A two-year project to repair and upgrade the Burnside Bridge has started and it’s having an impact on everyone who uses it.
For bicycle users, the changes are mixed: In one direction conditions are much more cramped, in the other, some say it’s actually better than before.
Pre-construction conditions on the bridge were
four five standard lanes (two westbound, three eastbound), two unprotected bike-only lanes, and sidewalks on both sides. Due to the need to stage equipment, the county has changed the configuration to: three standard lanes (two eastbound, one westbound); one physically protected, eight-foot wide walking and rolling lane on the south side; and a narrower shared sidewalk on the north side.
There was some talk at the County about having two standard lanes and making a dedicated bike lane on the bridge, but the City of Portland wanted to keep two eastbound lanes to have more capacity for drivers leaving downtown at the end of the workday.
I observed the bridge during the evening peak and saw major congestion on the road. From northwest, across the river to northeast, Burnside was all brake lights. Every time I see this daily gridlock I wonder, “Why the hell do we still make it so cheap and easy for people to drive such large and socially awkward motorized vehicles into our city?”:
The sidewalk headed into downtown wasn’t as congested, but the mixing of bicycle users with a steady stream of walkers was difficult:
The shared protected lane on the south side of the bridge was much nicer to navigate. While it’s not nearly wide enough to mix bikers and walkers, the concrete jersey barrier protected makes a huge difference. I’m very happy that many people will get a sense of what real protection feels like (not the plastic wands or parked cars or measly stripes of paint they’re used to).
We asked for feedback on Instragram ealier today from folks who’ve ridden it. Here’s what we’ve heard:
gabrielamadeus: It is such crap. I can’t believe the width is to code around the light posts.
nwsatire: I don’t. Back to the Hawthorne Bridge.
ambpdx: The physical separation from cars on the south side is awesome!
barnharty: I bike westbound every morning before sunrise and it is sometimes fine, sometimes extremely dangerous. Sometimes people refuse to move over and I’ve almost been hit by a person swinging their backpack, which would’ve easily knocked me into the car lane. I don’t feel that nervous on it because I’m a pretty experienced cyclists and I trust my handling and everything, but I can imagine it would be scary for someone new to biking. Overall it’s ridiculous that it is someone’s official plan. Someone probably got paid quite a bit of money to decide what is the best and safest way to go about things and This is what they came up with.
sheena_longbo: I bike westbound in the morning when it is still dark, and I have actually had to get off of my bike and walk it into the road to pass people taking up the whole sidewalk with large garbage bags/weaving when they walk. For the most part I haven’t had many issues but I feel like it wouldn’t take much for someone to cause a cyclist to fall into traffic, or if someone did want to harm someone it would be difficult to get away from them.
ky_berg: I cannot state strongly enough: someone is going to be killed riding west on that sidewalk. I am riding west in the vehicle lane and square in the middle of it and you should too. The current model is unacceptable!
justinparty: South side is actually quite wonderful. North side is pretty rough, especially at the light poles. Communication is key, but people gotta ditch the headphones. Sometimes I ring a couple times and give an “on your left” only to still scare the shit out of them when I ride by.
cgerlt: The north side is cramped especially around the many poles. Will be worse with increased summer foot and bike traffic. South side is fine, a little more room and no poles!
And a reader who works as a messenger on weekends sent us a photo of three young people walking shoulder-to-shoulder on the sidewalk. “This is a regular sight on the weekends when I’m working and forced to ride in the lane because they are too busy taking selfies,” he wrote. “Having to ride to the far left of the sidewalk with pedestrians on a bridge where traffic usually gets above 30 mph is just silly… It’s just bad planning.”
Do you ride this bridge? How are the changes treating you?
I’ll send this post to Multnomah County just to make sure they’re aware of the feedback.
[NOTE: This story was originally posted on 2/15 but due to a technical glitch the comments section didn’t display until 2/19. Sorry for the inconvenience.
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