No Tilikum crossing for Bridge Pedal this year

No Tilikum crossing for Bridge Pedal this year

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Turns out it was a rare treat.
(Photo: M. Andersen/BikePortland)

If you were one of the 20,000 or so people who crossed the Tilikum Bridge during Bridge Pedal last year you are now a part of history.

That’s because it won’t be included in the 2016 version.

After years of construction and anticipation, TriMet’s Tilikum Bridge opened to the public on Sunday, August 9th 2015. It was sweet timing for Bridge Pedal participants, who earned bragging rights for being part of the first wave of people to ever go across it. The bridge was the marquee attraction for last yeart’s event and it featured prominently on all four routes. But the Bridge Pedal/Tilikum relationship might have been nothing more than a torrid a one-day stand.

“Our priority is to keep MAX, buses and Portland Streetcar operating and we are unable to halt it for this event.”
— TriMet

Rick Baumann, the organizer of Bridge Pedal, told us he wanted to put Tilikum on the route again this year (the 21st annual ride slated for August 14th) but a new TriMet policy made it impossible. Since last year TriMet no longer allows permits for events that cross their streetcar and light rail tracks. That means the 20,000-plus riders of Bridge Pedal would have to stay on the northside path and enter and/or exit from the Springwater path near OMSI and SW Moody. “That is an impossible configuration for Bridge Pedal,” Baumann says. (Note that Baumann added bus traffic would not have been impacted.)

Last fall he asked TriMet to suspend MAX and streetcar service until 10:30 am on the Sunday morning of his event and was told by the agency they were unwilling to do so.





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When I asked TriMet why Tilikum was left off this year’s route, they said it was Bridge Pedal’s decision. When I asked Baumann, he said it was TriMet decision. After a follow-up with Baumann, he acknowledged that technically it was his decision. “I guess you could say I chose not to apply to include Tilikum Crossing, but I did so only because I was told the request would certainly be denied.”

After Baumann emailed TriMet about his decision to leave the bridge off the route in 2016, TriMet replied by writing, “TriMet certainly enjoyed partnering with Bridge Pedal in August for a momentous opening event. However, we think you have made the right decision.”

When asked about the decision on Friday, TriMet spokesperson Mary Fetsch told us, “Our priority is to keep MAX, buses and Portland Streetcar operating and we are unable to halt it for this event.”

Halting rail traffic is certainly not in TriMet’s interest, especially coming off a 2015 where it posted its worst record of reliability in over a decade. The Oregonian reported last month that one way TriMet hopes to imoprove reliability is by new, “policies and procedures that prioritize getting trains moving.” It appears Bridge Pedal is one of the first victims of that policy.

While some people might be disappointed, it seems to me the big thrill of Bridge Pedal is pedaling a bridge that’s usually open only for driving (like the Marquam and Fremont). Because the Tilikum is the only bridge where driving is not allowed, you can pretty much have that same, thrilling Bridge Pedal experience on it 24/7/365.

— Jonathan Maus, (503) 706-8804 – jonathan@bikeportland.org

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