Multnomah County bought a tiny car to avoid blocking a bridge path

Multnomah County bought a tiny car to avoid blocking a bridge path

The County's new fit-on-the-bridge-but-not-block-the-path car.

The County’s new fit-on-the-bridge-but-not-block-the-path car.

How far would your county go to maintain the integrity of a path?

Multnomah County has added a new, very small car to its fleet. The reason? So that it won’t get in the way of people walking and rolling on the Morrison Bridge.

Not smart.(Photo: Scott Kocher)

Not smart.
(Photo: Scott Kocher)

You might recall back in February when we reported on an annoying issue: The car used by County bridge crews to drive to the small office located mid-span on the Morrison often blocked the path. We heard about this from several readers and it become enough of a thing that we posted a story about it and notified the County. Initially County spokesman Mike Pullen said the crew members were doing what they were supposed to do, which is to park “the smallest car possible… so that the path can still be used.” He also said it didn’t ever happen for extended periods of time.

But that wasn’t good enough. The car County employees were using was still sticking out into the path. And so, because this is Portland where take our paths seriously, the complaints kept coming. And the County kept listening.

On July 27th we were cc’d on an email to the County from Scott Kocher, a Portland-based lawyer and board member of Oregon Walks. “There is a Multnomah County car parked in the bicycle/pedestrian lane of the Morrison Bridge,” he wrote. “It has been there a while, and there is not obviously anything urgent going on. Does the County follow a policy on parking in the bike/ped lane?”

He got a reply from Pullen saying once again that they need to park on the bridge as a security precaution because operators work in the control tower around-the-clock. Then he added something unexpected: “A Smart car is being purchased that will be used by the bridge operator in the near future, to resolve this problem.”

This morning it actually happened! Pullen sent us a photo of the new Smart car tucked nicely to the side of the path. In a follow-up he said they purchased the new car (about $15,000 retail) to replace one in the County fleet that was retired. “After noting that the old car partially blocked the bike path, we opted to order a smaller car, which does not block the path.”

This may seem like a small thing, but Portland is full of tiny little miracles like this where people speak up and our local governments listen and then do something to address the problem. And a lot of little things eventually add up to something big.

— Jonathan Maus, (503) 706-8804 –

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