Why does Multnomah County allow auto parking on the Morrison Bridge bike path?

Why does Multnomah County allow auto parking on the Morrison Bridge bike path?


Not a parking spot. Or is it?
(Photo: Jason J.)

Have you ever noticed a car parked on the Morrison Bridge bicycling and walking path?

As one of Portland’s precious few pieces of physically protected, non-motorized travel space it sure seems like a bad place to park. It would be one thing if this was a rogue private citizen, but in this case the cars belong to Multnomah County employees.

We first heard about this phenomenon last October from a reader named Jason J. Here’s an excerpt from his email:

“This is the third time in the past month that there have been cars parked on the path. The first 2 times, the cars weren’t marked and it looked like there was some work being done in the control towers, but this time, no one was around, just the car in the path. I don’t see county vehicles parking in car lanes to access the control booths on this or any other bridges, so I wonder why they think it is acceptable to park on a sidewalk/bike path here.”

Then we heard about the issue again on Monday afternoon via @sharrowPDX on Twitter:

So what’s the deal?

County spokesman Mike Pullen says the cars belong to bridge operators and electricians who need to work in the tower. Pullen confirmed that current policy allows these staff members to drive to the tower and park. “We ask them to not block the path for users. We don’t want a vehicle parked there for an extended period,” Pullen said in an initial email.

We sent Pullen the image in our lead photo at the top of this story. He said the staffer was doing as advised and that the car was parked “so that the path could still be used.”

Pullen then did a bit more digging and found out that the reason county employees park on the path has to do with security concerns. Here’s more from one of his emails:

“For the security of employees working the night shift, the Morrison Bridge operator parks a vehicle by the bridge tower, on the outside edge of the path. Before this practice, the operator parked their vehicle off the bridge nearby. But we had repeated incidents of car break-ins.”

Pullen added that the Morrison bridge operator used to set out traffic cones and/or barricades around the parked car, but stopped doing that after those items were thrown into the river by passersby.

Pullen and the county acknowledge that parking a car on the bridge path is not ideal. To lessen the confusion and impact, he says they plan on marking the space and having employees drive “the smallest car possible.”

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

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