Pedestrian Bridges

The old Sauvie Island Bridge located on the Willamette River about ten miles northwest of downtown Portland is being replaced by a newer, sleeker, modern bridge. When the new span opens to traffic, this steel green beauty will be put to rest before it reaches it's 60th year. While I think the new bridge is great, and the old bridge should rightly be replaced because it is structurally failing and undersized for today's transit needs, it is sad to lose a beautiful old bridge.

There was talk of reassembling the old green bridge downtown, relocating it at Flanders Street to span over I-405 for pedestrian and bicycle traffic only. The proposed link would connect Nob Hill to the Pearl District with a safe passage for the non-car inclined. It would be an emblematic recycling project typical of what Portlanders are trying to do every day on a smaller scale. Why build a new bridge when you can re-use an old one? As of now, the project is not going to happen, as I imagine costs are prohibitive and apparently the bicycle lobby and historic bridge lobby are no match for reality. Too bad.

Pedestrian bridges are a good idea because they allow people to pass otherwise difficult or unpassable places that are better not shared with cars. The proposed relocation of the Sauvie Island Bridge at Flanders Street is between two "almost car-only" bridges at Glisan and Everett - both difficult and dangerous crossings for pedestrians. I don't bike but I'm sure those who do would appreciate a dedicated safe route to cross the freeway, and we would like more than the three feet or so which has been provided on only one side of the road to walk.

I found these images in a recent issue of Architectural Record.

The bridge above has separate bike and pedestrian paths that come together in the middle before splitting off again on the other side of the river. Stairs are provided for pedestrians to climb and a long ramp for bicyclists. The bridge is elegant and safe to cross. It would make a favorable impression anywhere in Portland.

The slower pace of walkers and bicyclists on pedestrian bridges provides a good opportunity for more details that might include art or vantages points. The colored glass panels on this bridge wouldn't make much sense on a car bridge. Though these examples all span rivers, they could just as well span a road, a canyon, or any other impassable terrain in a city with more than one mode of transportation.