Urban Tribe - Ride with your kids in front.

Esplanade path gets national recognition

Posted by on July 26th, 2013 at 11:24 am

High water on the Willamette-22-21

The Esplanade path deserves the attention.
– Scroll down for more photos –
(Photos © J. Maus/BikePortland)

Portland’s Eastbank Esplanade got some major national props this week after being named one of the “Top urban bike paths” in the United States by USA Today.

The third-largest newspaper in America named 19 paths (I’m so glad they didn’t call them “trails”) to their list. Factors they kept in mind while making their selections included:

  • commuting arteries that give cyclists direct access to business districts while avoiding city traffic and making few street crossings.
  • separate from traffic for all or most of its length.
  • Does the path offer exceptional views of, and access to, the city?
  • Is it good for recreational riders and tourists?
  • Does the city take pride in it?

I think it qualifies on all but that first one.

And here’s what the USA Today had to say about our beloved Esplanade:

Named the country’s best biking city by ‘Bicycling Magazine’ in 2012, Portland boasts one of the densest networks of dedicated bike paths, greenways, and ‘bike boulevards’ around. For a one-two punch of Portland’s best, take the Vera Katz Eastbank Esplanade along the Willamette River and switch to the Springwater Trail Corridor. The highlight of the 1.5-mile esplanade is a 1,200 foot ‘floating walkway’—the longest of its kind in the U.S. according to Portland Parks and Rec.

In honor of this recognition, I figured I’d delve into our photo archives…

Annual BAC facility tour-25

Annual BAC facility tour-21

Bicycle Advisory Committee facility tour, September 2012.
high water on willamette-3-2

Rainy day in May 2011.
High water on the Willamette-6-5

Mini Bike Winter Party-1

Mini Bike Winter after-party February 2011.
Transport Your Activism Ride-4The Transport Your Activism Ride in September 2010.

Last (and cold) sunrise of 2010-2

An icy morning on the last day of 2010.
High water on the Willamette-13-12

That one time in May 2011 when the Willamette had such high water the floating portion was actually uphill!
BTA New Year's Day Ride-11

BTA New Year’s Day Ride January 2010.
Esplanade scene

Summer scene, June 2010.
OR Bike Summit - Ride-4.jpg

Safe Routes conference VIP ride-72

A bike tour stop during the Safe Routes to School National Conference in August 2009. (That’s former BTA Executive Director Scott Bricker on the bench.)
Tour of Tomorrow

Oregonian political reporter Jeff Mapes (L) and former Metro Councilor Rex Burkholder in July 2007.
Breakfast on the Bridges - May 08-4.jpg

Breakfast on the Bridges, May 2008.
OR Bike Summit - Ride-3.jpg

April 2008.
Bike to Blazers

Bike to Blazers ride, April 2005.

We’re lucky to have the Esplanade. Now we need a lot more paths just like it criss-crossing the entire city. It’s almost 10 years old now (built in November 2004) and it leaves me wondering… When will we ever tackle a big, signature project like this again?

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  • Anne Hawley July 26, 2013 at 11:52 am

    That image of the Steel Bridge is gorgeous. One of the very best things about the Eastbank Esplanade is its views of that wonderful, ugly-beautiful bridge.

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  • kittens July 26, 2013 at 12:04 pm

    What ever happened to that project to replace all the transition strips on ramps to the floating section?

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) July 26, 2013 at 12:26 pm

      Hi kittens,

      They did install some of them on the southernmost portion of the floating ramps. They also added “BUMP” pavement markings to warn folks on all the bumps.

      I would like to have seen them add the less jarring transition strips to all the bumps, but they haven’t done so. I think they did the first ones as a demo and I doubt there’s the urgency in Parks Bureau to do the others. Might be worth an email though. Thanks for the reminder.

      And FWIW, I think the smoother strips are much nicer to bike over than the other ones.

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    • Peter W July 26, 2013 at 1:40 pm

      Somewhat related tip I learned from a friend: the ramps don’t make the loud banging noise if you go over them near the sides (about 1-2 feet from the railing, I think) where the sides of the metal plates come together.

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      • A.K. July 26, 2013 at 5:09 pm

        Bunny hopping them also works!

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  • PorterStout July 26, 2013 at 12:10 pm

    Since it’s referring specifically to “bike paths” I’d have rated them on the additional criterion of how well do they separate the pedestrian traffic from the cycling traffic. Only the second photo from the top gives a more typical riding scenario visible in the distance, with pedestrians spread three abreast, often walking dogs and strollers as I’m sure everyone has experienced. Add to that Chris Froome wannabes and 4-wheeled rentals. Hawthorne Bridge at least indicates where pedestrians and cyclists are supposed to travel though not everyone follows it. The best treatment I’ve seen is in Vancouver, BC where they have a slightly raised portion of the path where pedestrians are supposed to walk, and the lower section for cyclists and skaters, etc. I’ve stopped riding on the Eastbank after about 9 am on the weekends because it just gets too crazy. I’d love to ride it more because it definitely has the scenery, but I stay out on Water Street once the world wakes up.

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    • Robert L. July 26, 2013 at 12:53 pm

      I’ve stopped taking the Springwater trail into town on Saturday for the very same reasons. Too many joggers / dog walkers, I’m happier with auto traffic on Woodward / Clinton. I do miss those extra car free miles I get the rest of the week.

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    • Alison July 26, 2013 at 4:37 pm

      The mix of pedestrians, dogs, skateboarders, inline skaters, joggers, and cyclists of all ilks on the Esplanade is a recipe for problems. After sustaining a serious wrist fracture requiring surgery and rehab turning left from the ramp down from the Rose Garden only to suddenly confront oblivious pedestrians I would rather take my chances with the traffic. Separating pedestrians from cyclists needs to be a priority. The views are great though!

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  • Ted Buehler July 26, 2013 at 12:32 pm

    Well deserved recognition. Major kudos to all the bike planners, advocates, and political leaders who “did the impossible” in the 1990s. Think where we’d be, as a bicycling city, if this wouldn’t have been put in. Like riding Water St. and MLK? Like crossing the top deck of the Steel Bridge? Me neither.

    & think for the future — where do you want to see infrastructure 20 years from now? What awards for fabulous facilities do you want to see awarded in 2033? Now, share the vision, pitch in your time and energy, and make it happen.

    Ted Buehler

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  • Peter W July 26, 2013 at 1:43 pm

    Every time I ride the floating section it blows my mind that we have a FLOATING bike path.

    That said, it also blows my mind to look up from the same place and see a flying freeway 100+ feet in the air.

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  • AndyC of Linnton July 26, 2013 at 1:44 pm

    Way to go, esplanade! I like you, please have a bunch of babies all across the city.

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  • wsbob July 26, 2013 at 1:53 pm

    The Eastside Esplanade is a lesson, demonstrating the value of unconventional infrastructure that many people may reflexively reject at the point of its conception and suggestion to be built. At its onset, the idea of the Esplanade was regarded as an oddity, a nutty idea…way too expensive…doubtful as to who, or whether much of anyone would use it.

    Look at it now. Super popular. Heavily used. Best views of the city from the east side. It was an investment, but as it turns out, a smart investment.

    Somewhat different situations of course, but also similar in some respects: a number of well designed, appealing to use cycle tracks along key arterials throughout the city, such as Foster Rd, would also likely be well worth the significant investment and initial inconvenience involved in building them.

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    • OnTheRoad July 26, 2013 at 2:16 pm

      Yeah I remember when the Esplanade opened and the anti-government expenditure folks were squealing that it cost umpteen thousand dollars per lineal foot for something that was never going to used by anybody. ($30 mill divided by 1.5 miles long = $3787 per foot)

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    • 9watts July 27, 2013 at 7:28 am

      We agree, wsbob.

      “It was an investment, but as it turns out, a smart investment.”

      But since you seem somewhat surprised that it turned out well, can you point to major infrastructure investment in bikes that turned out not to be a smart investment? When you do, it would also be useful to speculate about what made that/those particular investments less than successful. How could they have been made better?

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      • wsbob July 27, 2013 at 9:43 am

        Personally, I had few doubts that the Esplanade would be very popular with the public, or about building it being a smart, successful investment. I’m very much favorable to efforts made toward reclaiming parts of the public way that’s been lost or is in threat of being overtaken by commercial development.

        Back when the idea was introduced, and the project given the go-ahead, amongst the public, there was a great deal of skepticism about whether the Esplanade was a smart investment. The city had never before had anything like the Esplanade. It was a novel idea. Seemed to people to be an exorbitant expense, like the Pill Hill Tram.

        Re: “…major infrastructure investment in bikes that turned out not to be a smart investment? …”.

        No such major investment comes to my mind. Some of Portland’s smaller investments in bike infrastructure, like the green bike boxes, the PSU located bike lane to the right of parked vehicles, and the SW Stark full lane-bike lanes don’t seem like great or maybe even good ideas to me. As experiments to see how well something can or can’t work, they were smart investments.

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  • Terry Nobbe July 26, 2013 at 2:59 pm

    Since I moved to Beaverton, I don’t ride the Esplanade hardly at all any more. My loss.

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  • nuovorecord July 26, 2013 at 3:53 pm

    It’s truly a civic treasure. And, once I-5 is relocated underground, it will be even more so. The traffic roar is the only negative.

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  • davemess July 26, 2013 at 4:55 pm

    “commuting arteries that give cyclists direct access to business districts while avoiding city traffic and making few street crossings.”

    The only path in town that satisfies this to me is parts of the 205 path (think the Powell and Foster overpasses). Most of the springwater (at least the WIllamette portion) is completely cut off from accessing nearby businesses, and the Esplanade does this a little better, but it is still jammed up against a freeway and you only have access to a few of the bridges.

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  • Reza July 26, 2013 at 7:30 pm

    As a weekly user, the Esplanade would be a lot better if it had some semblance of local access between Rose Quarter and Salmon Street. Unfortunately, even when you blow up or bury I-5 in your fantasies, you still have good ol’ Union Pacific to contend with.

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  • Joe July 29, 2013 at 3:57 pm

    awesome river path links to springwater and 205 bike path. * wish the burbs had more of this, have like fanno creek trail nice but its really bumpy and don’t ride at night. * not well lit * oh Wilsonville is going to get a trail path soon 🙂 yay

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  • q`Tzal July 30, 2013 at 11:13 am

    While it may be an honor to have been mentioned in a major national paper I think it is much more surprising that a PRO BICYCLE story showed up in such a conservative echo chamber as USA Today.

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