There Is Such a Thing as a Free Breakfast, if You Bike

“We actually brought our stove and made beignets on the bridge,” Lillian Karabaic says.

For more than 20 years, on the last Friday of every month, bikes, bridges, coffee beans and artisan pastry come together in the most Portlandian of ways, with volunteers, donations and grease-perfumed good vibes.

It’s all courtesy of Breakfast on the Bridges.

Founded as part of Portland’s first BikeSummer, the 2002 festival that would two years later be rebranded as Pedalpalooza, and maintained since then by volunteers, Breakfast on the Bridges is a monthly morning event that equips commuters chevro-legging it across the Willamette River with free coffee donated by Trailhead Coffee and pastries contributed by local bakeries like Coco Donuts and Gluten Free Gem. The event occurs on multiple bridges, serving both car-free spans like Tilikum Crossing and the pedestrian thoroughfare of the Steel Bridge.

“I would almost describe the vibe as like, dads around the edge of the soccer field on the weekend,” says volunteer Lillian Karabaic, who’s been serving coffee and pastries with the program for 16 years, “We bring little pop-up tents; it’s just a nice dry place to say hi to your neighbors.”

Karabaic and the other Breakfast on the Bridges volunteers haul their equipment to their bridge locations by bike. “We actually brought our stove and made beignets on the bridge,” Karabaic says. “We’ll probably do that next month because it’ll be Mardi Gras.”

Throughout the year, BOTB operates as a rotating bridge-based coffee klatch, simultaneously serving Flanders Crossing, the Earl Blumenauer Bridge, the Steel Bridge and Tilikum Crossing.

As many events have dissolved over the past couple of years, Breakfast on the Bridges has managed to stay the course, even securing a dedicated area on the newly christened Earl Blumenauer Bridge over the Banfield Freeway.

“None of the bridges have recovered their previous biking and walking commuter volume because a lot fewer people are going to work,” Karabaic says. “But we’ve always included people that are living outside as part of the community we serve. I think that’s one of the coolest parts: We serve surgeons commuting to work on their fancy racing bikes just as much as we serve someone that’s living outside.”

Correction: This story incorrectly reported that Breakfast on Bridges rotates between bridges. In fact, the event occurs simultaneously on several bridges each month. The story also credited the event to the nonprofit Shift2bikes, which no longer runs it. WW regrets the errors.

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