IMAGE: BIANCA BOSKER
Cyclists say the no-bike-lanes decision by the state, which owns and maintains Portland's northernmost bridge, unfairly favors freight interests over bike safety.
"Clearly, there are powerful interests here," said Evan Manvel, executive director of the advocacy group Bicycle Transportation Alliance. "This is a missed opportunity."
The striping, which wrapped up last week on the nearly completed bridge project, limits biking access to a 5-foot-wide sidewalk shared with pedestrians. The extension of the narrow sidewalks by up to 4 feet around the bridge towers was the only improvement for cycling.
The Oregon Department of Transportation began the $38 million renovation in 2003 to restore the historic suspension bridge to its former glory. But bike advocates fear ODOT is taking this message way too literally, rejecting their alternative plan to limit the mid-bridge traffic lanes to one in each direction, leaving a wide shoulder on each side for bikers.
ODOT regional manager Charlie Sciscione doesn't necessarily disagree, but he believes there's no better solution for a span that averages 24,000 cars and trucks a day. "It's an old bridge," he said. "The lanes are too narrow. But it's a treasure."
Before the project began, ODOT assembled a board that included bike advocates, the City of Portland, TriMet, the Port of Portland, freight interests, and St. Johns residents.
A board majority decided the alternative striping plan created its own safety issues, and that freight must take priority because the bridge opens onto Highway 30.
Nevertheless, cyclists see the project limiting bike access in North Portland and blowing an opportunity to make safe links for cyclists across the river.
On July 19, activists organized a naked bike ride across the bridge to protest the plan. The nude ride went off smoothly, attracting 17 bare bikers, although an apparent lack of signage illustrating their cause left the nude riders feeling a bit uncovered.