In an effort to meet eco-friendly targets and increase accessibility, the Portland City Council voted in July of 2022 to support a ramp to the river and create more space for biking on the new Burnside Bridge, a major city bikeway. The goal of this initiative is to allow rollers and walkers to safely access the Willamette River. For decades, biking has been a popular way to get around Portland and Portland State, and with the new initiative bikers in Portland will have even more biking options and be able to easily access the Willamette River for a scenic riverside ride.
According to an article by BikePortland, the original plan for this ramp included stairs and an elevator, as this would have been more cost effective. However, a group of advocates including The Street Trust, Human Access Project, Bike Loud PDX and Disability Rights Oregon spoke out in favor of a ramp, writing letters and testifying to express their support for a design which included a ramp. While the ramp is estimated to cost $90 million, it would provide a more reliable option. Elevators are not always reliable and stairs are difficult, if not impossible, for many people.
With its strong community of bikers, plenty of PSU students, staff and faculty are sure to make use of the new bridge. Daniel Penner, supervisor of an on-campus organization called Bike Hub, said, “Off the top of my head, I would say about eight to twelve percent of our community are bikers.”
For those in the PSU community who are interested in biking on the new Burnside Bridge ramp but don’t have a bike of their own, Bike Hub could serve as a valuable resource. Bike Hub is an on-campus organization which offers bike rentals as well as free self-service repair stands where students, staff and faculty can work on their own bikes with guided instruction. “We offer two different ways of renting bikes,” Penner said. “One is long term rentals, called Vikebikes, for $45 a term. This offers lights, lock and a helmet, and bike secure facilities, and we instruct people riding the bikes on how to lock bikes safely and how to ride bikes safely. We also run the BikeTown program, which is the orange bikes on campus. We offer a one-time $20 credit—about a few rides, as each ride is around two to four dollars—for any student. For those who qualify for financial aid, it is free. We also sell permits—$10 per term—for access to our indoor bike parking facilities. We have several locations around campus.”
Penner noted how the size of the biking community within PSU has decreased since the pandemic started, with less people being on campus nowadays. However, despite the impact of the pandemic, there are still lots of people within the PSU community interested in biking. According to Penner, approximately 1,000 new Bike Hub members signed up in the last year alone, and Bike Hub is currently renting 80 bikes to students on a term-by-term basis. In addition, approximately 550 people are taking advantage of their indoor bike-parking locations.
When asked about his thoughts on Multnomah County’s initiative to create more bike paths and accessible ramps instead of elevators and stairs, Penner said, “I’m not familiar enough with it, but in general, it is great and adds to safety. It’s a huge plus for our students and staff.”
While the ramp at Burnside Bridge is a great start, people feel there are other parts of the city which should also be made more accessible to pedestrians, bikers and the disabled. “It’s complicated because a lot of the access points by PSU are controlled by the city of Portland or the state of Oregon,” Penner said in regard to parts of PSU’s campus, which could be improved in this manner. “A lot of changes and infrastructure isn’t something we have the ability to do. The big thing that did improve is that we got a protected bike lane on Broadway, so it’s separated from traffic. So any additional protected bike lanes would increase safety on campus.”
Bike lanes are not the only way to make the city safer. “There could be more protected crossings,” Penner said. “Protected crossings are places with more lights, signs and signals. One such area is the ‘T’ intersection between SW Broadway and SW Harrison Street where it is a high traffic area but less clear indication of signals or signs compared to some other areas around the campus.”
Regarding the ramp at Burnside Bridge, Transportation Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty stated in a record by BikePortland, “I see the city’s role of making sure that we are walking our talk when it comes to climate mitigation, when it comes to access to the water, when it comes to making sure that pedestrians, bicycles and walkers and rollers are safe on any new bridge that will be within the city of Portland.” Construction on the new ramp is expected to begin in 2025.