Thousands of bicyclists cross Sellwood Bridge in annual ‘Bridge Pedal’

INCLUDES COOL BIKER VIDEO | They say that lots of the riders came from outer East Portland to participate. See what it looked like as they crossed this iconic bridge …

Although it isn’t a bicycle race, these riders are leading the way – with thousands of bikers following them, along the Springwater Corridor Trail – as the 2023 Providence Bridge Pedal nears the Sellwood Bridge.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton

Motorists crossing the Sellwood Bridge early on Sunday morning, August 13, appeared surprised to see a stream of bicyclists riding west in the eastbound bike lane and sidewalk. But it happens every year; the 2023 Providence Bridge Pedal was underway.

Take a look at this video, and see some of the thousands of bike riders coming to, and making their way over the Sellwood Bridge:

However, the surprise was understandable, because, for the last two years, there’ve been no signs warning drivers of traffic lane closures on the bridge for this annual event, leaving them unaware of it until they saw the riders appear on the bridge.

It isn’t long until the first major pack of riders pedal into the area.

Passing under the viaduct, riders will soon circle around, and head west on the Sellwood Bridge.

“A few years back, due to a change in City of Portland policies, we could no longer ride through Sellwood; and it looked as if we’d have to take the Sellwood Bridge off our route,” Bridge Pedal organizer Rick Eauman told East Portland News.

However, in 2016, by routing participants from the Ross Island Bridge crossing down along the Springwater Corridor Trail solved that issue. “Then, refining the route by having riders stay on the Trail and cross under the Sellwood Bridge alleviated the major bottleneck created by their coming up S.E. Grand Avenue, to get onto the bridge,” Eauman said.

After turning off the Springwater Corridor Trail, heading east on Umatilla Street briefly, bikers ride north on S.E 6th Avenue for two blocks to turn west on the Sellwood Bridge.

Soon the Sellwood Bridge is packed with bikers.

As to how many riders there actually were on the 23-mile “Fremont Express” and the 20-mile “Main Ride” routes that took them across both the Ross Island Bridge and Sellwood Bridge, Eauman couldn’t say. “We had about 5,000 participants sign up – but, due to the forecast for really hot weather, some of them didn’t come, or dropped out.”

Noticing the number of riders zooming across up the incline of the Sellwood Bridge – without pedaling, we asked Eauman what the electric bike riders do if their battery gives out after 15 miles. “In that case, they’ll have to pedal, like everyone else,” he grinned.

At the apex of the Sellwood Bridge, many riders stop for a brief rest and take in the beauty of this view of the Willamette River.

Some walk up the Sellwood Bridge incline while others keep on riding.

“With the number of electric bikes increasing every year, it’s becoming an issue, because they go faster than human powered riders,” Eauman conceded. But of course, this is not a race.

“We encourage electric bike riders to ride with the flow of traffic – and remind them that this is non-competitive, community bike ride over Portland’s Willamette River bridges. But, we may have to establish some new rules or guidelines for the 2024 event,” said Eauman.

It’s “rush hour” during the 2023 Providence Bridge Pedal – but the annual event nears its end as the last riders cross the Sellwood Bridge.

Stay in touch with the annual Portland Bridge Pedal by visiting their official website: CLICK HERE.

© 2023 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News™


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