Support BikePortland

Checking in on Broadway Bridge painting project work zone and closures

Posted by on March 10th, 2016 at 11:13 am


The tight, loud, and unnerving conditions will persist for another six weeks or so.
(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

The new paint on the Broadway Bridge may be beautiful, but riding around the work zones has been ugly. And things won’t be back to normal until the end of April.

We’re curious to hear how the closures and detours are — or aren’t — working for you.

Since late last summer when the repainting project began, we’ve been fielding complaints and hearing serious concerns about the state of the bikeway. We’ve confirmed at least one broken bone (and possible lawsuit) caused after a man collided with another bridge user in the narrow opening between the bridge’s rail and scaffolding. Some people are so fed up with the loud noises, shifting detours and narrow conditions that they’ve either stopped using the bridge or have started taking the lane on the main deck with other traffic.


That option will go away two Mondays from now because the County just announced that the bridge will be closed to all motor vehicles March 21st and lasting through April 10th (that’s 22 days). The bad news is that there will still only be one sidepath open (the northern one) from now until then. The good news is the expanded closure is to allow workers to take down the scaffolding. Yes, the end is in sight. The County hopes the project is completed by the end of April.

Until then, your best bet is to use lots of caution. We’ve heard reports (and confirmed ourselves) that the flaggers that were initially on site every day are no longer there and the detour signage isn’t as good as it should be. Last night while biking home in the dark and rain I noticed there was no advanced warning of the south path closure until the very last minute. Also last night we heard about someone who had a serious crash on the streetcar in the same location — likely because they saw the closure and tried to cross the street at a bad angle to reach the north side.

If you’d like to share your concerns, praise, or comments with the County, use their webform or tweet @Multco.

— Jonathan Maus, (503) 706-8804 –

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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. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

  • Travis Fulton March 10, 2016 at 11:24 am

    I’ve just been taking the Steel Bridge ped path. Bummer that the work going into overtime, but the cherry blossoms on the waterfront are nice.

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  • gtrain March 10, 2016 at 11:25 am

    Any news on the north side (westbound) part of the bride being opened to bikes?

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  • Velolief March 10, 2016 at 11:35 am

    I’ve been taking the steel as well and will probably continue to do so until the death trap that is N/NE Broadway/Weidler is fixed. Any word on when that’s supposed to get going again?

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  • Robyn K March 10, 2016 at 11:49 am

    I also crashed due to the tracks while trying to make the correct and legal left turn to cross the bridge on the South side. Fortunately the only real casualty was a pair of jeans. I tried making the illegal right turn and U-turn a few times but that was more terrifying.
    Steel bridge it is until they manage this mess.

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  • PDXTom March 10, 2016 at 12:05 pm

    1. The flaggers have been back this week. Friendly and concerned group who have done their best to make a bad situation work. But obviously their hours are limited and most mornings they have not arrived before 7:30. No idea what time they leave in the evening as I return via Steel bridge.
    2. Having only one side (north or south path) open creates a dangerous situation by forcing bidirectional traffic into quite narrow corridors where the scaffolding remains. Requires caution, courtesy, and low speeds.
    3. Witnessed some very risky riding by westbound folks crossing Broadway to get to the south path when the westbound north was closed. Cars are often going quite fast in either direction. I hope no one was hit.

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  • Adam H.
    Adam H. March 10, 2016 at 12:09 pm

    IMO, the county deserves to be sued over this. Can you imagine if they created the same safety hazards for drivers? Forcing two way motor traffic into a single 10-foot lane? Why are the standards for safety so much lower when it’s people walking and cycling? If the county couldn’t maintain a safe environment for people walking and cycling then the bridge should have been closed to all users outright.

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    • Bryan March 10, 2016 at 12:48 pm

      Sensible riders would adjust their commute and use the Steel Bridge without complaining, as essential maintenance is performed on an important piece of infrastructure.

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      • Adam H.
        Adam H. March 10, 2016 at 1:07 pm

        Then the county should encourage this by closing the bridge and putting up detour signs guiding people cycling to the Steel Bridge.

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        • AC March 10, 2016 at 1:20 pm

          I would assume, based on this statement, that you know for a fact they aren’t there. I can’t say I am 100% positive since I’ve only been crossing this bridge this week but I am pretty sure I remember a sign saying exactly what you think it should say, but many bike commuters choose to use this bridge anyway. If you want to use the Broadway Bridge, it’s not difficult. Don’t be an asshole, slow down, wait your turn.

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          • Adam H.
            Adam H. March 10, 2016 at 1:51 pm

            As far as I can remember, there are signs about the constructions, but they are directed towards drivers. The bike signs say “Bikes use sidewalk”, not “bikes, this way to the steel bridge”.

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        • Bryan March 10, 2016 at 5:37 pm

          I cross the Broadway every day. I can see its temporarily unsafe. I don’t need the county to put up a sign.

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          • Adam H.
            Adam H. March 11, 2016 at 8:58 am

            I cross the Broadway Bridge rarely and I don’t always know the conditions before I head out. This is why good signage is key for construction zones.

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            • Bryan March 11, 2016 at 9:46 am

              That’s true no matter how you travel: you never know conditions before you get there. That’s one of the fun elements of riding a bike in the city: you never know, you have to adapt to changing conditions. Avoiding the Broadway Bridge during temporary maintenance makes me move to another bridge. So I get to experience new vistas, riding conditions, neighborhoods, ride with new people. I’m also ultimately responsible for my own safety.

              A completely predicable route designed to avoid litigation is a boring route with no risks, no change, no challenges.

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              • Adam H.
                Adam H. March 11, 2016 at 10:09 am

                a boring route with no risks, no change, no challenges.

                This is exactly the kind of ride to work I would like to have.

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      • daisy March 10, 2016 at 3:48 pm

        And yet the city has requested that we folks on bicycles slow down at Waterfront Park, to accommodate slower cyclists, pedestrians, and runners. This seems like a fair request. On a nice day, Waterfront Park is jam packed — and diverting all the bike traffic there does not seem like the best plan.

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      • Lester Burnham March 11, 2016 at 8:16 am

        Yeah let’s sue the county and take more money from taxpayers.

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    • Steve B. March 10, 2016 at 5:09 pm

      MultCo has come a long way. These detour plans aren’t perfect but they are much better than even a few years ago. I appreciate the effort they put in to keep the paths open despite the obstructions, especially considering it would likely be much easier for them to keep the paths closed completely.

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    • NC March 13, 2016 at 12:52 pm

      You can always walk your bike whilst the painting works goes on you know.

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  • Jason March 10, 2016 at 12:11 pm

    I rode across the south deck on the wide-loader equipped Big Dummy with my son in the Yepp last Friday. It wasn’t that bad. Just had to watch out for people with absolutely no clue what they were doing. Tourists blocking the path to take pictures, wobbly newbs, Fred Armstrong who couldn’t be bothered to slow down…same thing as always. Just took it a little more slowly than normal and practiced extra courtesy. No problem!

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  • RH March 10, 2016 at 12:12 pm

    Take note that the north sidewalk is narrower than the south sidewalk due to how the scaffolding was installed. It can sneak up on you. It really has been a very, very, slow project.

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  • johnny March 10, 2016 at 12:23 pm

    It’s really hard to navigate going eastbound when you are forced onto the north side of the bridge. They dump you straight into oncoming traffic. Take a look, every darn person on a bike is confounded when they get to the east side. There’s nowhere to go!

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  • John Lascurettes March 10, 2016 at 12:24 pm

    The northern passage (ha!) is a whole lot narrower than the southern one. I don’t quite understand why. There is barely enough room for two opposing bikes to pass each other at where the scaffolding is. So far, if I’m on the rail side (westbound) I tend to come to a stop or near stop and hold the rail for support so the scaffold side (eastbound) rider can get by.

    And though there are flaggers there, they seem to both stand at either end with “Slow” available to all at all times. There is no traffic control going on that I’ve experienced.

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  • Champs March 10, 2016 at 12:26 pm

    This thing can’t be over soon enough.

    How much is this project affecting bike counts, and what effects will ripple into the future? It surely put a dent in traffic, so how much of it will get banged back into place? Did riders who stuck with the Broadway gain confidence as bike handlers? If so, will average speeds pick up as they apply these newfound skills to passing in those close quarters (and is that even a data point)?

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  • PDXTom March 10, 2016 at 12:35 pm

    John Lascurettes
    And though there are flaggers there, they seem to both stand at either end with “Slow” available to all at all times. There is no traffic control going on that I’ve experienced.

    A while back, the flaggers were actively managing bidirectional flow. Now they just seemed focused on directing cyclists to the side that is open.

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  • Brian March 10, 2016 at 12:42 pm

    I thought everything up until a few days ago when the closed the eastbound path, was sort of fine. Annoying, but you could figure it out safely. Diverting both directions of bike traffic to the westbound lane is a disaster. Heading east your only real option is to wait at the crosswalk, and hit the crossing button (waiting 2 cycles to cross) then you get to navigate a bad angle of multiple rail lines and a bigger bridge gap ( saw some one get stuck in that) Then you get to cross the narrower path and have to figure out how to safely get back on the eastbound bike line… If anyone has an good idea about how to do that safely I would love to hear it.

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    • John Lascurettes March 10, 2016 at 12:50 pm

      I find it easier to just come up the sidewalk at NW 9th and Lovejoy (on the north side of Lovejoy). No double crosswalks to deal with and you cross the rails at 90° there.

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    • daisy March 10, 2016 at 3:45 pm

      I suppose one way to do this might be to ride up the sidewalk on west side of Broadway, going up to the bridge (if you’re headed east across the river). Then you could cross at a crosswalk.

      I go up Williams from Broadway/Weidler. Once I was on the north sidewalk, I decided to stay on the sidewalk all the way up to Flint. It was late and no one was out walking, and it seemed a lot easier than crossing back to the south side of Broadway (heading east) and then going back across at Williams.

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      • John Lascurettes March 10, 2016 at 5:32 pm

        This has been my normal commute before the painting project. I take it easy from the bride to flint, riding slow. The advantages are, I experience no right-turn conflict with all the people going to the Moda Center and/or the I-5 onramp; nor do I have to deal with that ridiculous left turn infrastructure they set up at Williams and Weidler.

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        • Brian March 10, 2016 at 6:14 pm

          Riding the sidewalk never seems to be a safe option, Having seen numerous right hooks off of Broadway Riding west in the morning. Sure if you went very slow, maybe it would be fine, I am going to try the Steel bridge tonight.

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          • John Lascurettes March 10, 2016 at 8:11 pm

            I always ride slowly on the sidewalk, and particularly slow (walking speed or slower) when entering an un/marked crosswalks as legally required. I also give pedestrians audibles when passing, if I even pass them (again, legally required) ironically, two young men verbally assaulted me today after an audible warning, presuming that I was somewhere I’m not allowed to be. They were wrong.

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  • Eric March 10, 2016 at 12:55 pm

    Geez. chill folks. Give the bridge painting project a break. Take an alternative route during the construction. Which may involve a few track crossings.
    Stay light on your wheels and cross tracks in a perpendicular manner. Standing on your pedals helps too. Bikes with tires wider than 2.2″ (mountain bike essentially) are a bit better when navigating tracks as they will not get “sucked” in as easily.
    I cross a ridiculous amount of tracks on my bike commute, like 22 the last time I counted (one way). No crashes, ever. But I know that for a new rider they can be difficult.

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    • daisy March 10, 2016 at 3:50 pm

      Ah, spoken like someone just days away from his first crash!

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      • John Liu
        John Liu March 10, 2016 at 5:18 pm

        Actually, that was spoken like someone who knows how to ride a bike in the city.

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        • Brian March 11, 2016 at 9:54 am

          Some people don’t have the experience to know all the small (or not small) techniques in how to safely navigate a city on a bike. Some people are just starting. I think it would be a shame if something were to happen to them and turn them off from commuting that could be avoided by better design, better planning or better communication.

          Instead of patting ourselves on the back and maybe we should consider the other ramifications of these issues. I know very well how to cross tracks, how to safely ride on the sidewalk when needed, how to take a lane when necessary… not everyone has been riding as long as I have.

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          • Adam H.
            Adam H. March 11, 2016 at 10:07 am

            Yes, this exactly. We should not be designing for people who are already confident riders, but for those who don’t ride or ride infrequently, but would like to ride more.

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    • Brian March 10, 2016 at 4:02 pm

      Crossing tracks is not a problem if the route is actually designed to do so the problem happens when you are forced to cross them at unsafe angles. If every one rode 4 inch fat bike tires they would have no chance of getting stuck in them, nor if they rode hoverbikes…. the point is they shouldn’t have to.

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      • AC March 11, 2016 at 10:55 am

        What’s easier to adjust, train tracks or the angle of your front wheel?

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  • Chris I March 10, 2016 at 1:09 pm

    I guess now that the new Sellwood is open, we can just detour down there and enjoy the new wide lanes.

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    • Eric Leifsdad March 12, 2016 at 8:09 am

      At 35 or 50mph, maybe. The separated bike access is still being treated as recreational.

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  • Brad March 10, 2016 at 1:35 pm

    Today the North side was open, and the south side was closed. Opposite of how it had been the last month or so.

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    • John Lascurettes March 10, 2016 at 5:35 pm

      That’s what this whole article is about. The north side was closed for a month+ to paint the rails. Now the south side is closed (and the north open) to paint the rails. But the difference is the passage between the rails and the scaffolding is much narrower on the north MUP.

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  • Gabbi March 10, 2016 at 1:59 pm

    I ride over the Broadway Bridge every day–and since I live north of NE Broadway and my office is literally one block from the foot of the bridge on the west side, a Steel Bridge detour is way out of my way. The north side closure was pretty inoffensive–one extra crosswalk heading into downtown, enough space on the pathway for everyone to be polite and get on their way, and a quick crossing back to the bike lane on the west side. Easy peasy.

    Now that the south side is closed I’m dreading my ride home. I was so grateful to be caught up in a group of 12-15 cyclists last night so I could follow everyone else’s lead. It was harrowing from start to finish, involved three extra traffic crossings, including directly in the face of oncoming traffic where the westbound on-ramp comes up from Interstate, and added 5 minutes to my 20-minute commute–which may not seem like much, but it’s 25%. Tonight I’m going to be inspecting Google Maps for a better way to get back into the east side bike lane before leaving the office, but I have little hope.

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    • daisy March 10, 2016 at 3:50 pm

      Try the sidewalk going up Broadway once you cross the river. There aren’t usually a lot of pedestrians, and it saves a bunch of time if you need to cross back over Broadway anyway.

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      • John Lascurettes March 10, 2016 at 5:36 pm

        Yup. I second that. Just become a road user again when you hit Flint. That’s what I always did before the painting project started.

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  • Oliver March 10, 2016 at 2:11 pm

    It’s a pain in the tuchas but for some reason I’ve been finding myself doing it more often than going down to cross the steel bridge. Must be the weather.

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  • resopmok March 10, 2016 at 2:27 pm

    I’ve been detouring to the Steel Bridge for the bulk of the Broadway path closures thus far, except when a malfunctioning gate on the Steel left it blocked a few nights ago. Tired of dealing with oblivious people on the Broadway Bridge, and with only the north side open, it is simply too narrow to properly accommodate two-way traffic. The backtracking to the Broadway cost another 15 minutes.. I also crashed on the wet stones near the crosswalk at Naito and Couch yesterday, though it’s mostly my fault for going too fast with too narrow a turning radius. Really I wonder why they don’t have crews working this thing 24/7 to get it done already.

    22 days to take down scaffolding? How on earth does it take so long?

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    • Buzz March 10, 2016 at 6:03 pm

      It’s a lot of complicated scaffolding. I think it took them longer than that to put it all up.

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  • pea March 10, 2016 at 3:36 pm

    i usually come into downtown over the roadway on the Steel (to the horrors of many drivers) because taking 3rd south is the best option for me to get to my office.
    heading home i somehow tend to be on the Broadway, and the past days with the south sidewalk closure, i’ve been fed up enough to take the lane (carefully because of the evil streetcar tracks). i’m hoping i actually remember to take the Steel homeward for the next month though… that Broadway situation is worse than before!

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  • Greg Haun March 10, 2016 at 3:57 pm

    “new paint” link is now broken. Guessing you want

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  • Buzz March 10, 2016 at 4:29 pm

    The southern sidewalk was barely wide enough for bi-directional bike and ped traffic while the northern sidewalk was closed; the northern sidewalk is narrower and really doesn’t handle bi-directional traffic well at all.

    There were flaggers out today at mid-day, but I don’t think they were really doing much to improve things. I came back over the Steel Bridge and will probably avoid the Broadway as much as possible until both sidewalks are open again.

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  • kittens March 10, 2016 at 4:40 pm

    I hate to be that guy but… 22 days to remove scaffolding? I have a feeling there is more to it than that. And if not, wow someone needs to figure that out!

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  • kittens March 10, 2016 at 4:46 pm

    Does anyone know why this is so disruptive?

    I dont recall the Hawthrone and Steel bridge undergoing such upheaval for routine maintenance. Wasn’t it just ten years ago it was last overhauled and stripped of all lead. And the I-5 bridge is routinely maintained without full closures ever.

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  • Beth H March 10, 2016 at 4:48 pm

    You know, I think that for an inexperienced, unsteady or very young bike rider, navigating the north side could be a bit narrow and they’d do better on another bridge. For those of us who can hold a line it’s not a huge problem. I rode it today, and appreciated the flggers, the bike rider at the other end of the narrow part who waited for me to pass, and the walkers who moved over slightly when they heard my bell.

    Hint: To hold a steadier line, I find it helps not to look down at your wheel, but to fix on a point farther out. For me, fixing my vision towards the end of the narrow part helps a lot.

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  • John Liu
    John Liu March 10, 2016 at 5:17 pm

    The project has taken a long time. I’ll often pass by when no one is working – or they are quiet as mice, not using audible tools – and on weekends the work area is frequently deserted. It is a frustration for drivers and cyclists alike. I don’t know if the contract included stringent deadlines and penalties for delays, but it should have.

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  • Kris J March 10, 2016 at 6:25 pm

    There is a noise ordinance that must be followed at night and on the weekends. Therefore the county has to decide weigh the importance of allowing night work and keeping everyone awake, or inconveniencing people on bikes.

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    • John Liu
      John Liu March 10, 2016 at 9:34 pm

      Given that there are virtually no residential buildings within earshot of the bridge – except for one short section – the noise ordinance shouldn’t be an obstacle.

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  • scott March 10, 2016 at 9:03 pm

    If they are going to keep the one path open, then they should ask everyone who insists on using the path to walk their bikes across. It is just to narrow and unsafe.

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    • Kris J March 11, 2016 at 8:26 am

      It is sad that we expect the muncipality to ask people to use commonsense.

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      • Bryan March 11, 2016 at 9:51 am

        You nailed it! I’d rather ride with you than with litigious whiners.

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  • pdxpaul March 11, 2016 at 10:37 am

    I say we petition and sue to have all maintenance suspended forever, because it’s inconvenient. Once the bridges fall into the river, there’ll not be anything to complain about. Except the lack of bridges. But we can all learn to swim. And fatbikes float.

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  • RH March 15, 2016 at 2:55 pm

    I didn’t want to ride eastbound over the Broadway due to safety concerns, so I took the Steel. HOWEVER, as I was biking on the waterfront trail under the Burnside heading to the Steel, my bike slipped from under me as I was biking past the homeless camp. Someone there had put oil down on the path and they were all laughing as I bailed. I’ve ridden 8 years straight, had new Marathon tires, and never had a fall until now. Total B.S.
    Banged my knees up pretty bad. There’s no safe route right now!

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