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A harrowing, icy commute

Posted by on December 30th, 2015 at 10:30 am

An icy commute-1.jpg
(Photos © J. Maus/BikePortland)

If you rode into work this morning and are reading this, congratulations: You survived one of the most harrowing commutes of 2015. And I’m only slightly joking.

I almost didn’t.

When I left my house in north Portland for downtown this morning I knew the roads were slick and icy. I took my time, tried to stay upright and as balanced as possible, and put my foot down and/or walked whenever I sensed a fall was imminent. I had a few slip-slideys on my way toward the Mississippi area and then headed down the steep Albina hill en route to Interstate.

The Albina hill is both steep and curvy, so I was going very slow. About a third of the way down I looked up and saw a woman standing beside her bike. I could tell something wasn’t right. Sure enough she had just fallen and was about to walk the rest of the way down. After talking with her on the sidewalk, I re-entered the roadway and very slowly continued down while riding in the shoulder with my leg as an outrigger.

A few seconds later, I looked to my left and saw a green blur. A man in a Honda Civic flew by and — just as he passed me — hit his brakes and began to slide straight into the curb. He completely missed the turn and he very narrowly missed me. Had I been about 20 feet further up the road he would have slammed right into me.

I walked the rest of the way down the hill.

An icy commute-4.jpg
Notice the damage to the right front wheel and fender. The driver (in black jacket) was pretty shocked and fortunately not injured.
An icy commute-7.jpg
An icy commute-3.jpg
This is only guy I talked to this morning who actually loved the commute. (Window of North Portland Bikeworks on N Mississippi).

Black ice is a particularly ruthless nemesis for all road users, but for those who use bicycles, it poses an even greater challenge. And because we’re not encased in steel, it poses an even greater risk.

We’ve heard from a few readers who crashed along with several other people at specific locations. Here’s what a reader named Emily saw at SE 7th and Stark (near the Paddle Sports Center):

We noticed a couple of riders who may have fallen (bottom of a hill, slight turn) across the street. I saw another fall before I left. I guess there have been 8 riders fall so far, so the guys at the Paddle Sports Center set up a table with coffee for folks.

I thought it was a sweet gesture and wanted someone to know.

And Dan K. is licking his wounds after falling on invisible black ice at SE 7th and Tayor:

I was the third bike commuter that I know of to crash (then slide spectacularly on the slick pavement) at the intersection of Sandy, SE 7th and Taylor — where Sandy goes down a small hill and merges into 7th.

There was black ice in the bike lane that was not apparent at all – even looking at it after I crashed, it appeared to dry pavement. I’m sore with minor cuts but am okay. It appears my bike suffered only a broken rear-view mirror.

I got up to speak with 2 other commuters who were checking themselves and their bikes after crashing at the same spot minutes earlier. One of the bent her front fork. I immediately called PBOT and the dispatcher said they would get a crew there to de-ice that spot.

Hope everyone’s OK.

Please share your experiences from this morning’s ride and any tips you have for biking safely when roads are slick.

— Jonathan Maus, (503) 706-8804 – jonathan@bikeportland.org

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Thank you — Jonathan

  • Mike Running December 30, 2015 at 10:36 am

    I was grateful to see two cyclists at about 8:40am this morning waiting at the bottom of that hill on SE 7th to warn me and others of the treachery ahead. Kindness and selflessness in action. Sorry so many commuters had accidents today. Super slick on the roads!

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  • RH December 30, 2015 at 10:37 am

    I biked very slowly down Interstate and over the Broadway….careful of sudden braking and turns. I felt the rear wheel slide out once. I was almost going to Max it today….buy saw other people cycling down Interstate – so I went for it.

    I didn’t even think about how cars could skid into me…yikes.

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  • lahar December 30, 2015 at 10:37 am

    Slow and cautious, with about 60 lbs in my 28mm tires. That and not good decision making skills made it a fun commute. A little bit of adventure in a pretty dull day.

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  • reader December 30, 2015 at 10:42 am

    I almost bit it a few times just WALKING to work!

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    • Spiffy December 30, 2015 at 2:44 pm

      same here… I spent about 25%-50% of my time in downtown just trying to keep my feet in place… the older roads and sidewalks were the worst… wasn’t as bad in SE since it was 2° warmer there…

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  • Paul Atkinson December 30, 2015 at 10:44 am

    As I approached SE 2nd and Caruthers from the East I saw a guy walking toward me in the bike lane with his arms outstretched. When I got close he warned me about significant black ice in the intersection there; he’d seen more than a couple crashes and warned me to be extra careful.

    There was another rider on the other side who was clearly picking himself up after a fall.

    I walked across and…yeah, that was terribly slick (and visually not distinct from what I’d been riding cautiously on the whole way). I’m extremely grateful to the gentleman who took the time to dismount and hang around warning others.

    Aside from that I saw no dangerous events, though I took the ride much more slowly than usual.

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  • Adam H. December 30, 2015 at 10:50 am

    Yet another reason why simply painted bike lanes don’t work. One slip and you’re lying in the car lane.

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    • Todd Hudson December 30, 2015 at 10:58 am

      Good thing you repeat this in every comments section, otherwise we would never be aware.

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      • Adam H. December 30, 2015 at 11:16 am

        That doesn’t make it any less true. I’ll keep saying it until we have a world-class network of protected bike lanes. 😉

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        • middle of the road guy December 30, 2015 at 11:32 am

          I can’t wait until we have a world class system of car lanes protected from cyclists 🙂

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          • jonno December 30, 2015 at 12:43 pm

            Like the interstates?

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          • nuovorecord December 30, 2015 at 1:08 pm

            Your wait is over.

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) December 30, 2015 at 11:03 am

      I knew you would say that!

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      • Adam H. December 30, 2015 at 11:16 am

        Didn’t want to disappoint. 😉

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    • Alex Reed December 30, 2015 at 11:32 am

      And if we get protected bike lanes, they will be on the routes that the City prioritizes for winter maintenance. Hopefully that’ll make it easier to argue for the City to plow and de-ice them. The greenways are currently tied for last on the list for plowing and de-icing with all the other residential streets in the city.

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      • Adam H. December 30, 2015 at 11:43 am

        Yep! They even make bike-lane-sized plows/de-icers, so the excuse that protected bike lanes can’t be maintained in inclement weather is invalid.

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        • meh December 30, 2015 at 12:03 pm

          We don’t even have enough plow and de-icing capability in this city to deal with the roads. How much more money do we have to buy sidewalk sized machines to take care of this problem?

          Consider that a measely painted line would allow for what little we have now in terms of deicing to be applied to the bike lanes at the same time as the roads. Protecting them adds exponentially to the ability to do that work.

          But again we don’t have enough to deice all the roads, doubtful that all the bike lanes and mups would ever get de-iced.

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          • Adam H. December 30, 2015 at 12:12 pm

            If the city truly wanted to encourage and prioritize cycling for transportation, they could de-ice the bike lanes and Neighborhood Greenways first, as they do in Copenhagen. Driving is far more dangerous in this weather than riding a bike. Why not encourage people to take less dangerous modes when the weather is bad? The fact that the roads are icy isn’t the problem; everyone still insisting on driving on them is.

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            • meh December 30, 2015 at 12:48 pm

              Much the same as everyone insisting on biking in the same conditions. How about everyone just stay off the road.

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              • Adam H. December 30, 2015 at 12:56 pm

                Sometimes people need to get places. More reason to build dense, walkable neighborhoods. If everything you needed was within a 20 minute walk, then a little ice wouldn’t be a big deal.

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                • lop December 31, 2015 at 6:33 pm

                  Walking a mile on icy sidewalks is a great way to get hurt. A lot of people post here about taking a fall on the ice, but say how they didn’t get hurt too bad. If you’re 90? You get hurt bad from that sort of fall. Hopefully your plan for dense walkable neighborhoods that has 8-80 bike facilities doesn’t build sidewalks for such a limited demographic, but instead maintains them for universal access.

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          • Alex Reed December 30, 2015 at 7:06 pm

            Painted bike lanes don’t get plowed or deiced now in Portland, by and large. Painted, buffered, or protected bike lanes could be plowed and deiced in the future. It all depends on building a strong movement for liveable streets, and thus creating a political environment where allocating the funding and resources to winter bike infrastructure maintenance is not only imaginable, but expected of politicians.

            “Funding” is not an immovable object. It’s the biggest, most important, statement of politicians’ current priorities. If we think our transportation system could and should work better, it’s our job to change the politicians’ priorities. Join BikeLoudPDX or another politically active group – start up Bike Walk Vote again! Convincing people on BikePortland that things will never get better is not going to improve the world.

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    • meh December 30, 2015 at 12:00 pm

      So how exactly will a protected bike lane reduce ice accumulation any more or less than a painted line does now?

      Let me guess, protected also means covered and heated.

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      • Adam H. December 30, 2015 at 12:08 pm

        It won’t prevent ice, but it will make it far less dangerous when ice happens by creating a physical barrier between the bike lane and the car travel lane. After all, it’s not the ice that’s the true problem, it’s the drivers who don’t take the conditions into account and crash/slip into the bike lane. Protected bike lanes could reclaim space from the car lanes, therefore narrowing them and encouraging slower (i.e. safer) driving. A physical barrier or large median (clear zone) could reduce the impact by giving the irresponsible driver something to crash into that’s not a person.

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        • canuck January 1, 2016 at 1:59 pm

          The majority of bike vehicle collisions occur at intersections, which will never equate to protected.

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          • soren January 3, 2016 at 12:04 pm


            The Danes made improvements to intersection safety a priority over the past few decades (based on a series of studies showing that intersections were the source of significant risk). I suspect that this has something to do with the fact that Copenhagen has seen a large decrease in injury accidents and now has the highest cycling mode share of any major city.

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    • El Biciclero December 30, 2015 at 12:42 pm

      Slipping on ice and hitting your head on the separator curb: $5,328.77. Moving out of the bike lane to avoid the ice patch: priceless.

      “Protection” is almost always a double-edged sword.

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      • Adam H. December 30, 2015 at 1:04 pm

        Every activity has risks. The goal of protected bike lanes are to vastly reduce the greatest risk: that of motor vehicle crashes.

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        • El Biciclero December 30, 2015 at 2:17 pm

          But if we look at where most crashes between bicycles and motor vehicles happen, what we might attempt to do would be to “protect” intersections, while allowing freedom of movement mid-block. The greatest risks to bicyclists in bike lanes (or any far-right infrastructure) are turning vehicles and cross traffic. I would love to see a stretch of bike “infrastructure” that really protected against those two risks; I don’t think barrier-separated cycle-ways do that. Currently, the American approach to “protection” is to add it where it isn’t truly needed, and give up on it where it truly is needed. The small attempts I’ve seen in the Portland area actually create the worst of both worlds where intersections are concerned. Multnomah past Lloyd Center and Williams seem to be two prime examples.

          I would literally jump for joy, make a video of said jump, and post it on You-Tube for all to see if we could create a system that provided plain (or wide-buffered) bike lanes that allowed for freedom to move in and out of them, and then offered a choice at intersections: either take the protected, bendy route through, or fly through with motor traffic if you were keeping up and could merge in. Protection, freedom, and efficiency, depending on when you favored which one.

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          • Adam H. December 31, 2015 at 11:53 am

            Totally agree, the intersections on NE Multnomah (so-called “mixing zones”) are dangerous. Several cities installed protected intersections this year and we would be prudent to follow suit here in Portland. We could also experiment with a simultaneous green that stops all directions of motor traffic and allows people riding bikes to cross in any direction they want.

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  • SilkySlim December 30, 2015 at 10:51 am

    Jogged in this morning, and it was definitely slippery on many sidewalks. Biking home tonight, hoping the sun melts things out a bit.

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  • Matt F December 30, 2015 at 10:53 am

    Riding in down Harrison, going through 20th into Ladd’s around 8am…a dude was riding back warning me and other riders that there was ice ahead and that he had seen several people fall. Pretty damn nice of that guy! thanks man!

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  • EmilyG December 30, 2015 at 10:53 am

    Bused most of the way to work today and was glad I did- very slippery at 8 this morning. It was ok biking over in Vancouver, as the sun had melted a lot of the ice, but I was nearly hit in the Mill Plain/136th intersection by some idiot who blew through the red way after it had turned. People are not driving safely in this weather.

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  • Robert Burchett December 30, 2015 at 10:53 am

    OK, there’s one rationale for separate bike infrastructure that’s going to be hard to gainsay. Glad you came through whole!

    Quick karma on the Honda driver. One way to effect traffic calming: Install freezer coils in the “car” lanes, activate them at random. Ice doesn’t profile people. Have some stick, irresponsible car owner! Yes sarcasm.

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  • Carrie December 30, 2015 at 10:55 am

    I ended up walking across the intersection at SE Holgate and 17th because I barely came to a stop there due to black ice.

    The major bummer for me was having a semi-truck driver honking at me, and of course gunning his engine, for 3 blocks as I took the lane further north on SE 17th as the bike lane was a sheet of ice (as was the sidewalk). Guess he thought I didn’t know he was there and I was slow? So sorry I made the driver a few minutes late this morning, but it’s not like there was anywhere else I could have gone. (And it was pretty scary because I was thinking that, if I fell, would the truck be able to stop or would it slide/run right over me?).

    I do wish I had taken the Bus or MAX this morning, though I don’t think walking would have been any easier.

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    • mark December 30, 2015 at 7:57 pm

      If it’s a company driver, make it a point to remember the company and at least trailer number. Call them in and complain.

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      • Bald One December 31, 2015 at 11:07 am

        It’s nearly impossible to figure out who all the truck operators are who haul out of the Brooklyn UPRR yard at 17th and Holgate. They are not owned by the Railroad, but independents. There are no rear license plates on most of these trailers, and if there are, they are registered way out of state – nearly impossible to track on any given truck run for a few miles in Portland. Most of the tractors hauling the trailers are so old and dilapidated, faded logos and markings, etc.

        The 1000’s of trucks that operate in this neighborhood area (Reed, Brooklyn) tend to be aggressive and fast, and make lots of left turns in dangerous fashions. I wouldn’t be surprised if many of them also dodging their gas taxes, live out of the area, and crush our local streets with their foreign cargoes.

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        • J4son January 1, 2016 at 7:13 am

          If you witness unsafe driving practices by a tractor trailer (or other large motor carrier) fill out the information to file a complaint at this link:
          Make sure you note the USDOT registration number of the vehicle, along with location, time and date of the incident. The USDOT registration number is usually located on the lower part of the doors.
          The website has a description of the scope of complaints that they will address. Just remember that the USDOT is also a “motor centric” agency and you should frame your complaint in such a way that the individual handling the complaint cannot simply dismiss the claim as “not something we can address”.

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  • Ricky December 30, 2015 at 10:55 am

    Do Not lean when turning, slow down & stay perpendicular, think ice skating all the way to your destination. Elbows out will help with balance as will an inside knee when turning to allow better cornering while keeping bike upright. Anticipate movement further ahead than normal, avoid anything sudden. Slow down and accelerate much more gradually. Just be safe out there, no need to abandon our bikes just yet

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    • Ricky December 30, 2015 at 11:02 am

      Also avoid narrow hand positions.

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  • ethan December 30, 2015 at 10:55 am

    This is (one of the reasons) why we need real bike infrastructure! I don’t want some driver sliding into me and killing me.

    I didn’t ride today, but the walk to and from the bus was… interesting. Lots of sliding around and shuffling without much forward movement.

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  • Pedal PT December 30, 2015 at 11:02 am

    Rough commute for many this morning: My wife slipped and crashed while picking up the path off the west end of SE Clinton heading towards Tilikum around 6:45am while navigating the numerous twists and turns. And, while she gathered herself, she warned another cyclist passing by to be extra careful. .. and yet 100 yards ahead that person too had fallen.. 🙁

    I took it extra slow today down Clinton from South Tabor, which was fairly dry by 8:30, however while lightly standing up on the pedals to get moving after the stop at 26th + Clinton, my rear wheel completely spun out which caught me by surprise..

    The most common result of bike falls on ice is due to going around corners with too much speed, and attempting too sharp of a turn. Best advice: In icy conditions, be sure to slow down a bunch BEFORE encountering the bend, and take a wide, sweeping turn while keeping your body-weight centered over the bike, and avoid pedaling until you finish off.. If you’re lucky have numerous bikes, choose the one with the widest wheel-base (distance from center-center of wheels), as it will keep you more stable too– Deflating your tires 10Lbs or so works well for some folks, however I have yet to try that one out..

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    • soren December 30, 2015 at 12:04 pm

      More like 20-30 lbs for me. I deflated to 85 PSI today and took turns slowly. I also have 38 c slicks for when it’s really icy…

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      • Spiffy December 30, 2015 at 2:48 pm

        slicks for when it’s icy? that seems backwards…

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        • Derp December 30, 2015 at 3:53 pm

          Wide slicks are probably you’re best bet when it’s an icy road. All you can do increase your contact patch. You want as much rubber on the road as possible, but it’s still going to be slippery. Knobby tires are covered in gaps that could have been friction-producing rubber. Ideally you want tires that have those little bumps on the shoulders of the tire to fill in the dimples in the road. They’ll distort enough on truly flat ice, but you should be turning as flat (no lean) and slow as possible. The problem is that there aren’t many options out there for that tire. Water-channeling tread has become the default, as if hydroplaning was a practical issue for cycling.

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          • eddie December 30, 2015 at 11:32 pm

            My friends in Boston sometimes put zip ties on their tyres for traction. Has anyone tried this?

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            • soren December 31, 2015 at 12:26 pm

              only works on soft snow.

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  • hotrodder December 30, 2015 at 11:16 am

    Hit the deck 3 blocks from my house (the ol’ front tire slip and fall like a sack of potatoes.)

    Turned around, got the pickup and drove slowly in. I can’t believe I even made it three blocks, at 5 am it was just a sheet of black ice all the way from Wilshire Park to the Fremont bridge.

    Shoulder hurts, hip hurts, need a new helmet. Sucks to be a six footer when you slam the pavement. At least I know better than to try and break my fall with my hand.

    Good luck out there and congrats to everyone who rode in.

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  • Charley Gee December 30, 2015 at 11:24 am

    SE Gladstone was very slick this morning with piles of frozen leaves. the corner of SE 22nd and Gladstone was a sheet of ice and I almost fell there and also the area on the west side of the new elevator bridge on SE Lafayette. I saw one person fall at Clinton and 12th.

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  • B. Carfree December 30, 2015 at 11:25 am

    Ice is about the only thing that’s not a virus that keeps me off my bike. That’s a big part of why I choose to live in a place where liquid water is the norm.

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  • GlowBoy December 30, 2015 at 11:27 am

    Studded tires, studded tires, studded tires.

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    • davemess December 30, 2015 at 2:32 pm

      For a couple of days a year?

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      • GlowBoy December 31, 2015 at 9:54 pm

        Yes. A good set costs about $150. What’s a broken collarbone or dislocated shoulder worth?

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        • davemess January 1, 2016 at 8:48 am

          a TRIMET ticket?

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  • charlietso December 30, 2015 at 11:33 am

    Totally agree with Jonathan that we were lucky to survive the commute.

    I lost balance and fell from my bike when I was turning from N Vancouver onto N Russell. Luckily, there was no car around me. Then I proceeded south bound on N Flint I saw a cyclist standing with his bike on the sidewalk at the intersection of N Flint and Broadway. I started to brake and slided around then I realized that whole intersection was covered by black ice. That cyclist was like “yeah that got me too”. I reported that black ice at Flint and Broadway to PBOT, but I don’t know if that will help.

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  • Ted Buehler December 30, 2015 at 11:37 am

    Folks, anytime you’re going to be riding in slick conditions…

    Consider *** lowering your seat ***

    Drop it all the way down. Or halfway down. If you can get a solid foot on the ground without stretching, you’re less likely to fall if you hit ice.

    And if you do fall you won’t hit as hard if you start 2″ or 4″ closer to the ground.

    Much better to have to pedal a little harder and have slightly sore knees than to have a bruised hip.

    Ted Buehler

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    • Angel December 30, 2015 at 11:09 pm

      Comment of the week!

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  • Joe December 30, 2015 at 11:51 am

    careful next few days we going get the same icy coming in, the painted strip is always sketchyI try and avoid, since the paint over many times causing a high edge.. also look at the car tires in this lane, learn alot on driver patterns on a road.

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  • David December 30, 2015 at 12:02 pm

    As I was riding on Beaverton-Hillsdale and Barbur this morning, the most frustrating thing was seeing that deicer had been applied in the auto lanes but bikes were on their own. Ironically the one thing that made the lanes passable was all of the debris that provided some decent traction throughout.

    For all of the comments about ODOT, PBOT, et al., this omission ranks up there with (small) things that are clearly overlooked when it comes to bicycle infrastructure. Sure you can paint the lines, or build greenways with diverters, or cycle tracks, or MUPs, or anything else for that matter. However if it’s going to be covered in leaves in the fall, gravel all year depending on construction and snow, ice every time it gets cold, water every time it rains and a drain is backed up or the roadway fails to allow for proper drainage, or debris from a (car) crash is left out for weeks at a time, that pathway fails. Those conditions are not allowed to persist for any length of time in auto lanes because that is the expectation, but it’s been months since any extended stretch of my 18 mile round trip commute has not featured some significant adverse conditions because it is overlooked to the extent that cyclists must self-report every stretch of road because there is little maintenance of these pathways by default.

    While this post is about ice, it’s really one symptom of a much larger problem.


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    • PDXCycylist December 30, 2015 at 12:40 pm

      Thanks David, had the same thought as I took this route this morning!

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    • John Lascurettes December 30, 2015 at 12:59 pm

      Sounds like perfectly justifiable cause to take the lane despite there being a bike lane. Ice is a hazard to be avoided.

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      • David December 30, 2015 at 1:51 pm

        I agree that this would likely qualify as conditions that would allow that action, as a practical matter taking the lane on BHH or Barbur is likely more dangerous than riding on a sheet of ice or most other hazards that I’ve encountered. Even as an experienced cyclist at this point, I try to avoid taking the lane when I am not able to reasonably keep up with car traffic. I witness enough dangerous drivers every day that I am not able to trust that only the responsible drivers be behind me when I’m taking the lane.

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    • El Biciclero January 1, 2016 at 11:03 am

      Perfect. This observation is so obvious to anyone who rides a bike with any regularity. It is either car-head, willful disregard, or just the thought that “nobody” will be using those bike lanes that leads to the often deplorable conditions along some routes (B-H seems to be particularly subject to “entropy”, for some reason).

      I hate to think that overlooking bike lane maintenance is done intentionally; I think it falls into a similar category as “looking” for many motorists. Bicycles just don’t enter into the minds of a lot of people until some “angry, entitled” bicyclist reminds them. * Sigh *

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  • fat spandex dude December 30, 2015 at 12:27 pm

    Jonathan’s experience is exactly why I took the bus today. I’m kinda confident that my cruddy ol’ dinky mountain bike could get me to work and back without a fall, but I’m not at all confident that I wouldn’t get turned into mush by an out of control carmobile. Seems like drivers have never collectively gotten the message that they should slow way down when there’s the possibility of ice. I hope that y’all have safe trips home!

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  • John Lascurettes December 30, 2015 at 12:57 pm

    Walking out to my garage my feet were slipping in my driveway. I then walked out to my street and checked the conditions there. There was simply too much ice around for me to want to risk it (and my old standby MTB with studded tires is missing pedals right now). Glad I took the bus instead. That said, for all the ice in NE, there was none when I got downtown. Hopefully the sun dries up the road moisture today so we can enjoy freezing-temp rides without the actual ice tomorrow.

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  • PDXCyclist December 30, 2015 at 1:08 pm

    Its amazing to me reading these stories how little ice there was on the west side. I came in from ~Hillsdale and everything was pretty clear with a few slippery spots. The east side of the Tillikum looked a little dicey, but was not that slippery. The floating esplanade was also ice covered, but felt stable. The scariest part of my ride was definitely the last few blocks in the Lloyd district area where all of the roads were slick. The cold air coming out of the gorge must have made the effects on the North and East parts of the city most dangerous. Stay safe out there!

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    • Andy K December 30, 2015 at 1:54 pm

      Coming in from cedar hills area, I had ice starting at Sylvan Interchange, down Canyon Court, and in the shaded “bike lane” on Sunset Highway. I typically take it from Zoo EB on-ramp to Jefferson Street exit. Scary as hell this morning.

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      • Tom Hardy December 30, 2015 at 3:57 pm

        Kingston is so much better than Sunset, especially if you are starting at the zoo. At least the side of the road has brush on it. A little softer than guard rails with cars.

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        • Andy K January 1, 2016 at 6:27 pm

          Tom I am aware of Kingston as an alternate route and I appreciate your suggestion, but it’s almost 10 minutes slower (inbound), and I don’t get to pass 200+ cars.

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          • El Biciclero January 2, 2016 at 11:33 am

            Heh. From Sylvan, I used to take Hewett to Patton/Broadway Dr. inbound. Descending Broadway Dr. in rain or frosty conditions is way scarier than 26. Also, to get to the same point (Broadway/6th) it takes about 8 minutes less using the freeway and then coming up Broadway from Jefferson/Columbia.

            When people tell me I’m crazy to take 26 for two minutes in the morning, I remind them that at the time I travel it, motor traffic is no faster than Murray Blvd, and there are no side streets, and I’m on and off in two minutes rather than spending the 15 or 20 minutes I used to spend exposed to Murray traffic. Nowadays, I’m more likely to get (and have been) hit using the crosswalk at Sylvan than I am to have trouble while riding on the actual freeway.

            Of course, the presence of ice throws all the risk factors into another dimension…

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            • GlowBoy January 4, 2016 at 7:54 am

              Agreed, Patton/Broadway ended up being too sketchy for me in less-than-ideal conditions. Sometimes I’d go down Montgomery instead, but ultimately I found descending the frontage road (Canyon Dr maybe?) to the Zoo and following the Zoobomb route felt safer.

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  • mh December 30, 2015 at 1:14 pm

    Took my front 28C tire down to about 50psi, moved even more like the little old lady I guess I am, and didn’t have any real problems until I stopped at an intersection with a little grade. Tires had some traction, shoes did not. And then there was the driver behind the driver I waited for at the 4 way stop. Guess I shoulda made that right angle turn faster and gotten out of the intersection as fast as he hoped. Fortunately, he heard my howl and wasn’t moving too fast to stop.

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  • pdx2wheeler December 30, 2015 at 1:18 pm

    I made it about 40 feet from my driveway, had a slippy-slide, then did an immediate 180 about-face to wait it out. It seemed like a suicide mission…

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  • Paul H. December 30, 2015 at 1:21 pm

    Part of me is proud for surviving this morning’s bike commute, but part is scandalized that I didn’t just rely on TriMet. I could have racked the bike on a bus this morning and enjoyed a drier afternoon bike ride home.

    It does seem to me that conditions are better in the early hours (I leave home a bit after 6:00 and arrive downtown near 7:00) than later, when the sun has done just enough work to put a thin layer of water over the ice below.

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  • spencer December 30, 2015 at 2:15 pm

    I implore all bike riders to not ride slicks in the winter when temps fall below 35 degrees. Ride knobbies, or dont ride, broken hips ruin you.

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    • soren December 30, 2015 at 2:26 pm

      Slicks work far better on ice than knobby tires. Absent studs the less tread the better on ice.

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    • dwk December 30, 2015 at 2:41 pm

      Knobbies are terrible on wet or slick roads……
      Really bad advice.

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      • spencer December 30, 2015 at 3:13 pm

        thats why you see mountain bikers riding slicks all over the place when traction is low, thats also why fat bikers ride slicks (sarcasm). short of studded or chained tires, nothing helps much, but 23c slicks are a foolhardy choice when the temps are near freezing. a high volume low pressure knobby gives you far more room for error when your tires do slip. I agree however, that knobbies on wet aren’t so great. but ice, well, see above.

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        • Mark December 30, 2015 at 4:51 pm

          The difference is that mountain biking takes place off road, in loose dirt and gravel. In that case, knobbies offer a traction advantage.

          On reasonably smooth pavement, slicks have the most traction, even when wet.

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      • spencer December 30, 2015 at 3:23 pm

        Further more, a slick tire does not deform into the depressions in asphalt, but a knob can, even if its iced up. On black ice (its just ice on asphalt folks, happens when its below freezing and the roads are wet) the knobs do deform and fill depressions, gaining traction. If one were to ride pure smooth ice, then you have a point, but that is a rarity here.

        my other advice, take it or leave, is to NOT ride bike lanes next to traffic (at JM found), because of the risk of poor driving. take the lane, or ride streets that are one travel lane. cheers, and safe riding out there.

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        • davemess December 31, 2015 at 9:26 am

          I think the point is that there really is almost nothing that works on ice short of studs.

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        • El Biciclero January 4, 2016 at 11:10 am

          “…a slick tire does not deform into the depressions in asphalt…”

          No, but at the right pressure, they will deform around the bumps in asphalt, and will offer the largest contact patch of any tread design on same-size tires.

          “…but a knob can, even if its iced up.”

          Only if the knob is the same size and shape as any depression. Otherwise, they just reduce your contact patch and create tread “squirm” on a hard surface.

          It’s all moot on ice unless your knobs or slicks have studs.

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  • velo December 30, 2015 at 2:21 pm

    Studded tires just aren’t practical for people to have around for the couple icy days a year in Oregon, but they are really great on ice (says the now Minnesotan).

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    • John Lascurettes December 30, 2015 at 2:47 pm

      I keep a set on my old MTB that only ever served as my original commuter. Problem for me this morning is that another family bike already poached the pedals and I couldn’t just hop on it. And yes, I’ve only used those studs about 7 times in the last 8 years, but they’ve been awesome every single time on ice.

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    • GlowBoy December 31, 2015 at 10:17 pm

      re: “… says the now Minnesotan”

      For the record, in the last 12-14 years that I lived in Portland I used at least a front studded tire nearly every day of bike commuting from November to March.

      A couple icy days a year? More like a couple dozen days with at least enough frost, light snow or outright ice to be treacherous, especially on the westside and over the West Hills.

      By the way, a front studded tire was also absolutely miraculous on packed wet leaves that slick Portland streets in the fall. (No one seemed to listen to me about that advantage either). About the only Portland-y surface hazard it didn’t help with was streetcar tracks.

      I’ve never understood the overwhelming resistance to studded bike tires in Portland. I swore by them. I suspect that a lot of people – either refugees from colder climes who are happy to put ice and snow behind them, or from warmer places and would rather not deal with it – engage in a bit of wishful thinking, and think that ice and snow are less frequent than they actually are.

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      • GlowBoy January 1, 2016 at 4:25 pm

        I should also add that I started using a studded tire before I started working on the westside. I used to work at the end of Front Avenue, and I would often ride the shoulder/bike lane of “Dirty Thirty” to Balboa (street and RR crossing now closed). There’s a large depression in the street right where it takes a curve, and cool air would pool there, creating a patch of frost even when there weren’t any other slick spots nearby.

        After crashing in the same spot twice over the course of a winter I decided a studded tire would solve the problem once and for all. Which it did.

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  • benn December 30, 2015 at 2:22 pm

    went down near 82nd & se mill today…landed in a puddle…amazing how absorbent a winter riding jacket can be! Cold, wet ride today

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    • Spiffy December 30, 2015 at 2:49 pm

      irony… the road was frozen enough to be ice, but not the puddle…

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  • Jason December 30, 2015 at 2:28 pm

    90% of the bike commuting coworkers (and myself) all crashed at various places on our way to work this morning (10am). Our service manager broke his clavicle on his ride home last night. ODOT: Pour some friggin’ salt and help us out!

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  • davemess December 30, 2015 at 2:31 pm

    Weird, I had absolutely no issues on my outer SE Commute! Yay for a dry flat route!

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  • Kate December 30, 2015 at 2:37 pm

    Yep- was super concerned about skidding cars so took it slow. Thought I was being extra careful but still at it turning onto Flint from Russell. Thankfully just bruised and bloodied, but the bike and everything else is fine. I was super happy that the Broadway Bridge appeared to have been salted because I was most nervous about that segment.

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  • Matt P December 30, 2015 at 2:41 pm

    If you intentionally drift each corner theres no accidental falling, and its more fun

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  • Matthew B. December 30, 2015 at 2:42 pm

    I didn’t follow my own rule this morning, which is don’t ride when there is ice on the road. I fell over turning out of my driveway (this is when I should have switched transport), when I turned into the access lane from Westanna to the Peninsular Crossing, at the gutter mount to cross the I5 on ramp on Rosa Parks, and lastly as I attempted to turn the corner from Rosa Parks to N Vancouver. At that point, I got on the 44 bus, deciding that the black ice and N Vancouver were too risky a combination. I’ll ride home, but if tomorrow is another black ice day, I’ll take the bus. I have a car, but think I’ll leave the ice driving to the bus driver. My hub gear box also froze up on my ride this morning. It may be time for a new rear tire.

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  • Tom Hardy December 30, 2015 at 3:50 pm

    If I slip on the bike with my studed tires, I use my old golf shoes to walk to the bus.

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  • TK December 30, 2015 at 7:13 pm

    Biffed it at the west end of the Sellwood Bridge this morning. Thought I was being careful enough, but apparently not. Luckily walked away with only one scrape, could easily have been much worse.

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  • mark December 30, 2015 at 7:55 pm

    I am guessing Portland doesn’t do Mag Chloride. Yep..not over 20 degrees.


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  • Eric Leifsdad December 30, 2015 at 11:55 pm

    What happened to riding fixed gear for winter traction?

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  • hotrodder December 31, 2015 at 6:41 am

    I road in this morning (12-31-15) at 5am; clear, cold, dry streets…. the only issue was the wind, it’s pretty stiff.
    Be safe out there!

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    • Kate December 31, 2015 at 7:34 am

      Thanks! Logging on just for the hopes of getting Intel on today’s ride before I walk out my door. Anyone else?

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    • dwk December 31, 2015 at 9:43 am

      Barbur Bridges were a mess…… deiced and froze over again.

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  • hotrodder December 31, 2015 at 6:41 am

    Rode. not road. I rode in on the Road.

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  • Elliot December 31, 2015 at 8:11 am

    I would have bussed yesterday morning for safety but was running late, so opted to bike anyway… then fell going around the corner from SE 12th onto SE Madison westbound by Tiny’s. As I got up, I noticed a woman standing on the corner with her bike: she had just done the exact same thing. A couple bruises and pulled muscles, but bike was ok.

    There was still ice on SE Lincoln going home yesterday evening, so I opted to bus this morning. Better safe than sorry.

    All the ice-riding advice on this thread is great, but the cost/benefit of a bus ticket versus crash of any sort is pretty clear cut. No shame in missing a day biking to make sure you’re around to do it tomorrow, if you have that option. Wish I’d taken my own advice.

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    • mh December 31, 2015 at 10:37 am

      And I bussed in because while it looked dry this morning, I don’t expect to be home until way after dark. It will probably be even drier tonight, but I’ll be off my route and won’t know where the puddles/ice patches remain, and won’t be able to see them. Not that any of us could see the trouble spots yesterday. Of course, I don’t trust the extremely inebriated to not run me over even when I’m on foot.

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  • JRB December 31, 2015 at 3:59 pm

    Rode today and it was fine. Yesterday got to the bottom of my driveway with my bike, saw all the ice and decided it was a great day to leave the driving to Tri Met. Told the driver of my decision when I got on the bus and he said he’d seen three cyclists bite it in in the last 15 minutes.

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  • Bradwagon January 8, 2016 at 10:15 am

    Wednesday (the 6th) was way worse. Didn’t know it was icy, slammed hard in my neighborhood and had a nice slide across the street on my side. Rest of my ride was spent nearly crashing the entire time.

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