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Washington Park reservoir project will close popular biking routes – UPDATED

Washington Park reservoir project will close popular biking routes – UPDATED

Ride Along with Stasia Honnold-43

If you ride/commute through Washington Park, you might have to change your route.
(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

Get ready for yet another construction project that will impact biking routes.

Starting two weeks from now, on September 12th, the Portland Water Bureau will begin their Reservoir Improvements Project in Washington Park. The construction of a new 12.4 million gallon reservoir and other upgrades to two existing reservoirs will last for 12 to 18 months.

There will be significant impacts to nearby roads that will include complete closures — including bicycling traffic.

The most notable closure will be to SW Sherwood and SW Sacajawea roads — both of which are part of the main cycling route through Washington Park.

Here’s the key information:

In the map below you’ll see where the roads will be completely closed and where the city plans to construct a temporary path to maintain through access connections for people walking and rolling:

For more details and a larger version of the detour map, visit the official project website.

UPDATE, 12:36pm on 8/30: Just got more info from the city about how the project will impact the Madison Court Trail:

Beginning September 12, 2016 and lasting for 12 to 18 months (March 2018), the Madison Court trail will be closed intermittently for piping work. When the trail is temporarily closed, signage will be placed at the intersection of where SW Madison Street connects with the trail’s entrance and at the intersection of where SW Sacajawea Blvd. connects with the trail.

When the Madison Court trail is open, pedestrians and cyclists can enter the trail:

· From SW Jefferson St., to SW Murray Ln., to SW Madison Street, travel up the switchbacks, exit the trail on SW Sacajawea Blvd., and then travel up the hill into the park using the multi-use shared path on SW Lewis Clark Way, further connecting to SW Rose Park Rd., SW Wright Ave., SW Marconi Ave., etc.

· Using the multi-use shared path beginning on SW Sacajawea Blvd, travel down the hill using SW Lewis Clark Way, connect onto SW Sacajawea Blvd., and enter the Madison Court trail

When the Madison Court trail is closed, pedestrians and cyclists can:

· From SW Jefferson St., to SW Murray Ln., to SW Madison Street, to SW Ardmore Ave., to SW Park Pl., and then travel up the hill into the park using the multi-use shared path on SW Lewis Clark Way, further connecting to SW Rose Park Rd., SW Wright Ave., SW Marconi Ave., etc.

· Using the multi-use shared path beginning on SW Sacajawea Blvd, travel down the hill using SW Lewis Clark Way, connect to SW Park Pl, turn right onto SW Ardmore Ave., turn right on SW Madison St., to SW Murry Ln, to SW Jefferson St.

— Jonathan Maus, (503) 706-8804 –

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#WorkzoneFTW? City may require walking and biking routes around building sites

#WorkzoneFTW? City may require walking and biking routes around building sites

brian rod

A proposed city policy would require builders to look for a way around.
(Photo: M.Andersen/BikePortland)

A proposed policy before the city council Wednesday would withhold city permits from builders that block sidewalks or bike lanes around their work sites without first considering reuse of parking and travel lanes.

The action comes after a months-long social media campaign from Oregon Walks and the Bicycle Transportation Alliance, which evolved out of a years-long behind-the-scenes effort by the BTA.

The city’s draft policy stops short of saying that walking, biking or traveling by mobility device are always higher priorities in work zones than traveling by car. Instead, it says that walking and biking routes should only be blocked if no other option is “practicable.” Here’s some other relevant language:

A temporary pedestrian route should be given priority over other facilities. A temporary pedestrian route should be given priority over vehicular traffic except when resulting in excessive delay to transit, excessive congestion in violation of mobility standards, or a pedestrian route that is less safe.

When sidewalks must be closed, the policy seems to recommend merging bike and foot traffic in a bike lane or bike and car traffic in a general travel lane before restricting auto access to a travel lane.

Here’s the ordered list of contingencies for a sidewalk closure:

priority list

There’s no indication here of what a “multi-use path” needs to consist of, other than trying to prompt people walking and biking to share space. And for whatever reason, there’s no explicit mention of narrowing lanes in that list.

When bike lanes are affected, though, narrowing lanes does come up as an option. Here’s the contingency list for bike lane closures:

priority list for biking

In that list, there’s no discussion of repurposing a parking lane.

In their proposal to the city, Oregon Walks and the BTA had specified “on-street parking or additional vehicle lanes” as possible places to find the space for continuous walking and biking routes. (Their proposal was built on research by former BTA intern Ruben Montes.)

In separate clauses, the city’s proposed policy says that “pedestrians should be separated from motor vehicular traffic and cycles” and that “cyclists should be separated from motor vehicle traffic and pedestrians.”

Throughout the proposed city policy, the word “should” refers to actions builders would take under “normal conditions.” City transportation staff would interpret this standard. The transportation director would have the right to revoke a permit for a site that’s failing to comply with the new policy or with the traffic control plans that builders will have to provide in advance.

A few other significant sentences from the policy proposal:

• “Pedestrian detours should not last more than 3 days in Pedestrian Districts & Pedestrian Walkways, or 1 week on a local service street.”

• “Both sidewalks on a block should not be closed simultaneously.”

• “If the work zone affects an accessible and ADA compliant pedestrian route, the accessibility and ADA compliant features along a temporary route shall be provided in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.”

Seattle adopted a similar set of rules for pedestrian access last year, but hasn’t yet assembled its policy for bike access. Here’s a useful chart by Seattle Bike Blog’s Tom Fucoloro that shows a recommended order in which street space could be repurposed if necessary for walking space:

Even if the various ambiguities here aren’t clarified, Portland’s proposed policy would represent a significant victory for walking and biking advocates. Until now, there’s been no single point of reference for work zone plans that the city’s various bureaus, most of which report to different city commissioners, can consult. The result has been a range of designs from the excellent to the impassable.

In March, Oregon Walks and the BTA launched a campaign they called “WorkzoneWTF,” urging people to share terrible work zone designs on Instagram and Twitter. A few examples:

But there have been good examples, too, which people sometimes labeled with the rearranged hashtag “WorkzoneFTW” — “for the win.”

Some people also shared examples from other cities:

Portland is growing up — that’s why most of these work zones are here, after all. As a city becomes denser and people don’t have to travel as far to reach things they need, traffic from walking (and, in some cases, biking) eventually reach the point where a sidewalk or bike lane closure will disrupt auto traffic with or without a plan. It’s good to see city leaders making efforts to force these conversations before the conflicts happen rather than afterward.

Thanks to Elliot Njus at The Oregonian for first reporting on Wednesday’s council action.

Update 6/29: The policy passed the city council unanimously.

— Michael Andersen, (503) 333-7824 –

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TriMet work on 1st Ave will mean smoother pavement and crowded trains

TriMet work on 1st Ave will mean smoother pavement and crowded trains


Damaged track switches on 1st Avenue.
(Photos: J.Maus/BikePortland)

“The trains will be so crowded that cyclists will be waiting to get into a train.”
— TriMet spokeswoman Roberta Altstadt on MAX overcrowding during the project

Here’s the good news: the badly worn pavement on NW 1st Avenue, an important but unpleasant biking connection to the Steel Bridge and Waterfront Park, is about to be fixed.

Here’s the bad news: the repair project will snarl TriMet’s entire light rail system for two weeks next month, cutting the frequency of every MAX line and leading to extremely crowded trains that will probably be unable to fit bikes.

That’s why TriMet is urging people to avoid taking bikes on MAX during the repair work, May 8-21.

Instead, the agency suggest that people leave their bikes at MAX stations or at home, shift their commute hours or else simply avoid the MAX.

“This is our oldest section of the MAX,” TriMet spokeswoman Roberta Altstadt said Monday. “You reach a time in any light rail system that you need to do this work, and our time is now.”

The section of rail, switches and pavement to be repaired or replaced runs along 1st Avenue from the Morrison Bridge north to Davis Street. The switches (which let trains switch between tracks as needed) and a curved section of rail near the Morrison Bridge have been worn from 30 years of use.

After the work is done, the pavement should resemble 11th Avenue in the Lloyd District, where TriMet did similar track work in 2014 and which is now much more pleasant to bike across.

Because the Red and Blue MAX lines run on 1st Avenue, the track work will force many trains to turn around in odd locations, a time-consuming process that will force the transit agency to reduce frequencies throughout the MAX system. The Orange Line, for example, will remain on its usual route but will run every 20 minutes during rush hours instead of every 12 — a 40 percent reduction in total seating capacity.

The Yellow, Green, Blue and Red lines will see similar frequency cuts.

“With the reduced frequency, the trains will be very, very crowded,” Altstadt said. “Our concern is that the trains will be so crowded that cyclists will be waiting to get into a train.”

bikes on max

Don’t count on it.

The Red Line, meanwhile, will not serve the west side of the metro area at all; instead, Blue Line trains will run every 10 minutes during rush hour, and every 15 minutes other hours, between downtown Hillsboro and Galleria on the west end of downtown Portland.

Red, Yellow and Orange trains will share the transit mall. The Green Line will run between Rose Quarter and Clackamas Town Center only. A fleet of temporary shuttle-bus lines will serve SW 2nd and 3rd Avenues, getting people closer to the closed MAX stops on 1st. Here’s an animation explaining the various changes:

You can also see a summary of the changes here and learn more about the repair project here.

Altstadt said Monday that she believes most of the crossings of 1st Avenue will remain open to people biking and walking during most of the project.

“Currently it looks like the only streets that will be affected that cross 1st Avenue are Couch and Ankeny,” she said.

All of these transit changes will make biking relatively more efficient, which in some ways fits well with the Bicycle Transportation Alliance’s Bike More Challenge, which this year is being held in May for the first time. Unfortunately, it also means that new bikers will have a harder time leaning on overcrowded MAX cars for parts of their journey.

“Several voices were considering is it going to be so packed that we should really ban bikes,” Jeff Owen, TriMet’s active transportation coordinator, said Monday. But the agency decided against that.

“It’s really going to be congested,” Owen concluded. The bottom line is that bike-and-MAX travel should become a “last option” for riders.

“We hate to say ‘consider other transportation options,’ but this is just a necessary project,” Altstadt said. “We just need to get through this two-week period.”

biking to train

Ahh, that’s better: NE 11th Avenue after its 2014 repairs.
(Photo: M.Andersen/BikePortland)

— Michael Andersen, (503) 333-7824 –

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Detour done right: 21st and Belmont shows how construction zones should work

Detour done right: 21st and Belmont shows how construction zones should work

lead diversion

A contractor’s trailer blocked sidewalk and bike lane, so the city temporarily removed some parking to keep the routes open.
(Photos: Michael Andersen/BikePortland)

Three months ago, there were so many construction zones encroaching on walking and biking routes that a few Portlanders organized a walking tour of downtown’s worst offenders. So today we’re happy to take a moment to recognize a detour that the city has handled beautifully.

The city prioritized walking, biking, bus and freight access over free on-street parking spaces.

It’s at SE 21st and Belmont, where a big new apartment building is going up. Like on many of these projects, contractors have set up a fenced-in trailer along the sidewalk and curbside — in this case right in the path of the bike lane that runs up Belmont at this point.

But unlike on many projects, the city has worked with contractors to create a great detour for people walking and biking through this commercial district. A detour sign prompts people to the left, into one of the two parallel auto travel lanes:

two lanes

The resulting design pushes cars fairly close to the left (north) side of Belmont, so the city temporarily removed a handful of parking spaces to ensure that wide auto traffic can keep flowing.

Essentially, the city prioritized walking, biking, bus and freight access over free on-street parking spaces.

The design cleverly uses what would usually be the dashed line between two auto lanes to become the line between people walking and biking. At the east side of the detour, the city has added a new temporary stripe to guide people back into their usual lanes:

stripe back to place

Here’s the view from the other direction, looking west:

looking backward

You can see that (despite the man in the first photo on this post) the bike lane is eastbound as usual while the temporary walking lane is bidirectional, just like the sidewalk.

It’s great that the city is working to address these issues. City spokesman John Brady said Wednesday that this is a Bureau of Transportation joint.

One big reason different detours are so different in how they treat people using nearby streets is that different detours are designed by different city bureaus, and there’s no overarching citywide policy that has ever gotten every bureau to design its detours with care. With our neighbors in Seattle celebrating a new policy that specifies the rules for closing sidewalks in construction zones, we can hope and expect that this is a sign that Portland’s internal efforts are improving, too.

— Michael Andersen, (503) 333-7824 –

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Here’s the latest on Broadway Bridge path closures and obstructions

Here’s the latest on Broadway Bridge path closures and obstructions

Broadway Bridge construction scenes-1.jpg

With a flagger present, one person stops to wait for eastbound traffic on the north sidewalk on September 25th.
(Photos © J. Maus/BikePortland)

It’s been about 15 weeks since Multnomah County embarked on a major project to repaint and repair large sections of the the Broadway Bridge. And according to what we’re hearing from some of you, despite adjustments and additional measures being taken by the County, the construction zone is still causing significant safety issues.

Here’s what reader Jeremy Pair tweeted just a few minutes ago:

class="twitter-tweet" width="500">

@BikePortland Do you know the appropriate channel to make the city aware the Broadway Bridge bike route is completely unsafe and absurd?

— Jeremy Pair (@jeremypair) September 28, 2015

Another reader emailed us last week to say he feels the way the bridge paths are being managed is, “Extremely dangerous currently and I am concerned for the safety of myself and others.”
Here are a few more recent photos that document the conditions:

Broadway Bridge construction scenes-2.jpg


Mayor Hales now knows about the issue after riding across the bridge Monday morning.

The scaffolding takes about half of the ten-foot pathway.

Bike riders dismount to slow up for someone walking in the same direction.

Waiting for “all clear” from flagger.

We’ve been forwarding those and other complaints directly to Multnomah County. To their credit they have responded. However, despite their efforts to improve the situation, the narrowness of the paths and the intermittent closures are still causing anxiety and headaches for many people.

After our reporting last month, the County stepped up even further. In the past few weeks we’ve noticed that when one of the two paths is closed flaggers have been positions at the eastern and western entries to the bridge. The flaggers stop traffic to allow people to travel without people biking and walking in the opposition direction. When the northern path is closed during the morning rush (when it’s needed most by people coming from the north into downtown), I’ve also noticed construction crew members standing on the corner of N Larrabee and Broadway directing people who come buy and hitting the “beg button” to make sure a green walk sign comes on.

Some of you have asked why they have to have so much scaffolding and why they can’t provide more notice before closing the paths. We recently asked County spokesman Mike Pullen for an update and here’s what he said via email in response:

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“The contractor erects metal scaffolding and a containment structure around the areas to be painted to protect the workers, bridge users and the environment. Inside the containment, the contractor blasts off the old lead-based paint and adds three layers of paint, removing rust and replacing steel rivets that have deteriorated.

The scaffolding takes up some room on the two bridge sidewalks because the truss structure adjacent to the sidewalk is being repainted. The railings on the outside of the sidewalk will also be painted, at the end of the project.

We’ve managed to keep at least one sidewalk open at all times. We understand that having two-way bicycle and pedestrian traffic use a single sidewalk (that has pinch points where scaffolding has been installed) is a burden for sidewalk users. So we’ve taken steps to ensure sidewalk users are safe and provide the most access at peak times.”

In addition to the flaggers and increased worker presence, Pullen confirmed that they’ve installed more signs on the main bike routes that approach the bridge that warn people of the conditions and encourage them to use the Steel Bridge as an alternate.

Pullen has also reiterated to the contractor that the sidewalks must remain open in the peak commute direction. That is, the north sidewalk should always be open in the morning and the south sidewalk should be open in the evening (“unless there’s an emergency”).

Pullen says they realize the uncertainties around the closures are frustrating but “The nature of the work makes it hard to predict when and how long a sidewalk will be closed.”

We expect to be dealing with this for several more months. The project isn’t scheduled for completion until March 2016. Learn more at the County’s website.

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County responds to Broadway Bridge path closure complaints

County responds to Broadway Bridge path closure complaints


A County project on the Broadway Bridge has resulted in detours and intermittent closures.
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

Multnomah County is in the midst of a major project to repaint the Broadway Bridge. When that work results in the closure or narrowing of the bridge’s biking and walking paths, some bicycle riders feel the County should do more predictable detours and safer conditions in the work zones.

Here’s what reader Dan C. emailed us on August 17th:

Upon crossing the Broadway Bridge at about 9:30 this morning came across a pack of people that were all confused as to what to do. Cars were allowed through 1 lane in each direction, but the west-bound sidewalk was completely shut down and no directions at all as to what to do.

I ended up going slowly between the two rails and had a small gang behind me. This is pretty harrowing though because 1′ in either direction means an instant crash and a mangled bike (along with a mangled me)… Additionally it’s unsafe to go on the Eastbound side of the sidewalk as a good section of that sidewalk is already too narrow to safely get a single bike, much less 2 bikes in opposite directions.

There also weren’t any signs on Interstate Southbound or Broadway Westbound indicating that there would be issues.

Once again, cycling as transit is a lingering afterthought during any construction project.

And two days later we got a similar email from reader Matt O:

I’m not one to complain, but the Broadway Bridge bike lane closure has made me, as a bike commuter, feel like a second class form of commuting. I say this because there is nothing, that I can find, informing bicycles that the 1) one sidewalk would be closed and 2) that the other one would be single file. It would be nice to know if biking on the Broadway Bridge car lanes should be considered, because the sidewalk is becoming a serious safety issue. I know there is work to do on the bridge, but I’d like there to be more readily available information for us bicyclists (not just on this site). And if someone in the city saw the cluster*%*$ on the one, two-way, single file sidewalk they’d immediately attempt to remedy the situation (or at least that is my hope).

For me, I’m going to start biking on the roadway because the sidewalk is becoming a hazard for those people walking and they deserve feeling safe on their commute more so than a bicyclist.

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I forwarded both of these emails to Mike Pullen in Multnomah County’s communications office. He said they were “surprised” that some people found their signs confusing.

Here’s more from Pullen’s response:

“We realize that closing one of the Broadway Bridge sidewalks is inconvenient for the many bicyclists and pedestrians that use the bridge. However, we are a little surprised that some sidewalk users are confused by our detour signs directing them where to safely cross to the open sidewalk.

Our staff working in the field report that some bicyclists are riding past barricades and “Sidewalk Closed” signs and then crossing lanes of bridge traffic when they get to the closed section of the sidewalk.

We’ve sent out news releases, tweets (@MultCoBridges) and updated our website to get the word out about the sidewalk closures.”

Pullen also told me that the County is working with the project contractor on a plan that will close just one sidewalk for several weeks; but will keep the other sidewalk completely open without any scaffolding or barriers. I’ll share more about that new plan in the next week or so.

In the meantime, keep us posted on your experiences with this project via email or Twitter (@BikePortland). You can also email your concerns directly to Mr. Pullen at

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Police response to Greenpeace action closes south sidewalk of St Johns Bridge (updated)

Police response to Greenpeace action closes south sidewalk of St Johns Bridge (updated)


Activists hang from the St. Johns Bridge
to block an oil ship’s passage.
(Photo: Greenpeace USA)

Update 5:45 p.m.: Police now say that only the southeast sidewalk (upstream, closer to downtown Portland) is closed and that officers were mistaken when they previously blocked people from crossing the bridge on bike or foot.

“It was just that someone didn’t get told,” Portland Police Bureau spokesman Sgt. Greg Stewart said Wednesday evening. “We’re just having people use the other side of the street.”

An updated version of the original post follows.

Some Portland police officers ordered the sidewalks of the St. Johns bridge closed to foot and bike traffic in response to a direct action on the bridge Wednesday.

Late Wednesday, police changed their operation and closed only the southeast (upstream) sidewalk to people on foot or bike.

The action, organized by environmental group Greenpeace, aims to block a Shell Oil ship from heading to the Arctic. The Oregonian and other outlets reported Wednesday that activists are prepared to remain dangling from the bridge by rope for days. A police spokesman said the sidewalks would remain closed until the rope-sitters are gone.

The bridge is the only bike-foot crossing of the Willamette River between Longview, 50 miles to the northwest, and the Broadway Bridge in downtown Portland. The lanes of the bridge, which have relatively high speeds and low-visibility but are marked with sharrows, remain open to people on bikes and in motor vehicles.

Hamilton described the Greenpeace action as “to stop an icebreaker from leaving for the polar ice cap, or at least what’s left of it.”

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sharrows on St Johns Bridge-6

Sharrows were added to the St. Johns Bridge in 2012.

Portland Police Bureau spokesman Sgt. Greg Stewart said Wednesday that his understanding is that police officers will be stationed at the sidewalks on the bridge landings, turning sidewalk traffic back. Stewart said there are “several” reasons to close the sidewalks, but that the “primary” one is the safety of the demonstrators.

“The ropes are accessible, and there could be conflict between the parties up there and other people crossing,” Stewart said. “We want to be extra certain given that they’re hanging, it looks like a couple hundred feet in the air, that they’re safe.”

“There’s a whole host of things that can happen when people are 300 feet over a railing and things are really tense,” Stewart said. “Until that’s resolved, there won’t be any pedestrian traffic.”

Oregon Department of Transportation spokesman Don Hamilton said Wednesday that his agency, which oversees the bridge, is complying with a police request early this morning to close the sidewalk.

Hamilton said the demonstrations began around 1 a.m. Wednesday. The Portland Mercury has a summary of the action itself.

“We have no estimated time right now for reopening,” Hamilton said.

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Dear everywhere else: This is how to do a detour. Sincerely, Multnomah County

Dear everywhere else: This is how to do a detour. Sincerely, Multnomah County

detour done right fb2

Service work on the Burnside Bridge Thursday, perfectly executed.
(Photos: M.Andersen/BikePortland)

With a few dozen orange cones and minimal fuss, a team of bridge inspectors and a county traffic safety specialist assembled a perfect Portland-quality detour on the Burnside Bridge Thursday.

It might seem like a small matter, but anyone who’s ridden a bike or walked near many construction detours knows how frequent it is for them to push people into mixed-traffic lanes rather than meddle with the flow of cars — even on streets that are far wider than they need to be for cars to keep flowing freely.

The good things about this short-term, lightly mobile midday detour started right at the beginning, with the well-placed warning signs:

sign placement

Closer to the heavy machinery, the bike lane peeled off gracefully, while the machinery itself remained clear of the sidewalk:

detour done right fb

With the cones in place, it was perfectly comfortable to merge left and ride in the bike lane next to traffic moving 30 mph or more, while also staying clear of the trucks on the right. Coming across the bridge at 2:30 p.m., there didn’t seem to be any traffic congestion issue.

detour no bike

Bike Gallery warehouse sale!

The cones continued for a bit on the west side of the detour, letting people decide when to merge right into the bike lane or whether to remain straight in preparation for the shared-lane descent into downtown.

looking back at detour

The detour was the work of Kevin Smith, a county employee assigned to support the private bridge inspection contractors during their annual job hanging over the side of the bridge.

“We just had a brainstorm in the morning,” Smith said when I stopped to ask what the planning looked like. “We try to do it the best way possible without obstructing and keep everybody safe.”

kevin smith

Smith mentioned that not everyone on a bike is going to use the detour, with some exercising their judgment that the main travel lanes are safer. Every person I saw pedal past seemed stress-free and content to be using it, though.

All in all, this was a detour that perfectly upheld this famous image in the city-county Climate Action Plan:

green hierarchy

It was enough to make you wish the Burnside had physical separators to improve the bridge’s bike lanes on every other day of the year, too.

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As full waterfront loop reopens, here’s an endless GIF of riding Portland’s gem

As full waterfront loop reopens, here’s an endless GIF of riding Portland’s gem

Keep on trucking.
(GIF by Will Vanlue)

After a year of seismic upgrade work to the firehouse just north of the Hawthorne Bridge’s east landing, Portland’s Eastbank Esplanade is fully open once again.

Though the detour was less than a city block, it’s been a long construction period for the ring that’s sometimes referred to, along with Waterfront Park, as Portland’s “inner loop.” Just south of the Hawthorne, the Esplanade was also closed near OMSI for much of the last year as part of TriMet’s work on the new Tilikum Crossing bridge.

The firehouse work, whose detours were managed by Portland Fire and Rescue, wrapped up about a week ago.

At some point before that happened, local bike lover (and former BikePortland contributor) Will Vanlue made an animated GIF of a full midday loop he took around the waterfront. He released it yesterday and has given us permission to share. (Hat tip to Reddit Portland.)

It’s a great reminder of what a treasure we have at the heart of our city — a little route that’s worthy of being designated as the state’s first “scenic bikeway” in an urban area.

You might also enjoy this post from last year: Padlock placemaking on the Esplanade.

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