Gearing Up for the Providence Bridge Pedal

The iconic St. Johns Bridge is the northernmost crossing on the Providence Bridge Pedal.
The iconic St. Johns Bridge is the northernmost crossing on the Providence Bridge Pedal. Providence Bridge Pedal
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The Providence Bridge Pedal, now in its 20th year, is among the most iconic cycling events in a city known for its bustling bike-riding community. Every August (this year’s ride is on August 9), roughly 20,000 riders log a collective 500,000 miles as they cross seven, nine, 10, or 11 of Portland’s Willamette River bridges—all while celebrating the cycling culture for which Portland is famous.

For some, it’s an opportunity to take in views from the Fremont and Marquam bridges—otherwise closed to cyclists—while it gives others the courage to try city riding in a safer environment devoid of heavy (auto) traffic and nerve-wracking distractions. But for all riders, it’s a uniquely Portland event that blends some of the city’s biggest passions and most iconic views. “When you look at the city, it’s really stitched together by those bridges,” says Rick Bauman, founder of the Bridge Pedal.

Read on about what’s new and different in 2015—and how hardcore cyclists can extend their ride for an even more intense workout:

Keep an eye out for construction

Construction of the new Sellwood Bridge will cause headaches for riders crossing the old Sellwood Bridge during the Providence Bridge Pedal.
Construction of the new Sellwood Bridge will cause headaches for riders crossing the old Sellwood Bridge during the Providence Bridge Pedal. Adam Herstein

Construction cranes and orange “detour” signs are becoming almost as iconic around Portland as the bridges spanning the Willamette River. Plan ahead for slowdowns at the following crossings:

Construction on the new Sellwood Bridge makes entering and exiting the old Sellwood Bridge a hassle, Bauman says. Cyclists on the 11-bridge and Fremont Express routes should give themselves extra time and remain aware of their surroundings as they cross. “That’s going to be a very dicey little spot,” Bauman says.

Construction of two new buildings at the east end of the Burnside Bridge will close the ramps normally used by Bridge Pedal participants. That said, Bauman assures riders that there will be safe passage; construction workers may put down carpet and/or plywood throughout the site to keep riders moving, for instance.

And the Broadway Bridge, currently adorned with scaffolding as crews repaint the bridge, will offer riders a reduced footprint this year. Rather than riding in the normal 12-foot bike lane, cyclists will be restricted to a seven-foot bike lane; to make up for the lack of space and to keep the ride running smoothly, cyclists will be split between the sidewalk and the auto traffic lane.

You can’t stop on the Tilikum Crossing

The Providence Bridge Pedal will provide cyclists with their first opportunity to cross the Tilikum Crossing, slated to open in September.
The Providence Bridge Pedal will provide cyclists with their first opportunity to cross the Tilikum Crossing, slated to open in September. Trimet

Bauman knows you’re eager to get an up-close view of the not-yet-open Tilikum Crossing after admiring it from afar during construction, but you’ll have to wait just a little longer to stop and take selfies.

Riders will be forbidden from stopping on the Tilikum Crossing due to the sheer number of expected cyclists. Bike mechanics and medical professionals will be on hand to assist cyclists, but with only two 14-foot wide bike lanes to accommodate upwards of 20,000 participants, it has all the makings of a headache-inducing traffic jam if every other rider stops to Instagram the momentous occasion.

Bauman suggests that riders should actually consider taking a photo of the Tilikum Crossing from the ramp leading up to the Marquam Bridge. Halfway up the ramp, Mount Hood appears on the horizon, sandwiched between the new bridge’s twin spires; the unique look inspired this year’s Bridge Pedal logo.

All that said, Trimet will open the bridge to cyclists and pedestrians later that afternoon for a sneak peek ahead of its official September unveiling.

It’s not a race … but that doesn’t mean you can’t treat it like one

The Providence Bridge Pedal draws about 20,000 cyclists each year.
The Providence Bridge Pedal draws about 20,000 cyclists each year. Providence Bridge Pedal

Bauman is quick to emphasize the laid-back nature of the ride—he jokes that staffers caught calling it a “race” are fined 25 cents—but devoted cyclists nevertheless find ways to get their heart rate pumping.

For some, crossing 11 bridges over the course of 35 miles is enough of a workout. But some cyclists tackle the Fremont Express—which starts on the iconic Fremont Bridge about 15-45 minutes earlier than the next-longest ride—before doing the loop again or meeting their families at the starting line for a shorter ride. Given its family-friendly vibe—the Bridge Pedal doesn’t assign individual numbers or track times—Bauman says that cyclists are welcome to do multiple loops or take part in multiple rides (if time allows).

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