Portland’s worst bike detour will be around for at least one more year

Portland’s worst bike detour will be around for at least one more year

narrow sidewalk

Of all the problems with the sidewalk along SW Macadam that’s served as a detour for part of the Willamette Greenway for the last year, this might be the silliest.
(Photos: M.Andersen/BikePortland)

A 0.7-mile bike detour between Willamette Park and the west landing of the Sellwood Bridge that steers people from a riverside trail to an unbuffered sidewalk along a four-lane state highway will probably stick around until late 2015, county communications show.

But at least the route, which includes several long street-facing curb cuts, a narrow dip into a ditch and various lightposts in the middle of the sidewalk, may not stay in use as long as project managers had until recently planned, thanks to pressure from biking and walking advocates.


Looking south, with SW Macadam Avenue on the right and the old Sellwood Bridge in the background.

Here’s the route, which takes people up from the riverside path onto the east sidewalk of Macadam.

County detour map. – Download PDF

As costs piled up on its $308 million Sellwood Bridge project, Multnomah County decided this spring to save $70,000 by scrapping plans for a temporary walking and biking bridge across Stephens Creek, just north of the bridge landing on the west bank of the Willamette River. As the county noted in its explanation for the decision, the 70-foot-long bridge would have required environmental permits for in-water work and been in use for only three to six months.

The catch, however, is that the new path between Waterfront Park and the bridge (which will, it’s worth noting, be awesome) won’t be built until 2016. The beautiful, bike-friendly new Sellwood Bridge will open in late 2015.

As Bicycle Transportation Alliance advocate Carl Larson put it, “Picture the grand opening of the new Sellwood Bridge: throngs of people walking and biking, excited to cross the new bridge, only to be dumped onto this.”


Embarrassing photo ops aside, the detour is a daily route for many bicycle riders (as you might recall from our ride-along with a Sellwood family back in May), and will continue to be for at least another year, maybe two. Note that each of the photos below comes from a different point along the route, with bike traffic headed in both directions. They’re from between 6:10 and 6:40 p.m. on Thursday.

facing north sidewalk

bush sidewalk



in lane


Larson and members of the Multnomah County Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee have been pushing for, if not a temporary bridge, some other solution that will end the detour sooner.

According to a letter from Sellwood Bridge Project spokesman Mike Pullen, forwarded by Larson, committee members floated these ideas (emphasis mine):

  • Converting a northbound lane of Hwy. 43 to a bike lane
  • Narrowing the two northbound lanes of Hwy. 43 to create a bike lane
  • Widening the sidewalk
  • Add zebra crosswalk striping in driveway
  • Shift detour route to haul road
The vehicle traffic counts and merge zones on Hwy. 43 [editor’s note: Macadam] eliminated the first three suggestions.  PBOT recommended re-striping the stop line in the driveway instead of the zebra stripes.
The committee’s suggestion to shift the detour route onto the haul road/new regional trail as soon as possible does have support from PBOT and the project team.  We are working on a plan to shift the detour onto the new regional trail as soon as the new bridge opens in late 2015.  The bridge that will carry the trail under the west end of the new bridge will not be completed in 2015, but we do think it is possible to open the trail to the north of the bridge at that time.

Here’s the “haul road” that will presumably become the future regional trail, currently in gravel and fenced off at both ends. The metal culvert visible at left carries Stephens Creek into the Willamette.

work path

Until this connection opens, be it in 2015 or 2016, don’t expect the comparatively tiny number of Portlanders who use bikes to get between Southwest Portland and the rest of the city to change. Here’s the best news for people on bikes, though: after it does, they probably won’t have to roll on this sidewalk again. People in wheelchairs won’t be so lucky.

The post Portland’s worst bike detour will be around for at least one more year appeared first on BikePortland.org.

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