Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on August 5th, 2010 at 9:31 am
This Sunday might be the 15th annual Bridge Pedal ride, but if you thought it was business as usual for Portland’s marquee bike ride, you’d be mistaken. Organizers say that construction projects and bridge closures have resulted in some creative, last-minute route changes and as a result there are lots of new things to keep in mind this time around.
“It’s challenging… The wild card is that we don’t get to do a test-run. We’ll need people’s best spirits out there to make sure it all turns out right.”
— Rick Bauman, Bridge Pedal founder
Like in years past, there are 10, 7, and 5 bridge rides (see route maps here) to keep the expected 20,000 people happily pedaling. New this year is a completely separate ride for kids 10 and under called “Kids Pedal.” The free ride is part of an ongoing effort by organizers to segregate riders by ability and make sure the day is enjoyed by everyone.
Bridge Pedal founder Rick Bauman, who still manages the event from his home in Northeast Portland, says planning this year’s event has been a roller-coaster. With streetcar construction keeping the ride off the Broadway Bridge and what Bauman calls an “evolving policy” from TriMet about holding up their MAX trains, Bauman says it’s been a challenge planning the event this year.
“When I first started this, someone with experience told me in the first three years you meet every situation and then it’s smooth sailing. This is our 15th year and we’re still waiting for that moment to arrive.”
Bauman says it wasn’t until early Spring that he confirmed they wouldn’t be able to use the Broadway Bridge at all. The Steel Bridge is closest to the Broadway, but with its MAX track crossings it has been considered unsafe and impractical in the past. With few options to get across the river, Bauman looked at the map and hatched a plan. His solution was to cross the Marquam Bridge and then instead of getting off onto SE Water Avenue like in years past, the route would continue along I-5 all the way until the ramp onto the Fremont bridge.
Bauman says they spent a month pitching that idea to ODOT and were “one inch from that deal” before ODOT got cold feet and didn’t want to take the risk of a major backup that would have resulted from the necessary closure of I-84. Having that fall through, “led to a state of desperation” says Bauman. It was the middle of June and there were still some key sticking points with the route.
In the end, they decided to use the Steel Bridge. Since TriMet no longer stops MAX traffic for mass events like Bridge Pedal, there will be an estimated 79 trains that cross the route. Bauman says volunteers will be on hand to ferry riders between MAX trains and, after heading down Interstate, riders will turn right at Peace Park and take the southern-most (eastbound) lanes onto the bridge before taking the ramp back down to the finish on Naito Blvd.
Another new twist on the route will take riders the opposite direction over the Marquam than in years past. After crossing the Hawthorne, riders will climb up to the Marquam Bridge (I-5) from SW Water Avenue and will then continue north on I-405 to the Fremont Bridge and then u-turn onto Highway 30. Instead of the traditional, big party on the Fremont, this year the party will be on I-405 between the Highway 26 and NW Couch exits.
As to be expected on a circuitous ride with 20,000 or so other people, Bauman reminds everyone that there will be points on the course where you’ll need you to stop and let other riders cross. “It’s challenging… The wild card is that we don’t get to do a test-run. We’ll need people’s best spirits out there to make sure it all turns out right.”
Despite the route-planning hurdles Bauman and his crew had to deal with this year, he expects another record crowd and he’s very excited and upbeat about what’s in store. Bauman was inspired to start the ride back in 1980 after seeing the Mt. St. Helens eruption from the Marquam Bridge while in his car. He thought people on bikes should have a chance to see the same breathtaking views. Since the first Bridge Pedal, Bauman estimates that about 6-7 million miles have been pedaled, with 500,000 more miles added each year.
I’ll be hard-pressed to top my experience photographing the event from a helicopter last year, but I’m still looking forward to an inspiring day in the saddle.
Do you plan on Bridge Pedal this year?