The Classic - Cycle Oregon

Whining bikers and an update on the leaf pile issue from Eugene

Posted by on December 12th, 2008 at 2:57 pm

“It appears the bike riders have gotten a little soft over the years…Just be careful, folks. It’s not Afghanistan.”
— Eugene resident Marty Casado in a letter in the Eugene Register-Guard about concerns over leaf piles in the bike lane

We’ve been following the issue of leaf piles as a danger to bike traffic both in Portland and, most recently, down in Eugene.

Bike advocates in Eugene are pressing the city to clean up the problem. Shane Rhodes is a Eugene-based bike advocate and has been active on the leaf issue. He’s also on the City of Eugene’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee and sent us an update from their meeting last night. He also sent along the text of an entertaining letter to the editor from today’s Register-Guard newspaper and his response.

First, the update:

We discussed this issue at the BPAC last night and we are still working on the issue; the Safety & Education subcommittee will be meeting in the New Year and will hopefully get a report back from Staff on what they have been working on regarding miles of curb side bike lanes, other cities programs, and more information. Stay tuned for more.

And now, the letter (I can’t decide which line is my favorite!):

Bikers whine too much

The article about bike riders whining about leaves in the street is ridiculous.

I rode skates to work for 20 years; try it on roller skates. A little tougher, but still quite doable. I bike all over all the time. Dangerous? Just be careful, folks. It’s not Afghanistan.

We have two huge deciduous trees in our front yard, and there are many belonging to the fairgrounds across the street. Needless to say, the leaves blow all over, and the thought of putting them all in 5,000 plastic bags is a bit silly and wasteful.

Perhaps they would have us out vacuuming the streets each morning to give them a nice smooth surface to ride their bikes over.

It appears the bike riders have gotten a little soft over the years. I am a 50-year bicycler living on the bike path.

And here’s Shane’s response (a great example by the way):

I was waiting for a letter like Marty Casados to arrive after the article regarding leaves in the bike lane. In talking to fellow cyclists two of the fears of dealing with this issue are that people will think we want to end the leaf program and that we are just a bunch of whining cyclists complaining about petty things when really we have it so good in Eugene.

It is true that cycling in this area is good, however it is not true that it is great for everyone OR that the majority of cyclists want to end the leaf program. It is easy to make the choice to drive, it is not easy to choose cycling because we don’t have a complete system of comfortable bike ways and we still have barriers for kids, families, and new cyclists. We expect leaves to falls, rain to come, and normal road hazards to be present. What we don’t expect is for the City to say it is okay to pile leaves in a lane dedicated to travel. It’s not called a “leaf pile lane”. Let’s talk about other options, not ending but adapting the program.

It might be fine for someone like me, who teaches bicycle education, or Mr. Casado who has been cycling for 50 years to maneuver around leaf piles on busy roads, but as we try to encourage new cyclists these piles are a barrier we don’t need to place in their way.

Thanks Shane. Nice work so far. Keep us posted.

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  • Z-nonymous December 12, 2008 at 4:15 pm

    Maybe I’m not “hip” enough… is “Just be careful, folks. It’s not Afghanistan.” a threat?
    Like “F#$% cyclist!!! Be careful ya don’t get caught under my tires!!!”
    Does the Afghanistan crack mean I need to cycle with a Kalashnikov?

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  • Brad December 12, 2008 at 4:31 pm

    Cycling is becoming like my former sport, running.

    Back in the day the sport was populated by a small band of warriors who relished the physical and cerebral challenges of hard training and racing. Then, someone discovered that you could get couch potatos to jog for charity then, boom! Race fees went from $5 to $50 or more, just trying became more important than achievement challenge, and having a very visible “running lifestyle” trumped actually being good at the sport.

    That’s why Mr. Casados “soft” comment amuses me so. He’s right and I worry that the newbies that we attract to riding and commuting will eventually steer the debate away from real improvements in connectivity and bike laws by loudly clamoring that our precious allocation of bike dollars gets used on street sweeping, leaf removal, and creature comforts.

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  • Revolution Cycles Eugene December 12, 2008 at 4:50 pm

    Nice show Shane! Piling leaves in the bike lanes is ridiculous. In some instances the pile of leaves (often full of beer bottles and other hazards) is the only way out for the cyclist. The idea of this being not so bad when compared to other issues is really not the point. The point is that these are serious hazards that keep people from riding, and/or walking if the the objects, whatever they may be, are in the way.
    I personally educate those blowing leaves into the bike lane all the time.

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  • Grimm December 12, 2008 at 5:42 pm

    The bad thing about leaves in the bike lane versus in a car lane is cars will mash leaves up in a couple weeks, but our small tires and low weights dont get rid of anything very fast, mother nature is left to slowly wash them away.

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  • patrickz December 12, 2008 at 5:53 pm

    Agree w/ Z nonymous, and also don’t really get the Afghanistan comment, now that I think of it.

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  • Racer X December 12, 2008 at 10:57 pm

    Some of this is strictly about a service equity issue…though more typically affecting pedestrians. (Why cities sweep and repair streets but not sidewalks.)

    With sweeping streets there is a very common solution used in many communities: regular parking prohibitions for scheduled street sweeping.

    But this leaf management tool seems to politically difficult for NW cities to implement. Yes it would require more parking enforcement, but this has to be cheaper than after hour overtime to unclog catch basins and flooded streets.

    Yes more ‘soft’ bicyclists are biking to work and shopping…that should be a success…sure more funds will go into street maintenance due to this …and then more general fund and tax revenue will fund the missing projects based on wider support…like most bike friendly cities outside the USA.

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  • Max December 12, 2008 at 11:21 pm

    I still can’t figure out why it’s ok to block a bike lane but not OK block a car lane — especially when the ORS says that the two are essentially the same from a legal standpoint.

    Yet we still see cars *parked* in the bike lane. How often do you see cars parked in the auto lanes?

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  • jim December 12, 2008 at 11:37 pm

    I think the city of eugene should spring some money for some rakes.
    Everyone who is living on the public dime can go out every morning and rake them up
    if your here illegally just go out and rake them up and leave a hat out for the cyclists to throw change into

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  • Mike December 13, 2008 at 12:25 am

    I guess I’m not understanding the point of this issue. Why is it such an ordeal to have to leave the bike lane for a few seconds just because a pile of leaves are blocking it? Yes, people are not supposed to block the entire bike lane with their leaves….and those that do should be cited. But I fail to see why it’s a crisis to leave the bike lane for a few seconds. I think the Mup’s are worse for leaves as they don’t sweep them as often as the streets. Mr. Casado is right in saying that we will never have ideal circumstances to ride under. Is it our place to try to create that?

    The problem with this entire issue is that as cyclists, we want respect from the law and motorists, but we’re not willing to give an inch back. Asking to end the leaf collection only going to further alienate cyclists from the general population. I suggest it’d be better to change one’s limitations on this issue rather than try to change others.

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  • jake December 13, 2008 at 6:17 am

    I understand the afganistan comment in a lets not make mountains out of molehills sort of way, lets be honest here, to listen to some of us you would think that swinging from the right side of a white line to the left side of a white line was akin to dodging burning tanks and such. I think that its a great line, I’m sorry that you didn’t get it znonymous, I don’t think that any harm was meant by it, perhaps there wasn’t enough seperation between the ‘just be carefull folks’ and the rest of the statement, maybe it would have been better to say ‘just use common sense and caution here folks, there is an obstacle ahead and you will have to navigate around it, i know it wasn’t there in june but its there now and you will have to deal with it, it won’t be the hardest thing that you have to do today, please don’t make a bigger deal out of it than you need to’ 🙂

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  • Shane December 13, 2008 at 7:44 am

    As I stated in comments in the previous article: -this is not making a mountain out of a molehill and WE should not change our “limitations” on this. The city is saying it is okay to place piles of leaves in the bike lane. It might be fine for YOU as an experienced cyclist. It is not okay for ALL road users. We are not talking about natural obstacles that we might come across. We are talking about piles that people place in the lane because they are told it is okay to do so.

    If we just shrugged our shoulders and said “oh well, it could be worse” then we wouldn’t have any of the facilities we have for cyclists now because it would have been seen as “no big deal”. Our cities (PDX & EUG) would not be where they are today if they were built only for the super experienced urban riders. Let’s make them even better for everyone.

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  • jake December 13, 2008 at 9:46 am

    shane, I’m not knocking the program at all and I’m sorry if you felt that way, I am simply responding to z anonymous about the interpretation of the afganistan comment.

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  • tbird December 13, 2008 at 12:33 pm

    Even though this is happening in Eugene, I see PDX as having an similar issue with leaves.

    In conflict there is opportunity. Let’s take the Anti-cyclist rhetoric and turn it in a Pro-Cycling direction….?

    How about we as cyclists group together in neighborhood groups ( cells, if you will…;)) and clean the leaves from offending lanes in trouble spots?

    Obviously we would not be able to cover the entire city but we could get the usual suspects cleaned up a couple times each leaf season. Eg: Folks who live/ride Clinton or Ankeny or any other heavily travelled route could do clean up days, co-ordinate with the city pickup schedules and keep the lanes clear, mostly.
    That will go a long way toward Pro-cyclist PR…

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  • Lynn December 14, 2008 at 7:53 am

    On my street there is only one row of parking as the other row was removed when the two bike lanes were installed years ago. Instead of dumping the leaves in front of my property where the bike lane is located I hauled them across the street and put them in the parking row. The disposal company can therefore pick up the leaves at their leisure. It becomes an issue of education.

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  • Walt December 14, 2008 at 3:10 pm

    Check out the situation in the Sacramento area and the Can the Trash! program of the Sacramento Area Bicycle Advocates. Most California cities and counties use wheeled containers for green waste collection, but the cities of Sacramento and Davis (!) allow residents to place green waste in the street, including in bike lanes (though the California Vehicle Code prohibits blocking bike lanes).

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  • Miriam December 14, 2008 at 9:22 pm

    The leaves are not just a layer or 2 covering the bike lanes here in Eugene. The citizens are instructed to blow/rake/place their leaves into the bike lanes. Some of these piles are knee deep. This is not something that can be ridden over or through. Its ok to cross into the other lane when there is no traffic, but what if this is a busy road.

    Also the piles are not there for a day or 2, they are there typically for weeks.

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  • Coyote December 15, 2008 at 7:14 am

    The solution seems simple to me. The City needs to prioritize leaf pick-up on portions of major bike routes that get heavily leafed. It is the same strategy as snow plowing. (Which the city is doing right now. ~6″ of snow last night 🙂

    Is it a huge problem in Eugene? No, as Mr. Casado’s curmudgeonly letter points out. However, it is a problem, and it is worth fixing. I applaud Shane’s efforts in this matter.

    The attitude is pretty typical of the City. The City has built some of the best bicycle infrastructure in the US, but no one in city government will admit to thinking of bicycles as true alternative transportation. The paths and bridges are for recreation and never referred to as transportation.

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  • Pete December 15, 2008 at 11:56 am

    Back in the day we used an old-fashioned device called a “rake” and made small piles which we loaded into bags (though now there are larger rolling bins available to save plastic). It was quiet, good exercise, good family time together, good income on the side as I got older, and would pose a pretty straightforward solution to this problem.

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  • Lisa G. December 15, 2008 at 9:04 pm

    Ditto to what Pete said. According to the article in the Register-Guard Eugene’s waste mangement providers supply yard waste bins: ” Residents could use their leaves for composting or use the yard debris bins provided by many garbage disposal companies, Shields said.”

    The City of Portland provides the bins, too, so people should be encouraged to use them. A little extra energy might be required to actually put the leaves in the hoo. I see the street leaf thing as simple laziness and refusal to take responsibility for their own tree debris. I don’t expect the city to wash my windows or paint my house either. BTW, composting is amazingly easy and rewarding. (Metro has $30 composters available).

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