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.
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.