The Worst Day of the Year Ride is February 11th

City storm clean-up crews “focusing on bike routes”

Posted by on December 29th, 2008 at 10:36 pm

After two weeks of a once-in-a-generation winter storm that pelted Portland into submission, the Bureau of Transportation is now in full clean up mode.

A few days after the first snow fell, we turned our attention to how gravel laid down by PBOT to break up the ice was impacting bikeways. Back on December 16th, they didn’t mince words in telling us that we shouldn’t expect the gravel to be picked up “any time soon.”

Now, in their latest press release about the storm clean-up effort, PBOT says their work crews are finally beginning to pick up the 4,600 cubic yards of sand and gravel they laid down during this storm (enough, they tell us, to cover an NFL football field 26 inches deep).

In that release (published 12/29), PBOT acknowledged that plowed accumulations of snow are a

“challenge for vehicles seeking on-street parking and bicyclists and pedestrians making their way around Portland.”

They also add this warning;

“Many bike lanes have too much sand, gravel, and debris for cyclists to use safely so they are forced into the travel lane.”

PBOT says their clean-up effort may take a few weeks but that, thankfully, crews are “focusing on bike routes today where they can get to the curb.”

Dealing with this storm has cost the City an estimated $2 million dollars already (twice their allotted budget for weather emergencies), and we will likely be paying for it in more ways than that: This severe weather will make our already potholed and rutted streets event more so come spring.

— See all our Storm of 2008 coverage.

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

  • John Lascurettes December 29, 2008 at 10:45 pm

    Great attitude from the city toward bicyclists, acknowledging the danger to cyclists and that we need to take the lane for safety. Yay, PBOT!

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  • Beefa December 30, 2008 at 12:17 am

    Indeed this storm did major damage to some of the highways in the area. I was driving north on I-5 out of downtown to the bridge. A good 1/3rd of the road surface has pot holes. It was entirely treacherous to drive that stretch of road. If we are to assume that a majority of the other major highways in the metro area has similar or comparable damage. Indeed this city will be shelling out a load of cash, and quickly to repair this damage. I do not (unfortunately) expect the city to come to our rescue, in regards to cleaning up our bike lanes with the same sort of vigor they will be attacking the highway issues. I may not agree with that decision. yet it is entirely understandable from their vantage point.

    The irony is: I saw NO potholes in any bike lane today, yet was still accused of not paying taxes by a driver, frustrated while sitting in traffic when i rode by in the bike lane. Pure auto-centric mentality. Classic 🙂

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  • Steven J December 30, 2008 at 2:47 am

    Good to hear, My Sunday morning ride around PDX I was forced to ride much of the time in the lane. not only is that gravel treacherous to ride on, it’s sharp & hard on tires. 3 flats in 50 miles was frustrating.

    Thanks Portland.

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  • patrickz December 30, 2008 at 6:21 am

    Encouraging news. As soon as the snow started, I had visions of gravel and mucky snow piled on -where else?- the roadside, where most of our safe routes are. I’ll see about writing PBOT a note appreciating the cleanup effort.

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  • Stig December 30, 2008 at 6:28 am

    One motorist this morning didn’t get the message and apparently he didn’t see that the bike lane was still covered in debris and snow. He honked from behind then pulled alongside waving, yelling and honking some more. What a lot of fuss to be making, especially when there’s 2 lanes on 181st.

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  • neversummer December 30, 2008 at 7:38 am

    The cycle paths leading up to and off of the Hawthorne bridge have already been cleaned. I must admit I did not expect it to happen that quickly. Kudos to PBOT!

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  • Mike B. December 30, 2008 at 7:39 am

    Can you start with Interstate first, I’m pretty sure a football field amount is laid by Widmer alone.

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  • Jeff P December 30, 2008 at 8:22 am

    SW Terwilliger has been swept as of this morning. They did Terwilliger first thing last year as well – within the week.

    RE: Stig #5 – buses and cars are just excited to be back out doing their thing; I had the same experience with several Tri-Met buses and a couple of cars yesterday.

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  • oldguyonabike December 30, 2008 at 8:34 am

    Good news, but I’ll believe it when I don’t see the sand and gravel. I went around with PBOT last winter about the 92nd Ave “alternative” to the under construction 205 bike path. Their position last year was that they leave it down until there is no risk of another snow or freeze. I think it was mid-March or April before sweepers went through. I truly hope tht this is a change in that position.

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  • Tony P December 30, 2008 at 8:38 am

    Relax and pin it!

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  • bahueh December 30, 2008 at 9:05 am

    Jeff…OHSU has a hand in sweeping Terwilliger…at least the northern 1/2 of it…they have their own sweeper.

    PBOT was out in force on the Hawthorne bridge lanes this morning about of them almost soaked me from above when I went under the bridge.

    My ride had nothing more unusual than the typical winter detritus on the roads…..

    bike routes on Moody were also very clean..
    relax folks, they’ll get to it…in the meantime, enjoy the challenge.

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  • A-dub December 30, 2008 at 9:42 am

    From the ‘burbs…the city of Tigard is sweeping my residential street as I write and 121st has already been taken care of (with the exception of a strip in the refuge lane). My wife’s car already has a chipped windshield and so I’m not riding without goggles until my regular routes are all clear.

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  • Jessica Roberts December 30, 2008 at 10:06 am

    Want to thank the Bureau of Maintenance for sweeping bike routes first? Send a note to Mike Boyle, sweeping team supervisor, at

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  • Jessica Roberts December 30, 2008 at 10:07 am

    p.s. Beefa #2: ODOT is responsible for I-5. Pothole fixes there should be unrelated to Portland city streets, which are managed by PDOT (can’t quite bring myself to say PBOT yet).

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  • Jessica Roberts December 30, 2008 at 10:08 am

    HOLD THE PHONE. That Mike Boyle email bounced. Getting a new address now.

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  • Jessica Roberts December 30, 2008 at 10:10 am

    Try this instead:

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  • JV December 30, 2008 at 10:13 am

    Is Mike the contact to report a request for cleanup, or is there a website/hotline? The I-205 bike path is still pretty gnarly; lots of debris….

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  • Jessica Roberts December 30, 2008 at 10:14 am

    No, should have clarified. That’s just the thank-you contact.

    If you have a sweeping request, call 503-823-1700 (the 24-hour maintenance dispatch hotline). Normally I find them very quick to respond, but I would expect some serious backlog with the storm.

    If you don’t get a good result with that, try 503-823-CYCL.

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  • JV December 30, 2008 at 10:24 am

    More clarification: anything on/about interstates is handled by ODOT. Their dispatch line is 503-283-5859. I called to report lots of debris in the I-205 bike path over the columbia bridge; not just gravel, but broken plastic/glass/metal/etc. Beware; most of it is near the lowest point of the bridge and then lots of gravel up the hill towards the WA side.

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  • encephalopath December 30, 2008 at 10:34 am

    N Vancouver and Williams got swept before my ride home last night.

    Not looking to bad on my ride.

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  • KWW December 30, 2008 at 11:06 am

    They were sweeping Sellwood bridge this morning. clap clap.

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  • patrick December 30, 2008 at 11:06 am

    I was reading David Hembrow’s blog from Holland, and in his recent post “A Bit of Snow” he is explicit as to how important it is for the bike roads to be plowed, salted and “gritted” in the event of a snowfall. In other words, cyclists in Holland _demand and expect_ gravel on their bike routes. It’s helpful for traction and keeps ice from building up.

    I haven’t had any problem cycling in the gravel on the roads in Portland, but I use 1″+-wide tires, which I find preferable in all conditions.

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  • Jessica Roberts December 30, 2008 at 1:48 pm

    Here’s a poster from the City of Copenhagen promising to clear snow from cycletracks promptly, and a photo of the mini-snowplow in action.

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  • dcufan December 30, 2008 at 1:52 pm

    deal with it…

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  • Natty December 30, 2008 at 2:28 pm


    The “mini-snowplow” in the link you provided looks very much like the sidewalk plows use throughout much of Canada (and the Northeastern US) … save that this time of year they have either a plow or snow-blower attached rather than a “broom” as depicted in the photo.

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  • Jessica Roberts December 30, 2008 at 2:32 pm

    I did some research on those mini-snowplows a while back. If anyone wants some brands and links, let me know.

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  • justa December 30, 2008 at 3:54 pm

    Does anyone know exactly what kind of manpower and equipment it takes to clean the roads? I’m curious because it makes me wonder if it would be entirely ineffectual to try cleaning bike lanes by hand on days like this (like, a whole lot of people with push-brooms, or something).

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  • bahueh December 30, 2008 at 4:36 pm

    justa…are you freakin’ serious?

    try this…grab a push broom and go sweep 10 blocks of your local bike lane…see how your arms feel afterwards…see how long it takes… multiple that by 100,000+..then calculate how much it would cost at the average sum of $20-$40+/hour (~ trained city workers wage).

    just an example of course…the city is doing fine. they don’t need to unleash an army of probationary inmates or city crews with brooms…

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  • Jonathan Maus (Editor) December 30, 2008 at 8:44 pm

    hey bahueh,

    you might not be from Portland and you might not understand what Justa is thinking about. around here, we are known to show up in great numbers to support things we believe in (oh, and we wouldn’t ask for any money to do it).

    it’s called people power. no city needed.

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  • justa December 30, 2008 at 9:05 pm

    Thank you Jonathan, that is very concise and well stated. I definitely am thinking on a volunteer basis, factoring that sort of labor into the city budget would be anything but practical.

    Also, I was thinking on a much smaller scale than city-wide; more like whoever wants to show up to lend a hand with concentrated efforts on main thoroughfares and such.

    I know the city is doing a good job, but personally, I would be more than glad to spend a few hours busting my ass on my main bike route if I was part of a team with a goal in mind. Riding on gravel suuucks.

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  • Jonathan Maus (Editor) December 30, 2008 at 9:27 pm

    just FYI, I remember back last Summer, several people from the Portland Bike Forums connected online and then went out and swept several sections of the 1-205 bike path.

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  • matt picio December 30, 2008 at 11:57 pm

    At the risk of sounding… whatever, I’m curious to know what the I-5 “potholes” look like. The reason why I say this is because I grew up in Detroit, and many of the “problems” I hear lifelong Portlanders complain about don’t seem that way to me – potholes being one of them.

    Michigan (like most eastern states north of the Mason-Dixon line) salts its roads, and has an overactive freeze/thaw cycle that eats asphalt for breakfast. Detroit’s road system sometimes seems like a giant network of patches linked by miniscule sections of flat road, so I tend not to notice bumps and holes that drive other cyclists crazy.

    Just how bad *are* the holes around here? (I know the pothole ride earlier in the year found a couple of serious holes)

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  • Donna December 31, 2008 at 12:15 am

    Heh, I was wondering the same thing, Matt…

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  • Beefa December 31, 2008 at 12:33 am

    Matt, Those potholes on I-5, are not really “potholes” per se. more of a 1 to 3 inch series of drainage ditches running up the tire rutted lanes on I-5, Curiously, it’s not half as bad heading south. My wife also grew up in Michigan. She made the same point as you. There must be a reason the both of you are here ehh?
    I never made any reference to cyclist dealing with potholes,( i kinda like them when I’m on the MT bike). My point was only that ODOT will devote its immediate resources to the highway problems rather than bike lanes. My attitude is to take a lane @ all times. Yet I understand that a lot of cyclist are not willing or able to do this.

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  • bahueh December 31, 2008 at 9:07 am

    Maus…actually I grew up here and have probably been riding/racing longer than you’ve been alive.

    Justa wasn’t clear or specific in his/her question…if we’re talking one bike lane in one part of town, sure, it may be possible….all bike lanes in the entire town, not likely. Adjusting your personal gear and riding style to the conditions at hand is a staple fact of racing…seems many commuters on this website would rather have the city (or others) make the terrain fit their riding style,preference, and gear so they don’t have to change. gravel is a part of winter in this town…always has been…most likely always will be.

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  • Kt December 31, 2008 at 10:54 am

    A-dub, #12, you must mean 121st from Scholls to Walnut– because from about Alberta to Gaarde is a nightmare mess of a thick carpet of gravel on the edge of the road where there’s no bike lane all the way to the bike lane around Whistler’s Walk and down to the light at Gaarde.

    Gaarde is sort of okay in patches, and McDonald is again a nightmare of a very thick layer of gravel coating the bike lane from the edge of the road to the edge of the car lane. Both directions, of course.

    Hall is also a nightmare, although it does have some clear patches where the buses have been driving. Hall is a state road, so it’s ODOT’s problem.

    Durham from the high school to Upper Boones is also pretty terrible.

    That’s the report from the other part of Tigard…

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  • Lisa G. December 31, 2008 at 11:05 pm

    So I gather the city wasn’t included in the disaster area funding granted to Multnomah County for dealing with the snow..does anyone have the info on that?

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  • A-dub January 1, 2009 at 7:23 pm

    Kt, You’re right. I was referring to 121st from Scholls Ferry to Walnut. P.S. hard to believe Tigard is big enough for another part 🙂

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  • Mitch January 2, 2009 at 12:57 pm

    As of today my commute route along Terwilliger/Barbur Blvd was still full of gravel in the entire bike lane. To boot, two very large potholes right before the Beaverton/Hillsdale Why merges with Barbur.

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  • The Storm Man February 27, 2009 at 10:47 am

    the roads still need alot of work thats for sure.

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