Better Naito returns—and much earlier than expected.
Better Naito returns—and much earlier than expected. Erik Henriksen

Heads up, cyclists and pedestrians! The Eastbank Esplanade that runs alongside the Willamette on the east side of the river will be closed for repairs between the Steel and Hawthorne bridges starting February 1 and will reopen on April 1. According to a press release from the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT), the repairs will include replacing damaged concrete, installing new repairing existing lights, cleaning up trash and graffiti, taking down dead plants and replacing them with healthy ones, and spiffing up public art pieces.

"WELL, YEAH, OKAY, BUT HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO RIDE MY BIKE TO WORK?" you unnecessarily scream. While the repairs are going on, bike commuters and pedestrians will get an early treat: the triumphant return of Better Naito on January 28—which usually doesn't show up until late Spring!

Better Naito is the annual project that commandeers the single car lane on Naito Boulevard that runs alongside Waterfront Park. This eases congestion on the Waterfront for summertime beer and music festivals, and makes it much safer for those who ride bikes or scooters downtown (as well as the mobs of blissfully wandering tourists). AND LET ME TELL YOU, IT IS GREAT. (Unfortunately, not everyone thinks so—primarily the Portland Business Alliance who inexplicably throws a hissy fit about it every year, because apparently they think it keeps car-bound shoppers from arriving at Nordstrom two minutes later than necessary. Poor babies. Expect a teary-eyed, frustrated rebuke from the PBA about Better Naito any second now.)

Anyway, since this winter has been exceedingly mild (thanks, global warming!), it's a great time to pull your bike out of storage and start riding again. Here's a map depicting the section of the Esplanade that will be shut down, and how you can access Better Naito—which, once again, will be reopening early on January 28, and IS GREAT.

Courtesy PBOT