With the installation of the Blumenauer Bicycle Bridge, I have to ask if perhaps some of Portland’s more pressing issues could have been addressed with the tax money spent on it?
For context, the Blumenauer Bicycle Bridge allows for an easy crossing from the Lloyd Center to Eastside Portland. Crossing the 84 freeway with its earthquake-proof design, its hallmark is its welcoming and eco-friendly nature as a completely bicycle and pedestrian-only bridge.
It is similar to the functionality and idea behind the Tilikum, just half the size and maybe not as essential. Roughly 1,000–2,000 people bike across the Hawthorne bridge, if not more, which is not too far off from what Tilikum supports.
The intent of this project is clear, and it’s quite a good way to connect these two neighborhoods and introduce a more walkable and healthy lifestyle. However, in my opinion the location doesn’t seem quite right in terms of where Portland’s next bike bridge should be. So while I’m not trying to throw shade at Blumenauer—congratulations on having a bridge be named after you as a champion of bicycling and pedestrian infrastructure—but with the project coming in at a total of $19 million, I wonder if this bridge was really worth it.
One of the first things that comes to my mind is what the whole point of the bridge is. It feels pointless when you can already walk or bike less than 5–10 minutes to an already established multi-purpose bridge on 12th and Lloyd or to the even closer bridge on Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. Seeing as we already have two close bridges that connect these two neighborhoods, I ask again, why was this necessary to build? It’s not like being on a closed-off bike bridge will protect you from biking five minutes onto a street as busy as it is dangerous. The bicycle infrastructure around these two neighborhoods is not perfect, but it is still very functional and accessible. Still, that doesn’t ensure that it is going to be entirely safe from car traffic.
Continuing south after crossing the bridge will spit you out at 7th Street, which always has lots of aggressive car traffic. That area never feels even remotely safe, and accessing the bridge from NE 7th Ave on the Lloyd side is not improving the overall safety of the area. This bridge feels like a false solution. I often commute by bike to Portland State and I avoid having to cross and ride on the street leading up to the I-84 bridge crossing because it doesn’t seem safe to me.
I would rather have had that $19 million put towards a MAX/light rail that connects North Portland to Vancouver, Washington. The pros of such a project far outweigh the cons in terms of functionality, accessibility and the main reason why people should care about such projects.
I just don’t see the reason why they decided to make this bridge. In the project byline they mentioned the crossing at 12th and Lloyd and conflicts commuters have been facing, but this bridge just leads to another street that is just as busy. If they decided to build a bridge like this and had the funding to follow through, why couldn’t it be in a better location?
People are struggling on our streets, we are in a crime wave that seems like it’s never going to stop and there are various bike accessibility issues across the city. This bridge seems pointless because Portland, while known for its bike-friendliness, is still dominated by car culture and prioritizing driving over walking, cycling or using public transit. The U.S. feels like it’s 10 years behind Europe in that regard.
I recently traveled to Vienna for school and it was like a flip-flop from Portland. Everyone was biking and using their U-bahn (subway). It smelled good, city blocks were meant for walking and bikers had a sidewalk separate from the street that didn’t allow them to even get close to cars. All this comes down to the history and construction of buildings. The city was built not with driving in mind, but rather commuting by foot or bike. Streets are compact and everyone is out and about vibing and not rounding their shoulders waiting in an endless line of traffic.
If Portland wants to spend $19 million on a bridge that doesn’t really do anything, we should ask what problems are we solving with it? I think Portland is delaying the inevitable by having projects like these. It’s like saying “hey, have we a cool little bridge that goes over the main way you actually get to work.”
Until we fully commit to reshaping our city and decentering cars and driving, projects like these will continue to seem more like a waste of money and time than an innovative act to encourage bikers and connect neighborhoods. All this bridge really did was allow pedestrians and bikers 45 seconds of not worrying about getting hit only to immediately spit them out into an area that becomes busier and busier with traffic with every block.
So what’s it gonna be, Portland? Cars or people?