Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on February 10th, 2014 at 10:41 am
As we enter the fifth day of a major storm here in Portland, the snow that has accumulated since last week is now beginning to melt. Over the weekend, temperatures stayed below freezing and the metro area was covered in a layer of ice. Those conditions presented a set of challenges on their own. Now, with temps climbing just a bit above freezing, the Great Thaw has begun in earnest.
I rode from north Portland to downtown this morning and here's what I experienced...
Residential streets remain a big challenge to ride on. It's easier with larger, aggressively treaded tires; but for the most part a lot of snow and ice still remains. PBOT does not plow residential streets, and they don't get much auto traffic, so they will be the last ones to be clear of snow and become easier to ride. Neighborhood collector streets, like N Ainsworth shown below, are a bit better as long as you take the lane and ride in the wheel rut created by auto traffic.
One thing to note are the piles of snow forming in the transition zone between smaller and larger streets. I strongly advise putting a foot down and hiking your bike over those sections.
Once I got onto N Interstate, a larger neighborhood arterial, there was even less snow. Most of the bike lane and shoulder was still not rideable, so I tried to ride more quickly in a lane shared by more — and faster-moving traffic. As a general rule, as the streets get easier to bike on, they also come with a higher volume of faster moving auto traffic.
The next challenge came as I tried to enter the bike path/sidewalk of the Broadway Bridge. The transition from street-to-ramp-to-path was full of dirty and loose snow, making it almost impossible to ride. The path itself was also slushy and tricky. It made me wonder whether PBOT might consider a special crew to clear key, non-auto connections like this bridge path.
As I photographed the bridge path, I noticed other riders didn't even attempt to take it. They simply stayed on the bridge deck and shared the lanes with other road users.
Another key bike connection that could cause big problems during tonight's rush-hour is the northbound side of the Broadway ramp leading up to the bridge. As you can see in the image below, the street is in fine condition, but the bike path/sidewalk adjacent to it is not rideable. If people on bikes take the lane on the uphill this evening, there will be a major speed differential with other road users and it could be dicey. Perhaps this is another place where PBOT can send out a crew ASAP?
Taking Broadway through downtown was relatively easy as most of the roadway is clear of snow and ice.
Even with less snow and ice on the roads, it appears that many people are still opting to not ride bikes. I only saw three people biking for my entire, four-mile trip. That's one of the lowest totals I can ever remember.
The last thing I'll note is that we're clearly in for some messy biking conditions for the next few weeks as the snow recedes and gravel remains in the bike lanes and shoulders.
As per usual with these reports, please share your experiences and tips below. For more, up-to-the-minute information, follow @PBOTInfo on Twitter. They've been doing a great job posting conditions, photos, and official notices throughout the day.