[Updated] Event on Hawthorne Bridge tonight will encourage a “calm commute”

Posted by on September 21st, 2009 at 3:27 pm

Bike Back the Night-20.jpg

Hawthorne Bridge bike traffic.
(Photo © J. Maus)

In response to bike congestion on the Hawthorne Bridge — which was flung into the spotlight back in May when two bikes collided resulting in a crash on the steel deck — the Bicycle Transportation Alliance and the Willamette Pedestrian Coalition will be on the bridge for this evening’s commute to offer a gentle reminder to slow down.

To make the message stick, organizers plan to appeal to all five senses. The BTA’s Steph Noll says the event will be “half street theater, half BurmaShave sign campaign with messages promoting calm, safe, considerate behavior on the bridge’s shared bike/ped path.”

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Here’s what you’ll see on the signs as you pedal east over the bridge tonight:

Sign #1: Use all 5 senses for a Calm Commute.
#2 LISTEN and Relax
#3 FEEL good and Relax
#4 Slow and SMELL the Flowers
#5 The calming TASTE of Chamomile
#6 SEE Eye to Eye

In addition to smiling sign holders, there will also be people playing various roles to complete the visuals. Plans are for someone to play relaxing harp music, practice yoga, place flowers along the bridge, drink fancy tea, and so on.

The event is part of the BTA’s ongoing “Eye to Eye” campaign and is slated to go from 5:00 until 6:15. Chime in with a comment if you ride by it tonight.

UPDATE: I rolled by the event and snapped some photos of the advocates in action (and of the amazing bike traffic!).

NOTE: Thanks for sharing and reading our comments. To ensure this is a welcoming and productive space, all comments are manually approved by staff. BikePortland is an inclusive company with no tolerance for meanness, discrimination or harassment. Comments with expressions of racism, sexism, homophobia, or xenophobia will be deleted and authors will be banned.

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Dave
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Dave

Yes. Chamomile and yoga. That will win over the get-there-faster types.

Jeremy
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Jeremy

why not add someone doing yoga on the path to all the congestion already? Really BTA?

steve
Guest
steve

Ugh.

As if it is not congested enough, now we get to wade through this nonsense.

Hopefully this is tame enough to not be chastised by Ms. Blue?

If not, feel free to swap ‘Ugh’ for ‘Yay’ and ‘nonsense’ for ‘much needed civility empowerment lectures’.

el timito
Guest
el timito

Methinks the commenters do protest too much.

Given the fact that they haven’t seen how the activities will be placed. (Out of the way of the walking/riding area, from what I’ve heard.)

I know it’s a stretch to ask Portlanders to be courteous on the road (please note the sardonic lilt). Perhaps, though, our fellow walk- & bike-commuters will be more pleasant than our blog-readers.

Halley the Harper
Guest

“Someone” to play the harp!? Who else but the bicycling street harpist! She’s everywhere!

Matt Picio
Guest

Should be fun, looking forward to it!

kww
Guest
kww

If this involves mimes, it could get unpleasant…

Dianna
Guest
Dianna

It sounds kind of corny to me, but then, I guess you never know what will work on people until you try it. The best cyclist-calm-thyself reminder I’ve gotten recently, one morning when I was running exceptionally late and zooming downtown as fast as I could manage, was a bike-commuting lesson going on right in front of me on the Hawthorne at 8:20 am. It took me a minute to figure out what I was looking at, mostly because I was frantically checking my watch and wishing I could pass, but it eventually dawned on me that I was seeing one happy, confident cyclist giving calm and helpful directions over his shoulder, and one nervous, wobbly cyclist nodding and working to keep up. Presto! Commute lesson! And when they made it over the bridge, across the car lanes with appropriate signaling and spacing, and left onto 1st Ave., I was astonished to find myself proud of them instead of annoyed at the delay. But nobody in their right mind would expect two slow bikes riding together on the Hawthorne at rush hour to make anyone’s riding experience better.

I shall put on my best streamers and ride by this evening to see how it goes. And I wouldn’t say no to a fancy cuppa, if they’re sharing.

Disastronaut
Guest
Disastronaut

As long as it distracts me in the middle of trying to negotiate a 3-wide bicycle gab fest/road block, everything should be all warm and awesomey.

maxadders
Guest
maxadders

I hope they dress in wacky costumes. It ain’t bike culture if it don’t got wacky costumes.

pat h
Guest
pat h

Sounds stupid. Just pass on the left, ride on the right.

Tall Mike
Guest
Tall Mike

I like the idea. The Hawthorn bridge is a probelm area with Portland’s “competetive bike commuters.”

Duncan
Guest
Duncan

here is my idea of courtesy
——-> Slower traffic keep right.

Steve Hoyt-McBeth
Guest
Steve Hoyt-McBeth

Great idea. It’s creative and it will make some of us stop and think.

patrickz
Guest
patrickz

OK, doubters, cynics and “better thans”: if you already have mastered the true path of bridge cycling, remember this is to remind the less fortunate that orderly, peaceful bridge crossing is possible and can be done efficiently with a little care. Wish I could be there, and I’ll raise a glass for all of you.

tony
Guest
tony

pat h and Duncan,

I think you miss the point. During rush hour it’s not safe for passers, passees, or pedestrians for the slower riders to be weaving in and out of the “left lane.”

People on the bridge when it is busy simply need to CHILL OUT. Other than increased capacity (not any time soon) this is really all I think can be done.

beth h
Guest

The snarky attitudes exhibited here — and elsewhere — by experienced bike commuters may be a big part of why more people don’t take up bike commuting. How many of those “competitive” commuters aren’t actually racers, but simply experienced transportational bicyclists who’d rather not bother with newcomers at all, preferring instead to keep the bike lanes and the streets to themselves?

How many experienced commuters (with, say 20+ or 30+ years experience, as I have) feel that they’ve “paid their dues” and that the rest of the world can either get with the program in a hurry or stay off the roads?

When the experienced participants in any activity behave less like ambassadors and teachers and more like an “in-crowd”, it certainly sends a message to would-be newcomers that they’re not entirely welcome. Is this really what we want?

I’ve got to say that so far the racing community has shown far more kindness, patience and geniune welcome to me as a first-year racer than many experienced bike commuters would show to new commuters.

Duncan
Guest
Duncan

Beth-
I am not trying to be an in crowd- I am a person with things to do, a life to lead and biking is in fact a means to an end (ie home) that I desire. I do not weave but would rather that SLOWER TRAFFIC STAY RIGHT, and that goes double for pedestrians walking 5 abreast at rush hour. Your speed isnt my speed, and if you are going faster I will stay right for you too.

I just think that the answers isnt that we all go the speed of the slowest chain-smoking, fixie-riding hipster on the bridge. And while yes asshole passers can be a problem so can asshole lane-hogging slowpokes.

There is some room for improvements on both ends of the spectrum here- I am just sick of the self-satisfied tude of the slow-bike movement.

Rollie
Guest
Rollie

Commuting is the problem! Abolish work!

Duncan
Guest
Duncan

No work no work!

JB
Guest
JB

The message, I like, but I found the little display distracting at an intersection where you are already trying to pay attention to multiple things going on. The gentleman jogging in the street, IN the bike lane didn’t help either. I don’t know what his deal was?!

tony
Guest
tony

Duncan,

No one’s saying you need to ride behind someone the whole way home… it’s pretty safe to pass them once we merge back on the street.

Do you run red lights to save 30 seconds? Passing people during rush hour on the bridge can be just as sketchy and we’re talking about the same amount of time.

Riding across the bridge at a slower speed can be calming and enjoyable… step out of your rush and glance around.

Joe
Guest
Joe

careful entering this bridge, i was on the city side Sat and cars fly getting on!

Joe

Duncan
Guest
Duncan

Ride your own ride Tony… just ride it to the right of mine.

sam
Guest
sam

Might as well hand a flower to the guy gunning the engine of his big honkin’ pickup truck in the lane behind me downtown. Same personality, different wheels.

Vance Longwell
Guest

Okay, so this is just a community service right? The BTA, and the WPC, aren’t promoting their agenda, right? I mean, this isn’t publicity for them, right? It’s all about warm feelings, and yoga? Certainly not advertising for new members or anything, right?

In principle, I find this offensive. To me this trivializes the need to find a real solution to congestion on this bridge. The idea that delivering a message of civility will do anything but act as an advertising platform for the BTA is preposterous. And I’m the one eating it over being disingenuous?

I too would like to not be censored. I would appreciate the opportunity to say exactly whatever it is the editors of this blog would like me to say, prior to being censored. Or you could just censor me.

Dan Hawk
Guest
Dan Hawk

I wonder if at lease part of the issue here is that cyclists don’t think of themselves as traffic on the bridge or in other high-traffic/limited-space areas. Hence, the weaving, stopping and constant looking around that I see from so many riders. I would prefer that we reinforce and/or more clearly mark the pedestrian side vs. the Bike side and that cyclists stick to the faster-on-the-left concept.

Duncan
Guest
Duncan

+ 1 Dan

Duncan
Guest
Duncan

I keep hearing of this heavy handed editing but have yet to feel the weight of the editorial pen- and it isnt like I have pulled any punches here.

kww
Guest
kww

There should be no passing on the bridge, period.

Michweek
Guest
Michweek

Well, I for one just take another bridge, or leave work a little early (a prize for arriving early — again ahead of the rush)or hang out somewhere until traffic dies. Not only can I not ride fast enough for some, I find that I don’t enjoy the company of frantic rush hour vehicle traffic either. Those people feel so secure in their metal boxes that I don’t want to get close to their chaotic, split second movements.

So aside of civility, you can all solve your problems by staggering your commute, or telecommuting if that could be at all a possibility. A new, wider bridge isn’t coming anytime soon.

Ian Stude
Guest
Ian Stude

I completely disagree with some of the comments here. In a limited space scenario, with pedestrians present, it is best for all riders to remain on the left side of the pathway. Just like weaving in and out of parked cars, weaving in and around pedestrians is unsafe. This stretch of path is so short, I think it’s ridiculous not to simply slow down and wait. In the event someone is going really slow, and very light to non-existent traffic is ahead, then the very least one should do is ring their bell, slow down, and wait patiently for the other rider to leave room for you to pass. And if they don’t move over, don’t pass! Passing on the right is always more dangerous. If you really want to be a hotrod, use another bridge. When I’m in a hurry I use the Burnside where I can move into traffic to pass other cyclists. I realize that’s less convenient for some, but really, is your time and speed that much more important than the comfort of others around you?

Tony
Guest
Tony

Just keep refusing to address the issue I presented, Duncan…

Dan Hawk
Guest
Dan Hawk

The lane is wide enough for 2 bikes and safe passing if pedestrians stay on the right side.

Dan Hawk
Guest
Dan Hawk

How was the event? I’m still at work so I missed the whole thing.

drew
Guest
drew

I liked passing by the lady playing the harp. Didn’t hear the music though because of the car traffic. Maybe use an amplifier next time. The flowers on the bridge were a nice touch. It was the best rush-hour bike commute I ever experienced on that bridge. There wasn’t any impatient bicycling speedster tailgating me. Must have worked. Thanks to all who put this together!

Duncan
Guest
Duncan

I keep addressing it Tony- you just do not like my answer. If you want to go slow and take your time then get off your bike and walk with the pedestrians.

Kww- I think that this “as slow as the slowest” mentality defeats the advantage of biking over walking- the ability to move at a speed (say 15-20MPH) that makes getting from the urban core to our homes in a reasonable time possible. If we all go as slow as the slowest, then pretty soon people are gonna get sick of it and get back in their cars.

I am not the fastest person on the bridge- I get passed plenty, I just dont have the attitude that some folks have that “my” speed is the right one. I have ended up behind someone who willing takes a position that blocks my passing despite their being plenty of room for them to fade right.

My answer to the Issue-
Delineate a pedestrian section, make the ped walkway one way like the bikes to prevent passing.

Divide the remaining path into two bike lanes, the one closest to the peds slower then the one closest to the road.

Encourage mirror passing etiquette.

problem solved- you can have your pleasure cruise and I can get home in time for supper.

Donna
Guest
Donna

Thank you for the chamomile tea. Work was stressful today.

Vance Longwell
Guest

Maybe I missed it at 5:55 when I buzzed by. I saw a sign holder at both ends, and one walking the middle. There was no congestion, per-say, no yoga, and no big deal. Nothing to complain about.

Fly all the signs you want. Just don’t hold up traffic in an attempt to clear it up. I’d pick better ambassadors too, the young fella at the west end was pretty obnoxious. I especially loved the congregation of a half-dozen or so Visa-Bikers standing right at the intersection of the Esplanade feeder, and the bridge. They blocked visibility for a hundred yards up the path, and anybody entering it from the Esplanade. Now that’s community!

Blah Blah Blah
Guest
Blah Blah Blah

Slow cars get tickets too.

tony
Guest
tony

fwiw I don’t prefer to go slow, I just feel that, on this particular stretch of the “roadway” that, when there’s enough bikes and people, it’s usually not safe for the faster riders to expect the slower riders to pull over… they just end up acting erratically when they pull back into the lane.

You’re setting up some straw man who is proposing that we all ride behind the slowest riders all the time. We’re talking about a half mile at a slightly slower speed.

Maybe I’m too empathetic, but I think it’s stressful for the slower riders to have to feel like they have to swerve in and out or else be tailgated by the faster people.

I also think it’s kinda crazy that this is a big issue to people (slowing down *sometimes*)… it’s actually not very often (in my exp both ways each day between 8-9 5-6:30) that the bridge is too crowded for safe passing, but it’s usually those times that I get passed while trying not to be a jerk.

Donna
Guest
Donna

What’s a “Visa-Biker”?

pants shortbell
Guest
pants shortbell

I spent some time on the bridge this evening.

I was glad to see people with smiles sharing the path and a bit concerned with the young men thinking it just fine to pass on the right and left.

20 mph on the hawthorne bridge during rush hour — dream on….

are
Guest
are

yo Duncan whyncha just ride the deck

John Kangas
Guest
John Kangas

Less than half a mile. Less than a quarter mile, even. About 90 seconds to cross at a leisurely 10 mph. A peloton tearing across at 25 mph wouldn’t save a whole minute.

Cecil
Guest

I thought it was great. I crossed the bridge shortly after 5:30, along with dozens of other riders, none of whom seemed to be the least bit inconvenienced by the event and most of whom seemed to find some pleasure in it. I commute by bike not only because it is good for the environment and cheaper than driving, but also because I enjoy being able to live at a pace at which I can notice and appreciate the world that surrounds me. And that includes cool people who play the harp at on-ramps, and place flowers on bridge railings that the speed racers may never see. So go on speedsters and pass me as I take time to enjoy the sights. I’ll give you plenty of room to do your thing, if you give me the same.

Lake McTighe
Guest
Lake McTighe

It put a smile on my face! Slow on the Hawthorne is good.

thanks!

Chris Shaffer
Guest
Chris Shaffer

Vance, it had nothing to do with promoting BTA or any organization. I chanced by it on my way home and there was no way to tell who was doing it — looked like a lot of hippies to me :-). The only way I knew BTA was involved was to come here in the evening.

I’m a slow rider and move to the right when practical. During rush hour, it often isn’t practical. It doesn’t matter how stressed the fast riders get, it just isn’t generally safe to pass on that bridge in rush hour. I really wish they’d make pedestrian traffic one way on that bridge. I think that would help a lot.

Steve B.
Guest

I’m appalled at some of the reactions to this action as perceived inconvenience. Chances are, if you’re activated by this, if you’re really frustrated by this action, you are exactly the intended audience.

That may not speak well for the effectiveness of this action, but certainly the BTA and the WPC are being creative here. We can advocate for more space, more bridges and such all we want, but until they are built, this is a wonderfully creative solution.

I think cyclists need to take the lead in understanding and accommodating other vulnerable road users. Slowing down is about more than inconvenience, it could mean the difference between life or death. And you know what? Your rush is just not worth it.

Cyclists feel this way about cars frequently, now try on a new pair of shoes and cross the Hawthorne bridge as a pedestrian during rush hour. It’s horrifying, and that’s unfortunately due to the lack of appropriate allocation of road space for active transportation.

Until we get a full lane on that bridge, we’ll have to mitigate this congestion by slowing down, remaining calm, and being polite. Anything less brings the entire bike community down with it.

Disastronaut
Guest
Disastronaut

People walking their sketchy dogs on 6ft+ of leash is also pretty scary on ANY bridge.

I hate going slow, but I won’t pass if I think it’s dangerous to do so. I’ll usually just put along behind the pokes and try to determine if they are old or out of shape – perhaps they just like going slow, who knows.

Everyone has a cadence and speed they are used to and comfortable with, mine just happens to be faster than most but is by no means the fastest.

Do I think everyone should go as fast as I do? If they can that’d be awesome, but I know it’s not practical. Some people aren’t comfortable going that speed.

There are also those that don’t feel like they are getting anywhere unless they are passing people, and those are the ones you have to be the most wary of, for they drive that way too.