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Portland: Bike Rush Hour on the Hawthorne Bridge

The first time you visit Portland, Oregon, the gaggles of cyclists streaming over the Hawthorne Bridge during rush hour is a sight you will never forget. It's something other cities need to see and be inspired by.

On a recent vacation there, I couldn't resist cranking out a Streetfilms shortie, so I naturally hooked up with Crank My Chain's Dan Kaufman to capture the essence of the PM rush and talk to cyclists about what it feels like to be a part of the mass of cyclist humanity in Southeast Portland, Hawthorne corridor. As Greg Raisman from Portland's Bureau of Transportation pointed out: 20% of all traffic on the Hawthorne Bridge is bikes. And, Portland's number of cyclists has risen 600% in the last fifteen years and shows no sign of letting up.

[music]
Clarence Eckerson Jr.: [0:14] Everybody, I am in Portland, Oregon at the foot of the Hawthorne Bridge, and this is Bike Rush Hour. [music]

[0:20] Every time I come to Portland, it's just so exciting to see the cyclists on the road. Look at this. This is coming off the Hawthorne Bridge. This is not some kind of magic, or chicane area, or Industrial Light and Magic. This isn't some kind of special ride, or critical mass that is going on today. This happens just about every day in Portland.

[music]

[0:46] I'm here with Greg Raisman from the Portland Bureau of Transportation. Greg knows a lot about stats. Tell us something.

Greg Raisman: [0:57] Raisman: Well, the bridge behind me is the Hawthorne Bridge, which is a great place because it carries 7,200 across it every day. That's about 20 percent of vehicle trips for that bridge, and we're seeing it go up more and more every year.
Clarence Eckerson Jr.: [1:11] We're at Hawthorne and Southeast 11th Avenue. Hopefully some of these wonderful cyclists that are coming up want to talk to us about what it's like to be riding amongst... Just with a big group of people when they're riding home.
Speaker: [1:22] It's a great way to ride home, with a gazillion people just cruising down the Hawthorne bridge.
Speaker: [1:26] You've got real traffic out that's bicycles. You've got waits at stop signs. You've got to deal with merging with other bicyclists. Passing other bicyclists. It's good to see other bicyclists as real traffic, and being treated as such.
Speaker: [1:39] You're part of a movement, literally. I feel like there's a message being sent.
Speaker: [1:44] At a certain point when I saw that the cars yielded to everybody, and I think that I would have been a little more worried had I been by myself. But with everybody there in a pack, it felt safer.
Speaker: [1:53] There is a little safety in numbers, but in general it's up to yourself to be safe.
Speaker: [1:59] I feel pretty safe. I feel like drivers are looking out for bikers, most parts.
Speaker: [2:05] I like the mass of people. It's encouraging.
Speaker: [2:07] It feels divine.
Clarence Eckerson Jr: [2:09] I'm here with Elly Blue, the managing editor of Bike Portland. What's the skinny?
Elly Blue: [2:14] Here we are on Hawthorne Boulevard. It's one of the major bike-ways in the city of Portland. There are bike traffic jams all the time. There are hazards. There are people getting in each others' way. [2:24] 20 percent of the traffic on the bridge is bike traffic, but less than 10 percent of the space is devoted to bikes, so we need more room.
Greg Raisman: [2:30] Southeast Portland is a great place to ride a bike, and it's really practical, and convenient, and safe. A lot of people are choosing to do it. So, when we ask people who live in Portland, "Do you use a bicycle for transportation, between 15 percent and 20 percent in southeast Portland are telling us that, "Yes, we choose to ride a bike as our way of getting around, or shopping, or to school, or whatever it is we're doing."
Clarence Eckerson Jr.: [2:51] This is not only going on in Portland. It's going on in a lot of major cities, like San Francisco. Go visit Market Street. Some hours of the day, bike counts have shown that there are more cyclists on Market Street than there are single occupancy vehicles. [3:04] And in New York City, go over the West Side Highway, the busiest green-way in North America. People want better biking facilities. They will use them if they have them, and that cities have to invest more money in cycling, because it is part of the solution to the transportation problem cities face.


Clarence Eckerson, Jr. has been making fantastical transportation media in NYC since the late 1990s. He's never had a driver's license and never will.

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  • http://crankmychain.com Dan Kaufman

    Yay, bikes are back on Streetfilms! I am glad I could help.

  • Marion Ricen

    The Hawthorne is just one bridge in Portland.. What about all the people on bicycles using the Broadway Bridge and over the Steele bridge as well.. The number of people using bicycles to get to and fro in Portland is exponentially more than represented in this video

  • Kevin Buchanan

    That's wonderful to see. We're visiting PDX soon to take a look at the ways their city grows and moves and lives. Can't wait to check this out in person.

  • Clarence Eckerson, Jr.

    Marion,

    Of course there are lots of other stories to tell. All of Portland's bridges are chock full of cyclists and it is awesome, but I only had a few hours taking a break from vacation to bring this quick story. I picked the Hawthorne because it does have the largest share and the visual is easier to compare. But of course the good news that of course the numbers are even much higher, and anyone that wants can do a video on that.

  • W. K. Lis

    I think the cyclists outnumber the passengers and drivers in the cars.

  • http://www.axoplasm.com Paul Souders

    PDX represent! I've been commuting by bike in Portland for a decade, it's inspiring how much more bike traffic the Hawthorne has now compared to 10 years ago. (And it was pretty healthy already.)

    I tell this to everyone and it's not an exaggeration: my daily commute is a bicycle ride through the woods. You have no idea the effect that has on your life perspective.

  • Lance

    Just a note. I is it possible to get your videos working so that they can be viewed on an iPhone?

    Regards

  • NoPoJoe

    Ah, the Hawthorne and Burnside and Steele... and now the Morrison? get a lot of loving.but the two most distant bridges are not very bikeable. I am referring to the St Johns and the Sellwood bridges. No real facilities, poor access. Not that I want to minimize our successes. Its not that Portland is so great,its just so many other places suck so badly for bikes and peds. We in Portland have only made babysteps so far.

  • http://www.livablestreets.com/people/ecovelo Alan Barnard

    Great video! Made me smile and makes we want to visit Portland. Thank you!

  • Alexe Bellingham

    Great film... didn't even show the Steele Bridge bike light congestion that happens every morning and evening at rush hour. What a great city and what a great commitment to life - bicycles!

  • http://www.npgreenway.org Scott Mizée

    Great video of the Hawthorne and SE Portland Dan and Clarence! Looking forward to one of these about the North Portland Greenway some day! :) Hope you enjoyed Filmed by Bike as well!

  • http://www.livablestreets.com/people/npGREENWAY Scott for npGREENWAY

    did I see Zozo on one of those bikes on the Hawthorne?

  • http://www.livablestreets.com/people/npGREENWAY Scott for npGREENWAY

    ackkk... wish I coudl edit the comments.... missing the l off of html and it does not like that...

    link is here:
    http://npgreenway.blogspot.com/2009/04/portland-bike-rush-hour-featured-on-new.html

  • Pat

    That is some serious trance elevator music

  • http://wendysees.blogspot.com/ Wendy

    Aw, I wish I lived in a bike-friendly town!! :(

  • http://anthonymyerspr.com Anthony

    I truly think that biking is the best way to get around.
    It is clean and faster than walking.
    We need to make it easier for people to use it the city of Halifax, and I am trying to change that.
    Talk to your city councilors about it. We have to let them know what we want!

  • Megan

    no joke, my bike commute is faster than taking the bus, by at least ten minutes...go portland.

  • Paul

    Used to bike that bridge for a year whilst I lived in SE.
    You didn't even mention the "Bike Breakfasts" where they offer free coffee, bagels and bike repairs some times.

    Good job Portland - but we want more bike lanes!!

  • http://www.multco.us Mike Pullen

    Ms. Blue says in the video that "just 10 percent of the Hawthorne Bridge is dedicated to bikes." Please note that the bridge has 2 10-ft. sidewalks for bicyclists and pedestrians and 4 traffic lanes that range from 10 to 12 feet in width. So bicyclists and pedestrians have about 30 percent of the usable space on the bridge, not 10 percent.

  • keepin_it_real_ pdx_planner

    Nice film! But bad stats! Hate to rain on this love-fest ob bikes, but 20% of traffic on this bridge is bikes--yes, it's true--but most likely on a nice summer day. What about the rest of the year? Let's not get carried away with this stat. (We Portlanders should by now have really sore triceps from patting ourselves on the back, bragging about our best feature.) This number seems to be often bandied about to make us seem like... uh... Copenhagen or Amsterdam. Not even close!!! Taken in broader context, this stat is a relatively small feat at best. And it skews the character of the whole city. (What are the counts in East Portland?) Most Portlanders still drive. Less than 7% commute by bike. I live in Portland, ride my bike across said bridge most days to work; it's nice. But there are many other parts of Portland lacking facilities. We're working on it. But we've still got a long ways to go.... 7%! (Granted, commute trips are not the only trips we take, never-the-less, we still have a long ways to go.)