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Mix of snow, slush and ice make for tricky biking conditions

Posted by on February 11th, 2014 at 12:27 pm

Bad biking conditions made the evening news.

With the worst of the snow and ice storms behind us, the roads are slowly returning to normal. That is, unless you are trying to walk or bike.

As auto traffic volumes return to normal, people are finding that the conditions of bike lanes, neighborhood greenways, and off-street bike paths are full of a dangerous mix of slush, snow, and ice. This isn’t a surprise given that it’s the current policy of the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) to only plow major roads and arterials.

PBOT does not plow any bike-only areas including the paths across our major downtown bridges or facilities like the Springwater Corridor and Eastbank Esplanade. Separated bike paths — like NE Multnomah Street and the curbside bike lane on Broadway near Portland State University — are also left to fend for themselves. And on streets with bike lanes, plow trucks usually only clear the standard vehicles lanes while pushing the snow onto the area where people usually ride. (If you walk or roll your wheelchair, you’re at the mercy of adjacent property owners to shovel sidewalks.)

This lack of attention to key bicycle routes has resulted in poor riding conditions throughout the metro area. We reported about these concerns a bit yesterday and we’ve heard a lot more from readers since then. Before I share more from readers, I just noticed that KGW-TV featured a segment titled, Bicyclists have tough commute post-storm on their newscast last night.

Watch the video below:

Yesterday we asked folks to share their experience with the conditions. We got a lot of report in the comments to our story yesterday and via Twitter. We heard some reports of smooth sailing, but most people reported mountains of slush and snow and very difficult — if not impossible — conditions…

We also heard from several sources that the Springwater Corridor was nearly unpassable last night and into this morning.

For their part, PBOT has responded by referring folks to their snow plow map, telling people on bikes to be careful, and encouraging people to report specific hazard locations. Their responses on Twitter have included: “trying to make as much of a given road as passable as possible for all modes of transport” and “as we pick up sand, we’ll prioritize roads w/ dedicated bike lanes/ heavy bike traffic 4 safety”

This morning we were happy to see PBOT send out this tweet acknowledging reality:

It has become crystal clear in recent days that PBOT’s priority is to make sure the main roads are cleared first. That’s a reasonable policy, especially for a city (understandably) not fully equipped to handle snow and ice storms. But the abysmal condition of many key bikeways raises some important concerns. If Portland wants to be a place where bicycling is more attractive than driving (that’s the stated policy goal in adopted city plans), then bikeways should be given more attention during storm events.

One possible solution would be to simply add a few key bikeway connections to the city’s official Snow and Ice Priority Routes map (PDF). PBOT might also want to consider buying the snow removal attachment for their recently purchased bike lane sized street sweeper.

If there was at least one bike route through the central city and one route to each of the five quadrants that people could rely on — no matter what the weather — it would make a huge difference in safety and in the number of people who could safely travel during and after storms.

I realize there’s a tendency for PBOT and the public at large to say, “Come on bicyclists! The city is doing all it can. It’s just a few days. Deal with it!” I get that. But when it’s another few days in the fall when piles of leaves fill bike lanes and shoulders, and another few days when various festivals and events compromise important bikeways downtown, and another few days for inconvenient bike detours, and another few days for construction projects that spill into bike lanes, and another few days when debris and gravel make riding unsafe and unpleasant, it all adds up.

And it all adds up to people deciding they just don’t have the tolerance we require them to have in order to make bicycling their everyday mode of travel. It’s not just challenging weather that keeps people from biking, it’s how that weather exacerbates the already poor conditions that exist on far too many of our bikeways far too often.

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

— Read all our 2014 winter storm coverage here.

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Comments
  • maxadders February 11, 2014 at 12:38 pm

    I anticipated this storm– what with global warming becoming a reality– and decided to prepare for it by commissioning Sacha White to build me a custom ti fat bike in late 2008. Well I’m pleased to announce that the frame arrived just in time for Snowpocalypse 2014. Unfortunately PBOT failed to sufficiently groom the lanes for my 4.9″ Endomorphs, and my fun-mmute turned out to be a nightmare! So I have no recourse but to send the city of Portland a bill for my custom build. It’s not like I can just return the darn thing to Walmart! Thanks for nothing, bureaucracy!

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    • GlowBoy February 11, 2014 at 4:27 pm

      maxadders, you just have the wrong tires on for this thick slush. Endomorphs don’t have enough tread. I thought Endomorphs were 3.8″? In that size, you’ll want Nates or Knards for this stuff; in 4.8″, you want the Bud/Lou combo.

      I’m running a Krampus 29×3.0 in front, which has bigger knobs than the ‘morph, and I’ve been able to get around pretty much everywhere I wanted to go. 6″ deep slush is still a problem, but that only exists where it’s been pushed around by cars, and in those places there are thinner ruts nearby that I can ride in.

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    • Mossby Pomegranate February 11, 2014 at 9:54 pm

      Global warming or climate change? Which is it now? And should I find it alarming we are getting snow and ice in early February?

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      • q`Tzal February 11, 2014 at 10:05 pm

        You should find it depressing that you are willing to accept as true “climate science” by a minority of “scientists” whose “studies” are paid for by the companies that are doing the polluting and stand to lose the most if they are found culpable in the destruction of the planet.

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  • John Lascurettes February 11, 2014 at 12:46 pm

    I don’t get how PBOT can refer to that pea gravel as “sand” with a straight face. I had to take the lane the whole way from the Broadway Bridge into downtown because the bike lane was coated with a layer of it. I really hate that stuff. It only takes them a day or two to lay it down, but it sometimes takes them months (if at all) to sweep it up to recycle it.

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    • jonno February 11, 2014 at 1:02 pm

      Yeah, and does the gravel actually help anything? It seems kind of pointless during the storm, and then worse than pointless when it clogs up the streets for months.

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      • Mossby Pomegranate February 11, 2014 at 9:55 pm

        Hey it feels great when you get hit by a piece of that “sand” flung off a car tire. Ouch!

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  • Hanne February 11, 2014 at 1:07 pm

    Jonathan, do you know how/if the City coordinates with Multco on clearing roads/bridges? When it was snowing on Friday, I saw a county plow clearing the sidewalk/bike path on the south side of the Morrison Bridge. I only saw the plow come down off the bridge on the east side, and I didn’t go up to check whether they had cleared all the way across. But, it seems hat there are some bike/ped facilities that can be easily plowed (and perhaps were, based on what I saw on the Morrision). It would be great if the city/county figured out key routes to plow and publicized them.

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  • Criss Cross Crusade February 11, 2014 at 1:16 pm

    two flats today on Barbur… that gravel is like diamond tipped glass… getting a ride home.

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  • pdx2wheeler February 11, 2014 at 1:25 pm

    Regardless of the politics… My body has really enjoyed the bit of rest this storm has provided. I’ve really tried to take advantage of the down time to replenish myself by eating healthy, stretching, and just relaxing a bit…

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  • kiel johnson February 11, 2014 at 1:30 pm

    how about a citizen led bike lane clearing group after the next storm like this? even if they just clear enough for a bike to get through? wouldn’t take that long/many people

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) February 11, 2014 at 1:43 pm

      I would love to do this. Next snow storm we get let’s call out the shovel brigade and hit some hot spots!

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    • Alex Reed February 11, 2014 at 1:59 pm

      My friend has a bumper sticker that says something like “It will be a great day when the schools flush with cash and the military has to hold a bake sale to buy a new jet.” Personally, I’d rather spend my time asking the City to plan to clear bike lanes and bikeways.

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    • Spiffy February 11, 2014 at 4:11 pm

      Bike Swarm!

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  • David February 11, 2014 at 1:33 pm

    I also agree that it makes sense for PBOT to prioritize main arterials for big storms like this.

    What’s frustrating to me is that there doesn’t seem to be any plan for dealing with bike lanes and greenways besides, “Be careful out there guys!” and “It should all melt soon!”

    Arterials first? Fine. But at least make an attempt to not create ice walls in the middle of bike lanes, and work on clearing major greenway connections in a timely manner.

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    • Psyfalcon February 11, 2014 at 3:25 pm

      Main roads and main bikeways first.

      They could even create temporary diverters on the plowed out greenways with the snow piles. Just small enough that at least the low slung cars aren’t tempted to use them.

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    • davemess February 11, 2014 at 5:58 pm

      I think a lot of the issue is that they did a very crappy job plowing the roads as the storm went on. We live on an arterial (SE Duke) and saw plows come by 2-3 times each on Saturday and Sunday. For 5 of 6 of those times the plow was 2-4 inches OFF of the pavement and doing NOTHING. If the city had done a decent job actually plowing the arterials from the beginning instead of just driving around pretending to plow, then they would have had the time after a couple of days to tackle some slightly less trafficked routes (like greenways, etc.). We went for a walk on Saturday and crossed SE 82nd. I couldn’t believe my eyes that over 2 days after it had started snowing it looked like this pretty major road hadn’t been touched by a plow.

      I know I have high standards for decent snow removal, having lived in Ohio and Colorado, and I know we don’t have a huge arsenal of plows, but if they’re going to be out there, they should be doing something.

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      • John Liu February 11, 2014 at 7:24 pm

        Maybe the snowplows were going to another location, i.e. in transit with blade raised, rather than plowing with blade down. I saw that sometimes. They move faster in transit than in plow mode.

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        • davemess February 12, 2014 at 7:28 am

          Even so, there is no reason they couldn’t be plowing as they go. Even if it would be slowing them down a little, they could still be doing something useful. It’s not as if the street didn’t need to be plowed.

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  • kww February 11, 2014 at 1:34 pm

    I rode to work Monday, from Sellwood to downtown. I took 13th/17th/Milwaukie Ave in, and almost every car was patient while waiting to pass me – I could not leave the lane due to snow.

    On the way home after dark, it was warm. I decided to chance the Springwater trail. I got about 1.5 mile in then had to walk the bike the rest of the way. Snow kept building up between the tires and fenders.
    Not enough melt. Amazingly, all gone by now!

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  • Patrick February 11, 2014 at 1:39 pm

    Riding in today the bikelane was plowed in Vancouver Ave.

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  • spare_wheel February 11, 2014 at 1:40 pm

    with only one exception i was treated with patience and respect as i took the lane (wheel tracks). until the 2150 bike plan funds a network of steam pipe-warmed cycletracks, vehicular cycling is almost certainly our snowpocalypse reality.

    kudos to the motorists who went out of their way to give me space as i cut through snow, ice, and slush!

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    • davemess February 11, 2014 at 6:00 pm

      Or hand over snow removal on bike paths to the parks or another department. I have lived in a few places where the parks department would routinely do a faster, better job of snow removal on bike paths compared to the streets of the city. Different department, so they only had to focus on the bike paths. It was GREAT!

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  • Ciaran February 11, 2014 at 1:44 pm

    I’m not terribly concerned about the lack of snow clearing. Yes, it’s annoying that bike lanes and greenways weren’t plowed or were blocked. Yes, this shows the amount of priority given to auto travel over other modes. But think – these storms come about less than once a year. I’d prefer that money that would otherwise be spent on a cycle-track plow attachment, or on overtime to plow greenways, got spent making other, longer-lasting improvements to our biking infrastructure.

    That said, a policy of directing people on bikes to the plowed arterials–and raising awareness so that people driving on those arterials expect to see bikes in the plowed lanes–would be inexpensive and appreciated.

    Oh and yes, let’s clean up the gravel asap. Getting rid of that is a much longer-lasting improvement than getting rid of slush.

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    • GlowBoy February 11, 2014 at 4:32 pm

      “Oh and yes, let’s clean up the gravel asap. Getting rid of that is a much longer-lasting improvement than getting rid of slush.”

      They won’t clear the gravel until after there is ZERO chance of there being any more snow, and that means not until spring.

      And although it’s too far in the future to be accurate, I have to point out that BestForecast/wund.com IS forecasting snow here again next week: http://m.wund.com/cgi-bin/findweather/getForecast?brand=mobile&query=woodstock%2C+or#forecast

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  • Criss Cross Crusade February 11, 2014 at 1:52 pm

    also… lol.. up on Barbur there’s probably 15 or so cateyes in the bike lane that were just sheared off by the plows… wondering about the repair costs for all those…

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    • Dimitrios February 11, 2014 at 3:46 pm

      For a second there I thought 15 taillights were scattered down Barbur.

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  • John Liu February 11, 2014 at 2:13 pm

    Snowplows do not make a roadway free of snow or ice or slush. They only push away the deeper snow, leaving a layer of plowed snow on the the road.

    From what I saw when PBOT was plowing, that plowed snow was one to two inches deep.

    On traffic lanes, the cars do the rest, wearing ruts into the plowed snow and eventually creating bare strips and, as the snow melts, the road clears.

    It wouldn’t work that way on a plowed bike lane. One to two inches of freshly plowed snow is rideable for the hardy and skilled folks who ventured out over the weekend on knobby-tired bikes, but is still not rideable for most commuter cyclists on the typical commuter bike. As it rots to slush, or re-freezes to rutted ice, that snow becomes even less rideable, even for the knobby tire experts. (The side streets that were still very hard to ride yesterday and this morning – they only have a couple inches of rotten slush.)

    Therefore, plowing bike lanes of snow would not make them rideable for most cyclists unless they were laboriously cleared all the way down to bare pavement or close to it. With major snow events only happening a few times a decade, Portland doesn’t (and shouldn’t) have the budget, equipment and manpower to do that. If we did, those efforts should first be directed to sidewalks. Cyclists can ride in traffic lanes, pedestrians cannot be expected to walk there.

    Add the difficulty of plowing standard bike lanes that border parked cars (the snow plow can’t get too close to parked cars), protected bike lanes (the snow plow truck can’t fit there), MUPs (the snow plow truck can’t get between the bollards and may be too wide to even drive on the narrower parts of a MUP).

    That is why, as a practical matter, I don’t think we can expect PBOT to be clearing bike lanes and MUPs of snow after a city-stopping storm. Sure, after the freeways and main roads are cleared, the city could send crews with Bobcats, shovels, de-icer, bags of gravel to plow and scrape hundreds of miles of sidewalks and MUPs and bike lanes, but by the time they could even get started, the rain will have finished melting off the snow.

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    • Alex Reed February 11, 2014 at 2:22 pm

      What about neighborhood greenways? They could be plowed by the City’s existing equipment, and there is some auto traffic on them to melt/push away snow between plow runs.

      Also, do you have a source on your assertion that plows can plow down to a few inches? My perception of their capabilities is different but I’m certainly not an expert….

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      • Criss Cross Crusade February 11, 2014 at 2:27 pm

        they plow at least as deep as necessary to shear off multiple cateyes…

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      • John Liu February 11, 2014 at 3:31 pm

        Getting streets plowed down to “bare pavement” involves applying lots of salt and spraying brine. The plows operate much more slowly. There is more damage to the road, more wear on the plow blades, a lot more labor hours. Even cities who have a “bare pavement” policy will only do it for the highest priority, major streets. They don’t try to achieve bare pavement on most streets.

        There is no way Portland could plow even its major streets to bare pavement, with the snow removal resources we have. I’d rather not have all the salt and brine dumped everywhere.

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        • Alex Reed February 11, 2014 at 3:36 pm

          OK, I can accept that without other sourcing, though I’d rather get a more authoritative source than your say-so. What about plowing neighborhood greenways?

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          • John Liu February 11, 2014 at 4:37 pm

            Sorry, no convenient “encyclopedia of slow plowing” to cite. Do some research – try “snow plow bare pavement” as your initial search string, you’ll get to various municipal sites and you can read what their crews have to do to achieve “bare pavement” and where/when they try to achieve it.

            Plowing greenways would be nice – I was thinking that as I slipped all over SE Ankeney on Monday. But again, unless they can get down to fairly close to a bare pavement level of snow removal, I am not sure how much it will really help. What is the snow depth and condition that the “average” bike commuter on the average commute bike/tires is going to choose to ride in, rather than taking the bus or driving? Will 1 inch be shallow enough? Fresh snow, or packed snow, slick slush, icy ruts, etc? Seems to me that you will need to get the road to that condition or risk a wasted effort. Also, I don’t know how much car traffic will be on the typical greenway during a snow event.

            Bigger picture: the premise being discussed here is that if the city does a better job of snow removal during the snow storms that we have for 1 week every 5 years, that will make more Portlanders choose to bike commute during the other 255 weeks.

            Plausible?

            Maybe it will simply make more Portlanders choose to bike commute for that 1 week, with no measurable effect for the other 255 . . .

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    • Psyfalcon February 11, 2014 at 3:30 pm

      Plows can take the snow down to a bare surface. Its loud, hard on equipment, and hard on the roads. I’ve heard stories of sending manhole covers down the street like hockey pucks.

      Now, if freezing rain is forecast, you do NOT want to plow to the road surface. I think this is why they were leaving an inch or two, its much easier to remove ice sitting on a little snow.

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    • Spiffy February 11, 2014 at 4:16 pm

      Cyclists can ride in traffic lanes, pedestrians cannot be expected to walk there.

      I walked in the road a lot on Sunday evening… police didn’t care… cars slowed down…

      it wasn’t safe to walk on most of the sidewalks since they were just a layer of bumpy ice…

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      • Barbara Stedman February 11, 2014 at 9:49 pm

        Homeowners and business owners are required to clear sidewalks, not the city. Unfortunately, nobody seems to know that in Portland. The few sidewalks we have here in SW Portland were mostly not cleared, not even in front of apartment buildings or businesses where you would think that the owners know better or could pay somebody to clear the sidewalks.

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        • davemess February 12, 2014 at 7:32 am

          I know it. But I also know that the snow here rarely lasts more than a few days (ie. my sidewalk was clear by monday), and I don’t have a snow shovel. I think in one mile of my street there were maybe 1-2 shoveled walks. Was I upset by this? Nope, I expected it to be snowy and bad conditions when I went out (and dressed accordingly). I was a little surprised at how few businesses bothered to hire a plow for their parking lots, but again, this is Portland, where snow is rare and I’m not at all surprised or even that bothered that snow removal was at a minimum everywhere (except the main roads!).

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          • Paul in the 'Couve February 12, 2014 at 8:45 am

            I think that is the main idea in Portland, for better or worse, the attitude here is “it will just melt” which is ‘fine’ I guess. It annoys the heck out of me, especially in the really rare instances where it doesn’t melt – like a few years ago. The Portland attitude is 30% victimized blaming the weather and 70% “oh, well, it will melt some day.” Drives me crazy but I’ve learned to just ignore it, mostly.

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          • Barbara Stedman February 12, 2014 at 10:28 am

            It doesn’t matter if you own a snow shovel or not, you are obliged to clean the sidewalk. Property owners are liable if someone gets injured. I’m amazed that people don’t pay more attention to this in this litigation-happy country. By the way, I don’t own a snow shovel either, but i do have a garden shovel which works for shoveling once every few years. And this snow was so light we could even brush it away with a broom. In the higher areas of SW sidewalks were not clear by Monday, especially not if the snoplows piled the snow on the sidewalks.
            It also doesn’t matter if you can walk, it matters if kids, elderly and people in wheelchairs can use the sidewalk.

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            • davemess February 12, 2014 at 1:37 pm

              I’m sorry (and I’m sure this makes me a bad citizen), but Fri/Sat/Sun unshoveled sidewalks were probably the least of problems for the elderly/disabled.

              Question: If you don’t have a paved sidewalk are you still required to shovel?

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              • John Liu February 12, 2014 at 6:03 pm

                On Friday and again on Saturday, I shoveled a path through the snow on the sidewalk fronting my house. A day later, that path was easily the iciest, most hazardous part of the sidewalk.

                I also shoveled off my neighbors’ walk and stairs (they are older). We salted the heck out of those steps, but I didn’t have enough Morton’s Iodized Table Salt to do the whole sidewalk, and I wasn’t going to use my kosher salt, French sel de mer, or the pretty pink Himalayan finishing salt . . . Fine, I’m a bad person, pfffbt!

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    • davemess February 11, 2014 at 6:03 pm

      John where did you get this?
      I’ve lived in a lot of snowy places (Ohio, New York, Colorado), and would consistently get streets/highways plowed to the pavement (without salt, although they would usually still be salting).

      In Colorado it was actually great to flow the plow trucks, because they would do a great job clearing the road right in front of you.

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  • Reza February 11, 2014 at 2:18 pm

    “On that website BikePortland.org…”

    Why does that phrasing in the news story seem to perpetuate that tired “us vs. them” theme that we have to constantly endure from the local media?

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  • Ty February 11, 2014 at 2:27 pm

    Most of my normal route was under packed slush/ice, so I had to detour this morning. It doesn’t bother me, though. I got to see some neighborhoods i hadn’t seen in a while. I can’t see investing in the equipment needed to clear my bike path for a once every 5 years snow storm like this, especially when it only lasts a few days. If we got past, say, a 10% commute rate, we might have the beginnings of being able to justify such a cost, but I pretty well enjoyed the alternative of staying home playing in the snow, drinking hot chocolate with the kids.

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) February 11, 2014 at 2:47 pm

      Thanks for the comment Ty. A few thoughts…

      “I can’t see investing in the equipment needed to clear my bike path for a once every 5 years snow storm like this”

      Weather patterns are changing and the equipment investment would be minimal. One snow-plow attachment to existing sweeper could do the trick I bet. PBOT already has most of the equipment they’d need. It’d just require a few more hours of labor.

      If we got past, say, a 10% commute rate, we might have the beginnings of being able to justify such a cost

      I think this is the absolute wrong way to think about it.. yet it’s a powerful and common perspective in America. The reason we don’t have 10% commute rate is precisely because of stuff like this! We need to have policies that encourage the behaviors we want in the future (more biking!) — not policies that maintain the status quo.

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      • Ty February 11, 2014 at 10:37 pm

        I would love to see more people adopting cycling as a commute method as much as any one on this forum. I would rather spend the money where we get the best return, and, in my opinion, that comes from better bike paths that are protected from auto traffic. There is so much to do in this regard, that I can’t see spending on trying to get fruit at the top of the tree. The 10% is just a number to indicate we need some sort of critical mass amount of bike commuters to warrant the extras, like a bike path snow plow. It’s kinda like wanting to install street lamps and connecting up houses to power poles, but no one wants to install the power lines.

        If PBOT already has all the equipment and just needs to lash it together, it sounds like convincing them to do that is a pretty good option. I was under the impression that they do not have what is needed.

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  • AndyC of Linnton February 11, 2014 at 2:56 pm

    How about we build MUPs with no motorized access on both sides of the Willamette and throw 4 or 5 in the East/West direction. When this occurs again in five or so years, we can either have volunteers shovel or plow the MUP, or if financially possible, have the city clear these lanes as our main bike/walk precedence.
    It wouldn’t clear all routes, but it’d just be like the main plowed precedence: Sandy is cleared, but, say, SE16th is dicey.

    Of course, we would have to actually build them.
    Perhaps this is a better idea for the residents of Portland in the year 2075.

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  • MaxD February 11, 2014 at 3:37 pm

    “If there was at least one bike route through the central city and one route to each of the five quadrants that people could rely on — no matter what the weather — it would make a huge difference in safety and in the number of people who could safely travel during and after storms.”

    This is a good goal regardless of snow! I live in North Portland, and Interstate Ave is the Westernmost, and most direct bike connection to the rest of Portland except teh NE Quadrant. Regardless of plowing, Interstate has intermittent sidewalks, narrow bike lanes that get dangerously thin at overpasses w/out warning, and bike lanes that completely disappear between Killingsworth and Rosa Parks. I would love to see this, other primary routes through the 5 quadrants brought up to a safe condition, and then lets talk about plowing snow!

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  • jocko February 11, 2014 at 3:55 pm

    Today a super heavy bike is your friend.

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  • Adam February 11, 2014 at 4:01 pm

    Let’s not forget about the sidewalks either. A walk to the drugstore around the corner to grab a prescription that would normally take me ten minutes took me almost 25 on the ice.

    For an agency that claims to prioritize bikes and peds, PBOT sure don’t put their money where their mouth is.

    Home and business owners are left to shovel/plough the sidewalks outside their properties. I wonder how they would feel if PBOT told them they were responsible for shoveling done out of the entire ROADWAYS their homes/businesses front. Why do taxpayers fund road clearance, bug it’s left to volunteers to fund sidewalk and bikelane clearance where snow is concerned? It stinks!

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    • Barbara Stedman February 12, 2014 at 10:34 am

      That property owners are responsible for clearing their sidewalks is not unique to Portland, but common everywhere in the US, as well as in Germany and probably other european countries. I think everybody can deal with a littler bit of shoveling in front of their house. It should be possible for fragile people to get around safely, not just for the “strong and fearless”. By the way, in Portland you are responsible for the street as well if it is not up to city standards which a lot aren’t in SW or outer East Portland. So if you don’t have a sidewalk, in theory you have to clean the street to the middle line.

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      • Paul in the 'Couve February 12, 2014 at 10:57 am

        Exactly, and in fact in Portland in the 1850 – 1900 time period, as was common at the time, city code required property owners to provide side walks and at times required all males resident in the city to provide a few days of labor each year for the maintenance of roads. It is the regular way of things that property owners were to directly supply and maintain the safe facilities for streets. It is only with the bicycle first and then automobile that we got the government into providing these as a public service rather than enforcing ordinances forcing businesses and property owners to provide them. I can provide a citations for this, but will not take the time at the moment.

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  • Paul Souders February 11, 2014 at 4:05 pm

    I’d like to see paths/greenways prioritized, tried to ride S. Waterfront path home last night and it was unpassable. Roads were just fine as long as I took the lane.

    And the ice barriers across the cycletrack on SW Broadway: not cool.

    I have other thoughts/complaints but I’m still feeling a little smug from my trouble-free homebound commute Thursday afternoon, when in 10 miles I passed thousands of cars at a near standstill.

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  • GlowBoy February 11, 2014 at 4:18 pm

    I don’t personally have the resources to do this for a once-in-five-years event, but maybe a handful of Portland cyclists with more money than me could invest in gas-powered snowblowers and do some guerrilla plowing on the MUPs when it snows.

    It wouldn’t be a huge investment – most homeowners in my native Minneapolis seem to have them – and only a handful of people would have to buy into the idea for it to make a big difference.

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    • GlowBoy February 11, 2014 at 4:47 pm

      Just did a bit of research on what snowblowers cost these days: electric power shovels start around $100, full-on electric snowblowers around $200. Gas models start around $500 for single-stage and $800-1000 for dual-stage (and you’d probably want the latter to make a real dent in your neighborhood’s paths). I’m sure there are a few people around here who could afford such an investment.

      Personally, if real snow wasn’t QUITE so rare I could see investing in an electric model eventually myself, since they’re quite a bit less expensive than I realized, and since I live on a corner lot and shovel 170 feet of sidewalk every time it snows.

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  • Marv February 12, 2014 at 4:41 am

    I read Bike Portland daily, even tho I live in Billings, Montana. An excellent site, very interesting. I have to say I am envious of you folks there, even though the rain and wet looks like a real drag sometimes. I had determined to ride my 7 mile one way commute this winter when possible, no matter how cold, if the roads and bike lanes were clear of snow and ice. I work night shift, leave in the dark, come home in the morning. The last time I rode it was -5 below zero when I came home…wasn’t fun, but was proud I had did it. That was over 2 months ago. I haven’t been able to ride since. The ice would eventually dry up, I’d think I could ride the next day, and BAM, another snowstorm, which blocked the lanes and turned the roads into hard packed ice. We haven’t made it above freezing in the daytime for weeks here until yesterday. Do they plow the bike lanes here? No. Do they plow the MUP’s here? No. Not economically feasible here. I think it’s still shocking to most folks here to even see someone on a bike period in Nov. or Dec. Would that I could move my family to Portland, but that is not economically feasible either for us. So if Portland bike commuters have to put up with a few days here and there where you can’t bike, remember how fortunate you all really are. Would that eventually my area and other parts of the country could come close to what you have in Portland. My hat is off to your city!

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    • Paul in the 'Couve February 12, 2014 at 1:12 pm

      Thanks for commenting. I can say from experience that Billings presents a whole ‘nother level of difficulty even compared to Bozeman or Missoula. Bozeman is a bit colder, but trips are shorter and better connectivity on side streets. Billings they don’t plow side streets ever. The arterials in Billings are challenging for bikes, that’s how I became a “Vehicular Cyclist” and I was unfazed riding on 6th Ave. in NY the first time, it was nothing compared to being run off the road by 4x4s on 24th street west on my way to school. It seems the past dozen winters have been mostly not very snowy, but back in the 80s I always rode BMX during the winter, even over mountain bikes. My old Schwinn Mag Scrambler with 2.75″ tires was the ticket. Even then, there are days in Billings were no bike (except maybe the new Fat Bikes) is worth a dang in the slush / ice combination. Good job riding as much as you can.

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  • John Lascurettes February 12, 2014 at 10:33 am

    It occurred to me post-thaw that I’m very happy that PBOT stays the hell off my neighborhood greenways, lest they be coated in a layer of gravel, I mean “sand”, now that would take months to go away. Now – I have smooth sailing until I get to an arterial street now covered in gravel.

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  • Humongous Ed February 12, 2014 at 11:07 am

    Id like to know how northern european cities handle this. They have lits of snow, right? Do they have a huge inventory of snow plows to scrape the cyxle paths free, or do they just expect people to ride in the snow?

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    • Barbara Stedman February 12, 2014 at 3:47 pm

      We lived in the northern German town of Kiel for a few months a few years ago. After it snowed the city came out pretty fast to clear the cycle tracks from snow. They had these cute little street sweepers/plows. They cleared cycle tracks as well as bikepaths that were part of the sidewalk. The funny thing was that they carefully plowed the bikepath part (which is of only separated by different color/type of pavement from the pedestrian area), but not the pedestrian part, as that is the responsibility of the property owner. Of course, what happened is that the homeowners did not clear the sidewalks as fast and people walked in the bikepath. So that part was suboptimal. But I was impressed how fast they cleared the cycletracks and they cleared them down to the pavement.

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  • Joe February 12, 2014 at 2:08 pm

    now that it gone we have gravel. lol

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  • Barbara Stedman February 12, 2014 at 3:37 pm

    Yes, it makes you a bad citizen. It’s like saying why do we need bikelanes, if the “strong and fearless” can take the lane. There are different levels of disabled and elderly so why don’t you leave it them what their problem was?
    As I said in another comment – if your street isn’t up to city standards (not paved, no curbs and sidewalks) then the city does not maintain it. It is up to the property owner to maintain the whole street up to the center line in front of the property. For example, we live on a cul-de-sac off a gravel road in SW Portland. All neighbors put in a couple of hundred bucks each every few years to have this gravel road regraded and potholes filled. I have seen streets where neighbors don’t do that – they are a mess. So if you have a sidewalk in front of your house – consider yourself lucky that you only have to shovel the sidewalk!

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    • Barbara Stedman February 12, 2014 at 3:40 pm

      Yes, it makes you a bad citizen. It’s like saying why do we need bikelanes, if the “strong and fearless” can take the lane. There are different levels of disabled and elderly so why don’t you leave it them what their problem was?
      Sorry, should have been an answer to Davemess

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  • Frizzle February 12, 2014 at 8:13 pm

    I think you have a great point, it all adds up- the couple days here, and a couple there mentality is awful. I think it places bikers as second tier priorities. I wonder if the city knows that many people don’t have other transportation options beside their bikes?
    That being said, I ended up taking the bus all the days of the “storm” because I work a retail job requiring me to show up (whole another topic) instead of riding and I don’t know what would have been a better option: I waited over an hour & a half for the bus to show up and while waiting, saw many riders trekking up Sandy, many almost slipping & falling into traffic.
    All being said, I’ve never lived anywhere else but was completely in shock out little snow shut down the whole city infrastructure.

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