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Overnight freeze leads to icy roads: Use caution until the thaw

Posted by on January 4th, 2016 at 8:22 am

icylead
Side streets are sheeted with ice. And just 16 people had crossed the Hawthorne as of 8:45 am.
(Photos: Mitch Lomacz (L) and Mark S. (R))

We warned you.

After the nice fluffy white snow yesterday, it rained a bit last night and temps have remained below freezing. That means there’s a layer of ice over most every outdoor surface. Thankfully schools, the city, the county and many other agencies and businesses are closed today due to travel hazards because conditions are downright sketchy.

Reader Mitch Lomacz from Montavilla sent us the photo above this morning. I asked if he tried riding on that road. “Impossible,” he replied via email. “Didn’t even attempt with the MTB. Not worth a broken wrist, collarbone or worse. Ice is ice. What’s worse are the bad drivers sliding all over the side roads I’ve been noticing everywhere… If the ice doesn’t get you a driver will!”

From what we’ve heard, public transit is still running, albeit with delays.


Our best advice is to avoid using the roads for everything except a very careful walk in the neighborhood. If you must get somewhere, a bike is probably just as good a tool as anything. Before rolling out, read up on some tips about how to set up your bike and ride on black ice. The BTA has a good guide, and I shared some tips on biking on ice last year as well (and as always, the comments are where the best information is at).

It looks like things should melt up by the end of today. Hopefully tomorrow the roads will be fine. We’ll be monitoring our inbox and Twitter all day so please keep us posted on conditions and your experiences. Good luck out there.

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

NOTE: At BikePortland, we love your comments. We love them so much that we devote many hours every week to read them and make sure they are productive, inclusive, and supportive. That doesn't mean you can't disagree with someone. It means you must do it with tact and respect. If you see an inconsiderate or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Thank you — Jonathan and Michael

22 Comments
  • Adam H. January 4, 2016 at 8:26 am

    It’s extremely dangerous to bike on black ice. I nearly fell just walking out my front door. Please DO NOT bike in this weather! Take public transport instead. TriMet is running quite smoothly this morning.

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    • Paul H January 4, 2016 at 9:02 am

      What Adam said!

      Additionally, the conditions you see in your neighborhood may be considerably different just a mile or two away.

      Unless your trip is short enough that you’re nearly certain that the conditions won’t change over the length of the trip, you should assume that you might very well encounter much worse conditions after you leave home.

      And it only takes one section of ice or, worse, one swerving automobile, to endanger you.

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    • David Hampsten, now in Greensboro NC January 4, 2016 at 9:33 am

      I’m originally from North Dakota, and moved back there briefly 2006-7. Since I never learned to drive, and public transit was sketchy, I was frequently obliged to ride on ice and frozen slush. Here’s my advice:

      1. It is always more dangerous to walk on ice than to ride on it. The rubber on your tires is far softer than on your shoes and grip far better, especially at low tire pressure. If you have to walk, either buy strap-on crampons, or else use an electric screwdriver to screw sheet metal screws into the soles of your cold-weather sneakers/mountain bike shoes. (if you do so, walk very carefully on any carpet or tile.)

      2. Lower your tire pressure to about 20 psi below the minimum recommended tire pressure stamped on you tires. Yes, it slows you down, but you are much less likely to wreck.

      3. As someone else on this blog mentioned, ride as perpendicular to the roadway as you can at all times, even when cornering. Use your feet for balance (but not for traction.) Pretend you are a yoyo.

      4. Learn how to crash. Roll when you fall. Never use the front brake (in fact, you may want to loosen the front brake to make it weaker.) Try to hit grass or leaf piles when you crash. It helps to practice before you decide to take a long ride. Wear lots of warm padded clothing. Layer a lot.

      5. As with cars, bike 10 mph slower than you normally do. Give yourself lots of extra time.

      6. Studded tires help, but only so much. Low-pressure knobbies (including cyclecross tires) work best. Umma Gummas are the very best, but hard to find.

      7. Aim for sections with gravel or other grit, as well as manhole covers, for best traction.

      8. Avoid shifting or changing gears. Use your water bottle to clean the slush off your chain periodically.

      9. Hit as many snowbanks as you can. It’s actually a lot of fun!

      Happy trails!

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      • Todd Boulanger January 4, 2016 at 12:16 pm

        “5. As with cars, bike 10 mph slower than you normally do.”

        …but I only bike at 10 mph, so i guess I will stay on the couch today, ;-#

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      • Adam H. January 4, 2016 at 1:03 pm

        These are all great tips for riding in snow, and in fact, I went for a ride yesterday after the snowfall and it was easy-going. However, riding on smooth glaze ice without studs, it’s nearly impossible to even get traction. Coupled with people who for whatever crazy reason decided to drive in the ice even though every single public agency warned them not to, makes for very treacherous riding. For these reasons, I choose not to ride when it’s icy. I had no trouble taking the bus this morning.

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    • Champs January 4, 2016 at 10:10 am

      It’s not recommended, but far be it from me to tell anyone not to ride. I’ve got plenty of experience with these conditions and probably won’t even switch to the Schwalbe studs.

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  • soren January 4, 2016 at 9:07 am

    I just biked up the hill to OHSU . Pure safe fun!

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    • mh January 4, 2016 at 7:11 pm

      On what?

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      • soren January 4, 2016 at 9:10 pm

        My 90s era MTB with 20 psi 2.5 inch tires!

        Recommended Thumb up 1

        • mh January 5, 2016 at 12:38 pm

          Green with jealousy (but I don’t have room to store another bike).

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  • Matthew B. January 4, 2016 at 9:14 am

    My stoop was slippery this morning, there was no way I was going to attempt to ride. I got the bus into work this morning. The sidewalks are very icy, both in North Portland and downtown. The bus was chained so had reasonable grip, but it changed its route to go over Burnside Bridge instead of Steel Bridge. It also was not stopping on the 200 block of Harrison. TriMet’s app and website have posted the advisories for each line.

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  • Alan Kessler January 4, 2016 at 9:18 am

    Waiting for the bus, I saw one person biking down Division with a huge grin. I hope he made it!

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  • Steven Soto January 4, 2016 at 9:19 am

    I rode, but I absolutely would not do it without studs. I have pretty good bike handling skills, and I would not be confident on any other bike.

    Recommended Thumb up 7

  • Spiffy January 4, 2016 at 9:53 am

    have to walk on the sidelines in the ice-covered snow because the roads and sidewalks where people have compacted the snow are all slippery ice…

    plus the satisfaction of that crunching sound…

    Recommended Thumb up 3

  • Ted Timmons (Contributor) January 4, 2016 at 10:08 am

    Yesterday there were 14 bikes on Tilikum east by noon, 11 bikes across Hawthorne around 1pm.

    Today the lady cargo cyclist for b-line was out ding her job. My hero.

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  • Champs January 4, 2016 at 10:13 am

    Be careful what you wish for. The people asked for snow, they got it. Maybe by July we’ll be rid of all the pea gravel.

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  • Terry D-M January 4, 2016 at 1:37 pm

    I had a great time riding down to the Tilikum and back yesterday. My Madison biking days skills returned quickly. I wore leather, boots….and know how to fall. I am a very sore, but happy Terry today.

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  • Moleskin January 5, 2016 at 11:42 am

    Anyone happen to ride the Springwater today (Tuesday)? If so, how’s it looking?

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  • Bradwagon January 8, 2016 at 10:20 am

    I rode on Wednesday (6th) not knowing it was black ice everywhere (in Beaverton at least) and was treated to a nice slam in my neighborhood. Got onto the Fanno Creek Trail as soon as possible. Roads were insanley slick compared to paths and sidewalks. Didn’t go down again but won’t be commuting on black ice in road shoes with 100 psi road tires again…

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