A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Biking across the Ellsworth Street Bridge

Written March 11th, 2021 by Hasso Hering

Pushing the button gives drivers notice that cyclists are on the Ellsworth Street Bridge.

If you’re going to ride a bike around Albany for any length of time, sooner or later you’re going to want to cross the Willamette River.

Going to North Albany from downtown is no problem. The northbound Lyon Street Bridge, built in the early 1970s, has a nice bike lane.

Going south, though, on the venerable Ellsworth Street Bridge is more of a challenge. The bridge dates from 1925. And while its two traffic lanes are wide enough for modern traffic, there is of course no bike lane and no practical way to add one.

Luckily for people on bikes, the right lane is slightly wider than the left. This means cars and most trucks can squeeze past safely if there’s a cyclist in the lane.

Take a look at this video I made on Wednesday.

Traffic was light, as you can see. There were no heavy trucks in the right lane coming up from behind. I wonder how that will change now that ODOT has slapped a 12-ton load limit on the Van Buren Street Bridge in Corvallis and intends to reroute heavy trucks to Highway 20 to cross the river at Albany.

If that becomes a problem on Ellsworth, then bike riders might be persuaded to use the narrow footpath on the side of the bridge. That could work as long as there are no awkward conflicts with people on foot. (hh)

12 responses to “Biking across the Ellsworth Street Bridge”

  1. Craig says:

    As usual government is late to respond. Let’s say a new bridge planning process was initiated today complete with a full budget. After environmental studies, planning design, approval, it will take maybe 15-20 years until completion. The bridge in Albany might still be structurally sound with all those new trucks and the huge increase in traffic projected over the next 5 years. Is anything happening at all?

  2. John Klock says:

    This is not good for bicyclists. While the casual driver may not notice, there are lots of bicyclists that use this bridge. I use both the sidewalk and the road itself. The infrastructure for bicyclists needs to increase not decrease. The public awareness to the public needs to increase not decrease. Bikes have the same rules of the road as vehicles.

  3. Rick says:

    Of course, they don’t have to stop at stop signs.

    • Bill Kapaun says:

      They still have to yield to traffic that has the right of way, so what’s your problem?

  4. Joanna S says:

    Great video – loved the music. I use to bike a lot but am no longer comfortable in traffic.

  5. H. R. Richner says:

    Does anyone ever demand answers from ODOT? How do they decide a bridge is fine for 40 tons yesterday and only for 18 today? Highway 20 is already overloaded and more unsafe than average.

  6. Albany YIMBY says:

    hw-20 needs to avoid crossing Albany. It could be diverted to join I-5 beyond Talking Waters with a new bridge for heavy traffic.

    Adapt the current bridges to light traffic for the newest one, and pedestrians and bicycles for the historic one. It could be a fantastic start for a trail between Albany and Corvallis.

  7. Avidreader69 says:

    Hasso, very nice video! And the music outstanding! If it were me, I would use the sidewalk. You can always stop and get off your bike if need be.
    Thanks for you dedication.

  8. Dave says:

    I have ridden my bike across the bridge a few times. But I would rather walk it across on the sidewalk, giving the walking folks the right of way. By walking your bike across, it isn’t going to take much longer and I believe it is safer for the cars and the bicycle folks.

  9. HowlingCicada says:

    I’ve mostly used the sidewalk, stopping and squeezing myself out of the way if someone comes walking toward me. Really didn’t like the road on the bridge, don’t remember exactly why, but it’s not as bad as the horrible part of Hwy. 20 (eastbound) just east of Hyak Park.

    About music, not just yours. I once heard (forgot where) that 95% of bank customers hardly notice the music — the other 5%, it drives them up the wall. And how on earth do employees keep from making big mistakes? Obviously I’m one of the 5%, maybe because I’ve had intense musical likes and dislikes all my life, or maybe have undiagnosed ADHD. Part of why I love Winco is that they don’t play music or ads (at least in Corvallis).

    The seeming rule on public radio is to always have a musical background except for straight news reporting or when two people are in conversation. Some of OPB’s and KLCC’s “wallpaper” music is insipid and horrible; I couldn’t listen at all if I didn’t have a mute button handy. Sometimes the music used in shows is OK, even good, when it’s subdued, doesn’t have much of a beat, and (most importantly) isn’t memorable. Your previous video on bike lights was like that.

    • Hasso Hering says:

      Thanks for remarking about the music. Main reason I use some of the background music supplied by Microsoft is to drown out the mechanical bike noise — like from the clipless pedals — that the camera on the handlebar picks up, as well as the frequent wind noise. I’m still experimenting with this stuff, sorry to say.

  10. JoshM says:

    Hasso, the recent additional bicycle articles are much appreciated. I live in N Albany and will bike into downtown once a week or so. I feel there’s inadequate space for a bike and a car to share one bridge lane. I almost always use the pedestrian lane unless it’s during a low car traffic time (never is, except the middle of night) – Then, I’ll ride hard and fast into downtown using the right lane as if I’m a car.

    Anyone have an update on the status of the N. Albany – Corvallis Multimodal Path Project?


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