Urban Tribe - Ride with your kids in front.

Blues Fest snarls bike traffic near Hawthorne Bridge

Posted by on July 5th, 2012 at 5:27 pm

Bike traffic mess at Blues Fest-13

A poorly placed porta-pottie is making things even tighter than usual on the Hawthorne Bridge.
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland

The annual Waterfront Blues Fest has closed a large portion of the popular bike path through Waterfront Park and has snarled bike traffic on the Hawthorne Bridge. In addition, power generator equipment is set up on a section of Naito Parkway just south of Salmon and the bicycle onramp to the Hawthorne bridge is now a motorcycle parking area (you can still get through).

Here’s the bike lane situation on Naito:

Bike traffic mess at Blues Fest-2

Bike traffic mess at Blues Fest-3

I went to check things out this afternoon after hearing about a porta-pottie being placed directly on the biking and walking path on the western end of the bridge deck. Multnomah County (they manage the bridges) acknowledged a few hours ago that they did not place the porta-pottie in that location, but it remained their as of the evening traffic rush.

Here are a few images as of today at around 5:00 pm:

Bike traffic mess at Blues Fest-7

Bike traffic mess at Blues Fest-11

Bike traffic mess at Blues Fest-9

People who need to walk through the are and don’t want to enter the Blues Fest are also using the road shoulder:

Bike traffic mess at Blues Fest-10

View looking south toward the Hawthorne Bridge.

Bike traffic headed northbound from South Waterfront onto the Hawthorne Bridge is being directed on Naito Parkway. I asked the guy at the entrance gate on the Waterfront Path just north of the Hawthorne Bridge if he had any suggestions for how I could continue south. He said I was welcome to walk my bike through the fest (after having my bag checked and considering an optional donation to the Fest’s non-profit partner, the Oregon Food Bank).

Bike traffic mess at Blues Fest-14

In general, this entire area is a big mess for bicycling. I would recommend avoiding it if you can — unless of course you want to enjoy some great blues music and a great festival! Use the Morrison Bridge as an alternate, and consider using SW 3rd and 4th Streets, or take the lane and ride defensively on Naito.

The Fest started yesterday and runs through Sunday July 8th.

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

  • Lazy Spinner July 5, 2012 at 6:19 pm

    OMG! This outrageous attack on cyclists, cleverly disguised as culture and as a fund raiser for hungry people, must not stand!

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    • 9watts July 5, 2012 at 6:31 pm

      Funny, Lazy Spinner, but try putting the porta potty in the car lane on the Hawthorne bridge and watch how quickly someone materializes to fix the problem. 🙂

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      • Chris I July 5, 2012 at 6:52 pm

        Sounds like that porta-potty needs to be moved by “volunteers” tonight…

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      • Alex b July 5, 2012 at 7:54 pm

        They didn’t just block part of a travel lane for cars, they closed a east and west bound lane of the Hawthorn bridge. It’s not like cars aren’t getting hit with disruptions.

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        • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) July 6, 2012 at 8:55 am

          The difference Alex, is that when things like this impact people on bicycles, the detours are not merely an inconvenience, they can lead to real safety issues.

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          • JF July 6, 2012 at 9:55 am

            Jonathan, I understand Alex’s observation as another reason why bicyclists, pedestrians, and drivers should be more cautious while in this area. All people are being diverted from their normal routes, which results in everyone being outside their comfort zone.

            When things like this occur, it impacts everyone. Changes in traffic patterns for motor vehicles, bicycles, and pedestrians are not merely an inconvenience, but lead to possible safety issues for everyone.

            Plan your routes ahead of time and be safe!


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            • q`Tzal July 6, 2012 at 3:05 pm

              It is difficult to plan a route ahead of time with no advanced warning an none of the legally required signage for road detours, bike lane/path closures and hazardous changes to the road width.
              Simply put: if I do this to the AUTOMOTIVE lanes there are procedures and rules that must be obeyed. These same rules should legally apply to active human travel paths (and may actually already apply) and be enforced.

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              • JF July 6, 2012 at 3:17 pm

                Sorry, I should restate what I meant:

                Thanks to Jonathan’s reporting, you are now aware of the situation near the music festival. Plan your detour ahead of time. Be safe.


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              • Machu Picchu July 6, 2012 at 6:53 pm

                Neat. So the city that wants its Platinum Status (or whatever it is, that we keep losing) is relying on a blogger to become aware of sketchy situations caused by permitted events, rather than providing good alternatives and warnings, or requiring event organizers to do it. Flying by the seat of your pants in the name of a good cause is not the way to run a city that the whole world thinks is progressive in terms of transportation (among other things).

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  • Kerry July 5, 2012 at 6:19 pm

    There doesn’t seem to be an easy way to get from the South Waterfront up to Naito (I walked) but once on Naito NB I took the lane & it was smooth sailing. Though I thought they should start having festivals on Interstates. Just to be fair. 😉

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    • DoubleB July 5, 2012 at 7:02 pm

      Yeah, they never have festivals or events on roads that divert traffic (parades, various community events, etc.).

      The port-a-potty seems stupid. Everything else is just whining.

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      • Psyfalcon July 5, 2012 at 7:16 pm

        Well, parades and the like usually last a few hour, and typically on the weekend. I would be very unusual to shut a road down for 5 days for a community event.

        Why do they continually put the fence on the Naito bike lane? Year after year? do they really need the last 2 feet they take? If they have a permit, it should run to the curb or the sidewalk, whichever they hit first.

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  • Laurameg July 5, 2012 at 6:31 pm

    Festivals on interstates – I think that’s called Bridge Pedal. :). And I took the Morrison today out of downtown for this very reason. Smooth sailing there…

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    • Spiffy July 6, 2012 at 10:20 am

      I like biking on the north side of the Morrison…

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      • Arem July 6, 2012 at 11:52 am

        …into oncoming traffic? 🙂

        I don’t know why the Morrison path doesn’t get more use as it is a lower traffic way across the river during rush hour than the Hawthorne. If you cross to the waterfront path after coming off the bridge though, watch out for those sections that have smooth, flat pebbles in the cement. Tires slipped on this during a wet morning and broke my arm.

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        • spare_wheel July 6, 2012 at 12:06 pm

          Maybe because it dumps people unceremoniously onto se water ave while the Hawthorne bridge has a cool ramp that bypasses the lower SE and mlk entirely.

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          • Arem July 6, 2012 at 3:59 pm

            So ceremony is necessary to get across the river? 🙂
            I dunno, I think the Morrison is cool in its own way and I like that se water is usually fairly low traffic and has a fairly decent bike lane right there. Crossing mlk further north at ankeny isn’t too terrible with the light at burnside stemming the flow. plus, you can make a stop at sheridan’s on the way to/from wherever you’re going if you wish. s’not so bad…

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  • ScottG July 5, 2012 at 10:07 pm

    Yep, I was surprised when I ran into this today. I usually get to the waterfront from Salmon and then take a right to loop around to the Hawthorne Bridge. Instead, I started heading North along the waterfront at a snail’s pace until I decided to get over to Naito. Once I reached the Burnside Bridge underpass, I hopped back onto the waterfront path and traffic was much lighter, and took the Steel Bridge to get across the river.

    I don’t really mind much as the festival doesn’t last very long, but if this kind of thing were a regular occurrence I’d not be happy about it. And that porta-potty placement on the Hawthorne Bridge is just ridiculous.

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  • Matt July 5, 2012 at 10:07 pm

    I think its already questionable to have the public waterfront park closed for private events with entry fees. Then to close the bike path – one of the major commuting routes into downtown Porland – AND Naito Parkway at the same time is unacceptable. The waterfront park is not just for recreation – its a vital transportation link in the city. What makes the situation even worse is that there are no signs indicating detours or closures. Its a mess of bikers and pedestrians on the road and going the wrong way on the Hawthorne Bridge. There has to be a way for the Blue’s Festival to function without shutting down the bicycle infrastructure. I was leading some friends from out of town through this area and was embarrassed at what a disaster it was. Definitely not a pleasant biking experience.

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    • CaptainKarma July 6, 2012 at 1:21 pm

      Plus, I’m broke. Do you think they’ll let me in w/o the “suggested minimum” monetary remittance? Isn’t that just a lie?

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  • Gracie July 5, 2012 at 10:28 pm

    I am so glad you finally acknowledged that the Blues Fest is great because I was half-expecting a denunciation of it since you seem to be so adverse to any inconveniences in your commute. As much as I love to ride, I also love music–and possibly other things that aren’t necessarily bicycle-related. Balance is a good thing.

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    • Matt July 7, 2012 at 1:17 am

      Yes, we can all appreciate the Blue’s Fest but it does not have to be an either/ or. We can have the Blue’s Fest AND bike commuting occur at the same time. This is a really basic premise – major bicycle routes to downtown should not be completely shut down in the middle of the summer just because there are concerts happening on the waterfront. We should expect much better than this. Bicycles should not be marginalized just because an event is taking place. The Blue’s Festival should be required to accommodate bicycles and pedestrians using the Waterfront Park in the future.

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  • Seth Alford July 6, 2012 at 1:01 am

    How Platinum-y. Not.

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  • Andrew K July 6, 2012 at 7:29 am

    I have to admit, the placement of the porta potty on the Hawthorne Bridge is incredibly odd. Is anyone going to go up onto the bridge to use the bathroom? I know I wouldn’t if I could help it.

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    • davemess July 6, 2012 at 7:47 am

      Especially considering they blocked off the stairs to get up to that level of the bridge. I rode through last night and it the whole area was nuts.

      I too am just kind of surprised what an afterthought they have given to bikes in this area. Portland is so much better than this, and usually they act like it.

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      • Scott July 6, 2012 at 10:43 am

        I would say this placement is to curtail public urination by the people getting a free show from the bridge.

        That might really frighten the suburbanites on one of their semi-annual trips to the big city. When would those lawyers fire up their brand new Harley’s then?

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        • Paul Souders July 6, 2012 at 11:00 am

          “I would say this placement is to curtail public urination by the people getting a free show from the bridge.”

          Yup. Years ago (esp. before the refit ca. 1998) the bridge sidewalk would often be completely blocked with chairs etc. I think this situation was improved with all the striping.

          I’m kind of amazed the lengths people will go to (see also: all the damn boats) in order to avoid *making a charitable donation* before hearing blues music.

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          • Scott July 6, 2012 at 2:36 pm

            “I’m kind of amazed the lengths people will go to (see also: all the damn boats) in order to avoid *making a charitable donation* before hearing blues music.”

            I believe they feel if everyone had food, there would be no one to sing the blues. They are making their contirbution to the blues. See how that works?

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            • Machu Picchu July 6, 2012 at 7:05 pm

              Brilliant. Oh my God. I was going to take exception to the “suburbanites” thing, but now I have a new respect for you. Keep it up.

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  • peejay July 6, 2012 at 7:32 am

    This is a call for the BTA or PBOT or both to work with the organizers of the festival to design in a mitigation plan for next year as a condition of the permitting process. I know they’re just trying to run a music event, but just like fire safety and all the other things they have to concern themselves with, proper and reasonable detours should be a necessary condition for obtaining a park permit for next year. And since they’ve been fairly clueless that they even created a disruption, they can’t be trusted on their own to do this.

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    • John Lascurettes July 6, 2012 at 10:50 am

      It should be part of the permitting process that they have to set up proper detours and get fined if they block certain throughways.

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      • Machu Picchu July 6, 2012 at 7:13 pm

        Agreed. Although if you actually just supervised what your organizers were doing there would be no need for fines. You just see it, and say “No. you need to change that or you’re shut down.” Doesn’t seem like there’s anyone taking responsibility for that. No doubt the fences went up before the music started.

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  • ME 2 July 6, 2012 at 8:11 am

    Yes, its kind of like this every year starting with Cinco de Mayo through Brewfest. I work on Naito and Yamhill and live in NE so I encounter a lot of these same issues in the evening commute (closed bike lane and people walking in the bike lane). Thankfully we have alternatives. Shooting across the Morrison Bridge is a great option to avoid this cluster.

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    • Paul Souders July 6, 2012 at 11:04 am

      I get this too. I work just at the west end of the Burnside Bridge. It’s starting to make me kind of grumpy about PreProgrammed Downtown Fun. I do have alternatives but there are only so many routes into downtown from the outer westside (in increasing length & difficulty): Waterfront, Barbur, Terwilliger and over the hill.

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  • Ted Buehler July 6, 2012 at 8:16 am

    Whenever you come across blocked lanes or unmarked detours, snap a photo and send it to safe@portlandoregon.gov.

    They’ll take care of most things pretty quickly, and such problems will be less likely to slip through the planning process in the future.

    This goes for any bike route in Portland, anytime. Not just super-busy routes at peak cycle season.

    Ted Buehler

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  • Joe July 6, 2012 at 8:55 am

    You know how there is this discussion to cover I-5 on the east side of the river. I think that they should make a dedicated area that is normally park on the east side and can become these event spaces during the festival seasons. It would be like an Oktoberfest area in Munich.

    It is a vacant space that can be converted into a area that can be used for private functions from Cinco de Mayo, Rose Festival, Pride, Brewfest, etc. I have always been disappointed in the summer months the endless fences that go up on the waterfront. This is supposedly our jewel of a park in downtown against the water and it is often blighted with enclosures.

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    • Machu Picchu July 6, 2012 at 7:19 pm

      Blighted with enclosures which (unlike Bluesfest, possibly) frequently require gratuitous entry fees and harbor carny crap of the first order. It doesn’t really market Portland that well.

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  • Christianne July 6, 2012 at 8:58 am

    I think I would have been a little less annoyed had there been some sort of warning prior to my approaching the Hawthorne on the esplanade, letting me know I wouldn’t be able to access the bridge from there. Ah well. Should have known better.

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    • peejay July 6, 2012 at 9:57 am

      Should have known better, but we should expect better in this city.

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      • Scott July 6, 2012 at 10:45 am

        It literally happens every year. Put a 2-day advance warning on your cell phone or desktop and click the “repeat yearly” reminder.

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  • Joe July 6, 2012 at 10:12 am

    crappy planning ;-P has anyone noticed all the dang cig butt ppl put on the railing near the entrance. litter!

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  • Spiffy July 6, 2012 at 10:29 am

    was the closure of the bicycle traffic lane marked with orange signs ahead of the closure? I thought that it was required… did they have a permit to close a traffic lane? I have to assume that they did, which means they should have known they would have to put up signs saying “lane closed ahead, merge left”…

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  • spare_wheel July 6, 2012 at 12:14 pm

    there is nothing like having a festival goer salmon up to you in the bike lane and stare at you with “deer in headlights” drunken amazement. the funny face they make when they finally realize that you are an impenetrable obstacle is priceless.

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  • Oh Word July 6, 2012 at 1:13 pm

    The plastic toilet is an inconvenience, not a dangerous situation. You see it as you approach and you have to slow down.

    If you want to make the bridge safer, give peds an audible when you pass.

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    • Ted Buehler July 6, 2012 at 4:04 pm

      Oh Word — the plastic toilet may be in violation of Oregon sidewalk design standards. It looks like it’s just barely 6′ from the curb, based on the heights of people walking by.

      See page 95 of the 2011 Oregon Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan’s Facility Design Standards section
      “The standard width for sidewalks on bridges is 7′, min 6′.”


      The standards are set to establish the spatial requirements to safely operate a bicycle and/or a pair of shoes. While it is physically possible to get around that toilet, it definitely compromises safety.

      Ted Buehler

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  • dwainedibbly July 6, 2012 at 3:52 pm

    I’m starting to wonder if the Blues Fest has outgrown the venue. Perhaps it should go somewhere else next year?

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    • Machu Picchu July 6, 2012 at 7:24 pm

      I’m trying to think of where else, Dwaine. Greenbelt on the riverfront in the city center is the shizzle. Downtown by the river should be the venue for everything big and cool. It’s just a matter of doing it right. Maybe we need to rob Naito to pay McCall, but we don’t need to move everything away from the cool spots because they mess with traffic.

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      • dwainedibbly July 7, 2012 at 5:41 am

        I have no clue on where. I don’t do implementations, I just come up with hair-brained idea grenades. There are lots of people here smarter than I am. Maybe somebody else will think of something. I understand the economic impacts of having it in the central city. Memorial Coliseum? Get the Timbers to rearrange their schedule & have it it in the stadium? How about Pioneer Square or the South Park Blocks? That won’t cause any problems! 🙂

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        • Machu Picchu July 7, 2012 at 10:42 am

          Oh, you’re smart enough, DD. And no one here is implementing anything, so your grenades are just the ticket.You came up with alternatives, and I’m sure you can tell why each of them is a crummy location for a summertime music festival, especially contrasted to a bowl-like meadow on the edge of a waterbody. And my emphasis is not economic, but social. You can make plenty of money hosting a concert at a remote location (you can charge people 20 bucks to park, when a car is the only way to get there!) Central is about access for the masses.

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  • Ted Buehler July 7, 2012 at 10:44 pm

    Oh Word, the plastic toilet may be in violation of Oregon sidewalk design standards. It looks like it’s just barely six feet from the curb, based on the heights of people walking by.

    See page 95 of the 2011 Oregon Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan’s Facility Design Standards section
    “The standard width for sidewalks on bridges is 7 feet, min 6 feet.”


    The standards are set to establish the spatial requirements to safely operate a bicycle and or a pair of shoes. While it is physically possible to get around that toilet, it definitely compromises safety.

    Ted Buehler

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  • Roger July 8, 2012 at 10:46 am

    It’s a bit late to enter the discussion, as everything will be back to normal by tomorrow (Monday) morning, the Blues Fest ends today.

    The Blues Fest organizers (OR Food Bank) get a permit from the city (Parks Bureau) that has a traffic control plan (TCP) element approved by PBOT. Next year, WPC & BTA should request involvement in advance, ie several months before, to discuss mitigation of the closures, address safety concerns, and improved detour signing.

    Personally, I spent time at the Blues Fest, navigating the adjacent streets (Naito), Waterfront & Willamette Greenway MUP’s and Hawthorne Bridge on July 4th and 6th. A great deal of patience was required near the fest: for all modes. From my perspective, the two most significant problem areas were:

    1) Closure of the bike lane on Naito northbound between Columbia and Salmon: Peds (walking both directions) and NB cyclists were sharing the curb travel lane, with high traffic volumes, albeit slow moving vehicles.

    2) Cyclists on Hawthorne Bridge traveling too fast for the higher than normal pedestrian volumes. Also bikes traveling the wrong way on the bridge sidewalks, and peds walking three abreast. Some temp signs and perhaps rent-a-cops up on the bridge might help with this situation?

    The entire area was easy enough to avoid if I chose to do so, at other times I was downtown (I live in SW, so I frequent this area often). IE use SW 4th rather than Naito northbound, and use Morrison Bridge rather than Hawthorne to bike to the eastside.

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  • GlowBoy July 8, 2012 at 10:08 pm

    Well, the area is easy enough to avoid for some people. Certainly if you live in SW. If you live in SE (especially south of Hawthorne, in which case by far it’s the preferred bridge to get to the southern half of downtown) avoiding it can be a considerable inconvenience.

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  • jd July 9, 2012 at 7:40 am

    Glad you covered this. There should have been signs and an alternate route for sure. I ignored a guy who wanted me to legalize pot before getting told to go up Naito by the bag check guy. Pot guy couldn’t have smirked louder with a megaphone that I got turned away, and bag dude’s suggested detour looked like those pictures. Aggravating. I took 1st the next day and no big deal, but the way they communicated the change to cyclists sucked.

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