Portland’s Annual Bridge Pedal and Stride 2015
Friday 19 February 2016 — Category: Outings
A couple of articles ago, I wrote that last year my photography was inspired by the Summer Events Guide 2015: 50 things to do around Portland while it’s warm. One big event I not only attended but actually participated in was the 20th annual Providence Bridge Pedal (and Stride) on August 9, 2015.
Just how big is this annual event? According to a Wikipedia article, it has become the world’s third-largest annual recreational cycling event, with 20,000 or more participants each year! For more details about Bridge Pedal’s history, be sure to check out these archives.
I wasn’t very interested in the Pedal part, but I love to walk and fortunately there was a five-mile (or six-mile ... see below for more details) Stride segment as well. The biggest attraction for me was the opportunity to make some bridge crossings which are not normally available to the public. But more about those in a little bit.
I left my house in Albany very early as usual, drove to Portland, had breakfast at McDonald’s, parked at the Gateway Transit Center, and boarded a MAX train to downtown Portland, where I arrived, 90 minutes early, at 7:30.
Well, I didn’t really want to arrive that early, but it did give me the opportunity to scope out the scene, and more importantly, to take some pictures of the event before my participation began.
In addition to the Stride portion of the event, there were also five different Pedal rides, each with its own distance, route, and starting time and location. A couple of them began in the area I was in during my 90-minute wait.
I was near the head of the pedestrian crowd, on the corner of SW Naito Parkway and Morrison Street, when the Stride began at 9:00. After walking about a mile through the streets of central downtown and the Portland State University campus, we found ourselves about to go where pedestrians are not usually allowed. Following the SW 5th Avenue on-ramp, we were soon striding down the southbound lanes of I-405!
But even more thrills were to come! A mile of striding down the I-405 brought us to the apex of the upper deck of Marquam Bridge, which carries I-5 over the Willamette River. This was a high point of the event, in more ways than one!
During the Portland rush hour there can be considerable congestion at this junction of southbound I-405 and northbound I-5. But with a significant percentage of the more than 20,000 Bridge Pedal (and Stride) participants trying to cross the bridge at the same time, this was definitely not your typical traffic jam! Especially when so many riders and striders wanted to stop and take selfies with their mobile phones.
Even worse, there was live entertainment set up at the center of the bridge which further hindered the flow. This was for sure not a good place to be if you are ochlophobic!
As you can see, there was an awesome view from the top of Marquam Bridge. Especially of Portland’s first new bridge across the Willamette River in more than 40 years: the Tilikum Crossing, with its 180-foot pentagonal-shaped stay-cable towers.
Even better than viewing it from a distance was going to be walking over Tilikum Crossing in person. So we strode down the eastern slope of Marquam Bridge, exited the I-5 at SE Yamhill Street, and arrived 0.8 miles later at the Eastbank Esplanade at SE Salmon Street, on the east bank of the Willamette River.
Continuing south on the Esplanade under Hawthorne Bridge and Marquam Bridge and past the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI), another 0.85 miles of striding brought us to the eastern entrance of Tilikum Crossing.
The 2015 Bridge Pedal (and Stride) was the first time the public was allowed on the brand-new bridge, 35 days before the its official Grand Opening Celebration on September 12. This was the first and last time the event would be routed over Tilikum Crossing, as regulations prohibit the bridge’s further use for special events.
For me, it was thrilling to be one of the first (20,000!) to walk across this graceful and elegant “Bridge of the People” (translation of the Chinook Jargon).
We were funneled into the 14-foot-wide path for cyclists and pedestrians on the north side of the bridge. Because of the can-of-sardines-like crush, the riders were obliged to walk their bikes across the 1,700-foot (one-third of a mile) span. It was against the rules to stop for photos, so I had to snap pictures on the fly.
Once I arrived at the western end of the bridge, there was supposedly one mile left on the supposedly five-mile route, but according to the path I just created in Google Earth there was still two miles to go, for a total of six miles. Hmmmm....
At this point I don’t have any reason to doubt Google Earth. If you want to check it out for yourself, you can download the Google Earth Places file I created. It marks most of the Portland buildings (hint: be sure to enable the 3D Buildings option) I have photographed, as well as numerous outing routes I have followed, or plan to. For more details about this Google Earth file, see my article A Portland Google Earth Companion.
On the way back to the city center I passed under the Marquam, Hawthorne, Morrison and Burnside bridges. Finally, after six miles (according to Google), and 1 hour and 45 minutes of striding, I arrived at the finish line at the corner of SW Naito Parkway and SW Ash Street. Portland’s The Beat Goes On marching band was playing there to greet the tired and sweaty participants.
I have never done anything like the Bridge Pedal and Stride before. Oh sure, I have attended events with huge crowds. But this was the first time I was actually participating with 20,000 other people in a common, physical event.
It is hard to find the words to describe how it made me feel. There was something ... primeval ... about participating in an event with 20,000 other human beings ... something ... tribal.
Yes, it made me feel like I belonged to the tribe ... that I was a Portlander, even though I don’t live there. Whatever you want to call it, I enjoyed the rare sense of belonging which participation gave me.
By the time I reached the finish line I was suffering bladder overload due to the woefully-inadequate supply of toilet facilities along the crowded route. So I was VERY excited to find a fairly-unused row of porta-potties near the finish line — relief at last!
During my time at the event I took a total of 157 photos. The best 59 can be viewed in the new Portland Bridge Pedal and Stride 2015 album.
This outing was one of the rare occasions that I used my pocket camera rather than my larger and better quality Micro Four Thirds camera. In a future article, I will be taking a closer look at the pros and cons of my choice of equipment.
Just as I was processing these photos and writing this article in February 2016 — a disgraceful six months after the event! — tickets became available for the 21st annual Providence Bridge Pedal to be held on Sunday, August 14, 2016. Should I attend?
At first I didn’t think I would — you know ... been there, done that! But reliving last year’s event through the pictures, and remembering that tribal, belonging feeling I had, is causing me to reconsider. Maybe I should attend after all?
The five-mile (5.25 miles according to Google Earth) Stride route for 2016 will take participants to the upper deck of Fremont Bridge, which carries I-405 and U.S. 30. Like last year’s route over Marquam Bridge, the great view and rare opportunity to walk over Fremont Bridge just might win me over once again.
On February 20, 2016, Judy wrote:
Wonderful photos! I love the panoramic view of the new bridge.