Urban Tribe - Ride with your kids in front.

Are leaf piles a bike safety hazard?

Posted by on November 20th, 2007 at 3:40 pm

(Photo © Jonathan Maus)

A story in the Portland Tribune today, Fall bounty piles on problems, profiles a Laurelhurst couple who are concerned that leaf piles in their neighborhood might “someday cost a bicyclist or a pedestrian or a motorist his life.”

At issue are huge piles of leaves raked into the street by homeowners. They expect PDOT crews to pick them up, even though it’s not technically PDOT’s job (they’re only supposed to clean up leaves that fall from trees that overhang into the street).

The story focuses on the crusade being waged by Laurelhurst resident Todd Peterson and his wife (who asked that her name not be mentioned). They want people to pick up their own leaves before someone gets hurt.

Here’s a snip from the Tribune article:

Peterson says the practice in essence turns two-lane streets into one-lane streets, and says he worries about serious accidents with bicyclists or cars. “It’s going to happen, sooner or later,” he says.

According to the article, the practice of sweeping leaves into the street like this is not technically illegal (yet), but it is discouraged. Each year, PDOT distributes flyers to these neighborhoods with, “an admonition against the “rake your leaves into the street” practice”.

Peterson’s wife emailed me a few days ago wondering, “are you bikers driven crazy by people sweeping their leaves into the street?”

I agreed with her that these piles are a nuisance, but I’m not exactly fearing for my life. I also encouraged her to call 823-SAFE (7233) — PDOT’s livability hotline — to report her concerns and keep me posted on what happens.

What are your experiences with these leaf piles? Bike safety hazard? A sign of “bicycle neglect”? No big whoop?

I’m curious what you think.

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.

  • anomalily November 20, 2007 at 3:49 pm

    I will bicycle outside of a bike lane if it is covered in leaves- especially when they are wet. Seems like I\’m just asking for trouble. It is particularly bad going Eastbound on NE Broadway and on some parts of NE Alberta.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • a.O November 20, 2007 at 3:49 pm

    The leaves are frequently extremely slippery, especially after marinating in rain and getting mashed down by wheels and boots for a few weeks. I would think you\’re risking civil liability if you\’re intentionally putting them in the street for people to ride over.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Tasha November 20, 2007 at 3:57 pm

    I have had a few slips and slides with the leaves and on NE Knott, they do turn a normally nice wide biking street into a narrower street for sure. I don\’t neccessarily fear for my life, but it\’s not an ideal situation. I\’d rather they not be there, if given the choice!

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • pushkin November 20, 2007 at 3:58 pm

    a.O. – Well put.

    And might I add that leaving your trash for someone else to pick up is rather uncivil behavior. The Petersons will no doubt incur the ire of their neighbors but they are doing what any responsible adult would do. The wise owl said Give a hoot, don\’t pollute.

    On a side note, how many puns will this article generate? I think I may have made one already.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • true November 20, 2007 at 3:58 pm

    Ironically, some of the worst areas for this practice are in areas specifically designed to be safer for bicycles – like the intersection of Clinton and 39th. Last week I was headed east through there while TWO homeowners were leaf-blowing into the street to their hearts content. I find the billowing clouds of smoke from those leaf-blowers more obnoxious than the leaves…

    It seems rude on the part of homeowners to put their refuse out into the street when there are a number of viable options, and there\’s a bit of a safety issue, but it\’s way down on my list of complaints about cycling safety.

    Take corners slower when there\’s wet leaves around.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • e November 20, 2007 at 3:58 pm

    They definately present a hazard, especially under the conditions described by A.O. above. They are a hazard that can be mitigated with some caution and good route selcetion though. In my opion the folks that do push them into the middle of the street are simply lazy and inconsiderate of their neighbors as wells as cyclists.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • b November 20, 2007 at 4:02 pm

    it is a hazard. especially during early morning or late night commutes during the wet fall.

    laurelhurst, as well as NE Everett/Davis are notorious areas for this.

    the more people ride over them, the more they get packed flat, the less you notice them when you are riding.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Jessica Roberts November 20, 2007 at 4:09 pm

    I\’ve had a couple of really bad close calls recently on SE Ankeny and other residential streets. The combination of early nightfall, heavy rain, and deep piles of leaves extending into the roadway is resulting in some pretty treacherous conditions for bikes.

    I almost feel like I have to choose between the dangers of wet leaves with few cars, or clean streets but heavy auto traffic.

    OTOH, it\’s probably good urban training for all our cross-racing friends.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • nicole November 20, 2007 at 4:09 pm

    i\’ve swerved and lost balance and almost toppled into wet streets when tougher things like sticks and rocks are hiding in the leaf piles. those hazards aren\’t expected or even visible and are much more dangerous than the leaves themselves.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Elliot November 20, 2007 at 4:14 pm

    I was riding through Laurelhurst this weekend and noticed that button for the HAWK signal at 41st Avenue crossing Burnside was inaccessible… unless one felt like sliding across an entire lane\’s worth of leaves and then putting their foot down in 4\” of water. Not very novice/family friendly.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Anon. November 20, 2007 at 4:17 pm

    I went down in a moment of attention lapse when I was late for work one day. A pile of leaves had accumulated near a driveway I was turning into and my front wheel washed out. Seems lazy to me, can\’t people take five extra minutes and just put them in the yard debris bin?

    Another idea may be to better announce days when the street sweeper will be by to clean the streets. I believe Corvallis published dates when they would be by and residents were encouraged to put their leaves out by the street on or just before those days. Therefore the leaves were just a hazard for one day and then gone rather than left to stew for weeks until the next sweeper pass.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • IE November 20, 2007 at 4:18 pm

    When I called the city about this issue they said \”we have a law that says please don\’t rake leaves into the street\”.

    There is an ordinance against putting garbage in the street, so are leaves garbage?? I would think so.

    This is not the most important issue in Portland, certainly, but I do know of someone who has been highly injured on leaves so it is not a phantom issue either.

    I agree…rude, lazy, uncivil…

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • tonyt November 20, 2007 at 4:20 pm

    These are definitely a hazard for all road users. Years ago at night, I ran into a pile that jutted out into the street after a corner.

    Really though, my biggest beef is that city funds are going to clean up these folks leaves. I have to pay for taking care of MY yard debris. This is NOT an appropriate use of public space or funds.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • SkidMark November 20, 2007 at 4:20 pm

    They are potentially dangerous, especially on a wet night at an intersection where you are turning.

    I think that it is selfish and lazy to rake your leaves out of your yard into the street. Pick them up and put them in a yard debris container, or even better compost them.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Stripes November 20, 2007 at 4:21 pm

    I absolutely agree that the piles of leaves are dangerous. They do essentially turn a two-lane street into a one-lane street, and motorists sure do like to get annoyed when they see you riding in the middle of the street, because the edge of the street is too slippery. A few observations from my own riding experiences…

    1) Big piles of leaves often prevent me activating bike-crossing facilities. The piles of leaves covering the Clinton Street bike box at SE 39th are horrendous to the extent that you can\’t even see the bike box. An ENORMOUS pile of leaves right in front of the bike-activated pole for the HAWK signal at SE 41st & Burnside meant for several weeks I had to get off my bike, wade through the leaves on foot, press the signal, then get back on my bike.

    2) Fallen leaves on the ground certainly DO injure people when they are wet (which in Oregon is, let\’s face it folks, often). I rode over a pile of leaves, slid, fell, and broke my arm a few years ago. I was not going fast at all. It\’s kind of like getting caught in the MAX tracks though – you just get flipped off your bike before you know what is happening. I landed so hard, my rainpants were totally ripped, so in addition to an insane medical bill, I had to shell out for new rainpants, oh no!

    3) Finally, slipping on your bike on piles of fallen leaves swept into the street on a low-volume traffic bike boulevard like say, Salmon Street, might only cause you to badly injure yourself in the form of broken bones & the like when you fall. BUT! I worry greatly about slipping on enormous piles of leaves in bike LANES, falling, and then being hit or run over by a moving vehicle. Think that sounds ridiculous? Bike up Everett Street on the bikelane in NW just past the freeway, then turn right onto the bikelane at NW 18th. The piles of leaves there are insane, and the traffic heavy. Similarly, when you are riding in the bikelane at NE Irving Street near the Lloyd District (the road inbetween Benson High School and the I-84 freeway), the bikelane is currently overrun with leaves, and the cars that drive that road are fast, scary, and already in freeway mode. What to do? Ride in leaves and fall? Ride in the road, out of the leaf-strewn, slippery bikelane, and risk getting hit?

    Scary stuff.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • a.O November 20, 2007 at 4:37 pm

    I should also add that, given the obviously hazardous nature of wet, squishy leaves, my opinion is that, under Oregon law cyclists are not required to ride through such crap and would be permitted to not stay to the right of the lane or to use any such compromised bike lane in order to avoid the hazard.

    In fact, if someone wanted to look up the citation, this would make a great teachable moment in educating people on Oregon bike law.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Steven J. November 20, 2007 at 4:43 pm

    Absolutely a hazard. In addition to the slippery element, they can hide even bigger hazards underneath

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • nate November 20, 2007 at 4:44 pm

    It\’s pretty bad through Ladd\’s and Clinton sometimes. Worse though, and even more inexcusable I think, is the horrible drainage that recent road \”improvements\” have caused at 26th and Powell and 28th and Holgate. There\’s no way to avoid riding into the middle of the lane without riding through several inches of water.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Tasha November 20, 2007 at 4:45 pm

    a.O. –


    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • rekon November 20, 2007 at 4:56 pm

    After spending at least 3 hours on average for one day out of each of the last 5 weekends raking (no blower for me) leaves not only from my yard, but also from the sidewalk and the street at least 6 feet out from the curb, then bagging them and taking them to one of the many city provided leaf drop-off depots…I have to say that I have NO patience with anyone who just rakes or blows their leaves into the street! I live on a corner at the bottom of a hill, so I get to rake not just one, but two streets and whatever has washed or blown down the hill.

    I hate leaves…but I clean them up. I wish others did too.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • bigB November 20, 2007 at 5:08 pm

    I put cross tires on my commuter for the leaves. I have to admit I kind of like riding in them. That isn\’t to say it is safe.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • C9 November 20, 2007 at 5:10 pm

    I live on a heavily tree-lined street. The leaves that just fall naturally into the street and form a blanket of mushy wetness? That\’s way dangerous.

    The giant piles that people rake out of their lawns to the curbside? No big whoop to me. I just go around them.

    I do think it\’s poor form to rake your trash out of your yard and expect someone else to deal with it. But big bad bike hazard? Nah. . .

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Robin November 20, 2007 at 5:10 pm

    It\’s was very slippery in ladds last night. When a car was coming the other way it made me tense because the leaves made me need to be near the center of the lane. Boy oh boy are they slippery.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Anonymous November 20, 2007 at 5:16 pm

    Yes, yes, yes, leaf piles are a problem. Not only for cyclists, but for drivers. In wet weather, as they decompose, they become incredibly slippery. I live on Ladd Avenue, and every day I see another one of my neighbors raking his or her leaves into the street. Last year, I stopped and asked one of these folks whether he knew that he was not supposed to do that – he responded by saying, \”Well, why did the city give me a pamphlet telling me when the pick up would be?\” I asked if he had actually READ the pamphlet, which advised that the pick up was only for leaves that fell in the street naturally and further advised that he was supposed to take his own damn leaves to a drop off site. No, of course, not – he had only looked at the dates, which were in large type . . AAARGH.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Kevin Wagoner November 20, 2007 at 5:16 pm

    This year hasn\’t been that bad from a leaf prospective for me. In some years pasts after heavy rains there have been big piles in the bike lane on Barber. Those piles left me no choice but to go into the car lanes. That wasn\’t much fun, but I was careful to make sure there wasn\’t a car behind me that I jumped out in front of. Definitely a nuisance and I think one could argue that on busy roads also dangerous.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Jan November 20, 2007 at 5:22 pm

    Where I live, leaves are picked up by the city (what a waste of city money). These leaf piles often cover the bike lanes, and indeed are safety hazards, especially after rain storms.

    I\’d like to see what happens if people start raking those leaves into the middle of the roadway, right in the path of cars. I\’d bet you\’d see some changes/action on the matter.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Donna November 20, 2007 at 5:23 pm

    I\’m torn. They are definitely a hazard, but I also wish there was a better way for people to get rid of their leaves. I realize many people have far more leaves than yard debris space. What if garbage bills were slightly higher in the months of October-November and there was more frequent removal of leaves on the street? It seems likely that most would be happy to pay for such a convenience. Publish a schedule as they do in Corvallis and then come down hard on people who blow/sweep their leaves in the road at other times.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Mmann November 20, 2007 at 5:25 pm

    Another potential problem is the clogged grates and accompanying \”lakes\” created by them. Cyclist frequently have to go out into traffic to avoid these, and then there\’s the dreaded soaking from cars who drive through these lakes. Anyone who rakes leaves into the street is contributing to this hazard as well.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • James Kirk November 20, 2007 at 5:26 pm

    Damn, damn dangerous, these leavings from trees. Cyclocross tires: oh how I lust after thee!

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Bob November 20, 2007 at 5:28 pm

    I\’ve almost bit it a few times because of wet leaves. What really drives me crazy is when they clog the street sewers and create huge puddles that take up most of the road. It isn\’t fun riding through them or having cars splash me.

    That said, I can\’t imagine Portland without the trees and if this is the price we have to pay for the beauty then I am more than willing to go a little slower around corners and to be more cautious this time of year.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Laura November 20, 2007 at 5:29 pm

    I ran into a large pile of leaves last year. It was dark, I had my lights but their flashing makes me visable more than it lights up my path on dark residential streets. At least when I flipped over my handle bars I had a pile of leaves to land in.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Calvin November 20, 2007 at 5:43 pm

    I think that piles of leaves are great. They\’re fun to ride through (dry) and super slippery and great for sliding around (wet).

    I agree with the dangers, though. Small children and other hazards could easily be hidden from view, and the slippery wet ones make safe cornering a slow process.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Jason November 20, 2007 at 5:43 pm

    A west-sider perspective: the professional landscapers leaf-blew huge piles of leaves onto the bike lanes on NW Evergreen a couple of weeks ago, and after they picked up the leaves, they left a flippin\’ MESS in the bike lanes.

    Not only are they slippery, but they actually make it harder to see real road hazards; you really can\’t tell if there is glass, metal, or other things hidden in the bike lane.

    This in turn means that you end up riding in the traffic lane, which means that we have one lane in each direction now (sorry, motorists), as opposed to the two that Washington County intended.

    My 0.02 cents.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Jeanette November 20, 2007 at 6:02 pm

    The city used to publish the street cleaner schedule but then budget cuts…and anyone who lives outside of the special leaf area was reduced to a couple of times a year for cleaning. In SE Portland, most people rake them up and take them to the leaf depots. If the City made the same changes in the Laurelhurst area, most of the homeowners would probably start cleaning up after themselves like grownups.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Matthew November 20, 2007 at 6:07 pm

    In SE, the leaf piles are annoying, but they tend to be on lower traffic streets, and so I\’m already riding down the center of the street… That said, it would be fairly easy to enforce a law about not sweeping them into the streets: The streets don\’t naturally make big piles, so if you have one, the city should bill you for cleaning it up.

    My big problem area is the leaves on the south side of Willamette Blvd… Given that there aren\’t any houses on that side, (and I\’ve never seen anyone make a pile on the north side,) I\’m guessing that it is caused by a combination of wind, rain, and gravity just dumping them into the gutter (aka bike lane.) Mix in the depressed storm drains there, and the big wind storm a couple weeks ago that knocked a bunch of branches down, and the leaves are slick and very bumpy. It is fall.

    The lakes happen everywhere. The piles doesn\’t help, but pretty much every storm drain in the world clogs up every fall. Be glad we don\’t live in a colder climate, those lakes could freeze up, (leaves and all.)

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Ian Stude November 20, 2007 at 6:13 pm

    This is definitely a problem on my route. NE Glisan has had some obnoxiously large piles right in the bike lane lately. I go through Laurelhurst on my way home and this area is also especially bad. If you happen to use Ankeny from 32nd to 39th, watch out for the MASSIVE pile hiding in the dark at the bottom of the hill. It\’s literally the size of a large truck that\’s been poorly parked. That\’s my 2 cents.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Jerrod November 20, 2007 at 6:18 pm

    leaves go slippy slippy all over, I fall down go boom!

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Dabby November 20, 2007 at 6:33 pm

    Leaves belong in yard debris cans or bags.

    You don\’t throw the rest of your recycling in the street do you?

    I recall many years ago I was fined 200 dollars for having the middle seat to my 1959 Volkswagon bus under a nice cover, on the side of my house. Plus they took it off my property and threw it away, without consulting me, and forced me to pay the 200 dollars. (By the way the value of that seat was very high, and now is worth many times more, and the bus was parked properly on the street outside.)

    If they can do that, they can fine these leaf litterers.

    But they won\’t.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • girl on a bike November 20, 2007 at 6:56 pm

    Well, considering that the one nasty spill I\’ve taken on my bike as an adult happened when I hit a wet patch of leaves hiding in the shade on a sunny morning, I\’ve learned to be extremely cautious whenever there are leaves around. That fall resulted in a badly sprained thumb, road rash all over my right arm, and a gigantic, painful, bruised scab covering my right hip. I couldn\’t walk for a few hours after, and it hurt to ride for the next week. Just this morning I was angrily buzzed by a big SUV for moving out further into the lane (I even signaled first!) to avoid plowing into someone\’s GINORMOUS leaf pile on SE Stark by the nursery. So, um, yes. Leaves = pain in my arse, literally.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • David Dean November 20, 2007 at 7:14 pm

    Yep, leaves are slippery and a hazard. They narrow roads and eliminate bike lanes.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • kurt November 20, 2007 at 7:17 pm

    I definitely don\’t fear for my life, but I have crashed on wet, slick leaves in the past, and I also will try another route. I ride and commute daily and leaves are definitely a problem, especially the nuisance of the leaf blowers blowing the crap right at you.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • erth64net November 20, 2007 at 7:31 pm

    Dangerous? YES!

    Just this evening I was headed eastbound down SE Ankeny, moving at my normal pace (~15-20mph), when a passing car forced me into a leaf pile. The pile caught my front wheel, forcing it towards a hard right, and down I went. I\’m now nursing a road-rash the size of my hand.

    Another cyclist stopped to confirm I was alright (thanks!). A few pedestrians approached, indicating that another cyclist had crashed the same way just a couple minutes prior. That kind of road hazard is just a liability suit waiting to happen.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Lynne November 20, 2007 at 7:41 pm

    The Cedar Hills neighborhood in Beaverton is often full of leaf piles as well (not at the moment; the leaf sweeper came through).

    No street lights, and the leaf piles have no reflectors. I just ride down the middle of the street, as it is very low traffic, but I wish the leaf piles weren\’t there.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Tim H November 20, 2007 at 7:51 pm

    jeesh guys. sorry but some of you are making bikers sound like a bunch of whiners. you can handle a few wet leaves, believe me, it\’s not the end of the world. be a little more careful. look at it as a challenge. bike for fun.

    it\’s autumn. leaves fall. sometimes it rains. just ride it. take a different route. or take a bus. or walk if it\’s so scary.

    so what if twice a year for three days people rake their leaves into the street. maybe they\’re not out to get you. I think the big trees in those neighborhoods are what makes riding through there so nice. and those people take care of them them so cut them a little slack already. come on, bellyache about real problems. let the little things slide. I don\’t know, just my opinion.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Michael Ronkin November 20, 2007 at 7:54 pm

    Portland’s rival bicycle-friendly city, Corvallis, my home for 22 years, had a sensible program. Rather than ban leaf raking into the street, it was managed: every fall the city newsletter would clearly spell out which days you could rake your leaves into the street, but only in the parking area, and they’d pick it up on those dates and recycle it with other compostable organic debris. The ordinance was clear about one thing: you could not rake leaves into bike lanes.

    Of course it wasn’t perfect, some homeowners ignored the “no leaves in bike lanes” provision, or raked them on random days, but overall, you could ride with confidence in the fall; only after a heavy storm was the problem bad enough to be a hazard to riding.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Tim Roth November 20, 2007 at 8:27 pm

    Thanks for the chiding Tim H. If you recall the original post, it asked a question of whether or not leaf piles were a safety hazard. This isn\’t just a complaining spree.

    That enormous pile on Ankeny right by Laurelhurst was removed just yesterday and the street has been swept quite well, thankfully. I actually had my first real close call coming down that hill the other day at dusk when a man in his white Ford Explorer thought it would be a good idea to pull out directly in front of me and then slowly take off up a side street (he did not have his lights on and failed to signal his pullout and turn). This sent me into a diagonal skid involving both wheels due to how hard I had to brake and the leaf-laden, soggy roadway. Luckily I was able to pull out of it, but then I nearly pitched into the giant leaf pile because I had swerved to the right to avoid becoming Ford-kill.

    So yes, leaf piles are hazardous, especially at night when you can\’t see how far they extend into the road. It would be great if the city would make cleaning up leaves on bike boulevards and bike lanes a priority.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • cityworker November 20, 2007 at 9:03 pm

    The city \”harvests\” these leaves on certain streets and composts them and sells the finished product back to anybody who wants it. Has that been clarified yet?

    While we\’re discussing street safety problems, who can we call about this dang rain? So slippery.. and wet.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Matt Picio November 20, 2007 at 9:04 pm

    It would be greater if homeowners and landlords would take care of the leaf removal themselves rather than assuming the city will do it. \”The City\” is a few thousand people, all of whom have a lot of work to do. The property owners are a few HUNDRED thousand people, who could save the city some money by picking up after themselves. These are the same people who then turn around and complain about property taxes and bond measures.

    When I owned my home, I took care of my own yard debris – I didn\’t pawn it off on the city.

    I, too, have had trouble with leaf piles – but I usually just take it slow and stay as upright as possible.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Jeff November 20, 2007 at 10:02 pm

    As someone who knows leaf clean-up first hand. I always clean the curb areas in front of my customers houses, some have requested I just rake them into the street, I refuse. It\’s not fair for taxpayers to pay to clean up debris that is generated from their yard. I\’ve seen people trim their bushes and hide them under the leaves! Friends of Trees planted 1600 trees this year, there\’s going to be alot more leaves in the future, it\’s time to nip this in the bud, so to speak. Trees reduce the need for air conditing and it seems like houses on tree lined streets sell for more, basically the homeowner gets the benefits from the trees, at least they should be able to take care of them.
    Oh Yes, I find them somewhat risky to ride my bike or drive on, it\’s definetly an accident waiting to happen.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Joe R. November 20, 2007 at 10:03 pm

    It\’s pretty rude for homeowners to rake their leaves into the street, and it\’s all too commonplace. When I lived in Laurelhurst, I just raked the leaves myself and put them in my compost pile. Took about 20-30 minutes. There\’s no excuse not to do it. My landlord pays gardners to remove leaves in front of my new house weekly now and I actually miss the experience. In fact, I sometimes try to rake the leaves before the gardners come to put in the compost pile before they take them away. I\’m sick of people wanting to live in single-family neighborhoods yet don\’t accept the responsibilities of keeping a tidy yard.

    As for safety, I do feel unsafe biking in the neighborhood this time of year. On streets like NE Knott, I have to ride closer to the travel lane now because the leaves have piled up in places. I feel even less safe walking through the sludge when I cross streets.

    Not sure what the solution is. Maybe if the city cut out the leaf collection program homeowners might not rake their leaves into the street and instead might rake up ALL the leaves in front of their homes.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Carl November 20, 2007 at 10:11 pm

    No. Seriously?!

    I LOVE the leaves! If we can\’t have snow or temperatures befitting a real winter, at least we can have some frickin\’ leaves.

    More importantly, they\’re awesome traffic calmers. The proof is right in the story:

    \”the practice in essence turns two-lane streets into one-lane streets\”

    Hallefalujah! We couldn\’t get the city to narrow the streets if we tried. I\’ve been parking my unregistered, uninsured car 4 feet from the curb in a weak effort to do this for MONTHS. Now that the leaves have fallen and my housemate has raked an enormous Japanese Maple\’s worth into the street…traffic move much slower and the street feels way cozier — way safer.

    Ride for conditions, people. Sometimes that means slowing down and enjoying the beauty of fall. Whether they\’re put there by gravity or a rake, leaves are a reality of riding this time of year. If Portland had snow and ice, there\’d probably be fewer atheists…seeing as people clearly need someone to blame for slippery roads.


    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • mike_khad1 November 20, 2007 at 10:19 pm

    I\’ve had to swerve out into traffic on NE 9th ave just past Holliday to avoid a pile of leaves. I travel in Laurelhurst area on Ankeny and Davis and the leaves are thick and slippery. They should be picked up. It is an accident waiting to happen.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • joel November 20, 2007 at 10:24 pm

    wow, thats a mountain out of a molehill. big ol non-issue.

    all the \”huge piles of leaves\” ive seen in my riding around town have been generally in areas where a car would park, rather than where a bike would ride.

    sure, you can slip on wet leaves while riding, but only if you make sudden movements while riding over them, or brake suddenly. yeah, it could happen, but its not like your bike automatically flips over if you run over some leaves.

    personally, i have to continually resist the urge to plow my bike directly into big leaf piles…

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Dabby November 20, 2007 at 10:34 pm

    Tim H. and Others,

    The point is that most people do the right thing and put leaves either into a yard Debris bag, or a yard debris can.

    Don\’t you get it?

    It is a hazard. It is not the irght thing to do.

    The right thing to do is to take care of your yard debris properly.

    This is not a farm where you can burn you leaves and debris, or bury your old washing machine in a corner of the field.

    It is a city where we all have to deal with the consequences of those who feel they can just do whatever the hell they want.

    That is why this is a problem!

    If you don\’t get it, it is probably because you also just sweep, rake, or blow your leaves into the street with the rest of them.

    It is called denial people!

    While it may not really be a subject suitable for this site, it is definitely a problem.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Dabby November 20, 2007 at 10:41 pm

    Plus, these leaves , as pointed out, are harvested on certain streets.

    But on others, they sit there and rot….

    You might as well throw your dog\’s shit into the street.

    I bet they would love that in Laurelhurst.

    And Carl, almost a nice point about traffic calming, except:

    People drive way too fast in neighborhoods as is.

    You must remember that it is not only experienced cyclists being pushed to the middle of the street, but also the inexperienced, and, the children. This is not calming, this is distressing if you look at it the right way.

    Dammnit! What about the children!!!

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Jessica Roberts November 20, 2007 at 10:43 pm

    I had forgotten, but now that you mention it, I did have a really nasty spill last year coming around the traffic circle at Tillamook & NE 7th…couldn\’t see that the tire patterns had left a giant slick pile of molding leaves that downed me as I turned the corner. Splat, down I went, sprawled right in the middle of the travel lane. Luckily no car was coming, but plenty often there are cars at that spot (and going faster than they should). It shook me up pretty bad.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • erin g. November 20, 2007 at 10:54 pm

    To quote the person who got me biking in Portland the first place, who often recited funny sayings that his team members would shout in warning on training rides:

    Wet Leaves… Like Ice!

    Slippery when wet, folks, and much worse when stockpiled in the streets by those who refrain from disposing of them properly. I wavered a bit in Ladd\’s the other night,… couldn’t see the piles, despite someone\’s attempt to mark them by sticking a post into the center.

    Please rake \’em up and clean \’em up, folks, rather than creating unofficial obstacles for we who don\’t ride \’cross. Thank you!

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Tweety November 20, 2007 at 11:43 pm

    Another vote for leaves being really dangerous.

    When they start to rot they get really slick and also, as they are pulverized and fill in the little nooks and crannies of the asphalt, they take away from the traction of the road surface.

    At stops, my cleats have slid on them many a time and it\’s only pure luck that I haven\’t gone done because of them. Wet leaves covering (wet) metal grates and manhole/utility covers in the street… even worse.

    Also, tire damaging junk, like glass, pot holes, bungee cords (why are there a zillion of those things everywhere I go?) and you-name-it can be hiding under the leaves, so it\’s not too smart to roll over them for that reason alone.

    My two slippery cents worth on the subject.


    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Stripes November 21, 2007 at 1:26 am

    Carl – I too love leaves! And trees! And moss! And other exciting green-colored things!! It\’s what makes Oregon, well, Oregon.

    I just don\’t like it when muddy leaves attack.

    Several thousand dollars in medical bills (from riding slowly, but slipping on a big ole\’ pile of rotting leaf slime when I turned my front wheel) is no fun.


    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Barbara November 21, 2007 at 6:53 am

    Yes they are a hazard. I have gone down a corner due to wet leaves back 1985and have moved move out of a bike lane or more into the roadway to avoid them ever since. Plus they hide holes & other hazards. Recently in SW WA a man from Japan drowned when the small water areahe went into to retireve hisball turned out to be 10 feet deep & he couldn\’t swim.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Molly S. November 21, 2007 at 7:31 am

    The part that makes me laugh is when homeowners put a stake or long branch in the middle of their gigantic leaf piles on the street… Are these stakes supposed to help us see the piles better (because they don\’t, not unless they are decorated with reflective tape) or are they just a fun way for those residents to measure their fall bounty? Ride in Ladd\’s and you\’ll see what I mean.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Inky November 21, 2007 at 8:08 am

    A friend of mine lost an eye due to a fall caused by wet leaves. He lost traction and slid into a barrier hitting face first. He was wearing a helmet. I think they are an extreme hazard as bad as ice sometimes.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Thomas November 21, 2007 at 8:12 am

    Re: NE Knott

    Not only does one lose traction on leaf piles but piles take up the space a parked motor vehicle would, though the moving motor vehicles don\’t seem to see them as such. The short of it: Drivers don\’t understand why bicyclist isn\’t hugging the curb.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • J November 21, 2007 at 8:45 am

    For homeowners who find taking care of their wet leaves (definitely a safety hazard for biking with kids in my experience) too much of a chore–get rid of your lawn. If your front yard is nicely landscaped with shrubs, perennials, etc, any leaves that fall in it are just free mulch. No need to rake or bag or haul.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • bArbaroo November 21, 2007 at 8:49 am

    I love trees. Trees have leaves. I love cycling. Wet leaves are a hazard. Oh, I\’m conflicted here.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • philbertorex November 21, 2007 at 9:15 am

    I avoid leaf piles. One time in the past, I rode past a pile that was hiding a pumpkin. If I had ridden through the pile, I probably would have been dumped off my bike into traffic by the pumpkin.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Kelsey November 21, 2007 at 9:20 am

    Ditto, Laura.
    I also ran into a giant pile of leaves last year that had been piled on the road side of a parallel parked car, putting it directly in the line of cars and bikes on a dark residential street. It took me completely by surprise and I fell head over handlebrs. I love the autumn foliage in this city, but those big piles of wet leaves are definitely a safety hazard. If homeowners are willing to rake them or use a leaf blower to create the pile, it seems like they could just as easily take the next step and remove the leaves entirely.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Jose Rodriguez November 21, 2007 at 9:20 am

    I agree with comments 61-63. The people in the Ladd circle are horribly infamous for this. They put stakes on the street and build leave piles around it. This is dangerous because they are very hard to see and yes it does take up car parking spaces. Which is why I\’m surprised that they do it because, from the front, none of them seem to have driveways.

    Scary story about the friend losing an eye, #62.

    And to reiterate probably every cyclists comments. Wet, mashed down leaves are super slippery & very scary. I\’ve drop my bike several times around corners due to leave piles & freshly fallen wet leaves. In those processes I usually end up sliding along the pavement into lanes of car traffic. I\’ve been lucky enough so far (knock on wood) to still have all of my limbs & eyes.

    I don\’t know if I would go as far as life threatening, but yes, LEAVES are very dangerous on the wet slimy roads of Portland.

    I would recommend all cyclists to look into getting nobby tires during the wet rainy season. And try to take corners a little slower than normal when in wet conditions. STAY SAFE CYCLISTS!

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Paul November 21, 2007 at 9:36 am

    FYI: Big leaf clean up by the city this morning along the 40\’s route from Stark to Glisan. The HAWK approach is cleared now.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • dr November 21, 2007 at 10:17 am

    I agree wet leaves are an EXTREME hazard. I\’ve noticed this particularly along some of the streets in NW and along Willamette, especially by the U of Portland.

    You can ride knobbys, and be on guard going through them, but If you slip, it\’s extemely unexpected and if you go down it\’s hard and fast. No real way to control your fall and it\’s anyone\’s guess where you could possibly end up.

    Plus, they can hide unexpected hazards as has been pointed out.

    I\’d love to seem more attention paid to clearing bike lanes and curb ares of leaves and other road debris. By default, it seems like cyclists get the shaft as most trash, rocks (especially the winter gravel the city puts down), branches, glass, etc. ends up along the right side of the road and in bike lanes.

    I have no problem moving into the lane if need be, but then you have the fun of someone harrasing you as they drive by for holding them up for a few seconds.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • bikegrrrl November 21, 2007 at 10:19 am

    Piles of leaves are a bit of a hazard. You never know what is under them. Two weeks ago two of my friends had a bad crash riding in the bike lane N bound on Greeley. He hit a cement block hidden under a bunch of leaves in the bike lane.
    I stay out of the piles whenever possible, which often means riding in the middle of the street on residential roads.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Martha R November 21, 2007 at 10:19 am

    It\’s not just a layer of wet leaves on the pavement — in plenty of places they\’re huge mounds of leaves that extend into the travel lanes (many of those landscapers thoughtfully keep their clients\’ on-street parking area clear). Neighborhoods where the practice of piling (yes, PILING) leaves in the street is most common are also those where most yardwork is done by landscaping companies. So it\’s not necessarily the poor homeowner who\’s overburdened with leaves — it\’s the commercial landscaping company that gets the city to take on a task that the landscaper is getting paid to do. Yes those piles are dangerous — you can\’t ride through them (they\’re two or three feet tall), and the drivers don\’t adjust their driving to account for the narrower street.

    The leeches who take advantage of the city\’s street sweeping program have a distasteful sense of entitlement. They think that since the crews are out there anyway, it\’s no extra work to deal with extra leaves. Along that line of thinking, I could save some money and start dumping my home garbage in those garbage cans in the park — the park and rec is coming by to empty their garbage cans anyway, right?

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • max adders November 21, 2007 at 11:22 am

    leaf piles ain\’t got nothin\’ on the ice and snow I commuted though every winter in the midwest.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Alan November 21, 2007 at 11:36 am

    I always thought the people who bikes on the \”ice and snow\” in Madison, Wisconsin (grad school days) were crazy.

    As for Portland, the *worst* riding time of the year is Nov-Dec. Not just leaves, but also falling branches (more likely when wind blows and some leaves are still on the tree), and huge puddles (more likely because leaves on street clog drains).

    Scariest ride of 2006 was a stormy ride through Ladd\’s Addition at nite trying to watch the road for fallen hazards while simultaneously trying to watch the sky for falling hazards. Adequate street lights would help, but there are some long patches of Ladd\’s without lights.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Tankagnolo Bob November 21, 2007 at 11:45 am

    It is a mix emotion for me. I once crashed making a u-turn on my road bike, due to my front wheel hitting a single large wet leaf. I went down so fast I could not react.

    The other emotion is how fun it is to race over fallen leaves on my mountain bike. It makes my commute more fun, and a mountain bike handles the situation much better, and is thus my bike of choice for wet and winter commuting.

    Big piles of leaves are anther story. If the city\’s job is to remove only \”fallen leaves\”, folks who rake into the street should be cited, plain and simpble.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • BURR November 21, 2007 at 12:18 pm

    The leaves are a hazard, and there are other ways of dealing with them than dumping them in the street, that\’s just lazy.

    I\’ve got six mature trees on a 100 x 50 lot and I succeed in using all the leaves they produce – imcluding what falls in the street – for mulch and compost on-site.

    Cityworkers don\’t mind so much because they make overtime cleaning them up, and the city makes a profit on their composting operation.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • BURR November 21, 2007 at 12:20 pm

    The worst time to bike in Portland is right after an ice or snow storm because the city is so slow to pick up all the loose gravel they lay down during these storms. But leaf season is a close second.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Graham November 21, 2007 at 1:13 pm

    \”Are leaf piles are a bike safety hazard?\”

    The typo, it hurts… 🙂

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Opus the Poet November 21, 2007 at 2:53 pm

    I don\’t see how a mountain bike is any help riding in leaves, the bike rolls over the leaves and the leaves slide against each other or the road surface, which the bike tire never touches… The worst wreck I was in that didn\’t involve a motor vehicle was a few leaves and sand on a wet street, chipped tibia and some really deep abrasions, and the end of the tibia is still swollen (bone swelling lasts for years on me).


    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Thom November 21, 2007 at 4:05 pm

    Our neighbors down south have a pretty sweet leaf collection program.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • oldguyonabike November 21, 2007 at 4:14 pm

    Absolutely. I\’m riding SE 92nd since the 205 path closed. There\’s a stretch between Lents Park and Powell going north that has a big chestnut tree. Not only are there leaves, but those big, hunkin\’ chestnuts with spiny shells. Nightmare! One day last week the homeowner was out front and I asked him nicely if he would mind doing something with them. The next week either he or the road crews took them away, but for 2 weeks or so that stretch was horrible.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Deb November 21, 2007 at 6:15 pm

    conflicted biker here.

    I live on the 42nd SE bike path, I have no trees yet I set out two bags of leaves every other week for collection this time of year. This last weekend I spent several hours cleaning out the gutter and bike lane in front of my neighbors house so that the drain could run free and not flood the bike lane and intersection. I was not about to bag up this soppy mess but instead piled it up in the car turn lane on Rhone. Am I doing you a favor or disservice?

    -I\’m not biking through the winter months, lack knobby tires, fenders and rain gear.

    Bike safe – be seen – those that use this portion of the 42nd route know there\’s a safe haven over here should you need it.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • a.O November 21, 2007 at 6:47 pm

    Hey Deb, @ #82:

    You did us a *big* favor and our City is doing us a disservice. This kind of thing is PDOT\’s job.

    Having a safe City for biking means having a proper infrastructure. The situation in the City right now re leaves, re gravel after winter ice, and re debris generally is a clear and present danger to cyclists on our roadways. A fundamental reason we have freely delegated our essential human right to Govern ourselves to the City of Portland is the relatively simple task of maintaining the public commons free, to the degree feasible, of hazards. What do our tax dollars get us if not this basic service?

    Does anyone else get the feeling that the City doesn\’t pay very close attention to conditions on the bikeways? Perhaps they need more frequent reminding from users…

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • bottombracket November 21, 2007 at 6:52 pm

    It’s funny that I read this article yesterday, and then on the way to work this morning I encountered a pile a leaves gathered up in the bike lane. While I normally would think nothing of this, this didn\’t occur on some neighborhood street lined with trees, but on Northwest Front Street in the industrial section where there aren\’t exactly that many trees to begin with. I can\’t imaging that the city patrols this area to clean up leaves and almost feel like they were put there as a joke?Needless to say, it was a little annoying and sketchy to have to swerve around the pile into the traffic lane, given the fact that it was Front Street which has considerably heavy traffic (with trucks) during the peak commute hours.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • RN November 21, 2007 at 7:07 pm

    Yes. Yes. Yes.

    Leaves and all debris in bike right of way are a big hazard to my well being.

    As I ride along I like to scale (imagine) the pot holes and debris that could enable my death or serious injury to a size that could cause similar issues for a car and its passengers. Then I wonder – how long would such hazards remain in the cars right of way?

    The answer? Not long. A DOT crew would be called out, police with flares would show up, etc.

    We have a long, long way to go.


    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • john q public November 22, 2007 at 2:39 am

    I commute through Laurelhurst and the leaf piles are atrocious. I end up riding in the middle of the street, even though I use cross tires while the leaves are down. Leaf piles are very frequent, and usually at least 12\” deep in this area. Although on corners, the leaves provide a nasty slip hazard, the piles aren\’t a direct hazard. It is the fact that the leaf piles funnel all the traffic into the middle of the street. People should not be allowed to rake leaves into the street more than a few days before leaf pickups.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • John R November 22, 2007 at 9:33 am

    Leaves are definitely a hazard.

    I\’ve had long talks with Cevaro of Comm. Sam Adams\’ staff and the manager of the PDOT maintenance program. It\’s against Portland city code to put debris in the street, but there is essentially no enforcement. By the way, the city\’s leaf program costs about $600k per year for sweeping and running the leaf depots.

    My suggestion (I\’ve presented it to various city officials): Run a leaf program like the ODOT Sno Park program in the mountains. If you buy a \”leaf permit\” for, say $20 per year. Post the permit in your window and you are allowed to rake your leaves into the street. If you compost your leaves or dispose of them other ways, you don\’t need a permit. If you rake leaves into the street and you don\’t display a permit, you receive a citation in the mail for maybe twice the permit cost.

    Twenty dollars isn\’t enough to cover the costs, but it\’s more than people are paying now.

    Besides the fact that the piles are adefinite hazard for bicyclists and pedestrians, the thing that upsets me is that I do the right, legal approach by hauling my leaves to the leaf depot and pay for the priviledge, while my neighbors break the law for no cost by piling leaves in the street.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • jackson November 22, 2007 at 1:21 pm

    I ride on N.E. Davis five nights a week. When there are leaves in the street and they are wet, they can be dangerous to ride on. The people who rake their leaves into the street should be treated as anyone else who endangers the flow of traffic,by throwing thier trash onto a public street. The people who do this are dirtbags and need to be fined or tossed in jail for a night or two. Maybe then they will learn the common decency of not throwing thier trash in the street.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Dingo dizmal November 23, 2007 at 1:32 am

    I strongly suggest leaping off your bike into wet or dry leaves, it\’s in the bible and stuff…
    On my bike, I\’m 10 feet from skull to the ground, if I missride it can be really bad.
    Just watch out for that wet steel like the manhole covers those surfaces are superslickslippery right now, and one thing a cyclist hate while moving fast are surprizes.
    I put out a craigslist ad offering to go pick up leaves with my tall bike and trailor, I was gonna charge a few bucks or something and cart the whole mess back into my back yard for composting, you can always find places to stuff leaves.
    Nobody responded yet

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • J November 23, 2007 at 2:00 pm

    Wet piles of leaves are a huge hazard in bike lanes. They are slippery and when its dark they sneak up on you. Most of the time I try to stay away from them and if Im forced to ride through them I do so very carefully. Home owners should be taking responsability for their yard waste, not just pawning it off on the city.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • mark November 23, 2007 at 11:02 pm

    I definitely think this leaf pile in the street thing is definitely not a good idea. When I lived in SW Portland on St. Clair, the cars would get stuck in these piles when parked on the streets. it was just like trying to get out of snow and ice, it was so slick. Also I am very cautious when riding my bike through these piles of leaves. A friend of mine was seriously injured after slipping on some leaves on his bike. Broken arm, ear completely torn off, concussion, cracked vertebrae. Yeah, I\’d definitely say it\’s a hazard.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Motoman November 24, 2007 at 4:37 pm

    The leaves present a moderate hazard a few weeks a year in neighborhoods with old deciduous trees planted in the parking strips. If you are a bicycle novice it is easy to pick a route that avoids the leafy streets. For the rest of us who ride a lot, the daily perils of cars, glass, potholes and bad intersections make up the bulk of daily perils, not a few wet leaves.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • bob sturgess November 24, 2007 at 5:21 pm

    Agreed. They should definitely cut all the trees down to prevent the hazardous leaf problem.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • JD November 13, 2008 at 10:56 am

    Even cars have probs with the leaves:
    Traffic alert: power pole crash shuts down Division

    Last Update: 7:53 am

    Print Story | Email Story

    (Alana Kujala) PORTLAND – Westbound traffic shut down Division Street after a man drove into a power pole around 9:20 a.m. Wednesday at the Northeast 148th intersection.

    Police the 18-year-old driver was headed west on Division. When he tried to turn from the right lane, his wheels hit leaves and rain and the car hydroplaned, hitting a power pole.

    Power was cut off at the intersection. Utility workers rerouted affected power in the area and quickly minimized and disruptions. The traffic light at the intersection remains off, however.

    Recommended Thumb up 0