Party on I-405 and planning pains: The scoop on Sunday’s Bridge Pedal

Posted by on August 5th, 2010 at 9:31 am

Bridge Pedal 2009 from the air-51

Bridge Pedal 2009, as seen from a helicopter flying over the Fremont Bridge.
(Photos © J. Maus)

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.

Bridge Pedal 2009 -40

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.

Bridge Pedal 2009 from the air-34

The Hawthorne Bridge.

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?

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PDXbiker
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PDXbiker

In addition to that, as of today (8/5), National Weather Service forecasts possible drizzle/showers Sunday morning.

Spiffy
Guest
Spiffy

I can’t fit it in the budget this year, so I’ll have to go find somewhere else to pedal this weekend…

Todd Boulanger
Guest
Todd Boulanger

For the first time riders…this is a view and bike life changing ride. I remember my first. 😉

I am so glad they restarted the kids pedal…the only thing I have ever feared on these rides are the kid missiles riding obliquely towards me in the pack.

Have fun everyone.

beth h
Guest

I think a separate ride for younger kids is a good idea. (However, it’s not clear if they will REQUIRE younger children to take that route, or if they’re simply suggesting it.)

I agree that the Bridge Pedal is an amazing event for first- time rideres.

That said, I rode the first five events back when the numbers were considerably smaller. I’ve skipped the last several years without regret, simply because the concentration of so many riders with wildly varying degrees of bike-handling became too much of a crapshoot for me to enjoy anymore. So these days I make other plans, far away from the Bridge Pedal route.

Everyone have a safe and FUN time if you go!

Kronda
Guest

Yeah the kids pedal is not new. They used to have it on a separate date entirely. I rode as a chaperone once which was fun. Some of those kids were fast! There were no parents allowed either which I think was really great for the kid’s sense of independence.

I too will be somewhere far away from the route this year but for people who haven’t done it I highly recommend it at least once.

kitten
Guest
kitten

wont go. too expensive for my unemployed budget. and i have heard that it is crowded and annoying with kids clogging everything up. this year it sounds like its going to suck more than usual.
good idea, poor execution.

q`Tzal
Guest
q`Tzal

Can’t make it this year.

Last year I brought my good camera, and my lessons from a couple photography classes, and took some pictures that seemed good.

While I was far outclassed by pros and people in helicopters (/jealous) I was slightly confused that there wasn’t some centralized photo contribution page on bikeportland.

The whole helicopters thing makes me want to rig up an RC glider plane with a 3G up/downlink to track my position overhead and follow from some altitude. Put a decent camera in it, some supervisory flight and navigation controls and let it follow a cyclist cheaply for the entire route. Heck, with the downlink and software setup properly you could give current photos or even an active webcam.
Alas, I don’t have the funds for my home-brew UAV spyplane. It is quite doable though.

Eric
Guest
Eric

Very interesting kitten. You’ve never been yet you know that it will suck more than usual this year.

Wife and I will be there again this year. Last year was a blast and was well executed. It will be interesting to see how they handle all of the hurdles that have been put in their way this year.

OnTheRoad
Guest
OnTheRoad

Last year was my first time. I’m not a big group ride fan – but it was pretty fun. Except for the train parked at the crossing by McCormick Pier at the end of the ride.

Going this year with a new cycler, so I get to putz along and enjoy the sights.

matt picio
Guest

Oh, heck no. I’m staying far away from that event. Too crowded, too many inexperienced cyclists, too many rude people. I hope that most of the 20K have fun, though, because it is your only chance to legally ride the freeway bridges.

h
Guest
h

I did a couple times i think. fun. once or twice is ususally enough for me…

She
Guest
She

Kitten,

Wow, that is a pretty harsh statement. I can’t imagine organizing a party for 20,000 people on wheels. They do an amazing job at it, even with the annual challenges of route planning!

trail abuser
Guest
trail abuser

What keeps people from just joining the ride without paying? And what about counterfeit numbers? drawn in crayon.

Red Five
Guest
Red Five

How many of the Lance-wanna-bes are gonna turn up and try to turn this into a “race” yet again?

Anonymous
Guest
Anonymous

Aw… anyone who hasn’t done this should do it at least once. Of course it’s crowded and nuts, so, yeah, if that’s a problem, skip it – no way this ride is going to be about any one person. It’s a crazy experience, so if you can go with that expectation, you’ll get to see some views and ride some stretches of road you won’t get any other way.

Kevin Wagoner
Guest

My 11 year old Nephew flew in from Detroit for this. It is going to be a blast.

A.K.
Guest
A.K.

I’m going again this year, after doing the ride last year for my first time. I can only speak for myself, but I had a really good time, and the crowds weren’t really a problem – pay extra attention and you’ll be fine. 🙂

I do live in the area, so getting to the start early isn’t a problem, and makes things a little easier. I’m also taking several first time bridge pedal riders with me. I can’t wait!

Doug
Guest
Doug

This will be my 8th year doing the Bridge Pedal, and my first year doing the 10 bridge ride. I can say that without a doubt, they have made huge improvements over the last few years to help spread out the crowd. They staggered the start times more, and the 10 bridge riders start on the east side. They opened another lane on the Ross Island so we can actually RIDE rather than walk across that bridge. Kudos to Rick and all the organizers and volunteers for improving this ride year after year, and despite all the challenges this year, I have no doubt that it will go smoothly, and I cannot wait!

Jerry_W
Guest
Jerry_W

There is also a nice century ride Sunday morning in Albany, The Covered Bridge Century. Five covered bridges over the 100 miles in the beautiful Willamette Valley. They usually get 500 to 600 riders, very manageable.

Paul Tay
Guest
Paul Tay

Holy muthaaaa o’ pearl! Thumbs….way UP!

Ted Buehler
Guest
Ted Buehler

Even if you’re not doing the whole ride, you should still get out and ride over the Fremont Bridge. There’s no bicycle congestion, and they don’t stop folks who aren’t wearing jerseys. I figure its the birthright of every bicyclist to be on top of the Fremont Bridge at least once in their life.

If you’ve experienced a car-free Fremont, you’re capable of dreaming big.

Ted Buehler
— preregistered for my 3rd Bridge Pedal.

Ted Buehler
Guest
Ted Buehler

BTW, kudos to the organizers. Its inspirational, to me, to see so many 6 to 10 year olds out on their bikes on a 7 mile ride. And their parents.

And, my above comment — Fremont is not a bottleneck bridge (like Hawthorn, Ross Island), so non-registered riders won’t be delaying registered riders.

Ted Buehler

Michael
Guest

Hey, fife and drums at 7:30am! Awesome! I live right next to the 405 and this is the most annoying thing ever…. super not necessary.