Urban Tribe - Ride with your kids in front.

Storm response follow-up: City will release bike-specific survey

Posted by on January 30th, 2009 at 11:52 am

Snow scenes-11

As these tracks show, many
people still rode during
December’s snow.
(Photo © J. Maus)

Earlier this month, the Mayor’s office released a storm response survey. The 15-question survey (it’s still online) asked citizens about their travel behavior during the storm and asked them to rate the city’s response.

Every mode (transit, motor vehicles, pedestrians) was considered — except bikes.

In a city that prides itself on leading the nation in bike-friendliness and aspires to be a world-class bike city, it seemed strange that bikes didn’t even warrant a mention. Sure, many people decided to leave their bikes at home instead of battling the slush, snow and ice; but many also found their bike to be a perfectly viable way to get around (especially with studded tires).

Thankfully, the Mayor’s office has acknowledged the oversight and now the city’s Bicycle Advisory Committee has drafted a bike-specific storm response survey.

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No word yet on when the survey will be available online (a few people still need to sign off on it), but the co-chair of the BAC, Matt Arnold, shared a peek at a few of the questions that might appear on it:

    Did you (attempt to) bike during the recent snowstorms?

    If yes, were you able to reach your destination(s) by bike?

    If yes, what was the condition – for bikes – of Portland’s roadways? (Excellent / Good / Fair / Poor / No opinion)

    How would you rate the City’s removal of gravel/storm debris from your bike route(s)?

    Following the snow melt, how soon did the City remove gravel/storm debris from your bike route(s)?

As a side note, I’ve noticed that Seattle bike advocates are still making noise about their city’s lack of attention to gravel in the bike lanes. Here in Portland, over a month after the snow first fell, we also still have gravel and debris in some major bikeways.

I’ll publish the link to the survey once it’s online.

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  • beelnite January 30, 2009 at 12:42 pm

    I would like to commend PDOT for the fantastic response to pothole complaints. I called in two this month and within a couple of days it was obvious the City had been out to fill and patch. They even called me back on one report to let me know they were forwarding my report to ODOT – who also appeared to respond within a few days.

    While the circus continues in City Hall, at least one Bureau is really upholding “The City that Works” motto.

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  • Stig January 30, 2009 at 12:47 pm

    We can give the city a preview, I suppose.

    Did you (attempt to) bike during the recent snowstorms? Yes.

    If yes, were you able to reach your destination(s) by bike? Yes.

    If yes, what was the condition – for bikes – of Portland’s roadways? Neglected. Terrible.

    How would you rate the City’s removal of gravel/storm debris from your bike route(s)? Bloody awful.

    Following the snow melt, how soon did the City remove gravel/storm debris from your bike route(s)? Never. Still waiting. Some might have been ‘good enough for govt work’ cleared or was that just the wind and rain partially clearing some areas?

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  • DT January 30, 2009 at 12:49 pm

    Anyone know whether more gravel went down during the dusting we got on Tuesday morning? I swear that Terwilliger headed from OHSU to downtown was fine last week, and now there’s gravel in the bike lane again.

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  • Jessica Roberts January 30, 2009 at 1:02 pm

    DT, I’ve been noticing the same issue on N Interstate, and my theory is that gravel made its way onto the sidewalk during the extended storm, but sidewalks are not routinely swept. So, bike lanes were swept but the adjoining sidewalk was not. Now the gravel has come off the sidewalk and is back in the bike lane.

    What do you think, am I on the right track?

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  • brd January 30, 2009 at 1:16 pm

    More gravel was put down during the storm on Tuesday in select areas…

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  • Jeff P January 30, 2009 at 1:22 pm

    DT – I agree on T’ger. Seems it was added at the uphill sections as I witnessed it across the entire road section just afterwards. Kind of lame for a short event, but I suppose they have emergency service to consider [OHSU trauma].

    Did I ride in the ‘storm’ – yes.

    Did I reach my destinations – yes.

    Condition of roads for bikes – varied. started good. went bad in downtown after 2nd “BLAST”. ended fine.

    Removal rating – meh. can’t be easy. my route got a good start. my flat rate has increased 300% though.

    Removal promptness – some sections within 10 days; some yet to be done. Overall I expect these stuff this time of year and act/react accordingly.

    Honestly we can’t expect everything at once with the resources.

    New question: When will those sprayer trucks that do the deicer put a ‘floppy’ extension on the right end of the spray line that spurts one more trace of the magic substance into the bike lanes on icy days?

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  • Paul Tay January 30, 2009 at 1:44 pm

    How to get rid of gravel on the bike lane? 86 the bike lane. Problem SOLVED.

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  • K'Tesh January 30, 2009 at 1:45 pm

    I’m still making noise over here on the westside about the lack of effort to pick up the gravel…

    99W (Tigard to Sherwood) was still covered with it on Monday (haven’t been out ther since). Was especially bad over the Tualatin River Bridge.

    Sidewalks in Downtown Tigard are still ugly… Beaverton has it’s areas that are underwhelming…

    I’d love some help out here myself..

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  • Zaphod January 30, 2009 at 1:56 pm

    This survey shows that cycling is a priority as transportation and I commend the continued support for those that choose bikes. I do think the survey will tell them what they can easily guess and thus isn’t hugely valuable or informative.

    I think a more practical survey would get at the fundamental question of how to allocate limited resources. Maybe even have each respondent play the role of budget adviser and give them an allotment of funds and the ability to spread that among a set of services. Describe each service in simple units. With that, the people decide whether and how much and how often we sweep, fill potholes, repaint worn lanes, apply gravel, etc.

    And add free text areas for thoughtful commentary because form design often fails to ask the right question.

    That’s the real question, where do we prioritize.

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  • snapper January 30, 2009 at 2:56 pm

    still lots of gravel on my daily bike commute route. SE lincoln, through ladds addition…. who do we call about this??

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  • bahueh January 30, 2009 at 3:04 pm

    Jessica…nope. Terwilliger was closed to bus traffic on tuesday while the snow fell…pretty sure ODOT came through with a sanding truck and covered the upper sections of Terwilliger…that road gets special treatment due to the location of the hospital.

    OHSU has its own small sweeping truck…they’ll be out there soon I’m sure.

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  • bahueh January 30, 2009 at 3:07 pm

    Snapper…I agree. The city hasn’t swept SE Lincoln/Harrison in the past six months at least….rotting leaves, gravel, its all still there while the numbered cross streets got some attention last in December…
    not sure where the disconnect is with the street sweeping progrmam, but I’ve gotten two flats (one complete sidewalk blowout)on SE Lincoln in the past 3 weeks…so its getting relatively annoying (and expensive) up there.

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  • carless in pdx January 30, 2009 at 5:10 pm

    “Removal rating – meh. can’t be easy. my route got a good start. my flat rate has increased 300% though.”

    Hmm, been riding in Portland daily for 5 years now, and only 1 flat!

    You must be doing it wrong. Barrel roll?

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  • bikieboy January 30, 2009 at 5:44 pm

    snapper & bahu – i ride Lincoln every day, and the gravel is all in the parking area (curb to about 8′ out) – the travel lanes are clear.

    where are you riding?

    sign me,


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  • Blah Blah Blah January 30, 2009 at 6:29 pm

    They forgot a couple questions…

    Does gravel on the road bother you?


    Do you feel this is a Bike Portland generated phenomenon?


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  • casey greene January 30, 2009 at 7:30 pm

    You guys should see it in missoula.

    I plan on falling twice each leg of the commute. That way, im not disappointed.

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  • bikesalot January 30, 2009 at 7:41 pm

    I started tonight cleaning off some of the narrow areas on the south side of Cornell Road where it is climbing from the west side of the mountain. Over recent years I have swept much of about two miles of Cornell, some places several times. The resources either don’t exist or aren’t being applied. A few homeowners do a great job of keeping order by their properties; most do not.

    I submit that if each serious rider got out with a flat blade shovel and a wide push broom, we could together make quite a difference. As I understand it, the bike lane on the north end of the I-205 bridge and the north approach are pretty much totally maintained by riders, many from the Vancouver Bicycle Club.

    Just dress in brightly visible clothing, work facing traffic, and don’t get hit!

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  • What? January 30, 2009 at 9:45 pm

    Get Real!! Who cares what the storm response to bike lanes was. There was much bigger fish to fry. If you are such an idiot that you would ride in 6 inches of snow then you need to get a clue. Come on! Next time the locusts attack my bike lane better be clear

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  • Jim January 30, 2009 at 11:38 pm

    they should have run a small snowplow down all the major sidewalks. People should not have to walk in the streets as I think all of us did. Cars on the icey streets have a hard time going around people, they can usually only go in a straight line, and not very well at that. If the sidewalks had been plowed bikes could have had a place to manuver. How long would it take a worker to go down Broadway with a walk behind blower? plus he gets to work and get paid. If it gets done right away it is manageable, if it sits and gets packed down, iced over… then it is bad until it melts.

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  • Kevin Wagoner January 31, 2009 at 7:02 am

    I’m glad they are doing another survey. I still ride through gravel daily. Just as bad I notice some of the side walks that folks have to ride on are covered thick with it. I’m still trying to understand if the gravel was worth it.

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  • Justin Doty January 31, 2009 at 10:09 pm

    I too am glad they are doing another survey for us 2 wheelers. I certainly didn’t expect them to plow for our sake, but as someone who has lived in chicago and boston (areas where snow is a given) i think they just need to do some training on how to properly plow – i can’t tell you how many intersections had one directional plowing with no consideration as to how to get out of the adjoining streets. Beached cars left and right, and I got used to seeing the site of one of the few plows the city owns driving by on a plowed road with its shovel in the air and no intention of going down a single trip through a major cross street.

    Gravel cleanup was definately the worst part of it, though. Most of my commute is still pretty gravely, and though i have been lucky enough to avoid having to change a tube in the dark of my 5:30 am ride, I know it is only a matter of time.

    I think my valentines day gift to this city i hold so dear may just be taking a pushbroom from work and walking home with a whistle on my lips and a song in my heart.

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  • matt picio February 1, 2009 at 4:35 pm

    Jim (#19) – Property owners are required by law to clear the snow from the sidewalks in front of their homes and businesses. What you saw was not a failure of the city, it was a failure of individual residents and business owners.

    That said, it was a once in 40-years level of snow, and few residents own shovels, let alone a small snowplow or a snowblower.

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  • Jim February 1, 2009 at 11:17 pm

    It was all I could do to shovel my corner lot. Old people can’t do it even if it is the law. Landlords may or may not do it. I think the city should step up and do something in such cases. it becomes a safety hazard and a danger for all. The city should either have its own or have access to small snow blowers. It is clear after seeing how bad the storm affected us all that the leader in charge at the city had no idea of how to handle such an event. The citizens and business’s did not fail, the city leaders failed. Some of the small store opperators are now worried that after that big hit in december that they may not survive. January was about as bad as December

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  • Todd Boulanger February 2, 2009 at 12:04 am

    After my last long bike ride to Portland from Vancouver in the Dec snow storm (The MAX was stuck) – it got me to thing about how our communities attempt to ‘manage’ the snow fall. I think our snow ‘clearing’ practices need to be reviewed / updated given the new mulitmodal street we have (location of bike lanes and ADA ramps).

    How about plowing to the center of the roadway/ median vs. out to the curb and into the bike lane?

    This would initially affect roadway capacity (though few roadways utilize all lanes in a multilane arterial in a snow storm) but it would keep snow piles out of the bike lanes/ transit stops and not form ice dams at catch basins. This could also better minimize snow blocking ADA ramps and parked cars (so they could be removed).

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  • matt picio February 2, 2009 at 9:00 am

    Jim (#23) – Of course they didn’t have any idea how to handle it, the last time it happened was 1968 – half the current city staff wasn’t even born then. This is not a case of failure of the city to adequately prepare – you can’t expect them to maintain a fleet of plows, snowblowers, and other equipment that must be maintained and stored at taxpayer expense for an event that happens at most once in a generation. If we bought that equipment now, 5 years from now, someone would be asking why we were paying money to store equipment we never use, and the city would sell it.

    I agree that we can’t expect the elderly and the disabled to shovel their own walk in many instances, but neighbors should be stepping up and helping each other. It’s easier to blame the city than it is to step up and take personal responsibility. (That remark is not aimed at you, it’s a general comment on society)

    The city did not fail – they did what they could to handle a 40-year event, and I think overall, they did pretty good. No city in the northwest was fully prepared. Tri-Met in particular did much better than they have in previous winter storms of the past.

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  • a.O February 2, 2009 at 9:29 am

    What stinks about the Portland rule is not so much that property owners are responsible for clearing the sidewalk adjacent to their property, but that the city imposes slip-and-fall liability on people who can do nothing to avoid it (the disabled and elderly). The only fair solution is for the legislature to eliminate slip-and-fall liability for property owners with respect to snow and ice on sidewalks.

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  • Efrain February 2, 2009 at 8:09 pm

    Can anyone tell me if there is anything that can be done about a car that parks on a bike lane? It is usually at the start of the path on Burnside after 82nd street headed towards downtown.


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  • Jim February 2, 2009 at 9:31 pm

    I would leave them a note on the windsheild. I’ll bet they reconsider where they park. I know some people who would get nasty but I would try a note first.

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  • Jim February 2, 2009 at 11:28 pm

    Sears sells 28 inch 250cc snow throwers for under $1,000. half doz of those would have made quite an impact for major arterial sidewalks.

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  • Jim February 2, 2009 at 11:32 pm

    Remember this is the city that pays $7.00 a gallon for biodiesel. A couple g’s for some snow equipment is small in comparison for what they spend on other things (like art for jails….)

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  • Efrain February 3, 2009 at 9:41 am

    Thank you very much Jim, I will try that.

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