Mayor's office releases new storm response survey after they "failed to consider bicycle transportation"

Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on February 20th, 2009 at 9:04 am

Snow scenes-3
The City wants to know more about
biking in the Storm of 2008.
-Take the survey-
(Photo © J. Maus)

Mayor Adams' office has just released a survey titled, Bicycle Transportation During the Storm of December 2008.

The survey (take it online here) comes after their initial Winter Storm Response Survey, released back in January, failed to mention bicycles at all.

Today, the Mayor's office released a new, bike-specific survey along with this statement (emphasis mine):

On January 14, the Office of the Mayor launched a survey to gather information about the City of Portland's response to the recent winter storm. Six hundred people responded to the survey, and provided critical feedback on walking, transit and driving conditions during the storm. Almost immediately after releasing the survey, we realized that we had failed to consider bicycle transportation.

Story continues below


The Mayor's office is committed to bicyclists: we believe that proper bicycle infrastructure is a key to the sustainable, livable city that Portland is and strives to be. Bicycle infrastructure improvements are a key part of Mayor Adams' 100 day plan, and are a crucial part of making Portland the "greenest city on earth."

With that in mind, the Office of the Mayor is hoping to collect data about bicycling during the storm. The following questions were written by the City's Bicycle Advisory Committee. It is our hope that information gathered from this survey will help us improve conditions for our city's riders during the next storm.

And here are the seven questions asked in the survey:

1. Did you attempt to bike during the recent snowstorms?
2. If yes, were you able to reach your destination(s) by bike?
3. If yes, what were the conditions, for bikes, of Portland's roadways?
4. Following the snow melt, how soon did the City remove gravel or storm debris from your bike route(s)
5. If biking is your primary mode of transportation and you chose not to bike during the storm, what were some reasons?
6. If bicycling is your primary mode of transportation and you chose not to bike, what mode of transportation did you most commonly use?
7. How would you rate TriMet's accommodation for bikes during the storms?

It's nice to see the Mayor's office recognize, and then respond to their oversight.

Take the survey here

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  • joe adamski February 19, 2009 at 9:04 pm

    Consider the StJohns bridge sidewalks( the only 'bike lane' that ODOT will consider is still full of gravel thrown onto the sidewalk from sanding operations during the snow. Both ODOT and PBOT have been notified, ODOT says the sidewalks are PBOTs,and PBOT says 'Huh??".

    I keep waiting for someone to slip or slide off the sidewalk into the path of an SUV speeding off to Vancouver. the gravel remains.

    I dont know which agency has the responsibility, I just know nothing has happened after two calls to each agency.

    Bikes matter. Except on the SJ bridge

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  • John Russell February 19, 2009 at 9:21 pm

    Well, up in Vancouver, there was a two-month backlog on sweeping requests thanks to the storm. The gravel on NE 136th Ave (on which I travel daily) has finally been swept up from the bike lanes—only two months after I called it in. Normally they are much faster though.

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  • Adam February 19, 2009 at 10:17 pm

    I love when the city gives me the opportunity to tell them about everything they did wrong. Not that everything they do is wrong. Hopefully the feedback from this survey and the bike excluded one from earlier will help things in the future.

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  • Anonymous February 20, 2009 at 7:03 am

    Keep some perspective. This was a 40 year event.

    Everyone wants the government to be prepared, with plows, trucks and budget money to handle it. That's unrealistic. Plows cost $8-10K each. Then you need to fit the vehicles with the hydraulics to use them. And the great thing about hydraulic systems is that they degrade faster when not used and require maintenance.

    How many people here have shelled out $20 and put a snow shovel in their garage just in case? I know I was the only one on my block who had one. How many people laid out the money for chains just in case?

    One person said all the streets should be plowed within 24 hours. Having lived in Madison WI, Toronto, Montreal, and Stamford CT, I can tell you that these cities, that deal with snow annually, don't get all the streets plowed in 24 hours. Madison last year ran out of salt because a 100+ inches of snow taxed their budget and was outside the normal precipitation they could expect.

    If this were Denver under the same conditions I would say that the city deserve to be raked over the coals, but this is Portland, a city that averages 6.75 inches of precipitation in December mostly rain, and we had 3 times that much in one week, which was snow.

    It was a tough situation, but we survived, with a little bit of inconvenience. In the grand scheme of things

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  • Mike on Bike February 20, 2009 at 7:28 am

    Joe (#1)

    I thought the county is responsible for all bridges in Multnomah County.
    Go to their web page and follow the paths below.

    County Home » Departments » Community Services » Land Use & Transportation » Road Services » Service and Information Request

    You should be able to submit a request there.

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  • Jeff P February 20, 2009 at 8:36 am

    Agree with #4.

    But the City should not necessarily be let off the hook - there should be a plan in place to be able to react to this sort of thing. It was not really a surprise - the weathermen actually got it mostly right this time.

    The City and THAT transportation agency who runs buses and trains should be better coordinated to move people around. Those people should also be better prepared to react and take some some responsibility.

    I know my bike made it in all those days...

    I am told the Farmers Almanac says one more snow storm is due this year.

    Think it through.

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  • toddistic February 20, 2009 at 9:00 am

    Hopefully we'll get snow like this again in 2009! Snow biking is the best!

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  • Ian February 20, 2009 at 9:05 am

    Every person is has moved to Portland from somewhere else needs to stop comparing Portland's reaction to this storm to other cities that get serious snowfall. Listen to number 4, but I don't think it waas even a 40 year storm. I am 37 years old, born and raised here, and been a skier and snowboarder since 5 years old. So I remember all the storms, and in the middle of this storm I talked to my grandmother who has lived in N portland since the 20's, and she said "we haven't had this much snow since the storm of 38".
    I don't know if her memory of what year is right, but she is right that this year was maybe a 40, 50 or even 100 year storm.

    If you want to compare Portland to another city, and how they deal with snow. You need to compare it to a city with similar snow patterns, not places that get feet of snow every year.
    Even Las Vegas got snow this year, quit your complaining.

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  • peejay February 20, 2009 at 9:18 am

    I agree that Portland could only do so much, based on what is an appropriate budget for snow clearing in a city that gets far less snow in a typical winter.

    But I do think that cyclists rightly resent having to ride through the gravel that was thrown down to help the drivers, and now that cars are done with it, sits in the bike lanes.

    And it still bugs me every time I hear a car driving around with studded tires! Why are my (general fund) taxes going towards all the extra road repairs needed because of these selfish drivers? Just because Les Schwab has great lobbyists?

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  • Zaphod February 20, 2009 at 9:52 am

    So maybe now is the time to step back and look at how the system works at a high level.
    We have a giant pile of work that needs to be completed, be it pothole repair, restriping, gravel sweeping, bridge painting/repair, repaving, etc.

    We have a set of resources: workers and equipment.

    So the question I have is: Where are we applying resources and what is on the giant list of work? Without this information, it's hard for me to judge whether what they are doing is poor, fair, good, excellent or amazing.

    All I ask in this is that the prioritization of tasks is based upon mode share and location. I also humbly submit that while it's more efficient and valuable to get the most highly used areas clean and safe, let's not forget the routes that those in outer N/NE/SE as those are depended upon as well by those who often have the fewest choices.

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  • Adam February 20, 2009 at 9:58 am

    I agree with #4 as well. This was indeed an out of the nor winter. The thing that bugged me the most was once most of the major streets were plowed the bike lane was still full of snow, slush, and gravel. Very unusable conditions. Having to take the one clear lane on SE Division is not comforting, especially when the cars are wanting to go 40mph inches away from me.

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  • El Biciclero February 20, 2009 at 10:28 am

    And it still bugs me every time I hear a car driving around with studded tires! --peejay

    Yeah, me too. Check this out:

    "Studded tire usage has caused at least $18.2 million damage to concrete pavements [in Washington] as determined by
    detailed rutting measurements. Damage may be similar, or much greater, for hot mix asphalt pavements,
    but determination of that damage will have to wait until software can be modified to perform the analysis."

    From http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/biz/mats/pavement/PavementsStuddedTiresFinalv2.pdf

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  • Andrew Holtz February 20, 2009 at 10:29 am

    I enjoyed the question about how long it was before my bike route was swept clean. The longest option is "more than 2 weeks." I checked that one... because the bike lanes and road edges in the Sylvan area are STILL full of gravel. They swept the vehicle lanes and just left debris in the bike area.

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  • Matthew Denton February 20, 2009 at 10:37 am

    So London got 4 inches of snow early this month and the city pretty much shut down. The subway didn't run, the entire bus system was canceled in the morning, the freeways dropped to a standstill, etc, etc... The last time they had 4 inches of snow was 18 years ago. You can read about it here:

    Our storm was a 40 year event, so I'm not at all surprised that things didn't work perfectly. However, there are still plenty of places where there is still gravel, (that I have submitted sweeping requests for,) and it seems like that is the sort of thing they should be able to deal with...

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  • Cruizer February 20, 2009 at 11:10 am

    Lots of gravel still on the north side bike lane of the Bybee overpass over McLaughlin.

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  • Loren February 20, 2009 at 5:23 pm

    Not to be the devil's advocate, but I'm a regular bicycle commuter, and still have studded snowtires on my car. I also snowboard in the winter. I don't drive my car much with them on, but they're still on. We're not all evil monsters with asphalt chewing devil machines deliberately trying to destroy the roads ,laughing all the way. Besides, I don't drive in the bicycle lane. :)

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  • peejay February 20, 2009 at 5:41 pm


    You don't drive in the bicycle lane, but you break the roads that my tax dollars have to pay to fix. Your studded tires cause way more damage than non-studded tires, and you should take them off your car the moment the snow is gone.

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  • Oliver February 20, 2009 at 5:46 pm

    I still think they did pretty good all considered. (And I still want to know why pedestrian access to the steel bridge was suspended)

    However, given the amount of gravel still out there, its tendency to migrate from the roadway into the bike lane. I also think that it's time the sweeping crews did a another run on the major bike routes.

    As such, the fallout from the storm is still not over, so maybe the survey was premature.

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  • Donna February 20, 2009 at 7:20 pm

    Right on, Anonymous! (#4)

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  • Marie February 20, 2009 at 8:55 pm

    Mike on Bike #5:

    ODOT is responsible for more of the bridges' maintenance than you might expect. Because either major highways or freeways cross several bridges, those all fall under ODOT's jurisdiction. Multnomah County only maintains Burnside, Broadway, Morrison, Hawthorne & Sellwood. The Steel Bridge is maintained by Union Pacific Railroad.

    The St. John's Bridge carries US Route 30 Bypass, putting it into ODOT's territory.

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  • John Lascurettes February 20, 2009 at 9:18 pm

    @ #4.

    Yes, I have a snow shovel. I shoveled my sidewalk every time the snow came down again. I even shoveled the entire width of my street for two house widths one day in effort to coax my garbage man to show up.

    If Portland can throw down the gravel, they need to take the responsibility to clean it up in a timely manner. The westbound approach the Broadway bridge's sidewalk (the official bike lane) and the same on the St. John's bridge are covered in gravel still. This many weeks later.

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  • Blah Blah Blah February 20, 2009 at 11:52 pm

    I've always thought of the gravel, leaves, ice, snow and rain part of commuting in the winter. Pretty soon it'll turn to spring and the weather will be nice and you guys will need to find something else to complain about.

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  • kww February 21, 2009 at 12:57 am

    Please clean up the gravel! Only a few bike lanes have been cleaned!

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  • KimJSCP February 21, 2009 at 8:49 am

    Yes - Right on anonymous (#4)- except I believe I read that snow plows are somewhere in the $150 to $200K range. Also - inches of precip. does not equal inches of snow.

    I as a taxpayer would rather miss a day and a half of work (I ended up making it up) then paying that much to be prepared for something that may only happen twice in my lifetime. But, knowing that we do get some snow and ice here, I was prepared with 4 wheel drive and chains.

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  • Mike February 21, 2009 at 10:29 am

    I rode every day of snowpocalypse and through the melt.

    It was patently obvious to see that the city made absolutely no effort in clearing bike boulevards or the striped bike lanes on major connecting streets.

    I'm glad they went back to review this and are able to acknowledge this publicly.

    I hope they'll be able to make some basic improvements in their storm clean-up priorities.

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  • joe adamski February 21, 2009 at 11:10 am

    SJ is an ODOT bridge,part of the US 30 Bypass. ODOT owns it but doesnt care about bike/ped users. They told me the sidewalks are PBOTs,the bridge and roadway is theirs.

    I know its a '40 year event'.I also know that there is no commitment to safety of peds and bikes that were effectively forced onto the sidewalks of the SJ bridge by ODOTs refusal to even consider bike lanes when the bridge was rebuilt several years ago. The freight community was the only voice heeded, IMHO.

    So if you force me onto the sidewalk on my bike, dont force me to ride on little ball bearings. This is a safety issue above all else.

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  • Anonymous February 21, 2009 at 1:52 pm


    I was quoting the cost of the plow only not the vehicle. There are plenty of vehicles in the system that could be fitted with plows.

    Any where I have lived the vehicles do double duty as dump trucks for public works and as snow plows when required.

    I also distinguished between the average precipitation in December being for the most part rain and that we received triple the average in the form of snow.

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  • Seth Alford February 21, 2009 at 6:44 pm

    The slowness with which the city has cleared up the gravel is enough for Portland to lose their Platinum rating from the League of American Bicyclists. Suggestion: write Andy Clarke at the league and let him know your opinion on that. andy@bikeleague.org

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  • a February 23, 2009 at 9:09 am

    there is a complacency here in Portland about accumulating snow, an assumption that it will just go away no matter the temperature. we need to get over that. maybe a City PR campaign about what to do when we do have snow?

    things we can all do to help:
    * shovel your walks & driveway first thing in the morning (and maybe those of any eldery neighbors who can't themselves?)
    *clear your windows & roof before driving (for frost too)
    *use chains when appropriate..don't endanger everyone else by driving without appropriate gear

    as for the City...we may not have monster snow-throwing plows, but don't pretend we have no plows...i've seen blades in the up position on the sand/gravel trucks. maybe put them in the down position so that accumulations don't get significant during the weather events?

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  • Chris February 23, 2009 at 5:53 pm

    It was a big event for Portland, but when other cities have big events (on the east coast, there can be 3ft blizzards occasionally) they put the crews to work, and they don't normally stop until the work was done.

    We might not want to buy too many plows, but we need to consider budgeting an emergency overtime amount, so people keep working until the ground is clear.

    (And there is still gravel between Barbur and sw 4th,)

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  • Jordan February 24, 2009 at 7:10 pm

    I don't have any objections to how the city operated during the snow. In fact I think they did a pretty good job of making sure that a lot of buses could still run. Had I really wanted to get to work, I'm sure that I could have done so. However, the huge quantities of gravel left in the bike lanes is shameful. Even on highly used routes (SW Broadway by PSU), bike lanes are often still covered in gravel. Hopefully the deluge today will help to shift some of that.

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