Could proposed “leaf tax” sweep away a bike safety hazard?

Leaves where bikes like to be.
(Photo: Elly Blue)

Every fall in Portland, mounds of leaves pile up on neighborhood streets, creating slippery conditions on road shoulders and sidewalks.

Yesterday the Oregonian featured a story about a new “leaf tax” being considered by Mayor-elect Sam Adams that would create “leaf districts” in areas of the city with many street trees.

Adams’ idea made me wonder if this new tax would improve biking conditions.

I witnessed the bicycle safety implications of leaf buildup while riding down NE Tillamook on my way to work a few days ago. At 16th, a man riding ahead of me made a turn to cross the traffic calming barrier, rode through a deep pile of leaves, and toppled over onto his side. He picked himself up, ruefully said he was okay, and kept riding.

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(Photo © J. Maus)

Exactly one year ago, we covered the leaf safety issue. That story focused on a Tribune article that mentioned a couple who voiced concerns that general tax dollars were being used to clean up leaf debris in some of Portland’s wealthiest neighborhoods, while residents in other parts of the city had to pay to remove leaves themselves.

That’s unfair according to Eastmoreland Neighborhood resident John Replinger. The Oregonian’s Jim Mayer reported that Replinger told City Council; “I’m paying to do the right thing…We’re rewarding the lawbreakers and putting pedestrians and cyclists at risk.”

Currently, the City picks up leaves in the roadway in areas with a lot of street trees — places with heavy bike traffic like Sellwood, Laurelhurst, and Irvington. In advance of scheduled leaf collection, residents receive a notice, which many take as an opportunity to sweep all of the leaves from their yards into the street — sometimes ruining a perfectly good shoulder to ride in.

What is your experience riding on leaf-strewn streets this time of year? Would you support this leaf tax idea if it meant your bike route would be a bit safer to ride on?

The tax is under consideration for next fall. Read the full story (and comments) in the Oregonian.

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