Urban Tribe - Ride with your kids in front.

Cyclocross on the Hawthorne Bridge – Updated

Posted by on October 27th, 2010 at 11:00 am

Faced with a long delay on the Hawthorne Bridge this morning, many people decided to treat the gates like cyclocross barriers.
(All photos by Eric Stachon)

Reader Eric Stachon got in touch this morning to share what he saw on his ride across the Hawthorne Bridge this morning.

The back-up.

Eric says he was one of dozens of people on bikes that got held up for almost 30 minutes when the second set of bridge gates on the west end of the bridge got stuck in the down position. From Eric’s description it seemed like a malfunction.

“The gates wouldn’t go up… They lowered and raised the first set several times… obviously causing frustration for cyclists, pedestrians, and motorists alike.”

With no end to the delay in sight, Eric says people on bikes “started taking matters into their own hands” and just carried their bikes over the gates cyclocross-style. More photos below…

No word yet on how long the delay was for everyone else that wasn’t able to get their vehicle over the barrier. I’ve emailed Multnomah County spokesperson Mike Pullen to find out what the issue was and will update this post when I hear back from him.

UPDATE: County spokesperson Mike Pullen says his electrician that dealt with the issue isn’t 100% sure what happened, but his theory is that someone touched or bumped the gate on its way down, causing the system to slow briefly and change its sequence of steps. Pullen: “Once the sequence gets out of order, the system locks up, as a safety measure. The electrician re-set the system which allowed the gates to open.”

Pullen adds, “It would be good to remind your readers that no one should touch the gates while they are moving, to prevent this from happening.”

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.

  • Aaron October 27, 2010 at 11:04 am

    Yeah, I can sympathize that this must’ve been difficult. And really feel bad (sort of, well not really) for those who couldn’t get their larger and heavier vehicles over the barrier.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • h October 27, 2010 at 11:06 am

    ha you motorists couldnt even carry a car over the gate arms. go by bike!

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Nick V October 27, 2010 at 11:24 am

    For whatever reason, the Hawthorne Bridge is THE slowest downtown to raise and then go back down. I hope this didn’t happen during “rush hour”.

    Something similar happened around four years ago as my wife and I were leaving to go on our honeymoon. Fortunately, I was in a spot where I could turn the car around, head back east, and go over the Ross Island to 26. I can understand why the people waiting there this morning might get cranky.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • spare_wheel October 27, 2010 at 11:25 am

    the morrison bridge is like 3 minutes away…just sayin.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Andrew Plambeck October 27, 2010 at 11:33 am

    Boy, I would have ridden to work today if I knew I’d be getting Cross training!

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Eric Stachon October 27, 2010 at 11:38 am

    Good point & there were a number of cyclists that did turn around & I assume headed that way. I stayed because I ran into a friend (does that ever happen in a car?) & besides, this is a better story. A Tri Met bus that was first in line on the east side started letting passengers exit. (Hope the driver doesn’t get into trouble for that. There would likely have been a mutiny if s/he hadn’t.)

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • mello yello October 27, 2010 at 11:46 am

    I’ve seen people do this with a train. It didn’t end as nice.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Elliot October 27, 2010 at 11:50 am

    Didn’t this effectively mean that the bridge operator had to cease attempting to fix the problem, for fear of injuring the people climbing over the gates when they opened?

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Eric Stachon October 27, 2010 at 12:01 pm

    There was actually an announcement over the loud speaker to that effect after many had crossed & then the rest of us backed away & waited courteously. I don’t know for sure what really happened, but I believe that announcement was made only after a couple of maintenance workers arrived on the scene to help fix the problem.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • BURR October 27, 2010 at 12:02 pm

    This happened at about 9:30 – 9:45 this morning. I waited for a while, thinking the bridge operator might come down from his little house and operate the gates manually, but I had an appointment in NW at 10:00 and eventually turned around and used the Esplanade and the Steel bridge.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • velvetackbar October 27, 2010 at 12:28 pm

    This happened about 4 or 5 months ago when my wife and I were heading downtown, but at that time, someone rammed the gates, breaking one of them. a crew was onhand fixing the problem, but it took a while I was able to squeeze my loaded X under the gate, and two nice gents helped my wife over while I got her bike under the gate ( she is disabled.)

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • matt picio October 27, 2010 at 12:42 pm

    Nick V (#3) – It might have to do with the fact that the Hawthorne is the oldest bridge. It turns 100 in December.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • q`Tzal October 27, 2010 at 12:44 pm

    I like the deft deflection of blame.

    As a maintenance worker I always like to be able to blame the user.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • BURR October 27, 2010 at 12:50 pm

    Matt: The lift gates on the Hawthorne were completely replaced in the early-mid 90’s, and the new gates have been slower than the old gates right from the start.

    I’m thinking all the rain this past weekend got into the electronic controls, or something like that…

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • toddistic October 27, 2010 at 1:05 pm


    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Nick V October 27, 2010 at 1:09 pm

    For me, it’s pretty much a given that if the Hawthorne is making that beeping noise, then it’s a time-saver just to ride down to and over the Steel Bridge and then come back up.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • John Smtih October 27, 2010 at 1:25 pm

    Can anyone confirm if there was beer and cowbells involved?

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Mark Allyn October 27, 2010 at 1:33 pm

    Does anyone know if the bridges have so-called ‘blackout hours’ when they are not supposed to open for boats?

    I would think the the 6 to 7AM and 5 to 6PM hours (rush hours) would be blocked out so that they would not open for boats.

    I know that in other cites, there are times when the bridges do not open for boats.


    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Todd Boulanger October 27, 2010 at 1:38 pm

    May be Burgerville should park the Nomad below the bridge and winch up burgers and coffee to the path when folks have to wait…just like a Cross Crusade race this year.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Joe October 27, 2010 at 2:58 pm


    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • OnTheRoad October 27, 2010 at 3:08 pm

    Mark, #18

    The hours when the four downtown bridge do not open for boats are 7-9 in the AM and 4-6 in the PM.

    Otherwise river traffic has priority (even the sailboat that only misses clearing by a few feet).

    Multnomah County explains it thusly: “River traffic generally has the right of way over road traffic, as a matter of law. The principle behind this rule is that the river was there before the bridge, so river traffic has priority.”

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Red Five October 27, 2010 at 5:08 pm

    are we sure these weren’t sabotaged by Critical Ass Riders?

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • 3-speeder October 27, 2010 at 7:04 pm

    Re #21: Regarding your last comment:

    Bicycles were there before automobiles…just sayin’…

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • GlowBoy October 29, 2010 at 12:28 pm

    OnTheRoad (#21), I think you’re right about the official reason why river traffic gets the right of way, but as with trains there’s also the practical matter that cars and trucks can stop and get going again a lot faster than boats can.

    My beef with the county’s downtown lift bridges (especially the Hawthorne) is how LONG they keep them up. Usually a bridge lift results in a 6-8 minute delay, as the bridge goes up way before the boat gets there and seems to stay up longer than necessary. Heck, I once missed an Amtrak train from downtown because of a 12 minute bridge lift on the Morrison.

    Contrast this (and other ex-Seattleites can confirm this) with Seattle’s Ship Canal bridges – the Montlake, University, Frement and the Ballard. These bridges go up MANY times per day, but usually only for a couple of minutes. Very often, for smaller boats, they don’t even go all the way up – just far enough for the boat to clear. The delay is usually only equivalent to missing a traffic signal. I’ve never understood why MultCo insists on such long bridge lifts.

    Recommended Thumb up 0