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Portland is absolutely covered in snow: Let’s go ride (and walk and play)!

Posted by on January 11th, 2017 at 8:25 am

Time to ride.
(Photos: J. Maus/BikePortland)

Here we go again.

A record amount of snow has fallen in Portland. There’s over a foot in some places, it’s still falling, and forecasters say it’s not going anywhere.

Most of the city has shut down. Schools, government offices, and many businesses can’t stay open because driving is so hazardous that people simply can’t reach destinations (imagine if more of us lived closer to where we work!). This means our streets are mostly quiet and calm — perfect for us to enjoy as should always be the case.

What does all this mean for you? Are you still biking? What are your plans for today?

Biketown FTW!

Last night around 11:00 pm I ventured out to see if my local Biketown station would work. After brushing off a half-foot of snow from the LCD monitor, the system worked perfectly. I checked out a bike and rode around a few blocks. It was tricky biking on side-streets where there’s not a track carved out from vehicles — but overall the well-balanced, hefty, and sturdy bikes ride extremely well in these conditions. Bikes with knobbies and big tires are especially fun in fresh powder. Check out the shot below taken by local racer Josh Kelley on his way to work this morning…

I plan to venture out again this morning. I’ll report back here to share how it goes.

With buses, light-rail, streetcar and cars rendered either useless or unreliable — it appears that once again walking and biking win the day. Let’s revisit the hierarchy of mobility resiliency shall we…

Note: Without cars in their way, buses are more reliable than light rail.

Have fun out there!

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org

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  • Brian January 11, 2017 at 8:39 am

    Sledding on the big hill by our house, may try to hop on the mtb up to Tabor later, and chilling beers in the snowbanks this afternoon.

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    • James January 11, 2017 at 9:44 am

      I’m definitely going up Tabor today. Tabor party!!!

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  • Adam H. January 11, 2017 at 8:57 am

    Rode through the blizzard last night and it was glorious. I plan on another ride this morning. 😀

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  • Joe Partridge January 11, 2017 at 9:04 am

    Nice, almost car-free commute into downtown from SE this AM on the fat bike. Perfect!

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    • rick January 11, 2017 at 9:46 am

      Does anyone know of what bike shops are open today?

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      • anna January 11, 2017 at 11:35 am

        joe bike is open! clever is closed but only so we can have snowball fights 🙂

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      • Mark January 11, 2017 at 1:29 pm

        We’re open at West End Bikes! Gave me an excuse to challenge myself on my commute this morning.

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      • Hello, Kitty January 11, 2017 at 1:41 pm

        7 Corners might be open… I saw Corey walking around this morning.

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  • Nicholas January 11, 2017 at 9:06 am

    Had a nice ride home last night just as it was starting to accumulate. My own bike isn’t really built for a foot of snow, but I think I’ll try out a Biketown bike today just for fun, to see how the big orange monster handles in such conditions.

    The main plan for today: put on Yaktrax, hike in Forest Park, then homemade pulled pork tacos!

    Lately I’ve found myself getting annoyed at people having huge existential panic reactions whenever there’s a bit of winter weather. I’m starting to realize my annoyance has nothing to do with the weather. It has to do with all the unspoken assumptions about mobility and transport in this city. Maybe the weather patterns this winter will put a tiny dent in those assumptions.

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    • Pete January 11, 2017 at 9:24 am

      “…annoyed at people having huge existential panic reactions whenever there’s a bit of winter weather.”

      You’d have a field day here in California… It’s rained a few days with nights under 50 degrees, and you’d think we’re about to slide into the ocean. 🙂

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      • Tim January 11, 2017 at 11:31 am

        …most of the people having the “huge existential panic reactions” probably moved here FROM California

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        • John Lascurettes January 11, 2017 at 12:49 pm

          To be fair, a good number of the stranded vehicles probably come from flatland midwesterners that say, “ha! you have no idea how to drive in snow!” and then try to get from downtown to the west side of the hills.

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          • Middle of the Road guy January 12, 2017 at 7:49 am

            If you think all of the midwest is flat then you haven’t been to the midwest.

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            • BB January 12, 2017 at 12:02 pm

              And if you can compare the brief gradual rises that midwesterners call hills to those of practically any city on the west coast, you haven’t been to the west coast.

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            • John Lascurettes January 12, 2017 at 12:11 pm

              Chicago, Minneapolis, Kansas City, Milwaukee — all cities I’ve spent time in (and some big bike cities) are all comparatively flat compared to Portland.

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            • jeff January 12, 2017 at 1:30 pm

              yeah, all those mountain ranges and stuff out there.

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        • Adam H. January 11, 2017 at 1:09 pm

          And all the people laughing at you moved here from the midwest. 😉

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    • Hello, Kitty January 11, 2017 at 1:42 pm

      Biketown bikes do not work in this snow. At all.

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      • Nicholas January 11, 2017 at 7:54 pm

        I must’ve been lucky. I got one working this morning, rode it around the neighborhood, didn’t even faceplant.

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  • Dick Button January 11, 2017 at 9:08 am

    The last 3 events where my slick tires were good enough on main roads and this morning are not at all the same thing. I got a mile or so from home, and was so exhausted and scared of falling that I returned, and then walked into work, tardy but still one of the only ones here.

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    • Dick Button January 12, 2017 at 8:59 am

      UPDATE: Did it this morning! I was the only bike I saw on my route.

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  • A Grant January 11, 2017 at 9:11 am

    Tip – stick to riding on the fresh powder and avoid portions of the road that have seen car traffic. The former will be tougher to ride through, but more stable. The latter will be a lot more slick.

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    • Snowrider! January 11, 2017 at 9:34 am

      I found the perfect balance was somewhere between those conditions. A side street that hadn’t seen a snow plow, but no more than a few cars. The snow packs down, provides a lot of grip, but hasn’t melted/refroze from the higher volume of heavy vehicles. The plowed/de-iced roads were pretty squirmy even on 2.3 inch knobby tires. The virgin snow was too deep for me to pedal through.

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    • rick January 11, 2017 at 9:46 am

      Except the lowest gear, it was tough riding this morning through 9 inches of snow. The main roads, the ones with the businesses and bus stops, were awesome today !

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    • Todd Boulanger January 11, 2017 at 12:06 pm

      unless you have studs…

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  • Jim Lee January 11, 2017 at 9:33 am

    I had reserved a Zipcar to go xc skiing NEXT Wednesday. Don’t need it for today!

    Choice between skis and snowshoes—shoes look better at the moment.

    Fixed cyclocrosser stays in the garage.

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    • Hello, Kitty January 11, 2017 at 1:44 pm

      Skis are working GREAT on the streets where cars have packed down the snow.

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  • TonyH January 11, 2017 at 9:34 am

    I want a fat tire bike. Until then, my regular bike was OK, as long as I was on a more traveled street, and in the middle. I had to walk on a lesser traveled street. Studded tires were of very little help: this is more akin to sand!

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    • rick January 11, 2017 at 9:45 am

      I rode my cyclecross bike today and it was great with the traction and brakes on the plowed roads.

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  • Terry D-M January 11, 2017 at 9:42 am

    Please, shovel your sidewalks before you go out and play. Once temperatures drop to the low 20 s tonight the snow will get much harder and more difficult to shovel. Advise from a mid western transplant.

    Dropping your bike seat a few inches helps as well so you can flat foot it while seated…Plus wearing boots and a leather jacket in case of falls.

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    • J_R January 11, 2017 at 11:57 am

      Excuses I heard while shoveling my sidewalk this morning:

      “I can’t do mine because I have a condition.” (While patting chest.)
      “I started to do mine but didn’t want to wrench my back out.” (While dragging a sled up the hill while accompanied by a child.)

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      • Todd Boulanger January 11, 2017 at 12:09 pm

        Thats why we have the schools closed today…I used make a lot of bank on days like this in high school with my shovel…so where are the kids today?

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        • J_R January 11, 2017 at 12:32 pm

          Inside playing video games.

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          • Matt S. January 12, 2017 at 1:44 pm

            …on their phones. Sitting next to their parents on their phones…

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      • Hello, Kitty January 11, 2017 at 1:46 pm

        I started shoveling my sidewalk, and it was more slick where I shoveled than where I didn’t. With no sun to melt off the lowest layer of ice, I’m not sure it’s a net win.

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        • John Liu
          John Liu January 11, 2017 at 3:25 pm

          Shovel then deicer, rock salt, table salt, kitty litter, sand . . .

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          • Hello, Kitty January 12, 2017 at 11:11 am

            Hello, kitty litter!

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        • Chris I January 12, 2017 at 10:10 am

          I always shovel half and leave the other half as is. Walkers can pick and choose that way. FYI, when the sun hits the shoveled parts over the next few days, they are going to melt out completely and will no longer be slick.

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    • rachel b January 11, 2017 at 8:27 pm

      I think newcomers identify themselves with this one–in a positive way! I’m embarrassed to admit that as a life-longer here I can’t recall ever shoveling a sidewalk (mea culpa). Snow is rare and ephemeral in these parts…usually…cough. I will change my ways. Thanks for the good goad, Terry D-M.

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  • Steve January 11, 2017 at 9:43 am

    Fat bike ride around St. Johns after I get home from work. Yep, had to be at work.

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    • rick January 11, 2017 at 10:55 am

      How was the ride?

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  • rick January 11, 2017 at 9:44 am

    YES !!! It was awesome to ride on the main roads that were plowed! Scholls Ferry to Sylvan to SW Skyline to Burnside and Barnes Road. The people driving cars were mostly driving under 15 mph except for crazies on Barnes. I talked with five people snow-skiing on Skyline and Burnside by the cemetery.

    It is past time to ticket and tow the abandoned cars at Sylvan !

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  • ethan January 11, 2017 at 9:56 am

    I wish my fatbike hadn’t been stolen 🙁

    Today would have been the perfect day to ride it.

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    • rick January 11, 2017 at 10:51 am

      Sorry to hear that.

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      • ethan January 11, 2017 at 1:41 pm

        It’s okay. I really only miss it when it’s snowing. Otherwise, I have another bike that I could (and should) ride.

        I did get to ride it in the snow just once, during the snow storm last year, though, so I did get to experience the absolute joy of fatbiking in the snow.

        One of these days, I will get a new one, I’m sure.

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  • Kyle Banerjee January 11, 2017 at 10:20 am

    I’m seeing plenty of cyclists today. I can ride in this, but it’s not fun since I don’t have a proper snow bike.

    I actually enjoy driving in these conditions and I’ve dug my car out. But I enjoy skiing more and even if the roads aren’t that bad, the Portland drivers are.

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    • Pete January 11, 2017 at 8:16 pm

      When I lived up there, the SUV and pickup truck drivers would come out in droves to show off their four-wheel-drive… and shitty “all-season” tires.

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  • Kyle Banerjee January 11, 2017 at 10:43 am

    I find the mobility hierarchy interesting, though I would quibble with part of it.

    That bicycle is higher than bus and light rail is ridiculous (even though it’s true). I’ve bought a transit pass because I like the idea — but I never use it because transit is so hopeless in this town.

    Transit should be the best way to get around but is hopelessly unreliable in that heat, cold, snow, rain, accidents of various sorts, and protests routinely shut it down. Even when the weather is good and it’s running fine, it’s so slow I’m better off on my bike. I have decided I will buy no more transit passes when my current one is done.

    There is no way in heck a bus or light rail is more resilient than 4WD trucks or properly equipped cars unless the driver is incompetent. This storm may be a big deal for Portland and public transit is totally hosed right now. But if you’re accustomed to mountain driving, this is no big deal.

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    • dwk January 11, 2017 at 10:46 am

      This is a 100 year storm. This would shut down a lot of cities that are used to dealing with snow.
      Anything else?

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      • m January 11, 2017 at 10:59 am

        More like an 8 or 9 year storm. December 2008 had more than a foot of snow. But I get your point. This, unlike a lot of the stuff that shuts down Portland, is a legitimate snowstorm.

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        • Kyle Banerjee January 11, 2017 at 4:19 pm

          It is totally legit. For once, we have a storm worthy of some disruption. What’s ridiculous is when 1″ shuts everything down. Which is way too often.

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        • paikiala January 12, 2017 at 11:59 am

          What many people don’t get is the meaning of the X-year storm.
          A 10 year storm has a 10% chance of occurring every year. 1/10 inverted is how the 10 is arrived at.
          1/50 is a 50-year storm, or a storm that has a 2% chance of occurring every year.

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      • Adam H. January 11, 2017 at 11:14 am

        This would not shut down cities that are used to snow. In Chicago, I’d have to go to work today. This is not atypical for any Midwestern city.

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        • Dwk January 11, 2017 at 11:26 am

          We are not in the Midwest. Portland has about 6 plows.
          It is hilarious listening to all the transplants when snow shuts things down here.
          A foot of snow raises hell in cities like Denver….

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        • dwk January 11, 2017 at 11:45 am

          The largest snowstorm ever in Chicago was in 1967. 23 inches.
          50,000 vehicles were abandoned. The entire freeway system was closed.

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        • BB January 11, 2017 at 12:05 pm

          What typical midwestern city has hills comparable to Portland?

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          • Hello, Kitty January 11, 2017 at 1:47 pm


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            • Hello, Kitty January 11, 2017 at 1:48 pm

              Though to be fair, hills there aren’t not comparable. They’re much steeper.

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            • osmill January 11, 2017 at 5:10 pm

              As a Midwestern transplant, I have to take exception with your characterization of Pittsburgh as part of the Midwest 🙂

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              • Hello, Kitty January 12, 2017 at 10:59 am

                So would they!

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          • Kyle Banerjee January 11, 2017 at 2:51 pm

            Hills complicate things, but they don’t make it impossible. Anyone who spends much time in the mountains deals with steep pitches and lots of snow.

            What’s messed up is this idea that going out in snow is something that people do because they have something to prove. If you use your head, it’s truly no big deal.

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          • resopmok January 12, 2017 at 12:32 pm

            My hometown of Cincinnati is another of the “cities with seven hills.”

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        • q January 12, 2017 at 3:11 pm

          Chicago is one of my favorite cities, but people there exaggerate abut conditions there. They call it “The Windy City” apparently because they think they have a lot of curving, winding streets. Sure, Lake Shore Drive’s got a few winding curves. But compared to here, their streets are dead straight.

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          • Hello, Kitty January 12, 2017 at 3:33 pm

            They call it the “Windy City” because people there talk too much.

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            • Adam H. January 12, 2017 at 3:49 pm

              Close. It’s because all the politicians blow a lot of hot air. 😉

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            • q January 12, 2017 at 3:52 pm

              Maybe they talk so much because of their obsession with staying in the loop. When I got back from there, every one of my Chicago friends asked me, “Did you stay in the loop?”. I told them, no, there seemed to be a lot of professional networking and seminars going on there, but I was just there to see the buildings and museums.

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              • Adam H. January 12, 2017 at 3:55 pm

                Can’t tell if this is a joke or not.

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              • Hello, Kitty January 12, 2017 at 4:02 pm

                q — you are on fire! Just like Chicago!

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                • q January 12, 2017 at 4:06 pm

                  I also noticed their roads don’t have any bigger shoulders that roads here do, despite their claims.

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                • Adam H. January 12, 2017 at 4:08 pm

                  No, in Chicago they just dump all the snow (from the roadway and sidewalk) into the bike lanes. The MUP along the lake front is well plowed and salted, however, so it was my primary route throughout the winter. That wind off the lake is killer, though!

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                • Adam H. January 12, 2017 at 4:09 pm

                  Oh, that was another joke. whoosh

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          • rachel b January 13, 2017 at 4:30 pm

            Har, q! 🙂

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      • Zimmerman January 11, 2017 at 11:28 am

        That’s hilarious.

        Have you heard there are cities much larger than Portland to the East? I understand they continue to operate normally during much heavier snowfall. Must be some kind of miracle. Why, I’ve even been to a mythical city called ‘Boston’ during a storm that dropped 48″ of snow over two days. Somehow, the populace managed to continue moving around and no one abandoned a vehicles in travel lanes.

        Anything else?

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        • dwk January 11, 2017 at 11:38 am

          You mean this storm in 1978? Boston had 20 inches. This is what happened.

          “The government of Massachusetts had a system for notifying major employers to send employees home early in the event of heavy storms. Thousands of employees were sent home starting in the early afternoon of February 6,[10] but thousands more were still caught by the storm. Some did not make it home for several days. Many people were stranded in their cars along roads throughout New England. Fourteen people died on I-95 near Boston because snow piled high enough to prevent poisonous exhaust fumes from escaping from their idling vehicles. I-95 eventually had to be evacuated by cross-country skiers and snowmobilers. More than 3,500 cars were found abandoned and buried on roads during the clean-up. This number excludes the countless other vehicles buried in driveways, on the sides of streets, and in parking lots. Other transportation links were disrupted and shut down throughout the region, stranding public-transit commuters in city centers.

          Cars and trucks stuck in snow on Route 128 near Needham, Massachusetts
          Snowplows were also stranded in traffic as the snow continued to fall. At one point on I-93 north of Boston, a jackknifed tractor trailer blocked traffic in both directions, with a similar event occurring on Route 128 near Route 138 in Canton. The Neponset River also flooded I-93 in Milton, causing the highway’s complete closure.”

          Funny how well the rest of the country handles things….

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        • dwk January 11, 2017 at 11:41 am

          A reply is in moderation because I linked the article.

          In 1978, 20 inches of Snow fell in Boston. 14 people died. 3500 cars were abandoned. The state of Mass shut down all offices for 2 days.

          Thanks for your memories…

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          • Zimmerman January 11, 2017 at 11:58 am

            Yes, no progress has been made in Boston concerning safety it snow removal since 1978. /s

            And a foot of snow does not cripple Denver. I love it when ‘natives’ try and defend their reactions to 12″ of snow in Portland by imagining it’s just as pathetic in every other city.

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            • dwk January 11, 2017 at 12:05 pm

              I grew up in Salt Lake. 12 inches of snow they had last week was a major disruption….
              Is being snow macho the new cool?

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              • Zimmerman January 11, 2017 at 12:28 pm

                If expecting a major city and it’s populace be able to handle 12″ of snowfall is macho then consider me a professional wrestler with an energy drink sponsorship.

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              • BB January 11, 2017 at 12:49 pm

                It’s something midwesterners do every time it snows, it helps them feel better about where they came from (but somehow couldn’t stand to stay).

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                • Adam H. January 11, 2017 at 1:18 pm

                  I moved here from Chicago and vastly prefer the snow here. When it snows in Portland, it usually sticks around for no more than a few days, then melts. In Chicago, it sticks around all winter, turning a disgusting dark grey from all the accumulated car exhaust. Not to mention having to constantly jump over piles of snow that plows left in all the crosswalks. People in Chicago are just as bad about not shoveling their sidewalks as they are here.

                  Snow here is fun; snow in Chicago is annoying – primarily because life must go on even after a foot of snow.

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                • David Hampsten January 11, 2017 at 7:19 pm

                  I too come originally from the Midwest, specifically Grand Forks ND, where the city of 50,000 would remove any heavy snowfall of a foot or less within 24 hours from all streets, and greater amounts within 48 hours. They had a large budget for heavy equipment and a well-paid professional crew who used a combination of two road graders and plow each side of a street, with a large payloader to partially clean driveways and the ends of streets. It took them no more than 2 minutes to clean a 500 foot blockface on both sides. Streets were designed specifically to handle snow, with a large 8 to 10-foot grassy gap between the curb and sidewalk. Our monthly local utility bill included regular payments for city garbage removal, sewer, water, snow plowing, and mosquito control. It is still the only city I have lived in that required developers to put in sidewalks, curbs, curb ramps, street, driveways, and utilities before any building permits were issued.

                  Mind you, the definition of a “blizzard” was very specific – high winds, heavy snowfall, and rapidly declining temperatures. Anything else was just a plain old snowstorm.

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            • Justin Miles January 13, 2017 at 2:47 pm

              Except 12″ of snow isn’t normal for Portland. Other cities, like Denver, are probably more prepared for these conditions. Why should a city spend money on infrastructure related to events that rarely happen when there are so many more pressing concerns, like fixing our roads or sheltering the homeless.

              Also, people here aren’t used to these kinds of conditions, again because they are rare, in fact this storm is nearly unprecedented.

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        • Todd Boulanger January 11, 2017 at 12:14 pm

          …a lot of this also depends how well transit operates…how the equipment was winterized and in design…I have been surprised in past years by the MAX switches which freeze up. Even the new CTRAN BRT buses were spec’d and bought without the automatic snow chains that seem to be on ever school bus and short bus these days…not sure why CTRAN made this decision but there new service has gotten off to a slow start with only 1 full day of operations out of the last four…

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      • jeff January 12, 2017 at 1:33 pm

        we had one in 2008 which was worse…so, no, no its not. welcome to town, newbie.

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    • Adam H. January 11, 2017 at 11:16 am

      Transit should be the best way to get around but is hopelessly unreliable in that heat, cold, snow, rain, accidents of various sorts, and protests routinely shut it down

      Primarily because drivers keep crashing into the MAX or getting stuck on the tracks. Blame cars, not public transit. I often take the bus in this weather and they handle the snow just fine.

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      • Stephen Keller January 11, 2017 at 12:52 pm

        I’m not sure I agree with the “cars keep crashing into MAX” assessment. Using the numbers presented on the Tri-met performance dashboard (https://trimet.org/about/dashboard/index.htm) for the past 12 months, I see that MAX is involved in a collision approximately every 6 days. MAX on-time performance averaged over the same period, however, comes in at 82% on-time. Clearly something besides collisions is getting in the way. I suppose it is possible that cars stuck on the tracks accounts for the rest of the delays, but that seems far fetched. As fun as it may be to blame cars for all manner of grief, I suspect MAX is contending with other issues beside competition with automobile traffic.

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        • Chris I January 12, 2017 at 10:17 am

          The problem is cascading delays. If a single car blocks the tracks at Burnside and 122nd, even for just 20 minutes, it jams up the entire line. Trains can’t get from the Ruby yard to start service on the Green/Orange/Yellow/Red lines, and the blue line trains can’t move because the signal blocks are red. Grade-separated rail transit is extremely resilient in snow and ice. Most of MAX is not grade-separated, so it suffers during these weather events. If we want to improve reliability on MAX, we would need a tunnel downtown that would replace the Steel bridge crossing and eliminate surface-running in the central city. It would cost a few billion dollars.

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          • Adam H. January 12, 2017 at 11:01 am

            MAX downtown subway needs to happen yesterday.

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            • Hello, Kitty January 12, 2017 at 11:10 am

              It didn’t.

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      • Kyle Banerjee January 11, 2017 at 4:27 pm

        Last night, 73 buses were stuck at the same time.

        I commute along bus routes, and even in good weather, they’re way slower than I am — including when the ride is mostly uphill. Even if you have miles to cover, walking is an attractive alternative to the bus.

        I haven’t figured out how I’m going to work tomorrow yet, but it won’t be by public transit. Don’t worry, I won’t drive. I will ski or bike.

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        • rick January 11, 2017 at 6:40 pm

          A TriMet bus, I think # 20, is stuck on SW Barnes Road near Cornell Farms.

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    • Mossby Pomegranate January 11, 2017 at 2:20 pm

      That hierarchy does not apply to east PDX at all. Haven’t seen any bicycles out here. It’s basically unridable. I guess if you live near SE Clinton or something like that.

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      • Kyle Banerjee January 11, 2017 at 2:33 pm

        I saw a number of bikes on Denver, Willamette, and a bunch of side streets. Some look like commuters, but there were people out having fun. It’s very rideable with a regular bike so long as you have a tire track.

        If you have a fat bike, you can take deep snow, but it’s too much work to do much distance.

        I went skiing off the hills overlooking the river. Note to self: less than a foot of powder can make amazingly tall blackberry brambles look like open area. If you hit such areas at speed, expect to be stopped dead in your tracks with intense therapy from “nature’s acupuncturist.”

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    • John Liu
      John Liu January 11, 2017 at 3:35 pm

      I can drive my car in this with no difficulty. 2WD with studless snow tires. But if you have 2WD and old or summer tires, it’s a real problem.

      My daughter’s car is AWD with good all season tires. Also no difficulty.

      My bikes, on the other hand, have 25 mm slicks and don’t do well. And even the MTB only works well on certain surfaces, essentially those that have been packed down by cars or plowed.

      Regardless, let’s not lose sight of the fact that this storm is a once a decade event, and any measurable sticking snow is a once every couple of years event. So I really care very little how good or bad the city is at dealing with it. Typical human irrationality, to obsess over being inconvenienced during very infrequent events.

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      • Adam H. January 11, 2017 at 4:17 pm

        any measurable sticking snow is a once every couple of years event

        It’s happened four times this winter alone.

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        • SE Rider January 11, 2017 at 4:46 pm

          yes, and that’s why everyone is saying this winter has been abnormal and extreme.

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        • David Hampsten January 11, 2017 at 7:29 pm

          I lived in Portland from 1997 through 2015. One year, I forget when, there were 3 significant snowfalls, including 2 weeks of snow and ice, when most side-streets remained impassible even to fire engines. The city let two houses in inner Portland burn to the ground because they couldn’t get engines to the fires (everyone was successfully evacuated.)

          I’m glad I left when I did. Here in Greensboro we get some snow, usually a few inches, and lots of ice, but like Portland, we usually wait a few days, and everything is melted.

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          • David Hampsten January 12, 2017 at 3:49 pm

            For example, we got 4-6 inches of snow Friday night, then a low of 7 degrees Sunday night, and today (Thursday) a high of 70 degrees, snow nearly gone. We are expecting high 60s tomorrow, then 40s on Saturday, and so on…

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  • B. Carfree January 11, 2017 at 11:27 am

    We had over a foot in Eugene a week ago. It was just fine but for the actions of the city. In spite of an official city policy to encourage walking and cycling and discourage driving, the city not only did not clear the fallen trees off the bike paths, they actively put snow and other debris onto the bike paths and bike lanes in order to facilitate car use.

    Even today, a week after this began and four days after the last snowflake fell, the sidewalks and bike paths are largely a mess and are barely usable while the travel lanes are clear as can be. One better have waterproof high boots if one is going to walk because the sidewalks are largely swamps with ice water at depths up to a foot.

    Does PBoT fail like this as well? Any city that doesn’t make sure the sidewalks and bike infrastructure are high priorities to keep clear and functioning has no right to any claim to bike friendliness or even of taking climate change seriously. Sadly, that’s most cities.

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    • Todd Boulanger January 11, 2017 at 12:22 pm

      Yes – per the ADA (and developing case law) it would behoove local jurisdictions to seriously re-think their snow clearance operations and policy:
      1) to enforce the lack of snow clearance after 1 day;
      2) to make sure that the snow plowing operations do not block ADA ramps (consider plowing to the center line and use the turn lane as a storage area vs. bike lane/ ADA ramp), plus requiring “UPS left turns”;
      3) pre-treat the ADA ramps with de-icer on ALL snow routes that have a similar operations pretreatment for motorized vehicles;
      4) have an emergency “no parking on snow route streets” so that slowing can be done;
      5) message the public about these important traffic operations issues the day of a storm and not a few days after…etc.

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      • Kyle Banerjee January 11, 2017 at 2:36 pm

        I cleared the walks in front of my place and helped some other people, but I’m seeing a compliance rate of 5% tops. It’s fine to try to hold people accountable, but we gotta be real — a lot of people don’t have the physical ability to do that kind of heavy work and there’s not enough labor in the town to make it happen. Even if there were, a lot of people wouldn’t able to afford it.

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        • SE Rider January 11, 2017 at 4:47 pm

          Most people don’t have snow shovels (and rightly so, as you only really need them once a decade). Snow here usually melts in a day or two (we don’t get weeks and weeks of accumulation) and people walk through it anyway.

          I don’t blame people in Portland for not shoveling.

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          • Adam H. January 11, 2017 at 5:23 pm

            I even tried to buy salt and a shovel and all the hardware stores near my were out of both. I had to borrow a neighbor’s shovel.

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          • rachel b January 11, 2017 at 8:32 pm

            Too true! About the lack of snow shovels, I mean. I was just wracking my brain over how to craft a snow shovel out of some beads and string.

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          • jeff January 12, 2017 at 1:37 pm

            yeah, screw our neighbors in wheel chairs! we don’t need to abide by any city ordinance requiring us to clear our sidewalks!

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            • Hello, Kitty January 12, 2017 at 1:41 pm

              I have seen exactly zero sidewalks outside residences that have been cleared to the extent that a wheelchair could roll through. That is a standard that just isn’t being met, anywhere, by anyone.

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              • X January 12, 2017 at 4:40 pm

                –haven’t been to my house. Roomie did a single track, ours plus a neighbors walk and porch steps, and I doubled it up. I’ve seen houses where every inch of walk was clear. I’ve also seen places where the driveway was clear but the walks were not. You know who you are.

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            • SE Rider January 12, 2017 at 5:17 pm

              If the city can’t be bothered to clear the streets (and I didn’t see a single one cleared down to pavement on my ride today) I think it is an unrealistic expectation for people to shovel their sidewalks after this once a decade storm.

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              • q January 12, 2017 at 8:28 pm

                Does anyone know if the City clears sidewalks on its own property downtown? Say on the Park Blocks or around Pioneer Square?

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                • Adam H. January 12, 2017 at 8:52 pm

                  No idea, but for what it’s worth, TriMet seems to clear all the sidewalks at their bus stops.

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                • SE Rider January 14, 2017 at 9:22 am

                  Maybe some select bus stops closer in, but that’s not close to true for much of the city.

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      • B. Carfree January 11, 2017 at 6:38 pm

        The ADA angle is interesting. While I climbed over thirty-inch snow piles on ADA ramps caused by the city’s efforts to keep the cars flowing at top speed, I did wonder how someone in a wheelchair crosses the street. I’d love to see a court directive to force cities to keep the sidewalks and ADA ramps clear as priority number one, or at least number two after making sure their fire trucks can respond.

        We have a delightful lawyer in Eugene who just loves winning lawsuits against the city on such issues as police brutality, First Amendment violations and the treatment of the homeless. I’m sure she has many potential plaintiffs in wheelchairs who could allow her to further fund her civil liberties defense center on the city’s dime.

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        • Kyle Banerjee January 12, 2017 at 7:45 am

          Yeah, suing the city into maintaining the enormous capacity it would take to deal with something that rarely occurs wouldn’t possibly divert resources that could do much more good.

          Though maybe the city would be able to offset some of the expenses by levying hefty fines on every homeowner, business, organization, and other entity that didn’t fulfill their own clearing responsibilities. They could make a fortune on every street right now.

          I can always count on BP for totally practical solutions to problems…

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        • mh January 15, 2017 at 10:55 am

          Every time I’ve walked somewhere lately, I’ve wanted to shoot pictures of every home and business where the sidewalk shows no sign of any sort to clear it. Sprinkling salt on over a foot of snow and leaving does not count. I could file formal complaints about each of them, but I don’t want to take my hands out of my gloves for long enough to do that.

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  • Stephen Keller January 11, 2017 at 11:46 am

    Today, my commute included an arduous climb up an entire flight of stairs, while carefully balancing a coffee cup in one hand and a laptop in the other. I wasn’t sure I was going to make for a moment what with the weather and all. Then I had to slog down the other end of the hallway to get to my desk where I heroically dropped my employer’s laptop into its power dock. I thought about buying a fatbike for this last part of the trek, but decided my regular ride could tough it out. It did. Next there was the presentation of password and VPN SecureID tokens to allow me to log in. All this took place while snow was continually falling (all around the house). Finally after five whole minutes of pure commuting torture, I managed to get to work.

    Sigh…, I hate having to work on a “snow” day.

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    • Todd Boulanger January 11, 2017 at 2:31 pm

      Too bad you are at “work” and cannot get home to shovel the walkway. But then again the cafeteria is offering free bear or coffee…;-)

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      • Stephen Keller January 11, 2017 at 3:52 pm

        My son-in-law and I just finished the sidewalk shoveling. He was off work today and started in around 1:30. I joined him for the last half hour or so.

        Now it’s back to the coding mines for me….

        The nice thing about working from home is I don’t lose a hour or three just getting to and from the office. The bad thing about it is the work is “right here.”


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  • matti January 11, 2017 at 12:11 pm

    Nice lead photo, Jonathan. “Except Bicycles” indeed!

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  • bikeninja January 11, 2017 at 12:51 pm

    The public works infrastructure of the Willamette Valley has long operated under the theory that we get a couple of snow days every other year and for that a massive investment in snow removal equipment is not cost effective. That type of thinking might be put to the test as climate change plays havoc with the jet stream.

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    • SE Rider January 11, 2017 at 4:49 pm

      I don’t really think it was/is a “theory”, it was just reality that it only snowed that much.

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    • rachel b January 11, 2017 at 8:34 pm

      I fear the last few years of awful warm warm hot warm are more likely our future than this lovely cold stuff.

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      • paikiala January 12, 2017 at 12:06 pm

        That’s not the way global warming works.
        the majority of scientist predict the primary result of global warming (adding energy to the climate) will be more severe weather patterns.
        Think longer droughts, warmer summers, colder winters, in addition to changes in where the usual weather occurs. The dryer and hotter summers here are likely to be accompanied by colder winters and more snow events.

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        • rachel b January 12, 2017 at 5:03 pm

          I thought I remembered Cliff Mass simply predicting wetter, warmer winters…

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        • rachel b January 12, 2017 at 5:10 pm

          “Changes in temperature and precipitation will continue to decrease snow pack, and will affect stream flow and water quality throughout the Pacific Northwest region. Warmer temperatures will result in more winter precipitation falling as rain rather than snow throughout much of the Pacific Northwest, particularly in mid-elevation basins where average winter temperatures are near freezing. This change will result in:

          Less winter snow accumulation,
          Higher winter streamflows,
          Earlier spring snowmelt,
          Earlier peak spring streamflow and lower summer streamflows in rivers that depend on snowmelt (most rivers in the Pacific Northwest)”


          That’s just one source. But it seems that most of what I’ve read follows it–for the PNW, apparently warmer is the word. According to most climate scientists, at present. This is why we’re regarded as a “safe” area to escape to in the Apocalypse–we will avoid the extremes (according to climatologists) and just get hotter and generally drier, and (in winter) a warmer kind of wet, when we do get rain. There’s the earthquake, though…

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          • Alex Reedin January 15, 2017 at 8:31 pm

            It’s possible for the region’s winters to get warmer and with less snowpack on average, and also to have more high-impact lowland snow and cold events. Not that I know which the science indicates, but if the average moves towards warmth and rain, but there’s greater variation around the average, that’s theoretically possible.

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  • soren January 11, 2017 at 1:05 pm

    i’m really enjoying walking around my neighborhood.
    PS: the smokey tempeh at harlow is addictive.

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  • mh January 11, 2017 at 1:08 pm

    Global weirding. Best renaming of global warming I’ve heard yet.

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    • Chris I January 12, 2017 at 10:19 am

      This isn’t that weird. It happens about once every decade in Portland.

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  • was carless January 11, 2017 at 1:11 pm

    I bought new studded snow bicycle tires a few weeks ago, and I tried and tried to ride in this stuff and I just keep slipping and falling.

    Gave up and am staying home drinking eggnog and whiskey. Its not worth it!

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    • John Lascurettes January 11, 2017 at 1:31 pm

      Oh bummer. Not my experience with studded tires. Though I have yet to try them this season. Might put the pedals on my MTB tonight and try tomorrow. Did you remember to take the air pressure way down?

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      • Snowrider! January 11, 2017 at 2:15 pm

        I have no experience with studded tires, but I think they’re only good for ice. Knobby tires perform well enough in powder.

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        • was carless January 11, 2017 at 4:34 pm

          Yeah, I had absolutely no problems commuting to work since mid-december during the first snow storm. But this? Too much! Have to wait until the snow freezes and gets more compacted, since the tires are Continental Nordic Spike 120s. The sides are cut in such a way that the tires want to climb and turn INTO the deeper snow when you re biking in a rut, so its hard to go in a straight line.

          Really aggressive tires, and otherwise are a blast on ice or hard pack (riding on hard pack is like biking on dry pavement with normal slicks).

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          • Snowrider! January 12, 2017 at 10:51 am

            I think your wait may be over! Seems like all of the heavy and moderately travelled roads are fully packed down hard to a refrozen condition. I’ve been wanting to convert some old tires just to try them out before dropping money on legit studded tires. With how much snow just dumped, it’s probably worth making a front tire at the least.

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  • Dan A January 11, 2017 at 3:14 pm

    Humongous igloo complete.

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  • Vince January 11, 2017 at 6:39 pm

    Plans for today are great, but may I suggest you make plans for next week AFTER the snow leaves? Here’s what you should do….grab a broom or a shovel and go to the nearest place where people ride. It could be outside your home, your work, or any place you hang out. Then sweep a section of the road. Yeah, its the job of the state, the county, the city, or someone else, but you know the portions of the road that you use will be the last to be cleaned.
    No, you won’t be able to make a real dent in the gravel and slop, but you will show other riders that someone cares. And maybe you will have a chance to talk to passersby about the hazards riders face every day.
    And thanks go out to the man who I saw yesterday, sweeping the bike lane in front of his house while I was out for my ride. I stopped to thank him and he seemed surprised. “Why wouldn’t everyone do this?” Was his reply.

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    • Adam H. January 11, 2017 at 6:50 pm

      This is a great idea. I’m sick of waiting weeks for PBOT to conduct basic maintenance; might as well do it myself.

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      • Kyle Banerjee January 12, 2017 at 7:47 am

        You wouldn’t like living in much of the state. It doesn’t get cleared for months. If at all.

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    • Brian January 12, 2017 at 8:13 am

      I live on Davis and keep as much of the street as clear as possible. I would love a City Ordinance that states that if you have a bike lane in front of your home or business you need to maintain it, esp those with gravel driveways/parking lots. I can think of a couple places that have gravel in the bike lane/road 100% of the time because of this.

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      • John Lascurettes January 12, 2017 at 1:28 pm

        I don’t know about making property dwellers (commercial or private) responsible for clearing a bike lane polluted by streets that the city is supposed to maintain. But would I would LOVE to see is people getting fined for blowing, raking or sweeping anything INTO the street or bike lane from their properties (except as allowed on the day before leaf pickup days in some hoods).

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        • Kyle Banerjee January 12, 2017 at 3:14 pm

          They aren’t responsible for the streets, but they are for the walks. The only place to walk in a lot of areas that have sidewalks right now is the streets

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          • John Lascurettes January 12, 2017 at 3:21 pm

            Not so in front of my house. Sidewalk fully shoveled down to bare concrete. People are still choosing to walk in the street (or ski).

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            • Snowrider! January 12, 2017 at 8:29 pm

              I’d chalk that up to the vast majority of sidewalks not being clear so why bother transitioning back and forth for the best surface. Also, the big dip in car use has opened up the streets to walking/skiing/biking without having to be so vigilant. But, that is still great you shoveled your sidewalk! Car use will probably go back to being high use tomorrow, the roads are getting slushy so you’re now getting sprayed when a car drives by. The sidewalks will be in demand in short time and yours won’t be dangerous.

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            • Kyle Banerjee January 13, 2017 at 12:15 pm

              My house is also clear and it is wide enough for wheelchairs. But we are only one of a couple on the whole street.

              I skied into work today. Ironically, the businesses and homes that cleared their walkways and drives turned out to be a total nuisance.

              On back streets, skiing in the street worked great. On the busier ones, drivers simply refused to pass me even though they had plenty of space and I was trying to wave them through. No one was aggressive, but I still wound up slogging through the piles created by snow plows on Interstate.

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  • rachel b January 12, 2017 at 5:19 pm

    I’m just marveling at the fact that–having lived here my whole life–this is the first time I can recall hearing this (sidewalk shoveling and civic duty) discussed, ever. One of the most telling signs of our rapidly changing demographic in recent memory!

    Not dissing it–shoveling = good! It’s just never been seen as an issue in the past. Here. We really don’t get much snow, usually, and it goes away all too soon.

    Are the shovelers as fierce about leaves? Not challenging–really wondering! And if so, do you use brooms and rakes (yay!), not blowers (booo!)?

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    • John Lascurettes January 12, 2017 at 11:50 pm

      I got no beef with blowers when they’re used properly and respectfully (not before 9am) — they make short work of large or thickly-covered yards. By “using properly” I mean to blow the leaves into a pile (against a wall or into a corner) to make them easier to collect and NOT to blow them into the street and make them someone else’s problem. I grew up in soul-sucking suburbs and I’d get a 1/2 acre yard picked up in a couple of hours instead of taking most of the weekend with a rake. Here my yard is tiny and I do more compost-in-place with the leaves than I do collecting them for yard waste pick up — so a rake works just fine.

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    • GlowBoy January 13, 2017 at 8:08 am

      Huh. In Brooklyn (SE Portland) several of my neighbors and I regularly discussed our civic duty to shovel the sidewalks – and did it. So I’m not sure it’s some new thing. Even when I moved there in the 90s, Portland was over 50% non-locally-born people, and from what the longtimers tell me it used to snow a lot more in Portland than it has in recent years (current winter excepted, of course).

      Shoveling my Brooklyn walk was a chore, too FWIW, because I was on a corner lot with over 150 feet of sidewalk to clear. But my corner also had a lot of pedestrian traffic, so I knew it was important to do. Of course part of the problem was I had one of those crappy flat-blade aluminum shovels. As I now know in Minnesota, a proper $20 snow shovel is the two-foot-wide style with the deeper scoop to it, and made of plastic with a steel edge. Seriously reduces the work by more than half compared with those dumb flat shovels. I’ll be in Portland on Tuesday … should I bring some with me on the plane for you guys?

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      • rachel b January 13, 2017 at 1:47 pm

        I grew up in unincorporated Boring/Gresham/Damascus and we used to use the hose in cold weather to make a skating rink of our front concrete patio, so maybe my perspective is skewed. 😉

        We did used to get a lot more snow and ice and cold! I remember several spectacular “silver thaws” growing up. But I don’t recall anyone shoveling their walkways then or later. Not arguing that it’s not an excellent/wise idea (er, commandment)! This is just the first time I’ve ever heard so much talk surrounding it… and peer pressure! Newcomers seem the most outraged and vocal about it, I guess–hence my assessment.

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    • Spiffy January 13, 2017 at 8:19 am

      the last 2 storms I was one of few people in the neighborhood to shovel their sidewalk… this time so many people were home for days that they eventually got around to it, but still not most people…

      I always shovel, rake, de-ice, etc… I’m a walker and I know what a pain it is to slog through leaves or snow…

      and I hate blowers… lazy loud machines… I mostly see them blowing trash from the sidewalk into the streets downtown… can’t remember the last time I saw somebody sweeping a sidewalk downtown…

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      • rachel b January 13, 2017 at 1:49 pm


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        • rachel b January 13, 2017 at 1:55 pm

          [Oops! Don’t know how that happened…]

          Unshoveled sidewalks are terrible to walk on–though the wet leaves can be even worse (esp. with hidden little doggie doos in them, grrrr). I’m suitably chastened…

          p.s.. Good on you, John, for being a responsible leaf blower. But, like Spiffy (and a triillion others) I loathe the things and have never EVER seen them used properly. I esp. hate all the junk they kick up into the air, along w/ the horrible exhaust. Wreaks havoc with the asthma and allergies for some of us.

          I also hate that the people leafblowing often wear ear protection (how nice for them) and never look up, forcing you to approach this earsplitting, pollution-belching object, usually while the human attachment is blowing a bunch of debris in your direction.

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          • mh January 15, 2017 at 11:10 am

            I do feel a malicious sense of justice when I see people machine-gunning a couple of wet leaves that are securely stuck to the ground. “When your only tool is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.”

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  • Spiffy January 13, 2017 at 8:15 am

    I stupidly went to work Wednesday morning only to find the building had no power… grabbed my laptop and went home to work from there… work was also closed down on Thursday despite the power being on…

    it’s really frustrating that people are so dependent on cars that most businesses are forced to close…

    I say i’d fire my employees for not coming in, but I don’t think I’d hire people that were 100% dependent on their cars…

    even local small businesses were shut down… even the small businesses aren’t locally owned…

    we’ve made a disaster out of this country…

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    • Justin Miles January 13, 2017 at 1:53 pm

      What about people who live up hills that would be dangerous to bike on in the snow, or people who live along canceled bus routes. As someone who goes by car, bike, and bus, I can say that busses being the only option right now still are not a great option. Every one of them is delayed, and with transit tracker being unreliable at this time, that means standing out in the freezing cold for an unknown amount of time. Then God help you if you have to transfer to a second bus. After waiting a half hour when transferring to a 4, three of them showed up at once.

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  • Spiffy January 13, 2017 at 8:27 am

    “Note: Without cars in their way, buses are more reliable than light rail.”

    why are they still building street-level vehicle-interference light rail lines? there are always a lot of issues with cars blocking tracks… SF BART never has this issue because cars (and people) never cross a track… similarly NY MTA is underground… why hasn’t TriMet switched to buried, raised, and isolated tracks? have they never heard of “do it right the first time”?

    elevated rails were once the preferred method…

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    • Adam H. January 13, 2017 at 8:48 am

      Is cheaper. That’s the only reason. Meanwhile Seattle is spending the money on grade-separated, high quality rail.

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      • Alex Reedin January 13, 2017 at 10:01 am

        I think there was/is also a lot of interest from downtown businesses in the streetcar-like feel of the downtown rail lines. Never mind the ridiculous slowness that it imposes on people trying to actually *use* the lines – businesses like it!

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    • John Lascurettes January 13, 2017 at 10:47 am

      The way I heard it told, Portland was the vanguard of reviving the light rail system decades ago (outside of old established ones like NYC or Chicago). And at the time, it was already outside the norm to go for it — so it was cheaper and easier to sell to build it at street grade. But it’s certainly the Achilles heel for the MAX downtown. You can’t make trains longer because they’re already as long as a block. There are too many conflicts and collisions that happen on a regular basis with street traffic (both pedestrian and vehicular). And you can’t add more trains because the pinch point of the Steel Bridge can’t handle more traffic than it sees already.

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      • Adam H. January 13, 2017 at 10:52 am

        We need another east side line to connect to the I-205 branch so that we can route some trains off of the steel bridge. It’s kind of insane that three lines all share the Banfield trunk line.

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        • Kyle Banerjee January 13, 2017 at 2:17 pm

          Someday, they’ll need to repair/replace that bridge. It would be interesting to know what the plan is. I’m sure significant thought has already gone into this.

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  • Carrie January 14, 2017 at 10:14 am

    Adam H.
    No idea, but for what it’s worth, TriMet seems to clear all the sidewalks at their bus stops.
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    Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha. Ahem. Nothing cleared anywhere along Route 70 from SE Harrison to SE Tolman. Nothing cleared anywhere along Route 19 from SE Tolman to SE Powell. Stepping over/into/around chunks of ice, trying to to fall getting on/off bus.

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