Bridge Pedal and the dream of Portland

I did Bridge Pedal again this morning for the first time in 12 years. And it was dreamy.

I used to do this massive event every year, but I got tired of the bottlenecks and the chaos. Or maybe I just became jaded. But I’ve felt a renewed sense of wonder and excitement about Portland’s cycling culture lately, and I just felt an urge to be out there again.

Bridge Pedal is like Sunday Parkways with guts. What makes it great is the thing Parkways is missing — an unadulterated cycling takeover of major roads and interstate freeways. I’m just as disappointed as many of you about the lack of progress we’ve made in getting more people to drive less, and the lack of big wins we’ve had fighting the freeway industrial complex. But my cynicism was no match for riding on these thoroughfares in relative silence, high above the Portland skyline and Willamette River on a perfect sunny morning alongside thousands of other people doing the same.

Today we rode on the bicycle highways we deserve! Routes that would slash hours off our weekly travel times and put cycling on a level playing field with driving. Since I last did this ride in 2010, suggesting such a radical shift seems much less bold given the crises we face if we maintain the status quo.

I ran into an activist who I’ve known for years on the ride, Ted Buehler. I was doing video interviews by bike (stay tuned!) and Ted talked about how Bridge Pedal embodies much of what he, I, and many other activists going back decades have always dreamed of. A city criss-crossed with bicycle highways full of a diverse slice of humanity — and without the loud toxic din of cars everywhere — wasn’t just what we dreamed about, it was what some of us actually thought would have happened by now. Whether we were naive, too idealistic, and/or bad at activism didn’t really matter for a few hours this morning. We had what we wanted. And it was wonderful!

A Portland that more closely reflects Bridge Pedal everyday is still my dream. And today’s ride has stoked my longing to achieve it.

Enjoy the rest of the gallery below, and stay tuned for a video of on-the-bike interviews!

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Andrew Kreps
Andrew Kreps
1 month ago

As a long time reader, I have to say Jonathan, you’ve really stepped up your lighting and framing photographic game!

First Time Bridge-Pedler
First Time Bridge-Pedler
1 month ago

Glad to see you caught a photo of the “Providence is Anti-Abortion” sign. This event was truly magical indeed, especially if you crash the course before the official start 😉 I only wish such an event could be not-for-profit and not sponsored by such a problematic corporation. Fantastic morning though!

Cale
Cale
1 month ago

Could not agree more. Avoided the ride because I can’t be giving money to Providence

maccoinnich
maccoinnich
1 month ago
Reply to  Cale

I could be wrong, but I’ve always assumed that Providence is the main sponsor and that they’re not receiving any money from the event. As far as I can tell it’s organized by a (for profit?) company named Bridge Pedal, Inc.

First Time Bridge-Pedler
First Time Bridge-Pedler
1 month ago
Reply to  maccoinnich

There’s certainly implicit benefit from being a named sponsor, whether monetary or otherwise. I don’t know about Providence’s financial gains from the event, but I’m more concerned about the individual(s) who make up Bridge Pedal Inc. Personally, I would love to see the receipts.

And to Cale’s comment, that’s why you crash the ride 😉

Lisa Caballero (Southwest Correspondent)
Editor

Their website says that a portion of this year’s registration fee supports the Better Outcomes thru Bridges program which aids their most vulnerable patients. Amazing what you can find out in a few minutes with a search engine.

Fuzzy Blue Line
Fuzzy Blue Line
1 month ago

I’m not so naive to realize that the BP comments section is probably populated with 98% progressives who are even to the left of the Democrat party at large but abortion has absolutely NOTHING to do with advocating for active transportation & bicycling. Take your Providence attacks over to Willamette Week comments section if so inclined to virtue signal.

soren
soren
1 month ago

Fixed it for you:

radical christianist forced birth abortion

Jay Cee
Jay Cee
1 month ago

BP comments section is probably populated with 98% progressives who are even to the left of the Democrat party

By any reasonable European standard, today’s Democrats are very much center right. Of course you have Bernie and AOC who could be called center left to some extent, but they are considered fringe by the Democratic Party mainstream.

Paul Cone
Paul Cone
1 month ago

Just curious, do you not go to Timbers and Thorns games at Providence Park, too? Of course I know some Timbers fans are boycotting the team for different a different reason now.

Matt
Matt
1 month ago
Reply to  Paul Cone

I, for one, have never attended a Sports in my adult life (that is, if you insist on playing the “let him who is without sin throw the first stone” game…)

Matt
Matt
1 month ago

The “dream of Portland” has been slipping away for years because of disasterous local politicians and hopelessly destructive policies that have made Portland a living nightmare for those not fortunate enough to shield themselves from it.

Laura
Laura
1 month ago

I did the first-ever Bridge Pedal. Was literally the centerpoint of the Oregonian photo of the event. Did a few more, until it got too crowded . Our last year, a mis-managed Ross Is. Br. back up made it hard to get to Div. Place and home via Clinton. Like, people were angry that we were just trying to get by so we could get home. My dislike of the event was solidified the next year, when I was rowing under Sellwood Bridge and got hit with a banana peel flung over the bridge rail. The pics make it look like crowds were better managed, so maybe next year, we’ll give it a try again.

Amit Zinman (Contributor)
1 month ago

In such an event you do get a sense of how many MORE people you can get through the same roads if you use bikes instead of cars. So many people would probably have clogged the bridges and highways, causing traffic jams. Nobody would be able to stop and enjoy a band playing on a bridge without dedicating huge amounts of land for car parking, yet we were able to, with little interference to people wanting to continue with the route.
It was a good mixture of hardcore bike advocates, families out for fun and people who rarely bike but thought this would be a fun event that includes a little bit of exercise and a LOT of great Portland scenery.
Hoping to get my own video up in the next couple of days on my Youtube channel.

DW
DW
1 month ago

I had to ride Naito around 11:30 and got stuck in some pretty heavy bike traffic. Even though I had to go slow I was 100% ok with it because it was nice to see so many people out on their bikes.

Kyle Banerjee
1 month ago

The lack of internal combustion racket and pollution are glorious. But the attraction for most people seems to be more about it the novelty of being part an event with a cycling photographic backdrop.

On my ride yesterday (I very specifically avoided Bridge), I was dismayed to notice that 100% of the kids I encountered on bikes were ebikes.

Electric “assistance” which contributes far more power than the rider ever would might provide options to individuals facing physical challenges, but that’s not most kids. Used to be a bike was what kids really wanted, and they rode them where they were.

Nowadays, the motor rather than the bike seems to be the real draw — which pushes active transportation even further out of mind. Rather than wanting to ride wherever they are, a growing percentage of the shrinking number of remaining cyclists are afraid of most of their environment and don’t think they belong in it.

Many people aren’t able bodied, and the ones who are seem drawn to the growing number of ways to get around by motor. That can’t be good for cycling.

Jay Reese
Jay Reese
1 month ago
Reply to  Kyle Banerjee

Nor is it good for society to create weak children.

SolarEclipse
SolarEclipse
1 month ago
Reply to  Jay Reese

Children look at their parents and see how they rush rush from place to place in their fast paced lifestyle. Why wouldn’t the kids want to emulate that when they expect instant gratification in everything they do?

EP
EP
1 month ago
Reply to  Kyle Banerjee

I’m all for it if it gets kids on bikes. Riding a bike as a kid can be tough when you’re trying to keep up with older/bigger kids & adults. Remember waaay back when riding a whole 10 miles seemed like a lot? Fitting there’s this story today about how riding an ebike isn’t entirely lazy. Physical activity of electric bicycle users compared to conventional bicycle users and non-cyclists: Insights based on health and transport data from an online survey in seven European cities – ScienceDirect

Kyle Banerjee
1 month ago
Reply to  EP

Yes, look at what the study says about ebikes substituting for physical activity like cycling or walking.

That’s more of the dynamic with kids — it’s not like they’re ebiking with their friends instead of driving

Andrew Kreps
Andrew Kreps
1 month ago
Reply to  Kyle Banerjee

You don’t mention how many kids you saw or how you identified the ebikes, but I didn’t see any kids on ebikes on the bridge pedal route. And I saw hundreds of children. Might be a skewed sample situation.

Kyle Banerjee
1 month ago
Reply to  Andrew Kreps

About a half dozen in 3 hours. I was nowhere near the Bridge pedal. Wouldn’t have expected them there for a bunch of reasons.

Which simply underlines my point. Needing to convince people to bike — especially kids — didn’t used to be a thing. Anyone who thinks the bike and not the motor is the real prize when trying to get kids on ebikes is kidding themselves.

That the percentage of ebikes grows while the number of cyclists continues to fall is only evidence that willingness to engage in active transport is declining. The number of cyclists at rush hour on high profile infrastructure like BN, Esplanade, Broadway, Hawthorne, etc is pathetic despite primo weather. It’s very easy to find a vantage point where you see zero cyclists, but practically impossible with cars

I won’t go into describing how I can identify an ebike because there are many variations. However, many who ride actually know bikes, components, companies, etc. and can spot what adjustments, gear ratios, etc you are using at a glance. It’s like asking someone how they know they saw a dog.

Paul Cone
Paul Cone
1 month ago

Beautiful shots Jonathan. I too used to ride the Bridge Pedal (I rode the very first one) but then got bored with it. Then about eight or nine years ago we missed getting to the Fremont just before it reopened to cars, even though we are pretty fast riders. So that soured me on it. But yesterday I had to go into the office briefly to pick something up and just happened upon Naito Parkway and heading up over the Morrison in time to find myself in the family start, and if I didn’t already have someone meeting me for breakfast I would’ve just kept going across the Marquam! Also was cool to see they were going reverse direction on that this time. I hope they keep changing it up and I’m putting the date on my calendar for next year.

John
John
1 month ago

Most of my friends aren’t cyclists. If they read this column they would laugh and shake their heads. They don’t want to ride bikes. Most of them think bikes are dangerous. The rest don’t want weather, inconvenience, etc. They have a story in their heads that isn’t really true, and don’t see the upside. The biking future will happen when we tell stories that include bikes…in the same way that cars are on TV, in books, on social media….

Mark Remy
Mark Remy
1 month ago

I was doing a small group ride yesterday that briefly coincided with parts of the Bridge Pedal. What a great, happy vibe. So many smiling faces!

Mike Meade
Mike Meade
1 month ago

Thanks for the great photos! I saw you on the Fremont and gave you a woohoo! I felt like I spotted a celebrity. I’ve been busting my bike out a lot more lately and it was great to get my family out for the Family Ride. We had a glorious day for it, and it was great to be out and about on bikes!

Alon Raab
1 month ago

Thank you Jonathan, Ted and all the many activists that have been working for many years to make Portland get closer to the worthy name Bicycle City and help towards preserving this planet. Thank you also to all newcomers who will leave their positive mark as we dream and act towards a world (or at least our city at first?) rooted in ecological sanity, justice, equality.
It would be wonderful to have a regular monthly and then weekly (and why not daily?) event/celebration of citywide (we can begin with one part of town) that is truly car-free. Bogota, Columbia can be a model and inspiration.
https://www.treehugger.com/bogota-changes-car-free-day-car-free-week-4849029
where in a city of 7 million people 600,000 cars were idle on that day.
For a history of the Car Free Movement
https://worldstreets.wordpress.com/2015/08/28/a-short-history-of-car-free-days-origins-timeline-progress/

ArmyMomStrong
ArmyMomStrong
1 month ago

I’m glad to see some photos of the Fremont Express! That was my crew up there serving up breakfast to all the riders who wanted an exceptional experience. That’s 11 years for us. Hope it was a nice return. I know Rick has worked hard at getting things worked out and flowing right. He’s always open to suggestions. But moreover, I’m sure he’d welcome new advocates. This year was in honorarium to Bud Clark our original bike community advocate.

And….
For those pointing out the Providence anti-abortion sign, among other things.. I’ll have you know that they do provide abortive services, on behalf of the safety of a Mother to be. Don’t speak where you may not have all the info. Their also a catholic organization folks… also non profit. So, the comment about not giving them money is absurd. Fees for the ride go to support Better Outcomes thru Bridges BOB program which serves some of our most vulnerable in our community. Anything that does not go to them is spent on ODOT, PPB, porta potties, uhuals, snacks – set up in spots throughout the ride, also supports local school volunteer requirements & the costs to get these permits.

Boy… complaining is a lot like sitting in a rocking chair. It gives you something to do, but it doesn’t get you anywhere.

Matt
Matt
1 month ago
Reply to  ArmyMomStrong

they do provide abortive services, on behalf of the safety of a Mother to be

Sounds to me like the exception that proves the rule!