Correction 10/5: Unfortunately, an earlier version of this post was based on inaccurate data. As explained in the comments by Portland Bicycle Planning Coordinator Roger Geller (and first noticed by reader Psyfalcon), the Hawthorne counter failed to capture eastbound bike data from Sept. 9 through the end of the month. This problem wasn’t noted on the city’s website but we should have noticed the east/west discrepancy and checked with the city before running this story.
This means it’s likely that the Tilikum has boosted total bike traffic across the Willamette, but that Hawthorne bike traffic hasn’t dropped by anywhere close to one-third. It’ll take several weeks to learn the truth. In the meantime, we regret the error. The original (incorrect) version of the post follows.
Here’s a riddle to ask grandchildren: How did Portland make its most popular biking bridge better to use while simultaneously getting fewer people to use it?
The answer, of course, is “it built a totally different bridge a little way upriver.”
Basically all of that reduced traffic seems to have shifted to the new Tilikum.
There’s no sign yet that the two-bridge combo is already drawing more bike traffic than the Hawthorne alone. Though the bridges’ combined bike count for September is 9 percent above the Hawthorne’s previous September high (captured in 2012) celebratory events like Sellwood Sunday Parkways seem to fully account for that jump.
When asked about daily bike traffic numbers on the Tilikum, Portland Bureau of Transportation Bicycle Coordinator Roger Geller thinks it’s still too early for a full analysis. “There’s still a lot of curiousity about the bridge,” he said in an interview last week. “It’s still kind of a destination. A novelty. It takes at least three months for people to figure out whether the bridge makes sense for them to use or not.”
Geller added that Metro is leading an effort in partnership with PBOT, TriMet, and researchers at Portland State University to collect baseline traffic and origin/destination data for bike trips across the bridge.
During its first two weeks open, Tilikum actually carried 15,000 more bikes than the Hawthorne. This week, though Tilikum traffic has fallen back to about half of Hawthorne traffic, which seems likely to be closer to its long-term state.
But the shift is already great news for people walking and biking on the Hawthorne, which has suffered from summertime bike congestion for years.
For those of use not navigating those bridges in rush hour, what matters will be how the increased comfort of the Hawthorne, the existence of the attractive new Tilikum, and the opening of the vastly improved Sellwood Bridge in a few months shape Portlanders’ habits over the course of the next few years.
Have you noticed a difference on the Hawthorne? Has Tilikum proved to be a better crossing for some of your trips? Will the new Sellwood?
Jonathan Maus contributed reporting to this story.