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!”