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Landscapers, please stop blowing leaves into bike lanes – UPDATED

Posted by on November 7th, 2013 at 11:38 am

Leaves in bike lane_

Landscape crews at Rose City Golf Course
in northeast Portland have blown leaves into
the bike lane on NE Tillamook.
(Photo by J. Maus/BikePortland)

It’s that time of year when the beauty of fall becomes a bane to bike riders.

We marveled at the leaves last month and rejoiced while riding through them. But now that we’ve gotten soaked and many of these leaves haven’t been swept up, they have become yet another unnecessary annoyance that adds to the dangers and difficulty of bicycling during this time of year.

Unfortunately, it’s not just Mother Nature or a lack of city sweeping that’s causing this problem. We’ve seen for ourselves and have had readers contact us about landscaping crews that are blowing leaves into bike lanes.

While riding through northeast Portland earlier this week, I noticed the bike lane on NE Tillamook adjacent to Rose City Golf Course was completely covered in leaves. The leaf-free grass and leaves plastered to the side of a nearby chain-link fence made it clear these leaves had been blown into the bike lane by the golf course’s grounds crew.

According to reader Kellie R., the same phenomenon is happening in Beaverton and Hillsboro. She shared a photo with us this morning of NW Evergreen Parkway near Intel headquarters…

“The leaves are so thick that they fill the lane completely and are several inches thick,” Kellie wrote via email. She has contacted bike-sensitive Washington County Commissioner Dick Schouten to ask for ideas on how to solve this problem. “Maybe he can’t do anything about this but it does not seem right to me that landscaping companies can do this.”

It doesn’t seem right to us either. This practice effectively blocks the bike lane, which is a lane of travel as per Oregon law and must remain clear for traffic. The safety issues should be obvious: If someone tries to bike through the leaves, they are at risk of slipping and falling. If they swerve to avoid the leaves, they are at risk of colliding with a motor vehicle.

This practice is also common on residential streets, where homeowners and their hired help frequently rake and blow leaves into the street for pickup by city crews. While this is very annoying for people on bicycles, at least neighborhood streets have calmer traffic and are meant to be shared.

We’d like to hear your feedback. It’s not clear what type of action could be taken to solve this; but it’d be good to know what other folks are experiencing out there. At the least, we’d like to see the City of Portland do some sort of outreach or public service announcement reminding people that it’s not cool to blow leaves into bike lanes.

UPDATE: As per a comment below, it appears the City of Eugene is way ahead of us on this issue:

In Eugene bike advocates (GEARs) were able to change city policy, making it against city ordinance to put leaves in the bike lanes. Then the city created an online reporting tool and app so that riders can report leaves in the bike lanes. They also created several high priority bike lanes that are cleaned more frequently during leaf season, regardless of complaints. Currently the turn-around time for a complaint to be cleaned is less than 24 hours. This all got started about three years ago and I’ve seen HUGE improvements. I hardly have to report anything anymore.

UPDATE, 11/11 at 10:14 am: We have good news to report about both of the leaf messes featured in this story:

Reader Kellie R. has been in touch with Washington County Commissioner Dick Schouten. He got the wheels turning and we’ve confirmed with the county that they’ve made contact with Intel. Here’s more from a Washington County spokesman: “Intel’s landscape contractor has advised the City of Hillsboro that they will not to blow leaves into the street in the future. We hope that should resolve the issue at this location, but please let us know if you encounter this issue again. We’ll also be looking for opportunities to spread the word with other landscaping companies as well.”

And reader Andrea B. wrote us this morning with good news about the leaf-filled bike lane on NE Tillamook:

“I emailed the Rose City Golf management yesterday about the bike lane, and at 3:30 this afternoon on my ride home the lane and the walking path were completely cleared, hurray!”

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. BikePortland is an inclusive company with no tolerance for discrimination or harassment including expressions of racism, sexism, homophobia, or xenophobia. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

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Alan 1.0
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Alan 1.0

The safety issues should be obvious: If someone tries to bike through the leaves, they are at risk of slipping and falling. If they swerve to avoid the leaves, they are at risk of colliding with a motor vehicle.

Not to mention hazards hidden under the leaves, or sticks mixed in with the leaves which can flip into the spokes, causing disaster.

Taking the lane is one action which can be taken.

Mitch
Guest
Mitch

PSAs are certainly an option. Also, law enforcement would help. If a few landscaping crews get citations then word will get around the local industry. I’m guessing the police would have to be on the lookout for a crew in the act of blowing leaves into the lanes, though. I doubt a ticket/citation could be written unless the officer actually sees the person placing the leaves into the lane. Is this something citizens can ask the local police to do?

BURR
Guest
BURR

Unless they are in a designated city leaf pickup area and paying a fee for it, residential and commercial property owners shouldn’t be blowing leaves into the street in the first place, that’s shifting their corporate or personal responsibility to manage the leaves on their property properly to the local municipal government.

Most especially, a golf course should have a plan in place for collecting and disposing of the leaves from their golf course in a responsible manner, and that plan should most definitely not include disposing of them in the adjacent public right-of-way.

c-gir
Guest
c-gir

In Eugene bike advocates (GEARs) were able to change city policy, making it against city ordinance to put leaves in the bike lanes. Then the city created an online reporting tool and app so that riders can report leaves in the bike lanes. They also created several high priority bike lanes that are cleaned more frequently during leaf season, regardless of complaints. Currently the turn-around time for a complaint to be cleaned is less than 24 hours. This all got started about three years ago and I’ve seen HUGE improvements. I hardly have to report anything anymore.

Check it out: http://www.eugene-or.gov/index.aspx?NID=1776

Granpa
Guest
Granpa

this is not so simple. City of Portland charges residents of some neighborhoods $35/yr for leaf pick up. Individual homeowners/residents rake/blow leaves into the streets in several tree lined areas of the city. Should police fine every resident of a neighborhood where this takes place?

If leaf pick-up were not provided by city then they just would not be picked up. Even if every resident collected the leaves that fall on their property, the leaves that fall in the street would turn to slime and just remain.

Of course blowing the leaves off a golf course onto the street is over the top by orders of magnitude. But where is the dividing line?

pdxpaul
Guest
pdxpaul

Those guys at the Rose Quarter are doing it regularly when I ride by in the mornings. Then the folks who work at the Rose Quarter are often trying to beat bikes headed south to DT to the cutoff to get into the garage (not sure of the street name). I am very suprised there haven’t been more incidents there.

davemess
Guest
davemess

Man I hate blowers. I don’t get what people are thinking. “If I just blow it off my yard/driveway, it magically disappears!” Pick stuff up and dispose of it! Don’t just blow it into the street!

Terry D
Guest
Terry D

Our neighborhood does not have leaf pick up. So when they blow it into the street, as we watched happen yesterday, they just sit there until the street sweepers come once a month…they came three days ago.

Which also does not help much when parked cars are littering the sides so they just sweep around them. This is made worse by property owners who do not rake. Thus, wet leaf piles end up in the oddest places, particularly next to street drains in lower elevations. Avoidable during the day……but at night.

Anne Hawley
Guest
Anne Hawley

The Someone Else’s Problem effect of homeowners and their hired help blowing leaves into the streets was REALLY bad in Irvington today after the storm. No, there’s no bike lane to police, but cars plow the center of the street clear, leaving six-inch-high leaf-drifts that are really hazardous when you’re trying to get out of the way of someone desperate to get to that next stop sign before you.

Anne Hawley
Guest
Anne Hawley

Also, the bike facility on NE Multnomah westbound is dangerously piled with leaves. The hotel at MLK (La Quinta, I think?) is one culprit, but unfortunately, a lot of the section along there fronts a big “nobody home” parking lot. Leaves aren’t being leaf-blowered into the bike lane, they’re just falling into it naturally, and it seems to be nobody’s responsibility.

Joseph E
Guest

I noticed those leaves on Tillamook last night; I rode in the main vehicle lane, because it was raining and the leaves were deep.
That part of the city is NOT in a leaf service zone. The golf course (which is publicly owned) needs to pick up those leaves. http://www.portlandoregon.gov/parks/finder/index.cfm?action=ViewPark&PropertyID=570

J_R
Guest
J_R

I think we need a big trailer-mounted jet engine to blow the leaves back onto the golf courses and people’s yards.

Seriously, I think it should be illegal to put the leaves in the street more than 72 hours in advance of the city’s designated leaf pick-up day. Good luck with that.

Todd Hudson
Guest
Todd Hudson

I used to tweet Sam Adams about debris in bike lanes. And the next day, the leaves would be gone!

encephalopath
Guest
encephalopath

Also, too… the home owner at N Willams and Jessup just before the greenway diverter.

Every year with that guy.

Dave Thomson
Guest
Dave Thomson

I work on Evergreen and the leaf situation there (at least between 185th and Intel) is very temporary. The street and median were planted with a LOT of deciduous trees. Every year crews (I believe working for the city, but could be wrong) come by and blow all the leaves into a single pile along the side of the street (otherwise known as the bike lane). Within a day or two a vacuum truck is used to pick up them up. So the bike lane is totally unusable for a a short time, but in my experience it is so obvious that drivers are not surprised to see me in the lane.

Lenny Anderson
Guest
Lenny Anderson

What’s up on NE Russell between MLK and Williams? Numerous cars parked in the bike lane as well as leaves!

JonathanR
Guest
JonathanR

Driving a car on a bed of wet leaves isn’t very safe, either. We all face a bunch of risks when we bike commute; this is just one of them (added to puddles from backed up storm drains, etc).

Spiffy
Guest

Landscapers, please stop blowing leaves at all. Use a rake and/or broom. I’m tired of you relying on little motors to do your work for you. It’s especially annoying downtown when you’re blowing trash into the street.

Spiffy
Guest

the city website says to keep them a foot away from the curb so they already failed…

“On the day before your scheduled Leaf Day, rake your street leaves 12 inches from the curb.”

it also says that it’s OK to sweep them into the middle of the street…

“rake your leaves away from the curb and beyond […] into the middle of the street so that our crews can pick them up.”

so if one of us was ambitious enough we could rake them out of the bike lane and into the middle of the street…

David
Guest
David

I hate leaf blowers regardless of where the leaves are being blown. It’s the laziest tool on the face of the planet. It’s no different than bagging up your own yard waste, walking over to your neighbor’s house and dumping it all over their lawn. Why are leaf blowers even legal? Every time I see somebody using one I want to walk over, grab their face and point it in the direction of where the leaves and other debris are going and yell “WHERE DO YOU THINK ALL THIS SHIT IS GOING?? IT DOESN’T DISAPPEAR! GET A F’ING RAKE!”

Deep breath. Whew. Ok my rant is done. That felt good.

Barbara Stedman
Guest
Barbara Stedman

The city has had an ordinance in place for several years now that regulates the noise of leaf blowers (did I mention that I hate leaf blowers?), but a lot of homeowners as well as landscaping companies apparently haven’t gotten the memo, as many still have airplane take-off level noise (should be conversation level noise). So if the city can’t enforce these rules, how would they be able to enforce a “no leaves in the bikelane” ordinance?

Craig Harlow
Guest
Craig Harlow

Am I reading these city rules and ordinances correctly? That the only days on which it’s lawful in Portland for fee-paying residents to move yard leaves into the street are the designated leaf pick-up days? And on any others days it’s unlawful?

http://www.portlandonline.com/auditor/index.cfm?a=325456&c=27478
STREET LEAF REMOVAL PROGRAM
Administrative Rule Adopted by Portland Bureau of Transportation Pursuant to Rule-Making Authority

…Leaf removal service is intended to remove the leaves swept into the street by the customer for pickup on the leaf pick-up day as published by the Bureau of Transportation. Service quality is based in part on customer participation and the removal of vehicles from the curbside….

…plus…

http://www.portlandonline.com/auditor/?c=28870&a=379409
17.44.010 Unlawful Acts Enumerated.

A. It is unlawful for any person to obstruct or cause to be obstructed any roadway, curb or sidewalk by leaving or placing, any object, material or article which may prevent free passage over any part of such street or sidewalk area…

Bjorn
Guest
Bjorn

In Vancouver the landscapers park in the bike lane while they blow the leaves into it.

Nic
Guest
Nic

A bit of a tanget here but semi related – I’ve noticed several times that after an auto collision the emergency responders, be it police or the fire department, sweep broken glass and car debris into the bike lane and leave it there.

There just seems to be a dissconect that a bike lane is in fact a travel lane. I think most people treat it as a shoulder or an extension of the gutter.

Bike Commuter
Guest
Bike Commuter

Not only is this bad for the bicyclists but it is also bad for the storm water management. I can’t find an ordnance that makes it illegal to rake or blow leaves into the street but it sure needs to be there.

Here is the link to the storm water management.
http://www.portlandoregon.gov/transportation/article/319667

Lynne
Guest

In front of the Japanese Bible Church on SW Walker Rd (Wash Co, just west of Hwy 217). A polite phone call did result in some attempt at cleanup.

KevinVC
Guest
KevinVC

I flatted last night riding through leaves in the bike lane on Interstate just south of the Rose Garden. I hit something (branch, nail, porcupine?) buried under the leaves- felt a bump and immediately blew out. That’s a high traffic area with lots of bikes, cars, buses, trains and pedestrians. I’m releived I held it together and quickly got onto the sidewalk.

Adam
Guest
Adam

I’ve often thought about going out in the middle of the night with a broom, and brushing all the leaves BACK onto the property they came from.

If it was a private residence, I would pile them up a foot high in front of the person’s front door. See how THEY like having to compromise their own safety dealing with a foot of wet, slimy leaves.

Adam
Guest
Adam

Also – it’s not just private residences / companies. The City of Portland needs to sweep its own cycletracks that are clogged with leaves, making them currently impassible.

gutterbunnybikes
Guest
gutterbunnybikes

At one point last weekend the city crews (I assume) had built up some pretty massive (about 6′ tall) piles on SE Lincoln just before Ladds Circle. It wasn’t just tall, but took up the entire westbound lane of the road and even spilled over into the east bound lane a couple feet.

Couldn’t even see over or even around it very well, just crossed my fingers and went around it. Luckily no one was coming the other way at the time.

I got a tree in my front yard, but I just rake the leaves into the flower beds against the house for mulch. Takes about half an hour. Easy and no fuss.

Even if I was in one of the “leaf zones” I still wouldn’t put them in the street. I got a flat in my car once when I was in my teens when I ran over a brick which was hidden in a street side pile.

John Liu
Guest
John Liu

http://www.portlandonline.com/auditor/?c=28870&a=379409

Is the city ordinance about blocking streets.

In a leaf district, you rake or blow your leaves into the parking strip. There is no reason to put then in the bike lane.

AndyC of Linnton
Guest
AndyC of Linnton

Perhaps the city could purchase some orange construction signs that read, “leaves in bike lanes” and then place them IN THE BIKE LANES.

But seriously, maybe I’m naïve, but it blows my mind that a city can’t provide basic maintenance until they’re contacted about it.

Joe
Guest
Joe

always madness this time of year, some ppl just shove it out to the bike lane/curb.

Chris
Guest
Chris

Here in Hillsboro we’re coming up on leaf pickup as well. The city has requested that we sweep leaves into the street, 16 inches from the curb, however they didn’t specify how early before the scheduled pickup date we do so.

Jonathan Gordon
Guest
Jonathan Gordon

The PSU/Broadway cycletrack has been clogged with leaves. This seems to me to be a more urgent issue because a person on a bike can’t just ride to the left of the obstruction. I’ve been really disappointed at how little attention it has received.

At times over the past couple of weeks I’ve found it very dangerous; once you’ve entered it it’s very difficult to leave. I’ve opted to take the lane on Broadway several times and I’m worried that a hostile driver will be more aggressive with me since I’m not using the bike-only facility.

W d
Guest
W d

I Hillsboro they use to encourage leaves in the street. The city came buy and picked them up once or twice a year. The 12 inches off the curb is to keep the storm drain clear for the fall rains. As a home owner with 4 large trees and 2 smaller trees in my yard I use an electric blower to blow the leaves into a large pile into a corner on my yard, including those on the street. Once a year in the fall I borrow a medium sized trailer and make at least three trips to the fall pick up stations that Beaverton provides. It would be impossible for me to mulch those leaves every year into my yard in an effective manner. So yes thank you for the electric blower once a week and thank you for leaf drop off. I am a home owner who does all their own yard work and keeps it one their property. Some might thing blower is lazy can lay off. But those who blow leaves into the street need to find another way. Yes you can have a good looking yard with out blowing the leaves into the street. Oh and if you really use the vacuum mulch on some of those blowers, it does not really help in the long run. I know as I have tried it. You will chew up the blade in no time or space for the “mulch”. The best comprise I can think of is that the city place priority on certain bike hot spots that they clean every two weeks or after a good storm such as over pill hill, just as a personal experience example

Joe
Guest
Joe

careful I might take some lane this time of year.. sharing is caring
maybe a sweet sign that says slow down leafs on the road warning studded tires ahead.