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Riders brave severe winter storm (Photos)

Posted by on February 6th, 2014 at 6:02 pm

First snow day of 2014-17

Conditions were tricky on the Hawthorne Bridge, with some people opting to walk their bikes.
(Photos by J. Maus/BikePortland)

What happens to all of Portland’s bike riders when the worst snow storm in years hits the area? I was curious too so I spent a few hours out there with my camera tonight.

Turns out many people took the riding as a personal challenge. Bundled up like they were climbing a mountain, most the riders I saw pedaled through the storm with equal parts concentration, determination, and smiles. I did see quite a few people that had thrown in the towel and decided to walk their bikes as the snow continued to fall.

And I couldn’t blame them. The conditions were some of the toughest I’ve experienced in my 10 years as a Portland resident. As the evening commute picked up steam, so did the snow. And the wind howled too, driving the flakes horizontal and making it difficult to see and keep the bike upright. The snow so far is extremely dry and fluffy, so riding in the deeper sections is akin to sand. Your tires get squirrelly and you just have to hold on and pedal through it.

Then there was the traffic. People in cars were backed up all over the place tonight. I-5 was jammed. SE Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd and Grand were at a standstill. So were the Broadway and Burnside Bridges (in both directions). Meanwhile, the bike lanes and paths were free and clear. I had pretty smooth sailing all over town on my bike. That is, except for N Williams Avenue where the snow in the bike lane was deep and had become quite slippery. Eventually myself and a few other riders simply rode in the left lane where the traction was better.

For more perspectives on what tonight’s commute looked like for people on bikes, check out more of my photos below…

First snow day of 2014-1

The bus was a popular option.
First snow day of 2014-2

Waterfont Park and the Esplanade were almost empty.
First snow day of 2014-3

First snow day of 2014-4

First snow day of 2014-5

First snow day of 2014-8

First snow day of 2014-10

First snow day of 2014-6

This guy on the Burnside Bridge wasn’t hiding his face in shame for walking, he was shielding his eyes from the snow drifts.
First snow day of 2014-7

First snow day of 2014-12

First snow day of 2014-13

First snow day of 2014-15

First snow day of 2014-18

First snow day of 2014-19

This part of the Hawthorne viaduct was sort of a free-for-all. Many people drove their cars in the bike-walk lane.
First snow day of 2014-20

This is SE Hawthorne at about SE 8th.
First snow day of 2014-21

First snow day of 2014-22

It took determination and concentration to not fall over.
First snow day of 2014-24

If you could handle your bike — and the cold — you could avoid a lot of traffic jams.
First snow day of 2014-26

First snow day of 2014-28

The bike lane on N Williams Ave was tricky as the snow piled up.
First snow day of 2014-31

First snow day of 2014-29

First snow day of 2014-30

One of many smiles people shared with me as they rode by.
First snow day of 2014-32

Remember this photo when you’re pedaling up Williams in a tank top this summer!
First snow day of 2014-34

First snow day of 2014-37

First snow day of 2014-40

First snow day of 2014-41

First snow day of 2014-39

Gabe Graff was having a ball.

We’ve got a lot more snow and other interesting weather to come in the next few days. Let us know how you’re dealing with it.

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

  • Keith February 6, 2014 at 7:57 pm

    Great photos! Thanks.

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  • Rob February 6, 2014 at 8:05 pm

    In Minneapolis we call this “Thursday”.

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    • M February 7, 2014 at 7:30 am

      As I look out my window right now in Nebraska and see 6″ of snow on the ground and a temp. of below zero I envy the people in the pictures above with all the happy faces. When I ride to work late tonight I wish I could say that I enjoy it but actually it’s just a pain in the ass.

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  • Peter Schulze February 6, 2014 at 8:26 pm

    Welcome to the world of winter biking Portland! from your biking friends in Minneapolis. Oh yeah it hasn’t been above freezing in months and typical temps are in the single digits. It snows regularly and we also have the dreaded ‘Black Ice’…

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    • Christopher Sanderson February 7, 2014 at 7:52 am

      As if we didn’t predict a few salvos being launched our way from Minnesota! Ha! We deserve it!

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    • dan February 7, 2014 at 12:11 pm

      Yeah, cold snowy weather has its challenges for sure, but I suspect if you spent a few days riding in our typical weather (35 degrees and rain), you might find that you’ve got the better end of the deal. At least you can put on studs and leave them on.

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  • Anne Hawley February 6, 2014 at 9:00 pm

    Wonderful pictures, Jonathan. Thanks!

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  • Andrew Holtz February 6, 2014 at 9:12 pm

    A few clips of my ride from Sellwood to Sylvan via Council Crest this afternoon:

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  • GlowBoy February 6, 2014 at 9:15 pm

    So much fun! Can’t wait for tomorrow.

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  • Adron @ Transit Sleuth February 6, 2014 at 9:18 pm

    Great shots! I was enjoying the camaraderie. Had 99% great experiences working in and around with everyone getting home. Lots of props and even a high five on the way home.

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  • John Liu
    John Liu February 6, 2014 at 9:20 pm

    Where the snow is soft and deeper (like >2″) or churned up, the difficulty will be similar to riding in deep sand. Your front tire will wash out. Stay in a low gear, you need steady power to push through the deeper stuff. Lower your tire pressures. Keep your weight to the rear. This will usually be on side roads that don’t get many cars, but you could encounter patches of soft, deeper snow at any time.

    Where the snow is packed down by cars, or blown thin, the riding is easier. Go slow, brake and accelerate smoothly, slow way down for turns, don’t lean the bike over more than a bit – take turns slowly enough that you stay over the tire tracks.

    There won’t be many cars on the roads and most drivers will be moving slowly. Don’t stop behind a car where the car behind can slide into you. Don’t ride next to a car more than momentarily, lest you hit some deeper snow or a particularly slick spot and fall right into its wheels.

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    • q`Tzal February 7, 2014 at 7:33 am

      Riding in snow packed by automobile tires is ok…. until the slush re-freezes, then it is as bad a trying to cross a rail line long ways.

      If you find yourself having to choose between frozen wheel ruts and deep snow choose the deep snow. In 5 years of daily winter riding in Nebraska the only thing that made riding a bicycle in the frozen slush ruts safe was studded tires.

      Brakes: lead with the front brake gently and don’t apply the rear as quickly or as much. Jack-knifing a bicycle isn’t fun.

      Expect drivers to be so flummoxed by the conditions that they are paying even less attention than normal.

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  • El Biciclero February 6, 2014 at 9:27 pm

    “Let us know how you’re dealing with it.”

    Staying home. I drove home Thursday from downtown and it was a long, long, drive. Although I must say most folks were driving extremely carefully and not taking any chances. If only everyone would drive like that under non-snow conditions…

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  • snow dog February 6, 2014 at 9:37 pm

    Barbur Liquors to Swan Mart was hairball around 4 pm… just like homey above was saying… 2-3 inch drifts in the bike lane. There was a river coming town Capitol to Barbur Liquors which was interesting too. Lots of cyclocross techniqe used today. I ran the downhill from Swan Mart to Corbett… ran from Corbett to the new path that goes under and around Ross Island bridge… basically all the downhill parts of Lair Hill. My brakes were pretty dodgy. 7.5 mph average lol.

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  • was carless February 6, 2014 at 11:08 pm

    All my scheduled things were cancelled this week, so I totally wimped out and haven’t gone anywhere. Plus, I don’t have a functioning mountain bike – knobbies are the way to go in snow!

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  • Psyfalcon February 6, 2014 at 11:20 pm

    Went out around 9pm on my MTB. I didn’t find any ice, but riding in tire tracks was tricky, if my rear tire got out into the soft stuff it tried to whip around.

    Anything packed down by cars was smooth going, and would have been ok on slicks.

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  • Rebecca February 6, 2014 at 11:50 pm

    I rode skinny tires to work; they sent me home on the office beach cruiser for better traction.

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    • Todd Boulanger February 7, 2014 at 6:52 pm

      Now that is a well equipped bicyclist friendly office?

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  • Ted Buehler February 7, 2014 at 12:54 am

    I ran an errand at 3:00, Williams and Fremont up to Delta Park and back. I had a great time, plenty of traction on side streets and main streets alike. I swapped my slick tires for knobbies on my mountain bike, 35 psi, seat a little low, had no problems at all. The 20 mph headwind going east on the new Columbia Slough trail was particularly invigorating.

    My car has been out of service since September, today was the first day I would have driven had it been operable. And, I had a better time on my bike, and it only took a few minutes longer to go by bike.

    Congrats to everyone who went out today. Be careful tomorrow, keep your seat low and stay out of car-trouble spots.

    Ted Buehler

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    • Todd Boulanger February 7, 2014 at 6:53 pm

      Let us know if you need to schedule an [OPB] funeral service and a wake for your car. 😉

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  • david gebhart February 7, 2014 at 5:34 am

    Good stuff! Here in Chicago it used to be just a handful of old kooks riding in the snow and we all knew each other. These days we are legion and it’s awesome!

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  • spare_wheel February 7, 2014 at 7:55 am

    it’s going to be fun riding to work up the hill today. during the ’09 snowpocalypse it was surreal seeing jack knifed buses and abandoned cars on sam jackson.

    snowpocalypse II coming to a city named pdx???

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  • peejay February 7, 2014 at 9:14 am

    This site would be worth it just for the photos. Great job, Jonathan!

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  • Mossby Pomegranate February 7, 2014 at 9:17 am

    The WRX did great!

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  • SilkySlim February 7, 2014 at 9:27 am

    Most fun commute ever! The moment I made it in the door I swapped out my commuter for the mtb and tore around town all night. Those tracks in Laurelhearst park? Mine. Tabor? Mine. Colonel Sumners? Mine.

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  • Cathy Hastie February 7, 2014 at 9:52 am

    Snow bikers! I salute you! Yee-haw!

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  • VeLoRoK February 7, 2014 at 10:33 am

    I rode from Cully to Sellwood yesterday around 4pm for work. I washed out going down the hill at Woodstock & SE 39th/CC and split my helmet and face open. Then I get to work and they so “We’re closing!” so I wasted a trip and my helmet for no reason. Sigh. Was fun though!

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  • spare_wheel February 7, 2014 at 10:44 am

    fairly easy commute to ohsu — took only 6 additional minutes. stayed in the granny gear and spun on 35 psi cross tires.

    it’s beginning to get slushy and when that stuff freezes and is covered by snow it’s going to be more interesting.

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  • dr2chase February 7, 2014 at 11:05 am

    Near Boston, the issues are where did the plows put the snow? (Yes, I’m working on a nastygram to the town’s highway department. *I* shoveled that sidewalk, twice. “Respect” is when they care as much about the places I ride my bike as they do about the places where I drive my car.)

    And how good a job did they (Lexington) do plowing the trail? What they leave behind can often turn to slush, then refreeze overnight:
    Fat studded tires are a big help.

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  • Mindful Cyclist February 7, 2014 at 11:45 am

    I found out last night that work was going to be closed. So, no commute today, but think I will try to ride over to the gym later today. Will be interesting if I get caught in part 2.

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  • Paul Johnson February 7, 2014 at 11:45 am

    How much snow did Portland get? I remember growing up, it wasn’t uncommon to get at least one 6-8″ snowfall per winter.

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  • Jim Underhill February 7, 2014 at 11:49 am

    Got caught in an unexpected snow storm in mid-70’s. Had to ride my bike from PSU to north Portland. Took forever and the right side of my body was frozen. You can’t forget such experiences.

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  • dwainedibbly February 7, 2014 at 11:51 am

    Great shots! I’ve been sick for a week, so Mrs Dibbly forbade any bike riding, but I did manage to convince her to go for a short walk with me. The people we saw on bikes downtown looked like they were having a blast and a half.

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  • PeteC. February 7, 2014 at 12:06 pm

    Bike love from Mpls! While part of me IS feeling pretty smug, you all probably don’t ride the type of hardware we ride up here in winter. Proud of those who got out and rode. Be careful!

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  • Tim February 7, 2014 at 12:33 pm

    We made the national news with our parltry snow. We got a message from the northeast, where snow is normal, asking about my commute. All I can say is that it was far less epic than my wifes drive.

    Hurray – I got to put my studded tires to use.

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  • Dan February 7, 2014 at 1:39 pm

    nice photos, Jonathan. Reducing the pressure in my tires helped a lot coming home in the snow yesterday. Felt like drivers were more courteous than usual too, which didn’t hurt.

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  • Monica February 7, 2014 at 3:16 pm

    I rode Thursday but found much of the ride home (Lloyd District to Arbor Lodge) to be more challenging than I’m comfortable with on hybrid tires. I also found the left lane of Williams to be the only way to go. Today, I only had 1.5 miles for my commute (different work location) so with laptop on backpack, I used my Nordic skis instead. So fun!

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    • Psyfalcon February 7, 2014 at 4:06 pm

      Tabor was full of XC skiers. No where to commute to though. I have an old set for road skiing where I might find bare spots.

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  • Jen February 7, 2014 at 4:26 pm

    I’m glad you captured part of my walk home in photos! I was quite happy walking yesterday- and got home before many of my coworkers who drove

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  • Adam H. February 8, 2014 at 8:06 am

    Greetings from Chicago, home of 19 sub-zero days and 60 inches of snow so far this winter.

    Seriously though, it sucks for a city who is not prepared to handle snow. Stay safe, everyone!

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  • Craig February 8, 2014 at 3:25 pm

    Portland should see how Copenhagen helps bicyclers with snow removal.

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  • Ed Lewis February 10, 2014 at 12:54 pm

    Living outside Detroit I’m so impressed with the people still riding. After looking at the 5 1/2 feet of snow at the end of my driveway I may try the mountain bike in the street. Keep up the great articles and motivation for us in other winter areas !!!

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