\’t shut out the corporate sponsors or the yuppies just yet.

    One thing I\’m totally dismayed about is the total lack of businesses along the Bridge Pedal route that don\’t open their doors and restrooms to thousands of potential customers.

    So while you\’re planning the new utopian Portland Pedal (with Bridges), consider these ideas:

    Have longer hours and SLOWER ride speeds. Encourage stopping and eating and shopping and sight seeing.

    Organize street fairs and farmer\’s markets. Every mobile vendor wanting to make a buck could park along the route and offer something of interest.

    Loop around parks and public areas and have bands, dancing, maybe even a beer garden or wine tasting?

    Pull out the stops on Portland bike culture and put on some bike jousting, some tall bikes and clowning, the Sprockettes, Human Powered Vechicles, maybe even some bike racing with a downtown criterium.

    Think big, but include the corporations, the small businesses, the entrapeuners, and the folks with the cash to help make it all profitable (and sustainable).

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  • tonyt August 14, 2007 at 2:00 pm

    Why Darren, that just might be fun!

    The whole city, all day? Bands, beer gardens? I like it.

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  • joeb August 14, 2007 at 2:34 pm

    Carfree day with multiple organized rides all over the city with 100,000 participants, 20% of the city’s population, gets my vote. Lenny Anderson #18 laid it down just right.

    People may need to drive North and South between Seattle and Salem and East and West between the Coast and the Gorge. Nobody needs to drive downtown. There are plenty of alternatives to get downtown. Bike, bus/Max, walk or pick another day.

    Does I5 traffic get routed over to I205 for this? Big flashing signs at each end of the 205 (Vancouver and Wilsonville) saying local traffic only, road closures ahead with detours or strong recommendations for through traffic to use I205?

    There is a lot of local traffic too so maybe every freeway onramp should have a warning to drivers that they aren’t going to like driving on the freeways toward downtown for about 12 hours with recommendations for alternate routes if possible. Could enough traffic be diverted to keep the top deck of the Marquam and Freemont closed all day?

    One of the organized rides should take one lane of I5 to Jantzen beach across Columbia Blvd or Marine Drive to 82nd and back on one lane of the Banfield. 

    Only dreaming (I think).

    Closing downtown, freeways and bridges to cars is huge. But it pretty much happens every day. Traffic is ridiculous at all times. When I’m sitting in a car and stuck in traffic for any reason, my frustration is that I’m stuck in a car like every other freaking idiot in this town. Then I gently assert to the driver or passenger that insisted on driving (cause I love her) that this is why I ride a bike.

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  • mtmann August 14, 2007 at 2:36 pm

    regarding capping – here\’s what I\’m afraid of. limit is reached, no on-site registration, so folks decide to ride anyway. Now you\’ve still got the crowds and the problems, perhaps increased since you planned for less riders, but BTA and Providence get less money, so everybody loses.

    I saw qute a few pink 2006 vests in the ride – maybe they were showing solidarity, or preferred last year\’s color, or they ran out of this year\’s, but maybe they were crashing the ride. I\’m pretty sure we\’d see a lot of that if it was capped.

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  • mtmann August 14, 2007 at 3:09 pm

    re # 19

    Brad, your idea about cutting out the middle bridges is one of the best in a long list of brainstorms. I agree – simplify the route and keep the highlights.

    I disagree that the Oregonian \”blasted\” the Bridge Pedal (Jonathan, I think those were your words?). I\’m no fan of the big O, but I read the article twice and saw it more as constructive criticism than a condemnation. True, they could have tried to include some positive quotes, but the problems were news and it was good to see one of the sponsors report that news accurately.

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  • Todd Boulanger August 14, 2007 at 4:20 pm

    One thing should enhance safety and make handling large crowds in limited R/W would be to hold the Kids Pedal again.

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  • andy August 14, 2007 at 4:28 pm

    World Car Free Conference is being held HERE, June 16-21, 2008, with delegates from all over the world. There\’s your event. It ain\’t August, but it might be the time to do it…

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  • andy August 14, 2007 at 4:30 pm

    I should add this:

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  • jeff August 14, 2007 at 5:30 pm

    Bauman was quoted as saying he didn\’t have the total \”proceeds\” from the event. 20,000 riders X $25 = $500,000, not counting the sponsors, is alot of money. Lots of \”volunteer\” (free) labor I think they could afford a few \”extra\” toliets, paying the full costs of the police overtime (not getting the taxpayers to pay for them). I still think it\’s an awesome event for Portland, Rick needs to be congratulated for putting it together all these years. I put together the Oxbow Campout for 20 people, not 20,000 & it\’s very time consuming & costly.
    Ride On

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  • David Ross August 14, 2007 at 5:59 pm

    I like Darren\’s idea above to encourage stopping along the way with more bands, vendors and other attractions. This ride doesn\’t work and I can\’t see how it ever would work for people that want to speed through Portland and cross all ten bridges. If you go with the attitude that waiting is going to happen it\’s quite enjoyable. I left the start later than I planned, at 8am, stopped at a friend\’s in Sellwood for around forty-five minutes for Bloody Marys and still managed to ride all ten bridges. Click my website link for photos. I\’m glad they had few accidents, last year there was carnage out there. With this much support for the ride can they get a permit to keep the bridges open longer and allow later starts? As for staggering the starts why don\’t they just say get started between 6-9am on your own schedule?

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  • Anon August 14, 2007 at 6:53 pm

    I had a great Bridge Ride that day… At the Mid-Valley Bicycle Club\’s Covered Bridge Ride, out of Albany, OR. Did a metric century in perfect weather with minimal traffic. They did run out of cookies at the lunch stop (but had plenty of other fare).

    As to the Providence Bridge Ride, I think the place to start is to ditch the sponsor who cares only for the advertising value, and seek a sponsor that understands the benefits of bicycling in terms of personal and community health.

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  • Aaron August 14, 2007 at 10:09 pm

    What I don\’t understand is how much more work it would be to keep the bridges open to PEOPLE for half a day, rather than 5 hours. All of the work to create safe bridges has already been done. What does a few more hours do to harm the event. This allows more time for people to get through, and starting times could be staggered over a longer period.

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  • beth h August 15, 2007 at 6:38 am

    I wish there was some way to accurately poll all the bicycle-riders (NOT \”bicyclists\”, but bicycle riders; there\’s a subtle but important difference in what each term connotes) who would love to do something like a Bridge Pedal, but who find the 25-dollar entry fee insulting, unaffordable, or both. For the 20,000 people who participated, I suspect there must be another several thousand who just ride their bikes for transportation — likely because that\’s what they can afford — and who aren\’t at all connected to the \”bike culture\” that Portland touts so highly.

    I have long wondered how to reach the segment of bicycle riders for whom \”bike culture\” is irrelevant (because it doesn\’t exist on their radar, they just ride their bikes), or for whom it means some kind of yuppified, elitist trip. I can no longer keep track of the number of customers who tell me each year that they could never afford/justify the steep price of the entry fee for Bridge Pedal.

    How do we reach out to people who just ride their bikes, rather than those who think of themselves as \”bicyclists\”? Is Bridge Pedal an effective tool for this? If not, what else might be?

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  • Brad August 15, 2007 at 8:25 am

    Beth -my take is that Bridge Pedal predominantly attracts casual bike riders (read: fair weather, about 8-10 times a year, summer only, in the neighborhood) and isn\’t designed for \”real\” cyclists or bike culture devotees. It\’s the same lowest common denominator event as the Shamrock Run or Starlight Run – a civic gathering / feel good fest disguised as an athletic event.

    There is no concern on the part of the sponsors or directors to accommodate club riders, speed demons, avid bike activists, or anyone other than yuppies and suburbanites looking for the \”edgy\” fun of riding on a freeway. I\’d call it something else but Jonathan runs a family friendly blog – but it rhymes with a \”wherkle serk\” on wheels.

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  • nuovorecord August 15, 2007 at 8:38 am

    I don\’t ride BP because of exactly the reasons touched on in previous posts – I hate having to deal with hordes of inexperienced cyclists all trying to go the same places. But I recognize the fact that BP isn\’t meant to be a hard-core ride – it is what it is.

    In my opinion, BP is a great way to get people used to the idea of riding their bike in the city. But, it seems to have outgrown it\’s current format and I think it\’s time to expand the horizons. I like the idea of a carfree day in Portland.

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  • Elly August 15, 2007 at 3:16 pm

    The hardworking folks at Transportation Options (a division of PDOT) are working on creating a (weekly?) free event with several miles worth of major streets are set up as linear parks, where people can walk, bike, rollerblade, or whatever their hearts desire. Right now the first one is slated to coincide with the Towards Carfree Cities conference in June 2008. We\’ll see the real demand for carfree streets then — I suspect that a lot more people will come out than for the Bridge Pedal. It\’s not a benefit (except to the people who turn out, the communities, and the businesses they all patronize along the way) and they\’ll need a lot of volunteers to make it happen. Keep an eye out for your chance!

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  • […] bridge pedal pretty much sucked 16 08 2007 The very excellent BikePortland.org has a full recap of the 2007 Providence Bridge Pedal, which was a total fiasco this […]

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  • Max August 15, 2007 at 9:41 pm

    I rode the 8 bridge ride (leaving at 7am?) and I didn\’t have any problems – just fun. No bottleneck at Ross Island Br, plenty of bathrooms, plenty of rest stops. I took a zillion pictures and had a blast.

    I guess I just missed all of the problems. I wonder what % shared the same experience as me?

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  • LEE HOFFMAN August 27, 2007 at 4:01 pm

    My Idea of Bridge Pedal,the time has come to change a few things,first I am an avid cyclist,commuter,downhiller ,freerider, ,the BP has very little to offer a rider like me except the (large crowd) experience,the problem lies in this TOO MANY RIDERS that are illequipped,the small ones are great ,but they are dangerouus to ride with ,they lack the skills necessary to ride in huge groups,the tagalongs and carriers create huge blockages,and have on many occasions caused crashes and scared the kids to death. the course is too small ,too crowded and too unorganized How about lengthening the course,have it on two days? Saturday and Sunday?,or Put the carryons,tagalongs and the like in the rear?the colored bibs mean nothing if the course is being walked instead of ridden!

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  • Deb August 27, 2007 at 4:28 pm

    if there\’s not a Kid Pedal – please require all kids under 6 or 7 to be on a tagalong, or in a burley. Kids on training wheels do not belong on these rides – they were there, I saw more then one.

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