In September 2021, various news outlets and websites reported that the city of Portland, Oregon, had renamed a recently opened bridge in honor of Ned Flanders, affable neighbor and charitable Christian from “The Simpsons.”
On Sept. 12, for example, the New York Post wrote:
Hi-Diddily-Ho to Portland’s newest bridgerino. The city has named a recently completed pedestrian and bicycle bridge after the “The Simpson’s” famous, god-fearing neighbor, Ned Flanders, to promote the goodwill and kindness inherent in the fictional cartoon character.
For its part, The Oregonian reported that:
Northwest Portland’s Flanders Crossing bridge was renamed Thursday morning in honor of the beloved “Simpsons” character Ned Flanders, known best for his piousness, luscious mustache and unflaggingly positive attitude.
Those reports were accurate. The pedestrian and bicycle bridge, which crosses Interstate 405 and connects the Pearl District and Northwest District in Portland, was opened in June 2021, and originally called “Flanders Crossing.”
However, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler re-named the bridge “Ned Flanders Crossing” in September. The official mayoral proclamation describes Ned Flanders as “a quintessential emblem of good neighborliness for over 30 years, keeping his cool and trying his best to be a good neighbor even when confronted with his rather difficult neighbors, the Simpsons,” and calls him “a symbol of the kind of neighborly connection we should strive for in Portland.”
The re-dedication is a case of life imitating art imitating life. Simpsons creator Matt Groening grew up in Portland in the 1950s and 1960s, and named several characters after streets and landmarks in the city — including Ned Flanders, who was named after Flanders Street, which runs east and west on either side of Ned Flanders Crossing.
Groening shared those real-life inspirations with renowned television critic David Bianculli in a 1997 New York Daily News interview:
When I asked Groening to identify one of the most obscure Extras he has included in his joke-filled Fox series, he chuckled and revealed, “Many characters are named after streets in my hometown of Portland, Oregon.”
In fact, he went on, the streets he used are all from the northwest section of town, with names that include (neighbor Ned) Flanders, (Rev.) Lovejoy and (Mayor) Quimby. “I wanted people to be driving down 23rd Street in Portland and keep passing these signs, and think they’re going crazy,” Groening said with a laugh Bart would be proud of.