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By the tens of thousands, Portlanders preview their new car-free bridge (photos)

Posted by on August 9th, 2015 at 6:21 pm

throngs

An estimated 40,000 people crossed Tilikum Crossing Sunday on foot, bike, skateboard, scooter or wheelchair.
(Photos: M.Andersen/BikePortland)

With walkers and in strollers, on hopalongs and (in the case of quite a few happily panting dogs) on leashes, Portlanders packed a series of previews Sunday of Tilikum Crossing, the first bridge in the United States to carry buses, bikes, trains, streetcars and people walking but no private cars.

The crossings began with an early-morning VIP ride and continued with the Providence Bridge Pedal bike ride, then an open crossing for people with disabilities and finally by the three-hour “People’s Preview” for anyone and everyone.

TriMet spokeswoman Mary Fetsch, helping direct traffic at the west landing, was one of several TriMet officials present to marvel at the throngs who showed up. At about 3 p.m., with more than an hour left to go, she estimated that more than 20,000 people had crossed.

By mid-evening after the event, she’d upped her estimate to “40,000 to 50,000.”

bike dress

walker

cellar

“Where are they all coming from?” deputy project director Dave Unsworth asked happily about an hour later, as people continued to stream across the river. He was straddling a bicycle on the west landing and directing people to avoid getting their wheels stuck between the MAX tracks. “Are they arriving in busloads on the other side?”

Most people crossed on foot, but a constant stream of people were also coming through on bikes. Everyone kept to their assigned sides of the bridge quite well, thanks to the stripe down the middle of the bridge and only a little prompting from a few orange-shirted TriMet volunteers.

over the edge

Though I’d personally walked across the bridge once before, the experience of doing it on a bike was surprisingly different — in a great way. It’s a fine trip on foot with good views of the city and (especially) the river. But like the other Willamette Bridges, it’s just a long way to walk in the sun.

But on a bicycle, Tilikum really feels like a magic carpet. It’s so quiet, so low-stress, so open to the air and so physically beautiful that it’s clearly more pleasant to ride across than anything else except the Steel Bridge’s lower deck. Even when MAX, bus and streetcar will be thumping past on the center lanes, the thick separation between the bikeways and pillars will keep them from causing any stress at all.

old navy

dog

bad helmet

tower

There’s quite a bit of arc to the bridge, and people paused naturally a bit at the peak of it to admire the view. Tilikum is definitely further from the action of the city at the moment, thanks to the big undeveloped lots on both its landings, so it’s not as urban a bridge as, say, the Broadway. But it’s a new way to see the central city and an excellent look at the river and its banks.

pointing north

This busker, stationed at one of the widened platform areas near the pillars, didn’t seem to be bringing in much revenue, unfortunately. If Tilikum someday gets regular buskers on its platforms, we’ll definitely know it’s working.

busker

The downward cruise was steep enough to be fun, not steep enough to feel dangerous.

youngish gal

dudes

kerr rental

hopalong

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pink basket

older gal

adele

At the west landing, westbound bike traffic is now channeled into a fenced-off, curb-separated, green-painted path that attempts to remove any temptation to cut south along the sidewalk toward the South Waterfront and Aerial Tram. This has its good and bad points. It’s certainly going to prompt more people to cross Moody the way they’re supposed to. Unfortunately, the light crossing Moody is extremely long for bikes and the cycle is very brief. It’ll be interesting to see how car volume on Moody compares to bike traffic coming from Tilikum; hopefully the city will be willing to keep changing the amount of green time at this light once the bridge opens.

descent

Also, as of last week the city, TriMet and OHSU have agreed on a major new redesign of Southwest Moody’s sidewalk-level bike lane. The new design adds green and switches the pedestrian space to the west side of the path throughout, eliminating a so-called “weave” and putting a row of street trees between people biking and walking. In general this felt like an improvement over the old design, and seems likely to reduce the number of biking-walking conflicts on Moody. There were also some issues, though. Look for another post soon that’ll explore some of them, and if you’ve ridden the street, feel free to add your own observations about this new setup in the comments.

green on moody

A few people came with props or costumes. This man had a dog in his cargo box and a bubble machine behind his saddle, so he left a trail of merriment wherever he went.

bubbles

Lots of families had brought their children to see the bridge. Hopefully they’ll remember the day, back in 2015, when they were among the first few thousand folks to enjoy it.

straw hat

kids pedal

tilikum overhead

 

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was carlessBethScott HLenny AndersonMichael Andersen (News Editor) Recent comment authors
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tedder
Guest

Here are my Bridge Pedal pix. Some of them have already percolated to Wikipedia. http://pix.perljam.net/Bicycling/Bridge-Pedal-2015

I was amused that the “daily bicycle count” and “yearly bicycle count” matched, because we all know bicycles have been over before today.

Champs
Guest
Champs

Looking forward to the opening—I mean come on, there’s been no good reason to keep it closed for months—when it isn’t a disaster of huddled humanity and Cat6 riders making unannounced random stops.

With it open I see the missed opportunities: the Moody lane swap means more bumps for northbound riders, and… once again… I didn’t enjoy the grind up to SW4th when you come off the bridge (this time via Harrison). It is my fight alone but 2nd just makes more sense because it’s easier to reach and flat.

Adam Herstein
Guest
Adam Herstein

It was great to finally go across the bridge! Bummed we’ll have to wait another month before it’s open for good.

Mark
Guest
Mark

The bridge was amazing, which underscored the extremely poorly designed bike approaches on both ends. Another sad, missed opportunity for world-class infrastructure.

The crosswalks and bike crossings on Moody were the worst. The pedestrians and bikes have their own dedicated signals that allow people biking and people walking to cross at the same time. On the west side of the street, the bike path turns right across the pedestrian path. Huge right-hook potential, especially as the path turns immediately, so if there is more than one bike crossing at the same time as a pedestrian, the second bike would have to wait awkwardly in the roadway.

Pat Franz
Guest
Pat Franz

Yeah, really nice bridge except for the ridiculously high expansion joints (why oh why?). The approaches definitely need work. I rode down Clinton through the new 11/12th/train/MAX vortex and it REALLY doesn’t work when there’s very many people there. It’s bad when you’re pretty much by yourself, but fails utterly when there are more than a few people around. I realize it’s a tricky area, but the crazy cobble solution is just not working.
Nice bridge though. I look forward to riding over it in more relaxing conditions.

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)
Admin

Great coverage Michael! Wish I could have been there on the big opening day. I went across a bunch of bridges out here in eastern Oregon, but none of them are carfree.

John Liu
Guest
John Liu

Remember that today the bridge was being used by far, far more pedestrians than it will ever see on any normal day. So the bike/ped routes on either end may, in normal usage, not be as bad as all that. It’s like saying getting around downtown is a nightmare based on what it’s like during the Rose Parade.

rachel b
Guest
rachel b

I don’t know. The population here is very Tribble-like. I don’t know if it’s just summer and tourism and an overabundance of events and festivals in Portland, or if another huge bunch of people moved here in the past month or so. Traffic (and parkers) on my street (SE 26th) seems to have quadrupled in the past couple weeks–still going strong past midnight. I’ve been wondering “where are they all coming from?” myself. Anyway–I wouldn’t be surprised if the bridge is pretty crowded from the start and continues that way. We have the most getting-out, extroverted population here nowadays that I’ve ever seen. I’m hoping I’m wrong and that the bridge is nice ‘n’ roomy for just mememe. 😉 Very much looking forward to using it–thanks for the coverage, Michael. p.s…no buskers, please!

soren
Guest
soren

hopefully the city will be willing to keep changing the amount of green time at this light once the bridge opens.”

It was good to see this intersection already see some adjustment. A month ago it was a shared ped and bike fustercluck with an even longer cycle. Even so, if this gets anywhere near the bike traffic that the Hawthorne bridge gets it will still be the mother of all bottlenecks.

soren
Guest
soren

The best part of the preview, for me, was not the bridge but Moody. They mostly fixed Moody!

Dwaine Dibbly
Guest
Dwaine Dibbly

Mrs Dibbly & I rode the streetcar from downtown because we planned on stopping & taking a lot of photos. The streetcar was loaded to the very max and it was at lest 10 degrees hotter inside than outside and there were riders who didn’t know what was going on.

The bridge is very beautiful and a fantastic addition to our infrastructure. Most of the issues will go away as people get used to the lanes and the meaning of green paint, and as the number of users goes down to a more normal level.

When we crossed (at about 2:00pm-ish) the counter was at about 14-15k. Does it only count bikes? How does it ignore pedestrians, if that’s the case? And, is there a web site to view counts, like there is for the Hawthorne Bridge counter? Please, somebody post a link.

Lester Burnham
Guest
Lester Burnham

The bridge is very nice, but I think it should have been named the “Hillary Clinton Bridge” in honor of our next president!

Adam
Guest
Adam

So relieved for the SW Moody redesign. The last version made ZERO sense. The trees used to divide the north and south bike lanes, rather than separating PEDs from bikes as they should.

The trees also made it impossible to overtake a slower cyclist.

The green paint is also a huge improvement. Who was supposed to be where did not used to be clearly delineated. When we rode the streetcar to the event yesterday, it was easy to see most people got the new design easily.

KYouell
Guest

In my opinion the counter was low. I saw it tick up by two as we approached it, but there were 4 people on our 2 bikes.

I finally got my question answered: I can do the grade in th eastbound direction with both kids in the bakfiets. There were so many people I wasn’t able to rest at the top (was about 4:10pm at that point as the people with the orange shirts were telling people to turn around if they were parked on the west side), and I was still able to do it. Whew! Cargo bike victory! Btw, it took me 10 minutes to cross it at my snail’s pace.

Sam Churchill
Guest

Here are some additional pix of the Tilikum bridge opening.

http://tinyurl.com/qd93egx

Ricky J.
Guest
Ricky J.

Got to celebrate the new bridge bubble biking with the unipiper, what a great time! The turnout was amazing for such a short window after bridge pedal.

J_R
Guest
J_R

At SE Water, they had the entrance to the bike path blocked off with fencing to force cyclists and pedestrians to use the crosswalk. Then cyclists were had to step down the curb onto the bike path. It caused unnecessary congestion for bicyclists and pedestrians and caused them to partially block the Water Street intersection, thus blocking cars, too. It was a really bizarre system of “traffic control.”

I did manage to cross by bike with lots of interference by pedestrians walking in the designated bike area and some bicyclists walking, too. I wish I hadn’t gone yesterday. If you didn’t go, consider it time well spent.

Adam H.
Guest
Adam H.

I’m hoping TriMet and PBOT reconsider the design at SE Water and Tilikum Way where people riding bikes are presented with a fence and a bike box. The cycle track should continue straight to meet up with the MUP along the Orange Line tracks.

WAR
Guest
WAR

Parking down there must have been a mess.

Captain Karma
Guest

Already people walking dogs with leashes in the bike lane, see above photo.

Paul
Guest
Paul

Once the buskers hit the bridge, can the homeless encampments be far behind?

Todd Boulanger
Guest
Todd Boulanger

Michael – a correction to your statement: “… the first bridge in the United States to carry buses, bikes, trains, streetcars and people walking but no private cars.” [This statement has popped up before in the project press coverage…so its just not you.]

More correct may be …its the “first” such new bridge to be opened as such since 1910ish / the start of the Automobile Age in the USA. Perhaps this bridge is the bookend to that now “ended” age…

gutterbunnybikes
Guest

It was a great ride. Even the steeper eastward side wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be from looking at it from afar.

Got there a little early for the open house and the line of people on the NE corner wrapped all the way to the Submarine as I started over it. My first time over was a blast, since I was passed all the pedestrians within 100 yards of the start.

I especially liked that the Portland Opera supplied some live music for while from their balcony over looking the bridge.

Ended up going round three times. The Hawthorne is going to quickly lose a bunch of it riders quickly – I doubt I take Hawthorne much after it opens.

Scott Batchelar
Guest

I rode over it both during Bridge Pedal (That was crazy, no wonder they kept saying no stopping) and did 2 out and backs from the Eastside during the Peoples Preview – even when the bridge was packed it didn’t feel cramped.

The likelihood is this bridge will see something more along the lines of 3,000 – to 5,000 a day max on an average much like the current numbers on the Hawthorne Bridge with an occasional bump to 10,000 – 15,000 during big events.

It’ll be interested to see how this and the Hawthorne Counts change once they both adjust in the next year.

As a Disability Advocate the grade was nearly perfect on the ADA scale they likely couldn’t have done it any better.

The upgrade’s to the Moody Cycle Track were excellent – moving the Pedestrian’s to the inside was great and the Thermoplastic coating at the Track and Street Crossings were an interesting touch, I met up with Stephanie Routh on my way home and I took her and her friend back to the Bridge her friend made an interesting comment about the thermoplastic coating “Feels like I should be walking.” I called it “Bike Lane Carpeting” Overall I’m cautiously impressed and am looking forward to seeing how this shakes out over the next year.

I want to give both the Providence Bridge Pedal and Tri-Met a big thank you for the opportunity to check this bridge out 3 times in one day!

paul g.
Guest
paul g.

It was fun to ride, but the pedestrians were all over the lane (as Michael’s pictures show). That’s Ok, this was a special event.

BUT the signage on the west side is abysmal. We were approaching as two very experienced long time riders in Portland. Bike lane marked on 4th … any signage? No. Big bike lane on 2nd… any signage? No.

Ok so we finally figured it out by asking some walkers where to continue after 2nd. More signage … … … NO!

Holy crap. The biggest most important piece of bike infrastructure constructed in this city in a long time and the signage is … nowhere to be found.

How bizarre.

Spencer Boomhower
Guest

It was a wonderful experience overall. Especially considering the massive crowds and start-and-stop bike movement. But hey, they wanted people to be taking selfies, so it was expected.

I did the ride over and back again with my eight-year-old kid. He normally balks at slightly steep hills (and hints at how much he needs a bike with gears) but he powered over the hump no problem: https://instagram.com/p/6QarQTg1ja/

Considering how crowded the ped lanes were, I thought the bike lanes stayed impressively clear. Nice to have guides at the starts yelling “bikes to the left, peds to the right,” and people mostly complied.

Look forward to trying it again on a regular day. Basically it’s not unlike riding over the Hawthorne, but without the background anxiety I get from biking next to that steep drop to the roadway grating.

The Portland Opera company serenading the crowds on the east end was a nice touch too, and it was good to see them getting lots of applause and “bravo”s.

Lenny Anderson
Guest
Lenny Anderson

Speaking of signs, at the east end on the Greenway Trail a bike system sign directs you to “Transit Bridge.” I thought it was a multi-modal bridge call “Tilikum Crossing!” Did PBOT not get this? The sign is also sending you to both the bridge and MAX a bit out of direction!