This morning I rode in the annual Portland Bridge Pedal, a mass bike ride for which the city closes its major bridges in one or both directions, and blocks off a number of streets as well. You have the option of doing six, eight or ten bridges, at 14, 24 and 36 miles, respectively. (The routes are up at www.providence.org/oregon/events/bridge_pedal/) Since I was starting from home, which would add another 14 miles to my round trip, I unhesitatingly went for the low-end itinerary.
We got off to a slow start because of the sheer number of participants; they'd expected 15,000 people and 20,000 showed up. We had to push our bikes halfway across the Hawthorne Bridge before we could finally hop on and ride. There was even more congestion and a long wait at the approach to the Ross Island Bridge. The first three photos illustrate the problem. The top shot is the trudge across the Hawthorne, and the next two show the bottleneck at the Ross Island, looking forward and back. Looking back made me feel a tiny bit better; it's the Schadenfreude factor.
Once we made it to the roadbed of the Ross Island, though, the rest of the way was fairly smooth sailing. Booths were set up at the crests of the Marquam and Fremont Bridges and a carnival-like atmosphere prevailed. The rest of the pics feature the Fremont Bridge, and the view therefrom. I wondered whether there was a correlation between the suicide prevention hotline signs and the presence of a bagpipe band. On both bridges, we could wheel in to have our photos taken. They'll be available online within 48 hours; if mine turn out I'll post them.
My favorite parts of the ride were coasting down from the Marquam Bridge onto I-5 -- riding a bike on the freeway felt deliciously transgressive! -- and again, riding faster, probably, than I ever have in my life, down from the summit of the Fremont Bridge. The whole trip, from starting line to finish, took me 2.5 hours, including the long wait to get onto the Ross Island. Early on, during the standing and trudging phases, I thought "well, this is my first and last time for the Bridge Pedal." Guess what: I've changed my mind.
Yesterday, I ran into some people who, when I told them I was planning to do the Bridge Pedal, responded enthusiastically, "There's nothing like it; you will own Portland." I see what they meant. Riding the bridges, at your own pace, shows you the city in a way that's both intimate and majestic. Next year, knock wood, maybe I'll go for eight.