The Worst Day of the Year Ride is February 11th

About that gravel; City says we just have to wait

Posted by on December 16th, 2008 at 2:58 pm

gravel in the bike lane-1

The gravel-strewn bike lane
on SE Madison.
(Photo © J. Maus)

Here in Portland, after the novelty of riding in the snow wears off and the fear of icy roads subsides, people that bike are faced with an unfortunate byproduct of severe weather — gravel.

The gravel is a more eco-friendly way to deal with slippery streets (Portland doesn’t use salt because of concerns over runoff into rivers), but it makes for an annoying ride.

Remember the big TriMet lawsuit saga back in January of 2006? That entire incident, according to the guy on the bike, was caused when he was forced to ride outside of the bike lane due to gravel accumulation.

Well, apparently the City has heard from Portlanders that gravel in the bike lane is a problem. In their latest press release about the current storm they include this paragraph (emphasis mine):

The City is aware that bicyclists, in particular, have expressed concerns about the sand and gravel on the streets and in the bike lanes. Unfortunately, crews will not be cleaning that material up any time soon. Street sweepers cannot effectively pick up sand and gravel until temperatures reach above 40 degrees. The combination of sand, gravel, and ice just tears up equipment. In addition, the sweeper brushes cannot get low enough to the variable road surface in these snow and ice conditions for an effective sweep.

This is how they do it in Copenhagen.
(Photo: Copenhagenize)

On my ride into the office this morning, I pedaled through not just gravel, but in some places the bike lane was covered in snow and ice while the other travel lanes were completely smooth and clean.

I wonder when PDOT will consider new equipment that is specifically made to sweep bike lanes (like they do in Copenhagen)? Or, maybe we should just suck it up and ride.

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 — Jonathan

  • Hart December 16, 2008 at 3:06 pm

    If there’s too much gravel just take the lane.

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  • Jonathan Maus (Editor) December 16, 2008 at 3:08 pm


    that’s sort of the problem… not everyone is comfortable taking the lane…and not everyone (in cars) is ready/willing to safely relinquish the lane.

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  • chuck December 16, 2008 at 3:12 pm

    I’ve been taking the lane everywhere I ride when the bike lane is covered. anywhere there’s a clear patch of pavement, I’m on there. if that’s not possible, gravel over the ice is better than nothing.

    I can understand how taking the lane would be scary, though. even with cars passing by slowly, it’s scary to think what would happen if either the bike or car had to make any quick changes in direction.

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  • bahueh December 16, 2008 at 3:13 pm

    I would say suck it up and ride…the city cannot make everyone’s commute hassle free and completely safe. period.

    to the city’s credit, I did witness a small PDOT work truck manually spraying the bike lane over the Hawthorne bridge today….literally, a guy leaning out the window with what looked like a small pesticide spray applicator putting down, what I assume to be, de-icer on only the bike lane…

    they’re doing what they can with what they’ve got with the current weather conditions……complaining they’re not doing enough is not going to win anyone any friends…

    or maybe someone should start advocating for heated bike lanes and a city employee with a broom at every intersection…..

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  • PdxMark December 16, 2008 at 3:36 pm

    I have to say that I still appreciated the gravel that was in the bike lane during my commute this morning. It helps with the ice that’s also still there if I can’t take a dry lane because of car traffic. As far as I’m concerned the city can take a little more time to clean up the gravel… particularly with the forecast of more snow for tomorrow.

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  • Adam December 16, 2008 at 3:36 pm

    I have taken the lane multiple times the past few days. This is something I am comfortable with but I also understand that it would not be to some others. Considering that most of my commute consists of SE Powell near Gresham it is not always the most comforting ride. I would love some sort of bike lane maintenance but I also understand that it is hard enough for the city to keep up with what they have on their plates right now.

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  • Jonathan Maus (Editor) December 16, 2008 at 3:43 pm


    thanks for the link. i’ve added it and the photo to the story.

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  • Anonymous December 16, 2008 at 3:54 pm

    Ummm. The City has 100 sanders and 5 Street Sweepers. So the math…

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  • tom December 16, 2008 at 3:56 pm

    I get hurt a lot more if I slide and fall in the gravel or ice, or combination, than does the driver of a car that slides and hits something. I think my emergency room bill could possibly be more than the repair bill of the car, and considering all cars HAVE to be insured and I don’t HAVE insurance, I will end up hurt more and paying more. Something should be done, it’s a priority.

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  • Anonymous December 16, 2008 at 4:03 pm

    Understand that this situation is not an annual event, nor an extended event when it occurs, and that purchase the equipment to handle the situation is just not fiscally responsible.

    How many streets in Portland were plowed at all? Not many, because the city just can’t justify buying enough equipment for a four day, once every two year event.

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  • Bob December 16, 2008 at 4:12 pm

    I am willing to be patient with the gravel clean up. It is still messy out there on many roads and the gravel is helping. With another storm(s) on the way it doesn’t make sense to do clean up at this point. My patience will wear thin, however, if it takes months to clean up once the weather gets above freezing. I seem to recall it taking a couple of months for the roads to become clear of gravel after the ice storm in 2003/04. It was treacherous in some spots.

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  • Zaphod December 16, 2008 at 4:47 pm

    This is being responded to from an operations perspective. They provide a service and do great work with the equipment they have. If they’re overwhelmed in their core duties then they might request additional capital or technologies.

    The question that needs to be worked out is what would it cost to be ready to clean the roads? How many pieces of specialized equipment, how many additional employees/shifts, what other materials, etc. If we had data from the Netherlands piece, one could put together a proposal. This seems like something our friends at BTA could head up. I’d be happy to do some legwork as needed.

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  • Natty December 16, 2008 at 4:47 pm

    You folks actually use gravel … as in the gravel road, crushed rock variety?

    Here they use sand – both due to concerns with salt run-off in the spring and for the fact it’s too cold for salt much of the time.

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  • spencer December 16, 2008 at 4:53 pm

    tires roll over gravel, ice, sand, dirt, etc.

    quit whining and ride. clear dry asphalt is nice, but its not necessary. why doesnt anyone complain about wet bike lanes too?

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  • Natty December 16, 2008 at 4:54 pm

    Our bike lanes don’t get plowed in the winter … that’s where they push the snow from the streets 😉 Not being a fan of segregated traffic flow, I’m not particularly troubled by it. I simply take the lane and find that, on the whole, motorists are more respectful of my space when there’s snow and ice

    … that or they figure that crazy guy on the bike would slide into them on purpose.

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  • patrick December 16, 2008 at 5:16 pm

    You don’t even need to “take” the lane. You can just use it. It’s yours already. Use the lane!

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  • andy December 16, 2008 at 5:25 pm

    It’s more like 1/4″ angular crushed rock, fairly uniform size – not the 3/4″-minus gravel that you’re probably thinking of.

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  • BikerinNE December 16, 2008 at 5:31 pm

    suck it up. I happens. i rather have gravel in the bike lane then a car sliding into me in the bike lane. Suck it up.

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  • BikerinNE December 16, 2008 at 5:36 pm

    Oh and, We’re not Copenhagen, lets stick to being Portland.


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  • Paul Cone December 16, 2008 at 5:45 pm

    A couple of points..

    — the 100 sanding trucks are not just sanding trucks — they are dump trucks that are used for multiple purposes; a street sweeper is only used for one thing; also street sweepers, given their complexity, probably cost more

    — ODOT is responsible for sanding roads that are state highways (like Lombard St, 82nd Ave, and Powell Blvd), but I don’t think ODOT has street sweepers, so it would fall to the city to clean up these streets

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  • rev December 16, 2008 at 5:59 pm

    hey jonathan, could you do some investigating about the effect of all this on the roads themselves? not the weather conditions, but how the surface itself is holding up.

    in my travels i found that most places are not as smoothly paved as Oregon and I think the mild temperatures and less use of studded tires and snow chains is a big part.

    somewhat relevant:

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  • Joe December 16, 2008 at 6:08 pm

    I hope Oregon invests into some other ideas. wow the ice is crazy!

    I worry about taking the lane, some that
    dont understand, the law,zip you or run up the back of you. how will they stop when they hit the slick sections? be safe..

    no salt or sand in Wilsonville yet.. or trucks? lotta people speeding thats forsure.

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  • Donna December 16, 2008 at 6:36 pm

    I got called a crude Anglo-Saxon term for a certain female anatomical region Monday morning by some guy in a van because I had the sheer gall to take the lane on SE 12th. What do they want – Ladd’s Addition was a skating rink. We all need to be able to use the main roads in weather like this.

    I have noticed that if you reply to their insults with something along the lines of “God bless you, Jesus loves you”, they get really embarrassed and flustered and leave you alone. Certainly that guy had a mouth that only Jesus could love. Given what he called me, I doubt even his mother could.

    As for the sand, I’m with Bob (#12). I’ll be patient until it gets above freezing. I’d love to see some bike lane-specific equipment, but I doubt that will be happening anytime soon given our economic conditions. I just don’t want to be threatened/intimidated by other people when I am just trying to get to work same as they are.

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  • mayfly December 16, 2008 at 7:21 pm

    i tried to ride downtown today via the broadway bridge but quickly changed my mind a few blocks into my trip- broadway is still extremely icy. on a shorter trip tonight from ne broadway to se stark, i found that riding in the car lane worked pretty well, even in the traffic i saw. a few cars passed me on the left, crossing a huge icy patch between the lanes to do so, which was my main worry. i don’t want cars doing more dangerous things just so they don’t have to wait behind the super slow cyclist.

    at least if you fall, you should be bundled up enough that you won’t even feel it, right?

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  • Jonathan Maus (Editor) December 16, 2008 at 9:10 pm

    I’m always interested when people respond to stories like this with things like, “just suck it up” and “it’s not that bad”.

    I don’t think this is about the annoyance or inconvenience of the gravel.. it’s just interesting when the City makes a decision about priorities of road users that impacts one specific group much more than another.

    This is why we need to start closing some streets to cars completely. If the city cannot take care of all its road users, then they are spread too thin and they should scale back their responsibilities to a more manageable level.

    the reason they can’t afford bike-lane sweepers and/or don’t do it is because taking care of lanes used solely by motor vehicles takes all their time/effort.

    let’s try to see the big picture here folks.. this isn’t about simply sucking it up.

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  • a.O December 16, 2008 at 9:14 pm

    Thanks Jonathan (#26): Priorities.

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  • Keith December 16, 2008 at 10:08 pm

    I have a great deal of sympathy for you all as I have some close friends in Portland who are not having a good time with this uncharacteristically bad weather.

    I work and ride in far worse every day (messenger) but I am well prepared for this with studded tyres, cold weather gear, and some well practised skills when it comes to riding icy roads.

    Our city has a 21 million dollar snow removal budget and when it snows the main travel routes and bike paths / MUTS get cleared first.

    And because it could always be worse…

    We were pushing -40 with the wind chills on Monday and it has been too cold for the road salt to work.

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  • Icarus falling December 16, 2008 at 10:15 pm

    First of all, once again, I agree:

    This is Portland, not The Netherlands or Europe.

    If I see one more comparison to, or story about a extravagant political fact finding trip to Europe/ The Netherlands, I am going to crap my pants. And probably puke at the same time.

    Life, and riding, is different here, is not going to be the same as there, and as a matter of fact, I hope it never is the same as over there.

    I like Portland as Portland, not as some “Wish We Could Be Them ” town.

    On another note, The City of Portland has never cleaned up the gravel before February, or even into March.

    I am talking 22 years back to my knowledge.

    I know it sucks, I hate it too.

    But, it is how it is.

    I have never believed the same old story about not being able to pick it up at low temps.

    As written above, they are sticking to this story, and the bike lanes for quite while will not be very safe.

    I have heard other reasons for why they are not cleaned sooner in the season,(mainly from speaking to those who do the actual cleaning) and they seemed to boil down to the true fact that the bike lanes are at the bottom of the priority list, especially when it comes to cleaning them up.

    The traffic lanes are many times actually swept clean, with the debris going right into the bike lane.

    I advise abandoning them if you cannot, or do not think, you can handle it.

    Cause they certainly are not going to be cleaned anytime soon.

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  • matchu December 16, 2008 at 10:29 pm

    What was the result of that 2006 lawsuit involving Trimet?

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  • Racer X December 16, 2008 at 10:35 pm

    Thanks Jonathan for covering this issue…as long after this grit is placed on the car lanes [and bike lanes] has piled up in the bike lanes it spends March through August in piles on many suburban sidewalks as a hazard to persons with walkers and wheelchairs (like the ODOT sidewalks on Hayden Is.] .

    I am surprised that ‘no one’ has submitted a local ADA suit to one of the large cities for budgeted public efforts at clearing streets but lack of similar budgeted maintenance for public sidewalks and ramps (most communities reply on private property owners).

    Is seems to be a related missing issue of transportation equity and perhaps ADA (blocked or slippery ramps).

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  • Lisa G. December 16, 2008 at 10:41 pm

    I’m interested in the various cities all of you out-of-towners are writing from. Keith, are you in the midwest or a Rocky Mountain state?

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  • rikthankless December 16, 2008 at 11:22 pm

    I think that we should all just relax and realize that gravel isn’t a bad thing. For example:
    1. It is not salt(not as corrosive.)

    2. Adds traction.

    3. Better than ice.

    Give the boys at ODOT a break. There are tens of thousands of sidewalks and roads that they have to de-ice. Hey, if you have a problem get a shovel and find some salt(good luck), and help out. Stop whining. DEAL!

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  • Matt December 17, 2008 at 12:00 am

    Question from a non-Portlander: What’s the hazard from gravel? Does it end up looking more sinister than what’s in the posted photo?

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  • patrick December 17, 2008 at 12:04 am

    seems like a first step for the city would be to add a couple of bike-boulevardy-type streets to the plow map. that way we’d have non-icy neighborhood streets to travel on. it would seem to be a reasonable option.

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  • BikerinNE December 17, 2008 at 12:08 am

    SALT vs. bicycle Drive Train.

    No thanks, When Portland puts salt on the roads, i won’t put my bike on it. It’s the same lame story every year, gravel. You know it’s going to happen, yet the same gripes. Why? You want street sweepers, multi-use path sweepers, vacuum trucks for bike lanes, then take it to the voters. Other than that, deal with it. Or like has been said before, start sweeping and shoveling.

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  • joel December 17, 2008 at 7:00 am

    what, sweep off all the gravel now, when theyre bound to put more down, say, today, or this weekend. why not just do the job once? 🙂

    personally, as long as its cold and/or wet, im pro-gravel. its actually not bad traction. certainly better on days like monday.

    but at the same time, yes, i do realize that it makes a substantial portion of the portland cycling populace nervous, just as the ice does. i will tell you to suck it up, perhaps even poke fun at you for being a bit chicken, but ill do it with love, i promise 🙂 and back you up on demanding better cleanup. because we deserve better than a gravel pile, and cause last night on the ride home, on streets that i would consider to be completely passable to most every cyclist (downtown, out nw 6th to hoyt, out broadway to n vancouver, to killingsworth, to mlk), i saw exactly ONE other cyclist the entire ride, on a commute during which i typically see about 457895734982579837489579, rain or shine, and that was kind of a bummer.

    and jonathan, please do continue to compare us to cph or amsterdam – if nothing else, icarus will simultaneously puke and crap his pants, and that totally seems worth it. and, as a bonus, it gives us something awesome, even if currently somewhat unrealistic, to strive for. were NOT either of those cities, but both are certainly worth modeling portland after.

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  • Oliver December 17, 2008 at 8:08 am

    I’m okay with the fact that they weren’t out yesterday sweeping up the gravel. It’s gravel in the bike lanes in June that really annoys me.

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  • Icarus falling December 17, 2008 at 8:37 am


    I love Joel…

    Does that make me gay?

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  • 007 December 17, 2008 at 8:42 am

    I am more concerned with my lungs. I skimmed through the comments and did not see any mention of breathing all the dust and particulates.

    Last night I was reading some bike forums for info on masks and heard of a “Breathe Smog” mask that is available from Nashbar, in the U.K. apparently, but hard to find in the U.S.

    Are their any environmental health experts here that know if a handkerchief over the face is as good as, say, one of those white 3M face masks for jobs around the house or a surgeon’s mask?


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  • Joe December 17, 2008 at 8:53 am

    Well today i took the lane on booneferry,
    some of wilsonville road.. how can some be reminded about thelaw? not too many understand cyclists have lane use.

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  • AL M December 17, 2008 at 8:59 am

    Ride the bus.

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  • Jonathan Maus (Editor) December 17, 2008 at 9:02 am

    “What’s the hazard from gravel? Does it end up looking more sinister than what’s in the posted photo?”

    Hey Matt,

    Oh yeah. I should have used a different photo. On my ride home yesterday after posting this I had to ride through several bike lanes that were in much worse shape… snow, ice, gravel, dirt. not very pretty.

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  • JE December 17, 2008 at 9:20 am

    They don’t need to pick it up.
    I’d be happy if they would just sweep it to the curb.

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  • Wondering December 17, 2008 at 9:25 am

    Question Jonathan:

    Who is going to manage the streets that are closed to cars? Seems to me it would still be Transportation.

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  • Jonathan Maus (Editor) December 17, 2008 at 9:34 am

    “Question Jonathan:

    Who is going to manage the streets that are closed to cars? Seems to me it would still be Transportation.”

    good question Wondering,

    Of course streets were motor vehicle are prohibited would still be managed by PDOT, but they would require much less maintenance.

    I think the system currently allows motor vehicles in too many places. eliminating some of the unnecessary ones would save the city millions in lower maintenance costs, improved health of citizens (because more people would walk and bike), improved economy (because people would walk/bike to their local stores instead of driving across town and we would have far less injuries and deaths on our roads if fewer cars were on them), etc…

    i think it’s way overdue for Portland to start a strategic process to decide on which streets are ready to go “carfree” for good. Commissioner Leonard has expressed interest in this. We know Mayor Adams might be open to it. Commissioner Fritz is all about n’hoods and health (she used to be an RN), Commissioner Fish rides a bike and counts Mia Birk (bicycle queen of Portland) as a close friend.

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  • GLV December 17, 2008 at 9:59 am

    “it’s just interesting when the City makes a decision about priorities of road users that impacts one specific group much more than another.”

    It is about priorities. If the city took it annual survey this week, how many people would report bicycles as their primary vehicle? Based on my observations and the comments on this site this week, I bet it’s less than 1%.

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  • bahueh December 17, 2008 at 10:05 am

    should this conversation stop until the temperature has actually climbed above 32 degress….ya know, the time at when the city actually stops putting down more and more gravel?

    seems premature….

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  • Jonathan Maus (Editor) December 17, 2008 at 10:06 am

    “It is about priorities. If the city took it annual survey this week, how many people would report bicycles as their primary vehicle? Based on my observations and the comments on this site this week, I bet it’s less than 1%.”


    that logic does not make complete sense to me.

    Less than !% are riding in part because of PDOT’s priorities. That’s precisely my point.

    I posit that if PDOT’s priorities/policies/spending were more balanced in favor of bikes, you would see more than 1% people biking right now… and if my same logic were followed during regular weather times, we could easily be up into 15-20% mode split citywide.

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  • Oliver December 17, 2008 at 10:36 am

    Exactly right.

    There would be far fewer people driving if there was no snow/ice mitigation on the roads.

    And likewise more people riding if there was more of it in the bike lanes.

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  • wsbob December 17, 2008 at 10:57 am

    “i think it’s way overdue for Portland to start a strategic process to decide on which streets are ready to go “carfree” for good.” Maus/editor

    Before anybody starts talking very boldly about such an idea, they might think to have a very good idea in mind of what exactly, ‘carfree’ in that context would mean. Would this refer to business districts? Residential districts? Single blocks or continuous blocks of streets?

    If designated for a residential street or neighborhood, does this mean residents, friends and relatives would not be allowed to drive their cars up to the residents house? If they are, what means could be put in place to determine that only that group enters a ‘carfree’ street with a car?

    If you want to get the anti-bike nuts riled up, this would certainly be an A-1 idea to accomplish that.

    Reducing or removing the heavy weight that cars, trucks and buses impose on roadways would likely reduce wear and tear accordingly. For a hypothetical ‘carfree’ designated area, how much savings might that represent?

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  • bahueh December 17, 2008 at 12:27 pm

    Maus…fewer people are riding this week…because…sit down and wait…it’s cold and icy outside…riding in such weather is extremely risky and uncomfortable..

    it has little to do with ODOT…PDOT…or any other DOT…….

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  • Jonathan Maus (Editor) December 17, 2008 at 12:40 pm

    obviously I realize that bahueh,

    it seems you are focusing more on disagreeing with me than on understanding that I’m talking about the larger picture here… not simply who/what’s at fault for why people don’t bike in the cold.

    the policy of not clearing bikeways is simply emblematic of a larger problem in our city and cities across the U.S. — that is, there is not enough done to prioritize bike traffic and therefore the amount of that traffic is low.

    oh, one other thing. I very much appreciate/respect/love PDOT and many of their dedicated employees for all the great things they do for our city.

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  • a.O December 17, 2008 at 12:51 pm

    Also many fewer people are not riding solely because there is no attempt clear the bike lanes the way there is on the other lanes. That’s certainly the case for me and I bet lots of other folks too. They could, for example, put the melty stuff that they use on sidewalks on the bike lanes. So, it’s wrong to say that it “has little to do with” ODOT or PDOT. At least to some extent, it is a “chicken and egg” problem. Anyway, I guess I can expect some personal insults now, so give it your best shot.

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  • Opus the Poet December 17, 2008 at 1:42 pm

    Icarus, the reason why you would compare the Netherlands to PDX is called “benchmarking”. That’s a process where you find someone who has done what you want to do, or similar to what you want to do, and use what they have done as a template for what you will do. The Dutch have a substantial mode share for bicycles, that even PDX could only dream about at this point, so it makes sense to check out “how they do it there”. One of the things they do is have specialized vehicles that sweep debris from the bike lanes/paths. It is a fact that clean bike lanes get more use than lanes full of trash. which increase the mode share for bicycles.

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  • bahueh December 17, 2008 at 1:59 pm

    a.o…I have no interest in personally insulting you…
    I posted yesterday that I personally witnessed a PDOT truck manually spraying the bike lane on the Hawthorne bridge with de-icer…so its faulty to say that such clearing is not being prioritized or accomplished…I witnessed them doing it yesterday.

    the car lanes themselves are hardly free and clear of ice or gravel…so the unfair biased being pushed here is, IMO, very misplaced and reads like creating a controversy when one really doesn’t exist.

    the entire town is covered in ice and snow…it is hardly exclusive to bike lanes and, for the current amount of people choosing to ride the past few days, NO…it’s not a priority…

    if Hawthorne or Broadway bike traffic resembled what you see in July during rush hour, there may be an argument there and a push to clear bike lanes for safety reasons using sparse city resource allocation…but there isn’t….so you get what you get…

    bike traffic is low because many people, like myself, would prefer to live to bike another day…I personally don’t need a broken collarbone or hip that badly…

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  • GLV December 17, 2008 at 2:14 pm

    “They could, for example, put the melty stuff that they use on sidewalks on the bike lanes. So, it’s wrong to say that it “has little to do with” ODOT or PDOT.”

    Sidewalks are the responsibility of the adjacent property owner, so whatever may or may not be placed on sidewalks isn’t a city policy issue. The city doesn’t use salt because, from what I understand, they are concerned about environmental impacts. That seems silly to me, but the fact remains.

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  • a.O December 17, 2008 at 2:38 pm

    So because you witnessed a single PDOT truck spring a bike lane, it’s false to say it’s not being prioritized? Nope, sorry. If they sprayed the lane on the Hawthorne, how come it’s still full of ice?

    And once again, you’ve gotten cause-effect backwards.

    On a brighter note, glad to hear you’ve given up your personal insult policy.

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  • beth h December 17, 2008 at 3:17 pm

    Patrick (#17) wrote:
    >>You don’t even need to “take” the lane. You can just use it. It’s yours already. Use the lane!<<

    Would that I felt comfortable enough to do so. it’s simply not safe in my neighborhood — or, I’d suggest, in much of Portland — to simply take the lane on a bicycle. Car drivers won’t let in and in some cases they try to force you off the road or back into the shoulder/bike lane.

    I find a growing divide between bike riders who are daring and carefree and quite willing to withstand the risks involved in using their bikes as vehicles for activism; and those of us who are slower and more careful (and admittedly a little more timid) in our bike travels. Those who fall into the latter category are being forced to choose between somehow “getting braver/better at bike handling” and giving up riding, not only by “braver” bike riders but by a landscape that continues to favor cars.

    If we are going to talk about making the streets safer for bike riders, it HAS to be for the slowest/less experienced common denominator: the newer cyclist, the non-racer, the non-messenger, the elderly rider-to-market and the school-aged child; or we haven’t done a good job of it at all.

    I’d really like to see some deeper follow-up on this general topic by BikePortland.

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  • wsbob December 17, 2008 at 3:45 pm

    Beth, you’re the kind of rider that really should be making an extra effort to have their voice heard. Your type of rider perhaps represents the greatest potential resource in terms of money and support for bike infrastructure.

    Infrastructure might be improved much more quickly if these people once realized how big their numbers might be and that base could mobilize the political clout it takes to have well designed and maintained bike routes connecting neighborhood essentials.

    For years now, many of this type of rider may have been mostly car-bound and psychologically resigned to dominance of motor vehicles in street infrastructure as driven by certain business interests.

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  • Icarus falling December 17, 2008 at 5:28 pm

    I certainly know that, and it does not change my position on the mater one bit.

    I live here, I like how it is here, and I am tired of the comparisons and the over publicized, un needed trips by so called “community leaders” and politicians.

    I like my town the way it is.

    Don’t you live in Texas?

    I mean, come on.

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  • Icarus falling December 17, 2008 at 5:31 pm

    And A.O.

    I am sure you know this but after your comment I have to say it.

    The “Melty stuff” you refer to is very bad indeed, and if applied too much certainly runs into storm drains, and right into streams.

    I am shocked to hear they were spraying it on the Hawthorne Bridge.

    Might as well just pour it into the river.

    I would rather ride on gravel year round then have that crap sprayed around town.

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  • a.O December 17, 2008 at 6:49 pm

    So, what exactly is the melty stuff, Icarus? And what type of harm does it do when it’s in the water?

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  • steve December 17, 2008 at 7:30 pm


    Do you truly wish to live in a world designed to cater to the lowest common denominator?

    That sounds terrifying to me.

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  • joel December 17, 2008 at 8:18 pm

    steve – beth didnt say “cater to the lowest common denominator”. she said “it HAS to be for the slowest/less experienced common denominator”. BIG difference.

    if were building cycling infrastructure, or approaching problems from the perspective of someone who has no issue with the current state of things for bikes, well… not much is going to get accomplished to improve cycling for EVERYONE.

    i am, admittedly, one of those who is way more confident in these conditions. theres very little thats going to stop me from riding (and not just cause its my source of income) – but there are more riders out there who lack confidence, ability, or whatever else to be out there riding in this stuff, or any of the other multiple nasty conditions that im willing and able to ride in – and cycling facilities, etc, should be designed for THEM more than me – if for no other reason than theyre the vast majority of current and potential cyclists.

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  • Icarus falling December 17, 2008 at 8:37 pm

    I am very sure you are speaking of chemical deicers, which is what they spray onto icy sidewalks…

    Why do you ask me a question you have the answer to?

    Oh, it is because you are testing me, and trying to get me to show you that I have no idea what I am talking about, so you can tell me I have no idea what I am talking about.

    I do think you are a smart person, from some of your comments here I can tell that, but I will not be jumping into your pit of punji sticks, where there may already be a wounded tiger waiting and hungry.

    No, not me.


    Gotta love ’em!

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  • beth h December 17, 2008 at 10:03 pm

    I have an admission to make:

    I’m one of those more timid, less confident bicycle riders. I always have been. Slower, more careful, more afraid of cars, more afraid of speed. (I was also the kid who was afraid of getting hurt in contact sports, and so I shunned them in favor of — wow — riding my bicycle. Go figure.)

    Maybe I was hiding behind the door when they passed out the “risk-taking” gene, I dunno.

    Being this kind of rider is part of what inspired me to start Slug Velo back in 2003. People came on the rides, so clearly there was a demand for that kind of gentle, easy-paced, social bicycling event. (There are reasons why I had to let Slug Velo go inactive in early 2007, but that’s another discussion for another time.)

    What I DO know is that there IS a growing divide between bike riders like me, and those who feel fine taking more risks on their bikes. That divide is reinforced both by a car-centric infrastructure, AND by a tendency on the part of the risk-taking riders — those who are comfortable “taking the lane”, and riding fast enough to hang with motorized traffic, etc. — to ignore the rest of us, who are mostly just folks trying to get from one place to another cheaply, quietly and safely.

    My worry is that the “rest of us” will get left behind, not only by the advocates who want a more bike-friendly infrastructure, but by certain stronger and more vocal subgroups within Portland’s bike culture. Discussions that focus on the notion of “sucking it up” — and lauding those intrepid riders who do just that — are, to me, an indicator of that potential reality.

    Jonathan has asked me to expand this chain of thought into a larger essay and I’ve agreed. Stay tuned.

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  • a.O December 18, 2008 at 7:59 am

    Good one, Icarus. Paranoid much? Seriously, I don’t know what’s in that stuff. I have asked people spraying it (the two times I came across them), but no one seems to know. I know it can’t be any of a set of toxic compounds prohibited by the law, but that doesn’t mean it’s not harmful. But I spend my “lawyer” days doing something very different. So, what’s in it? Anyone know?

    Beth H: I would also like to see this expanded. Our infrastructure and our law enforcement both discourage the riders who need the most encouragement. Our public policy seems built around the assumption that ridership will continue to go up without asking the question of how to get people out on bikes who aren’t among the few truly confident cyclists. And, remarkably, many of those confident cyclists oblivious to the experiences (and their implications) of the less confident folks. All of this adds up to a culture that keeps bikes on the fringes of transportation. Very few people seem to be aware of that, and even fewer seem to be willing to make the bold choices required to change that. We need all the help we can get.

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  • Alan December 18, 2008 at 9:39 am

    Safety glasses are a must for winter riding. A car tire can spray your face with debris and permanent eye damage could be the result. Protect your eyes.

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  • Icarus falling December 18, 2008 at 11:41 am

    Sorry A.O. I thought you were messing with me again….

    I have no problems with lawyers by the way, I was just messing around a little and pushing your buttons.

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  • bahueh December 18, 2008 at 2:34 pm

    a.o…I walked over the Hawthorne later that day…wasn’t a bit of ice around it..

    glad to see you’re keeping up your holi-than-thou and “I’m always right” policy…however wrong…


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  • a.O December 18, 2008 at 3:38 pm

    So you’re not changing the personal insult policy, then?

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  • a.O December 18, 2008 at 3:39 pm

    Forgot my smiley: 😉

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  • 007 December 18, 2008 at 7:41 pm

    We already do live in a U.S. marketed for the lowest common denominator.

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  • Mike Fish December 19, 2008 at 4:28 pm

    a.O: I think part of the problem of making bicycling as transportation more mainstream is that some people probably don’t want to/don’t care to see it go that way. Some who identify as cyclists like that identity precisely because it’s on the fringe and, perhaps, because it’s a little dangerous and not everyone can/will do it.

    That’s not my identity, but I think it’s a point worth making.

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  • a.O December 19, 2008 at 8:15 pm

    Agreed, Mike.

    Ironically, we need not worry about “everyone” doing it. That’s not even a possibility. But certainly there are those cyclists who aren’t concerned with making bike transportation more accessible. To them, I say: Accept the inevitable, and let’s create roadways everyone can use. Everyone will benefit from that.

    BTW, Are you Jerry Fish’s son?

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  • a-dub December 20, 2008 at 7:10 am

    According to Sam Adams press-conference, the city uses Calcium Magnesium Acetate. It is supposed to be more environmentally-friendly than salt.

    The reality is that the region has been unable to deal with the past week’s snow event regardless of your mode of transportation, and you know what…that’s okay by me. If we couldn’t deal with rain then I would be concerned.

    In response to a article on buses on either Oregonlive or Portland Tribune Online, one person complained that Denver and Salt Lake don’t have the same problems when it snows so why does Portland. The reality is that when you don’t deal with snow very often it is hard to justify the cost to invest in the equipment that you might use every other year for a day or two.

    Folks, this started a week ago. Snowy states deal with snow for months on end and they invest in the equipment! When I lived in Michigan, the city-maintained multi-use paths were often plowed BEFORE the streets. They had special equipment for it.

    I agree that the real concern is how long the rocks are in the road. Let’s keep the focus on that. I think it is realistic to argue that streets that see high cycling counts should be prioritized for sweeping after the event is over.

    The best way to avoid this would be not to use rocks at all and instead use….sodium chloride or SALT. Wash your bike after the event and it shouldn’t rust (aluminum and carbon shouldn’t rust regardless). But what about the fish you say…well, pick your poison.

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  • a-dub December 20, 2008 at 7:11 am

    P.S. Sorry for the long post.

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  • jim December 20, 2008 at 4:47 pm

    Did you see the pavement cracks in the picture? The road needs to be sealed. If you wait it will cost 10 times more to fix. Instead of maintaining streets like they supposed to they spend the money on other things. If they tax bikes somehow they will do the same

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  • A-dub December 20, 2008 at 7:59 pm

    Jim. I pay taxes. I ride a bike. Thanks for playing.

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  • A-dub December 20, 2008 at 8:03 pm

    P.S. “It’s time autos start paying their full share”

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  • jim December 20, 2008 at 8:37 pm

    i was refering to the bike license proposal. I doubt the money would really go for what they say

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  • jim December 20, 2008 at 8:56 pm

    I bet the people in Amsterdam are riding a whole different bike set-up in the snow than the summer. They probably whine a whole lot less than they do here also. Other than that there are some similarities (I just said that to make Icarus crap his pants)

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