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Major changes to Bridge Pedal route means three fewer bridges this year

Bridge Pedal 2009 from the air-65
The St. Johns Bridge is one of four Portland spans that won’t be included in this year’s routes.
(Photos: J. Maus/BikePortland)

“We have been working with the city for months – trying to come up with a resolution that can be supported by the limited resources of the Portland Police Bureau, while maintaining the essence of Portland’s quintessential summer cycling event.”
— Rick Bauman, Bridge Pedal event director

The vaunted and brag-worthy “10-bridge” Bridge Pedal route won’t be on the menu this year. Significant changes to the event mean that you won’t be able to ride over a carfree Broadway, Burnside, and St. Johns* bridges when the event takes place on August 13th.

Ride organizers announced yesterday that negotiations with the City of Portland and Portland Police Bureau resulted in an agreement to roll across seven of the 11 bridges that span the Willamette River between St. Johns and Sellwood. The most bridges available to cross on any one of the four routes is six. The revisions to the route come as a result of the PPB limiting the number of officers they’re willing to provide for special events. As The Oregonian reported in January of 2016, the City of Portland has revamped their approach to large events as a way to make organizers foot more of the bill and to preserve PPB staffing resources.

Bridge Pedal organizer Rick Bauman says the PPB has limited the amount of officers at special events to 33 — that’s less than half the number he usually relies on. PPB Traffic Division Sgt. Bret Barnum outlined that and other restrictions in a letter he sent to Bauman in October of last year (PDF). Here’s more from that letter:

“I have reviewed the 2016 map from your event… The 8 and 10 bridge rides do not meet our 2017 restrictions… I understand that is not what you want to hear, but the reality is we do not have the resources we once had. In tough times like this we must be creative, thoughtful, and willing to reengineer what we have done in the past.”

The “restrictions” referred to by Sgt. Bauman were first put into place in 2016 and have been expanded for 2017. In addition to a cap on uniformed officers, the PPB also no longer allows certified flaggers to take their place. Here’s the full list of restrictions via a letter sent to Bauman from the PPB in October:

Letter from PPB Sgt. Bret Barnum to Rick Bauman.

In a press release issued yesterday, Bauman said, “We have been working with the city for months – trying to come up with a resolution that can be supported by the limited resources of the Portland Police Bureau, while maintaining the essence of Portland’s quintessential summer cycling event. In the end, we have reached agreement on a route that includes seven of Portland’s Willamette River bridges. The St. Johns, Broadway and Burnside bridges will not be included in this year’s ride.”

Bauman told us this morning that he paid the City of Portland about $75,000 in fees last year. $37,000 of that was for the 75 police officers that supported the event. He also used 18 flaggers to supplement the officers — something he can no longer do under the new rules. (“Interestingly,” Bauman said, “Sunday Parkways has been allowed to use flaggers exclusively, eliminating the need for police support.”)

The other bridge not included in Bridge Pedal is the Tillikum Crossing. That span was only part of the route when it opened to the public for the first time in 2015. Since then, TriMet has balked at requests to delay or halt their transit operations for the event.

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But who’s counting? The Bridge Pedal still offers the rare and exquisite treat of cycling with thousands of other people in places where bicycles are usually forbidden — like the upper deck of the Marquam and Fremont bridges.

Here’s the full menu of routes for the 2017 event:

Bridge Pedal Marquam Express – This popular option is switching this year from the Fremont to the Marquam Bridge. Enjoy sunrise and a light breakfast on top of the Marquam Bridge with stunning views of downtown Portland, the Willamette River and the Cascades. Then bike on I-405 to the Fremont Bridge and onto the rest of the Providence Bridge Pedal route. Cost: $70

Bridge Pedal Main Ride – This new configuration crosses six downtown bridges with a thrilling ride on I-405 from the Marquam to the Fremont bridge. Riders may do multiple loops. Cost: $45

Marquam Express and Main Ride participants will have the option of including either the Sellwood Bridge or the Ross Island Bridge as part of their ride.

Bridge Pedal Family Ride – Our traditional family-friendly ride will cross six downtown bridges and will also include biking on a car-free section of I-405 through downtown Portland. Cost: $35

Kids Pedal – Even the youngest cyclists can enjoy being part of Providence Bridge Pedal with this three-mile loop crossing the Hawthorne and Steel bridges. Adults are welcome, too, as long as they are chaperoned by a child under 13 years of age. Although this is a free event, registration is required. Kids Pedal is the one Providence Bridge Pedal event with a registration limit, so sign up early.

Bridge Stride – For the first time participants in Providence Bridge Stride will cross both the Marquam and Fremont bridges on this 7½ mile walk.

This year, the Bite of Oregon is not being held at the same time as Providence Bridge Pedal. It has moved to Labor Day weekend.

Another thing we noticed this year is that electric bikes are allowed and welcome to join the fun.

Registration is now open and available online.

*The St. Johns Bridge was never fully carfree during Bridge Pedal, organizers maintained three of its four lanes for auto use during the event.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org

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