PBOT warns of black ice starting tonight

Snow could be on the way too.
(Photo © J. Maus)

If you thought wet and slimy leaves were sketchy; wait until you encounter black ice. When you hit it, there’s sometimes little you can do to stay upright.

The Portland Bureau of Transportation says winter weather is on the way and freezing temps could hit as early as tonight. Mix in clogged up drains and wet bike lanes and you’ve got the recipe for some seriously slippery riding.

Here’s how PBOT described it in an advisory press release sent out a few hours ago:

“Black ice is treacherous because it is hard to see. It forms when roads are wet and temperatures drop to freezing. Even though the roads look like they are just wet, they can be very slick. The traveling public is advised to be especially careful on bridges, overpasses, tunnels, and in shady spots. These areas freeze first and thaw last.”

If you’re worried about how to ride on black ice, the best advice is to just avoid it. If that’s not possible, the BTA shared some great tips today such as lowering your tire pressure (better traction) and saddle height (lower center of gravity), taking turns more gradually and laying off the front brakes.

For specific updates on conditions for the streets on your routes, check out PublicAlerts.org. Take care out there and enjoy the weekend!

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)

Founder of BikePortland (in 2005). Father of three. North Portlander. Basketball lover. Car owner and driver. If you have questions or feedback about this site or my work, feel free to contact me at @jonathan_maus on Twitter, via email at maus.jonathan@gmail.com, or phone/text at 503-706-8804. Also, if you read and appreciate this site, please become a supporter.

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GlowBoy
GlowBoy
12 years ago

Good advice. I’d echo the first comment on the linked page, that studded tires do wonders. Unless conditions are extreme (after an ice storm, for example) I find a studded tire on the front is sufficient. I can handle quite a bit of rear tire slippage without falling on my butt: up front is where you get the biggest benefit, and also a smaller rolling resistance hit.

Nice that BTA got the definition of black ice right too. Most Oregonians seem to refer to any ice they don’t expect, even (or especially) a thick layer, as “black ice”.

Esther
Esther
12 years ago

I’ll add that black ice does just look like streets are wet except theres is slightly more sparkle. If you look carefully under street lights you can see it. Youll also start to notice more slipperiness in your handling if ypure riding later at night as temps are dropping.

Nick V
Nick V
12 years ago

I’d rather fall on black ice than yellow ice.

Zaphod
12 years ago

Subtle but often (but not always as there can be a mix)… the sound of wet tire against pavement is silenced when encountering black ice. If this happens where it looks wet, make no moves, touch no brakes and consult whatever religious doctrine you subscribe to pray/hope to get to the other side.

Chris I
Chris I
12 years ago
Reply to  Zaphod

Amen.

Max
Max
12 years ago

Also, “Lower your saddle slightly”: the “slightly” should be taken into consideration. A good length of riding or intense riding with an ill-fitting saddle height could harm you more than a fall on your bike.

Bike-Max-Bike
Bike-Max-Bike
12 years ago

It’s not the black ice I fear, but the gravel deployed after the first snow and not removed from our bike lanes until August.

Schrauf
Schrauf
12 years ago
Reply to  Bike-Max-Bike

That, and the excess chemical deicer that corrodes metal bike parts. Although Portland seems more sparing with its use than many western cities.

John McDonald
12 years ago

Being from Kodiak Alaska I can sympathize with riders struggling to stay on two wheels while traversing over the dreaded “black ice”. When I ride on “black ice” i always make sure to ride with low tire pressure and 1/4 inch screws in a pair of old nubby tires.

I love America and all of her weather choices none the less! That is why Im planning on taking a cross continental tour this summer:) Visit my blog Johnsamericabiketour.blogspot.com and please leave comments!

Kristen
Kristen
12 years ago

“Traveling public”– Like!!