Portland names new carfree bridge after The Simpsons character

Posted by on September 9th, 2021 at 12:47 pm

(Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty, Springfield Mayor Sean VanGordon, and Travel Oregon CEO Jeff Miller at today’s press conference. Photos: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

“Who doesn’t need something to smile about right now? There’s nothing that says our infrastructure shouldn’t add a little joy to life as well.”
— Jo Ann Hardesty, PBOT Commissioner

In a move that shows Portland’s trademark weirdness is still in tact, City Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty announced at a press conference this morning that the Flanders Crossing Bridge that opened back in June will henceforth be known as the Ned Flanders Crossing. The new name comes with an official proclamation (PDF) and the full blessing of Springfield (Oregon) Mayor Sean VanGordon and The Simpsons Creator Matt Groening, who was born in Portland and went to high school just a half-mile away from the bridge.

Ned Flanders is a recurring character on The Simpsons described on The Simpsons wiki page as the, “extremely religious next door neighbor,” and, “a genuinely well-meaning good-natured person.” The bridge’s old name (and the existing street that still bears it) comes from George Flanders, a ship captain and businessman who took over a land claim in northwest Portland in 1845. In a fun twist, the Ned Flanders character was named after Flanders Street to begin with, it’s just one of many ways Groening wove his hometown into the show.

In another twist, the new name was a total secret prior to this morning’s announcement. The Pearl District Neighborhood Association tweeted this morning that, “This is the first we’re hearing of this at all.” There’s also a debate among civic advocates on Twitter this morning that PBOT missed a huge opportunity by naming the bridge after another white man, the third time in the past year they’ve done that. In April 2019, PBOT named the forthcoming carfree bridge over I-84 after sitting U.S. Congressman Earl Blumenauer. And in April of last year, a railroad overcrossing in southeast Portland was named after Metro Councilor Bob Stacey.

At the press conference, Commissioner Hardesty said the new bridge on NW Flanders Street deserved a moniker that would have wide recognition. “[The bridge is] in short, a big deal,” Hardesty said, “And we need an instantly recognizable name that would also be a big deal.” It was clear from Hardesty’s speech that the Portland Bureau of Transportation was eager to inject some levity into our lives.

“When people think of bridges, roads, sidewalks and bike lanes, they don’t usually think of fun. They don’t usually smile as they’re sitting at a traffic signal or heading down a street. But why not?” Hardesty said prior to revealing the new name. “Well, who doesn’t need something to smile about right now? While we are hard at work on recovering from this severe pandemic? There’s nothing that says our infrastructure shouldn’t add a little joy to life as well.”

Advertisement


(2021 Ned Flanders Ride held on June 9th as part of Pedalpalooza. Photos: Rebecca Hamilton)

Springfield Mayor Sean VanGordon also spoke of the need for fun and normalcy in these trying times, and said he jumped at the chance to link his city more closely to Portland. “When I had this opportunity to partner it’s something I just couldn’t pass up. In the coming years it is truly vital that all of Oregon works together and commit ourselves to this collective mission as Oregonians.”

The Simpsons mural in downtown Springfield is a major community hub and tourist attraction, Mayor VanGordon shared. It’s unclear whether a bridge can attract as much attention. Right now the only visual change is a new plaque on the ground at the northeast entrance of the bridge. It’s a bronze cast with a bas relief of a waving Ned Flanders and his famous catchphrase, “Hi-Diddly-Ho, neighborinos!”

VanGordon also presented Hardesty with a key to the city that included the message, “To our friends in Portland from your neighbor-inos in the real Springfield! Wishing you years of smiles on the Ned Flanders Crossing!”

In a brief interview following the press conference, PBOT Communications Coordinator Hannah Schafer said there are no other plans to add more aesthetic elements to the bridge to make it more recognizable as a part of The Simpsons lore. “We wanted it to be subtle,” Schafer said. “But I’m looking forward to when the Google Maps will say Ned Flanders Crossing.”

Schafer said the idea to come up with a name began in 2019. An October 2019 story in The Willamette Week said the idea was floated at a Pearl District Neighborhood Association meeting and their co-chair Reza Farhoodi (also a member of the PBOT Bicycle Advisory Committee who championed the bridge for years along with PBOT project manager Zef Wagner) put forward local author Ursula Le Guin or Oregon civil rights advocate Beatrice Morrow Cannady (a Black woman). Interestingly, Farhoodi is also a big fan of The Simpsons and has organized a Ned Flanders-themed Pedalpalooza ride for the past several years (in photos above).

As for concerns about naming yet another PBOT bridge after a white man? I didn’t ask Schafer or Commissioner Hardesty about that specifically at the event but have followed up and will update the story when I hear back. Schafer did say, however, that the Ned Flanders idea came from within PBOT and when they presented it to Hardesty, “She thought it was a great idea and was really on board.” Schafer also said they wanted to maintain the wayfinding benefits of the Alphabet District (where the streets are in alphabetical order). “We didn’t want to stray too far away from the name because we knew that folks who travel through here really rely on numerical and alphabetical nature of the neighborhood. And so it really just felt like a good fit.”

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org
— Get our headlines delivered to your inbox.
— Support this independent community media outlet with a one-time contribution or monthly subscription.

NOTE: Thanks for sharing and reading our comments. To ensure this is a welcoming and productive space, all comments are manually approved by staff. BikePortland is an inclusive company with no tolerance for meanness, discrimination or harassment. Comments with expressions of racism, sexism, homophobia, or xenophobia will be deleted and authors will be banned.

34
Leave a Reply

avatar
17 Comment threads
17 Thread replies
0 Followers
 
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
28 Comment authors
squaremanThe DudesorenLying PoliticianSigma Recent comment authors
  Subscribe  
newest oldest most voted
Notify of
J_R
Guest
J_R

I’d rather that the money and the effort of naming the bridge, creating and mounting the plaque, and holding the event had been spent on providing useful and safe bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure.

PATRICK
Guest
PATRICK

Don’t be a diddilo dodo grumperoo!

squareman
Subscriber

Sure, you could probably have four more sharrows for the total cost of this.

“why not both” gif comes to mind.

Bozo The Clown
Guest
Bozo The Clown

4 more sharrows would have some utility, no?

squareman
Subscriber

I have yet to find any benefit from sharrows aside from minor way finding convenience – which wasn’t even their original intended traffic-control meaning (which was bikes are meant to take the lane and nor be passed in that lane) and are rarely used that way anymore nor generally understood by most drivers in that way.

Torridjoe
Guest
Torridjoe

The “the Black lady said it was OK” response is a little awkward as justification; he could have simply gone with the other, substantive reasons they thought it made sense. And really, Ned Flanders is a) not a white guy, he is a drawing, and b) even as white guys go in theory it would be harder to find one more benign.

joan
Guest
joan

Ned Flanders is absolutely drawn and coded as white. Just like we know that Apu is Indian (there was an entire documentary about Apu!) and Carl is Black. And the Simpsons only made a move to stop white actors voicing non-white actors in the past year or so. Which is to say, the creators of this show are telling us Ned is white, too.

Torridjoe
Guest
Torridjoe

He is still not a white guy. He is a fictional character.

soren
Guest
soren

joan made the valid point that Ned Landers is coded as white (e.g. depicted as white in a work of fiction). Torridjoe’s strange non-sequitur repetition of Ned Landers fictional basis in response to joan’s observation is probably an example of white male grievance, (ATMO).

hamiramani
Subscriber

I like the levity and quirky nature of the name. I also agree with keeping with the Alphabet District nomenclature. I think PBOT should do more fun things like this and maybe even hire local artists to paint a Simpsons mural on the bridge.

Bjorn
Guest
Bjorn

Missed opportunity to have the band Okilly Dokilly play a set at the celebration announcement.

David Raboin
Guest

For all you haters: tourist dollars and Portland’s brand identity are how we pay for improvements. Also, if this publicity stunt means more people go home to their car-centric suburban lives having enjoyed biking, walking, or scootering in our city, all the better. You’ve got to capture people’s imaginations somehow. I’d like to see people going home from Portland as budding bike advocates.

Clem Fandango
Guest
Clem Fandango

It’s a little try hard isn’t it? We can still pretend we’re fun and whimsical! As long as you don’t step on a needle or roll through some human poop anyway.

plm
Guest
plm

yes I hear you, Clem Fandango

FDUP
Guest
FDUP

I would hardly call this naming another bridge after a white man, it’s a cartoon character; not everything has to be deadly serious and come with racial overtones!

K'Tesh
Guest
K'Tesh

“PBOT missed a huge opportunity by naming the bridge after another white man, the third time in the past year they’ve done that.”

Ned is not a “white man”…. He’s a yellow cartoon character.

Starbreaker
Guest
Starbreaker

Stupid sexy Flanders!

qqq
Guest
qqq

I like it. Next can we name the Morrison Bridge after Jim Morrison?

Torridjoe
Guest
Torridjoe

Or Toni

Tad
Guest
Tad

Love it! Portland needs to get a bit Austin though to keep tents off the Ned Flanders bridge.

https://www.austintexas.gov/news/dozens-homeless-encampments-visited-part-camping-ban-implementation

oliver
Guest
oliver

I believe the ban on being houseless is statewide and we should no more emulate Texas than we do Hungary or Brazil.

Because —- Texas, that’s why.

Yuki F.
Guest
Yuki F.

oliver,
Nope, no ban as long as you can offer shelter. Seattle has an initiative to ban public camping as well.

The Dude
Guest
The Dude

The new rule under the Boise case is the opposite: The city can ban camping if they make a bed available. If no shelter space is available, camping cannot be punished because it violates the Eighth Amendment prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment by criminalizing something that the person cannot control (having nowhere to sleep on private property).

This decision is great because it puts the onus on the cities to do their damn job. Build the shelter space necessary to house your population, then you have a clearly legal and humane way to clean up the public space so it can be returned for public use!

No doubt Wheeler and other do-nothings will continue to whine and find excuses. But the responsibility and fault for this situation is all on them.

Roberta Robles
Guest
Roberta Robles

Less we not forget who Mr. Burns is… Van Brocklin on the OTC. And there are 2 Smithers… Travis Bauer and Mike Strickland. Both Smither twins.

joel
Guest
joel

leave it to portland to not do their background check work…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FQSmvmzO-Nk

The Dude
Guest
The Dude

I’m surprised there wasn’t a rundown of all the other Portland streets that Groenig named characters after. Sideshow Bob Terwilliger, Mayor Quimby, Reverend Lovejoy, etc.

Bob
Guest
Bob

My mother was born on the north side of Flanders Street right about in the middle of the bridge in 1925. This was before they dug the huge trench that is now I-405. Her eight other brothers and sisters were also born in the house. Her parents were Chinese immigrants. At the time, few immigrants went to the hospital to give birth.
Several other Chinese families lived on this street back then. My mother turns 96 on Monday. She has watched with interest as the new bike bridge was installed. Her family name is Lee and we toyed with the idea that the bridge should be named the Lee Crossing. Naming it after Ned Flanders is just another disappointingly weird Portland thing. My mother did go to Lincoln High School (when it was in PSU’s Lincoln Hall), so I guess she has something in common with Matt Groening.

SERider
Guest
SERider

Hens love roosters
Geese love ganders
Everybody else loves….. Ned Flanders!

Sigma
Guest
Sigma

Except for self-loathing “progressives” hell bent on ensuring that no one has fun or enjoys anything, ever again.

The Dude
Guest
The Dude

What’s it called when you do exactly what you’re complaining about others doing?

Bozo The Clown
Guest
Bozo The Clown

Naming just about anything after clowns or cartoon characters is perfect for Portland. They should name the building where the mayor and city council work in the same manner. Should we start a naming contest?

Lying Politician
Guest
Lying Politician

The state capitol is already known as the Marble Nut House – a perfect fit!