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How much damage do studded tires cause? ODOT study will find out

Posted by on February 12th, 2014 at 4:31 pm

Road damage-1

ODOT’s last estimate blamed $50-60 million in
annual road damage on studded tire use.
(Photo by J. Maus/BikePortland)

Studded tires have been a thorn in the Oregon Department of Transportation’s side for many years. And it’s no surprise why. As federal funding and gas tax revenue fall off a cliff, the agency is struggling to pay its bills. Meanwhile those little spikes used by many Oregonians at the first hint of cold weather cause an estimated $50-60 million in damage each year. Now, 15 years after they first looked into the issue, ODOT has launched a new effort to learn more about how many people use studded tires and exactly how much damage they do.

Billed as the “2014 Studded Tire Study” in an official announcement today (PDF), the study is the result of the 2013 legislative session. In that session, a bill that would have tacked on a fee for using the studded tires didn’t pass because legislators (cajoled by lobbyists, see below) felt more recent data was needed before making a decision. ODOT is also asking for public input and “recommendations for additional questions” to help create a phone survey. (Comments are being accepted throughout this month and can be emailed to Norris Shipping at norris.shippen@odot.state.or.us.)

We’ve reported on studded tires several times in the past here on the Front Page. Back in 2010, as a citizen-led initiative effort to ban them began in earnest, we explained what studded tires have to do with bicycling in Oregon. In a nutshell, the millions of dollars ODOT spends repairing roads damaged by studded tires could be spent on more important things: like projects that would improve bicycling. Beyond budgetary concerns, studded tires cause ruts and bumps that lead to unpleasant bicycling conditions.

With this new study, ODOT hopes to find out how many Oregonians use studded tires and get a more precise estimate on how much damage those tires are doing to the roads. The study will also examine existing information on new options to studded tires that weren’t on the market when ODOT last looked into the issue in 2000.

The study is expected to be completed in the fall of 2014. Hopefully, it will lead to policy solutions and potential regulations that will decrease the use of studded tires, raise new transportation revenue and bring the agency much-needed cost savings.

UPDATE, 2/13 at 8:39 am: I failed to mention it in the original story, but according to Jeff Bernards of Preserving Oregon Roads this study is a direct result of strong lobbying of legislators paid for by Les Schwab Tire Centers. They allegedly convinced lawmakers to study the issue instead of passing a bill that would have created a studded tire permit fee.

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  • John Lascurettes February 12, 2014 at 4:51 pm

    Looking forward to the results, whatever they end out being (provided the research is sound).

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    • Mary Vogel December 23, 2014 at 11:32 am

      The results of the ODOT study mandated by the Oregon Legislature in 2013 can be found here: http://www.oregon.gov/ODOT/COMM/Documents/StuddedTireReport2014.pdf. The Statesman Journal and OPB have covered it as well as KCTV station in Bend–who seemed to draw the best comments including from NotThatGuy: “I switched to the studless snow tires last year and the grip is amazing. Even on packed white ice. I take 3+ trips to the mountain each week so I have driven on just about every condition. They are amazing. I don’t know why people still wear studs and have to put up with all that needless noise.”

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  • Robert M. February 12, 2014 at 4:51 pm

    Lots of good they did when it actually snowed!!

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  • Todd Boulanger February 12, 2014 at 4:58 pm

    …hopefully the future law would allow the use of studded tires on HPVs. πŸ˜‰

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    • GlowBoy February 12, 2014 at 10:22 pm

      Yep, you can pry mine out of my cold dead hands.

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  • Bill Walters February 12, 2014 at 5:11 pm

    Another thing studded-tire overuse on motor vehicles has to do with bicycling in Oregon: It may end up defining the group of road users who most profoundly fail to pay their fair share.

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  • Granpa February 12, 2014 at 5:15 pm

    Even if money saved by banning studded tires was not routed into bicycle projects it would benefit cyclists. Imagine riding on smooth roads.

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  • scott February 12, 2014 at 5:25 pm

    Non-studded snow tires are like a 1000% better too. Blizzaks or something like them. I gotta admit, I admire the salesmanship it takes to get people to flip out 600+ for some crap tires to use for a week that could be spent on non-studded snow tires that have a longer life span and can be used for more of the year because they help in the rain too.

    Actually, I wonder if it is salesmanship or an idiot factor in the customer base.

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    • BURR February 12, 2014 at 11:47 pm

      Ask a Les Schwab salesperson…

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    • Chris I February 13, 2014 at 5:21 am

      As the owner of a Outback with studless snow tires, who skis regularly, I can confidently say that there is absolutely no reason for someone to own studded tires in Portland. I have never been disappointed with their performance.

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    • Pete February 13, 2014 at 10:52 am

      I think there’s some kind of mental association with mountain climbing gear in people’s minds, that the metal studs on the tires are acting like picks and crampons and digging into thick ice layers. I switched from studded tires (most of which fell out and even impregnated my wheel wells) over a decade ago while living in Hood River. Since then three sets of Blizzaks on two different cars (FWD and AWD) have been fine for even the nastiest of storms. The reality is that rubber compound technology has come such a very long way in the last few decades, and maybe older generations are skeptical and hesitant to take the leap of faith… old habits die hard.

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  • Tim February 12, 2014 at 5:29 pm

    OK I admit it, except for 3 or 4 days a year my studded tire are a novelty item, and for the three or four days I actually use my studded tires I could leave my bike in the garage and drive. But, where is the fun in that.

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  • dwainedibbly February 12, 2014 at 5:41 pm

    I hope they tax them out of existence.

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  • John Liu
    John Liu February 12, 2014 at 5:43 pm

    I have studless snow tires on the wife’s car. That little thing will go anywhere on snow and on ice, until the snow is too deep for its low clearance and then studs wouldn’t help. Not just here, but also in Central Washington which is really snowy and icy.

    My last cab ride was on studless snow tires. He gets around on them, all over the city, including during the recent snowpocalypse.

    In my view, only a few types of vehicles and users really need studded tires, the rest are tearing up the roads for no good reason. I’m not for outlawing studded snow tires, but their users should pay for the damage they do. I think a $500 tax per studded (car) snow tire would be about right.

    (Okay, bike studded tires should pay for the damage they do, too. A nickel per set might be too much.)

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  • kittens February 12, 2014 at 5:54 pm

    these are a menace and noisy and the only people who benefit from their use are tire companies (looking at you Les Schwab, HQ in Prineville) if they were smart they would get out in front of this.

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  • Suburban February 12, 2014 at 7:09 pm

    This really needs to be studied, by a state agency….. ODOT seems perfect…..to undertake such a Study, and then issue a report of their findings.

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    • BURR February 12, 2014 at 11:49 pm

      one more ‘study’ = do nothing about something we already know is a problem

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      • J J Jr. February 13, 2014 at 12:44 pm

        Yeah, I could do this study in 4 hours driving down I-5 in the rain. It’s terrible. Not even for bicyclists, but, for drivers.

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    • 9watts February 13, 2014 at 7:21 am

      “…legislators felt more recent data was needed before making a decision.”

      Hahahaha – like 2014 studs are different than 1999 studs? Or perhaps the recipe ODOT uses for asphalt has changed in the intervening years? I thought ODOT didn’t have any money. Why *another* study about something so basic, so obvious, so absurd?

      I’ll wager the results of this study will mirror the results of the one in 1999.

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    • Bill Stites February 13, 2014 at 6:32 pm

      Let’s hope they do more observation than survey. Seems like many folks would tend to under-report to a friendly ODOT caller/texter, based on the common knowledge that they do a lot of damage to the roads.

      A tax will help, but we really need a ban altogether.

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  • velo February 12, 2014 at 7:22 pm

    If Minnesota could ban studded car tires a few decades ago it’s WAY past time for Oregon to do it. When I moved from Portland from Minnesota I was amazed that they were legal. This isn’t Fairbanks where there is a ‘protective’ ice layer over all the roads all winter.

    Also, seconding the votes for non-studded snow tires, they work great. If it’s bad enough that they don’t either you need chains or shouldn’t be driving.

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    • GlowBoy February 12, 2014 at 10:36 pm

      Tell that to folks in eastern Oregon, or who drive to the passes every day. The reason all the western states kept studs legal while the upper midwestern states banned them 40 years ago was because we have mountains out here.

      Oregon’s 500″ of wet snowfall on roads with long 6% grades is not comparable to Minnesota’s 50″ of dry snow on mostly flat, better-maintained roads. Although I would agree that the better studless tires are more than adequate for the vast majority of people, high-quality studded tires still have an edge on the bare wet ice we often see on our mountain roads.

      I’m with John Liu’s idea of taxing them at the rate of $500 a set, but still let people have a choice, and the people who REALLY want them can pay for the damage they do. That will tax them ALMOST out of existence, to the point where the total amount of damage will not only be relatively insignificant, but also paid for.

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      • dan February 13, 2014 at 10:55 am

        I think John Liu suggested $500 per tire…$500 per set seems more reasonable to me. It seems to me it could be implemented pretty simply with a studded tire tag — if you’re driving with studs without a tag, you can be pulled over and fined on the spot.

        For some reason, every time I hear studs on city streets, I imagine getting run over by a studded tire, which in my head would tear you up way worse than a non-studded tire.

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        • q`Tzal February 13, 2014 at 11:25 am

          Studded tire tax needs to be indexed by the maximum weight rating on the side of the tire.
          Like non-studded tire wear weight/surface contact area is the actual scientific damage metric for road wear.
          If we are going to waste our time trying to get a law shoved through it ought to be based on reality not prejudice and rage

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    • Spiffy February 13, 2014 at 8:28 am

      Minnesota salts their roads… we can’t do that here… they also have different snow out there…

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      • q`Tzal February 13, 2014 at 11:27 am

        When it stays below freezing for several weeks snow blows away like sand amd roads are dry

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  • bendite February 12, 2014 at 10:06 pm

    Being in Bend, I’d guess, based on observation, that about 1/3 of the cars have studded tires. It seems like many people don’t even know about or consider stud-less snow tires and that without studded tires they would crash on day one. They jam Les Schwab the first day you can put them on, and the last day you can take them off. The streets are horribly rutted and they really tear up the roundabouts. The only time I drive to work is when there’s ice/snow, and I’m just fine with my cheapo falkens on my 2,800 lbs car. I hope studded tires get banned.

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  • Steve B February 12, 2014 at 10:18 pm

    Here’s some background on why they’re doing another study instead of dealing with the issue:

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  • JEFF BERNARDS February 12, 2014 at 11:06 pm

    As the chief petetioner (which bike portland failed to mention by name:-) I know the subject and politics more than anyone. First, if studded tires only do $50-$60 million in damage, it seems that with a multi-billion dollar ODOT budget, that would be pretty easy to fix. ODOT’s Lucy Moore told me it’s closer to $500,000,000 per year, which if you look at the damaged roads now, it’s obvious it’s not the lower estimate.
    The study was proposed by Les Schwab as a way to avoid the measley $15 fee they were proposing to charge for using studded tires. They don’t cause no damage and $15 is nothing. An OSU study 20 years ago recommended a ban or at least a $125 fee. What happened to those recommendations? Les Schwab didn’t like those at all. Then another time a Les Scwab tire dealer sat on the Transportation Com. and tabled another $10 fee proposal. This is blantant corporate welfare and influence lobbying of much needed legislation. Studded tires also cause a toxic dust, don’t breath deep cyclist.
    I could write pages, want to know more?
    Jeff Bernards

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    • Jim February 13, 2014 at 12:31 am

      The studded tires we have now are not the same as the ones we had twenty years ago.

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    • bendite February 13, 2014 at 7:27 am

      It makes sense that Les Schwab wouldn’t want the ban. It doesn’t look like they sell the brands that manufacture the highly ranked studless snow tires. They do have a lot of oddly named tires that they probably get super cheap by the boatload.

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      • GlowBoy February 13, 2014 at 12:42 pm

        The Toyo Observe is also reasonably well ranked, and I know people who swear by them. Biggest downside may be that it is not a low rolling resistance tire like many of the studless winter tires from Michelin, Dunlop and Continental, so it will cost you some mpg.

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) February 13, 2014 at 8:51 am

      Thanks for adding your comment Jeff. I had forgotten about that lobbying part of the story and I’ve added it via an update.

      Do you think that, once results of this study are complete, it will make passage of some sort of regulation (either a ban or a permit fee) much more likely? Especially given the fact that ODOT clearly doesn’t like studded tires?

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      • JEFF BERNARDS February 13, 2014 at 3:55 pm

        There are numerous studies, all point to the fact that studless tires out-perform studded tires in a wider range of winter driving conditions. They also don’t cause the “unsafe” hydroplaning ruts that studded tires do. I have a right to safe driving conditions too. The obvious facts aside. It gets down to our broken “democracy” where corporate business interest triumph the publics best interest. Charlie Hales wants to be the paving mayor. but refuses to mentioned the damage from studded tires. He will never get a handle on Portland’s maintenance problems until the main culprit is exposed. The new “street maintenance fee” only helps continue to hide the true cost of studded tires to taxpayers.
        ODOT has a $2 billion debt, I can mathmatically attribute that directly to the unfunded damage from studded tires.
        Saving money and improving safe driving conditions (no ruts), is very virtous and would be a welcome signal from our politicians.
        I feel that Les Schwab is mainly responsible for studded tires continued use. They should be sued, like to tobacco companies were, for years of denial regarding studded tires impact on the citizens of Oregon: money, environmental, and safety.
        I dare the politicians to put a ban vote on the ballot, that will end the the studded tire debate once and for all.
        How do I really feel about? I hate driving on the noisey rutted roads.
        Good Luck

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      • Mary Vogel December 22, 2014 at 4:36 pm

        The 2014 ODOT Studded Tire Report that the 2013 Legislature required is out! (http://www.oregon.gov/ODOT/CS/FS/docs/other/STUDDED_TIRES.pdf) Come on Oregon Legislature. . . Because of all the asphalt that studded tires grind up every year, this is a climate change issue, a public health issue and an air pollution issue as well as a fiscal issue and a road safety issue. Let’s see you follow the good example of Minnesota, Wisconsin and Ontario and BAN studded tires!

        As a bicyclist, I watch the roads of Portland’s Goose Hollow and Downtown neighborhoods deteriorate faster than roads I ride on in other parts of town after each studded tire season. It seems that most of Portland’s West Hills residents I encounter on the roads feel it is their duty to use studded tires. Many of them will not have to pay Portland’s proposed street fee as they are outside the city limits.

        As a non-car owner who usually gets around via bike or foot, I am willing to pay a street fee–but, in my opinion, it should be only after studded tires coming into the city have been heavily taxed or outright banned.

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        • Rick December 23, 2014 at 9:46 am

          metal-studded tires are awful for so much of oregon roads and weather

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        • El Biciclero December 23, 2014 at 10:09 am

          That link is to the 2000 studded tire report, though I doubt there is much difference in the conclusion: studded tires cost us all lots of money.

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        • Mary Vogel December 23, 2014 at 11:37 am

          Yesterday, I put in the WRONG link for the new ODOT report. Here is the correct one: http://www.oregon.gov/ODOT/COMM/Documents/StuddedTireReport2014.pdf. The first link takes you to the 2000 report.

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    • q`Tzal February 13, 2014 at 11:49 am

      Please cite source for toxic dust specific ONLY to studded tires.

      There is a lot of disgusting and potentially carcinogenic road grime(*) at all times and in all parts of the nation. How is the metal stud the beginning of toxicity?

      (*) oil + gasoline + diesel + lubricants + coolants + asphalt + energy[heat, light, UV, wind] should be plenty toxic without studded tires. Any petrochemical or petroleum derived product is understood to be carcinogenic by default.

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      • JEFF BERNARDS February 13, 2014 at 3:58 pm
        • q`Tzal February 14, 2014 at 11:00 am

          Political leanings are very much not scientific evidence; sadly the ΒΌ page burp of an article you linked doesn’t include any evidence or even links to Swedish news sites.

          Best I can figure is that the studs aren’t toxic but the enhanced mechanical grinding of the asphalt loosens the more asphalt as finer airborne grains than would be by regular tires.
          Asphalt, as the unrecoverable waste product of petroleum refinery, is filled with everything that can’t be extracted for value or isn’t wanted. It is highly varied in chemistry but is very high in sulfur and has higher concentrations of trace elements that would be specific to the geological region of extraction.

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          • JEFF BERNARDS February 16, 2014 at 5:16 am

            In case you don’t know how to use google here.:
            90% of Portlanders don’t use studded tires, it’s amazing the city still functions without them. Start paying the $500 per year, then we can talk about you using them, not the measly $15 they can’t seem to pass, in Salem.

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        • q`Tzal February 14, 2014 at 11:11 am

          Political leanings are very much not scientific evidence; sadly the ΒΌ page burp of an article you linked doesn’t include any evidence or even links to Swedish news sites.

          Best I can figure is that the studs aren’t toxic but the enhanced mechanical grinding of the asphalt loosens the more asphalt as as finer airborne grains than would be by regular tires.
          Asphalt, as the unrecoverable waste product of petroleum refining, is filled with everything that can’t be extracted for value or isn’t wanted. It is highly varied in chemistry but is very high in sulfur and has higher concentrations of trace elements that would be specific to the geological region of extraction.

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  • Jim February 13, 2014 at 12:25 am

    Overweight vehicles and Trimet buses do much more damage than studs ever do.

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    • BURR February 13, 2014 at 12:08 pm

      Apples and oranges. Overweight trucks and busses damage the road bed, studded tires damage the road surface.

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  • Jim February 13, 2014 at 12:27 am

    I have seen pictures of those ruts where the sidewalk stripes are still in the rut. Those ruts are from heavy vehicles, not studded tires.

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    • Jim February 13, 2014 at 12:29 am

      I’m sure the author here is well aware of this fact. It still makes for good ink every year though as it is what the readers want to hear.

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      • Ian February 13, 2014 at 10:00 am

        Are you saying that the author is lying? I’m sure you have better evidence than repainted crosswalk lines to support your case.

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      • El Biciclero February 13, 2014 at 2:08 pm

        There are indeed two types of degradation to soft paving material (asphalt) caused by vehicles. What you are describing is “displacement”, where road material is pushed out of place, but not removed from the surface. The other is “raveling”, where tiny bits of the surface are actually removed. Any credible study of road wear causes is going to take these two types of wear into account and not attribute one type of wear to the opposite cause. Why do you think so many bus stops are having concrete pads poured into them? The stopping forces of a heavy vehicle exacerbate the displacement of soft asphalt.

        So, you’re right that there are some ruts that are not caused by studded tire wear. But there is road damage and rutting that is caused by studded tire wear, which is what I assume is to be studied. To observe the effects of “raveling”, drive over the section of I-5 near Charbonneau, which is surfaced with concrete. Concrete is impervious to displacement because it is too hard, yet where one used to hear the singing of the grooved pavement through that section, there is now just the regular whoosh of smooth pavement, and the appearance of slight ruts in the roadway. Not saying this wear is 100% due to studded tires, but it does show that the roadway may actually be worn away. If concrete, which is very hard, may be worn away by the action of tires, studded or not, then would not softer asphalt be more susceptible to such wear, as well as to displacement?

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      • davemess February 13, 2014 at 5:14 pm

        Jim I think you need to go drive on Terwiliger in the spring.

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    • Kirk February 13, 2014 at 6:10 pm

      Crosswalk stripes are routinely added back in after being worn away in those ruts that you mention. If you look closely, you can see where the crosswalk stripes are patched together with the newer stripe within the rut, and the older stripe still in place outside of the rut.

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  • Mike Quigley February 13, 2014 at 5:38 am

    They already know studs cost $50-$60 million a year in road damage. And they want another study? BTW, a friend has his eye blinded while riding his bike across the Morrison Street bridge when a stud flew off someone’s tire. The pavement was dry. Always wear eye protection.

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  • Todd Hudson February 13, 2014 at 8:15 am

    You can ban studded tires or road salt, but you can’t ban both. Ice in hilly/mountainous terrain is the one environment where studless winter tires don’t outperform studded. It’s kind of provincial for Portland to dictate to people in the rest of the state, who have to deal with icy roads at higher altitudes, that they can use neither salt nor studded tires.

    A better idea is to get an endorsement, that costs extra, on your car’s registration to allow studded tires. That would allow the state to recoup damage done by studs.

    Also, raise the damn gas tax.

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    • Chris I February 13, 2014 at 6:14 pm

      I drive in the mountains during the winter without studs and have never had issues with traction. I’m not sure why you are convinced that you need little metal spikes to grip ice and snow.

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      • Pete February 17, 2014 at 10:32 am

        I’ll second that. I lived for over ten years in the gorge where my driveway, with ~15% grade, would freeze/thaw all winter long. With my old FWD Acura Integra I was able to climb my driveway with Blizzaks, but the metal-studded tires I originally bought degraded very quickly with all the dry-road use. Yes, when they were brand new, I could climb the driveway. But my *second* winter there I had to replace them simply because I couldn’t leave my driveway. I was VERY skeptical about going to non-studded winter tires (which used to be more expensive), but now I thank my persistent friend and would never opt for metal studs. I believe they should be banned because they’re inferior in snow/ice and outright dangerous at higher speeds, dry or wet.

        And to echo another commenter, I bought Blizzaks (I’ve also tried Pilot Alpins) through ADT in Beaverton because Les and Nelson in HR didn’t stock them and wanted outrageous prices to special-order them – but they did have plenty of studded tires handy at the time (stock may be different now). The people at Les Schwab in Hood River are great, though… regardless of not having the tires I wanted they’ve ALWAYS given me exceptional service.

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  • Joe February 13, 2014 at 8:18 am

    yup those studs fly off tires. lucky I can hear them from mile away.

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    • Chris I February 13, 2014 at 6:15 pm

      Just close your eyes for a few seconds every time one goes by!

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  • ac February 13, 2014 at 8:35 am

    if i understand correctly, the studs (and other traction tires) are the solution for not heavily salting the roads. the de-icer the state does use is not perfect either. if you’ve ever used them, you know chains are not the right solution either.

    in a state with significant elevation changes and a temperate climate, we need something to allow safe travel on the roads.

    as the de ronde van portlandia has demonstrated, even in town the elevation changes are significant. temperature variability in winter follows elevation so, in one trip, it’s easy to move through freeze/thaw areas.

    i own studs on a 2wd passenger vehicle because we commute to the mountain every week in the winter. some people own them because they drive from skyline to downtown and back everyday (easily 500+ ft of elevation change).

    is the City or the State prepared to put the effort into creating safe roads by other means than traction tires? how much does that cost? has that study been done too? [i suspect it has since we are where we are]

    i’m not supporting studs at all costs, but they do fit the bill for a lot of winter drivers in our area.

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    • Pete February 17, 2014 at 10:45 am

      I think the point many commenters have made is that the current technology of non-studded winter tires easily rivals or surpasses what studded tires offer, but without the excess damage to the roads. They might be a little more expensive to the consumer though (instead of the state).

      When roads reach a certain grade, no tires will hold a car on them, and they must be de-iced (or augmented) to be passable. Liability plays a role, too, as cities/counties/states that don’t manage these steep roads may face lawsuits. (In Hood River they use crushed volcanic rock on key steeps like 13th, and simply block off non-essentials like 6th downtown; in the spring they recover the rock and reuse it if I’m not mistaken).

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  • Criss Cross Crusade February 13, 2014 at 9:20 am

    is this what Bragdon was talking about with all these studies and data and no actual action?

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  • Jason H February 13, 2014 at 10:21 am

    The “mountains” excuse is a cop out. Do even a little research on modern stud-less tires and you’ll find they are far superior in cornering and acceleration and at least equal in braking to studded. Studded are cheap old fashioned compounds developed in the 60’s compared to the latest tech that goes into stud-less. I stopped with no drama at an intersection with my Michelin X-Ice that a studded tire car in front of me slid though this weekend. And I’ve gone “up the mountain” and over to Bend many times, and never once had an issue.

    In Germany winter tires are mandatory, but studs are prohibited. But of course they only have these low hills know as the “Alps” to deal with! In other European counties where studs are permitted, cars running them are limited to the same low speeds as cars using chains (Hey, legislators, there’s another idea! Enact a speed limitation and generate revenue for repairs with tickets!). They should be banned plain and simple.

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  • ac February 13, 2014 at 10:35 am

    Jason H
    The “mountains” excuse is a cop out. Do even a little research on modern stud-less tires and you’ll find they are far superior in cornering and acceleration and at least equal in braking to studded. Studded are cheap old fashioned compounds developed in the 60’s compared to the latest tech that goes into stud-less.

    if you do your research, you will find that studded tires also have modern compounds that stay soft in cold weather, not this 60’s era tech you are exaggerating about.

    they each have their strengths — i’m happy you are doing great with studless. i have studless on a 4×4 vehicle too

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    • Jason H February 13, 2014 at 11:36 am

      I found several reviews of modern tires that come in siped and studable versions (such as the Firestone Winterhawk M+S) they generally fare considerably worse than dedicated stud-less, and ironically perform worse once studded over their un-studded version.

      You actually sound pretty responsible. I’ll assume you drive your 4×4 w/stud-less most of the time in the city/dry/wet and save the studs for the mostly actually snowy trip up the mountain (Hood? Santiam?).

      But let’s be honest, studded tires do no damage when actually used ON snow and ice. They’re not touching the road surface! It’s the millions of miles driven by them on Oregon roads when they are completely bare that causes the very expensive damage. You and I know full well that the vast majority of people running them are driving well over 90% of the time on bare roads and freeways. Portlanders throw them on the first day they’re legal and run them until April even in snowless years! Plus, on bare pavement they turn the good grip of tires on tarmac into permanent patches of gravel under your tires making them actually more uncontrollable around me while I’m cycling, not to mention the whole shooting off into my face issue.

      If not a ban (which would be cheapest to implement), then something needs to be done to mitigate the impact, whether a fee/special use tax, reduced speed laws, laws only allowing them DURING a snow event (keeping them mounted on a spare set of wheels makes the most sense anyway). It’s purely a lobbying move by Les Schwab to obstruct progress, designed to protect corporate profit, not public safety.

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      • ac February 13, 2014 at 1:28 pm

        last weekend, driving back to town on 84, we crossed a bridge. 3 vehicles spun out around us on black ice at the bridge (freeway leading to it and after it was drivable)

        inevitably, an hour’s drive in the state will take one up & down through various temperatures and conditions. and, as above, just going over a bridge can change conditions.

        There is no question the double canals that are created in the freeways are an obnoxious, expensive result, but studs are better on ice, period.

        studs do nothing in snow, only ice. in fact, as you point out, they’re not even all that good when it’s just rainy (most of the winter drive time)

        so, the big question: how do we get rid of, or mitigate, the ice? and what does that cost the state? or individuals?

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        • Bill Walters February 13, 2014 at 1:38 pm

          Why not just make it OK for people to go get the studs thrown on when the long-range forecast calls for a “winter blast” — but otherwise, have fines for rolling ’em on bare pavement? Maybe even have places like Les Schwab act as a broadcast network, notifying customers when the state issues a “fair game for studs” time window/advisory, and scheduling installs and removals?

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          • GlowBoy February 13, 2014 at 8:57 pm

            Um, because most people aren’t able to change them out themselves, and it costs $50 every time you swap the studded tires on or off.

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            • Bill Walters February 13, 2014 at 11:03 pm

              Yep! Les Schwab would be all over that — dontcha think?

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            • Paul in the 'couve February 13, 2014 at 11:29 pm

              Many, if not most, people have there snow tires mounted on a separate set of rims. Makes it much cheaper to have them swapped – it’s really only the matter of convenience and the day before it snows the tire shops are all busy. I know I am very unusual, but I actually do put my snows on in the driveway as needed even though they are studless. At $200 per tire, I want to save the wear and the compound is soft and wears faster than regular tires.

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              • GlowBoy February 14, 2014 at 3:53 pm

                IIRC it’s still $50 even if they’re mounted on separate rims. Personally I do it myself for free, but even with a hydraulic floor jack the complete process takes me a good 30 minutes or so, including taking stuff out and putting it back away in the garage.

                Which is fine since I only drive in snow a couple times a year. Some Oregonians drive in snow a number of times a winter, or even weekly, and it’s not reasonable to expect everyone to swap the snows on and off every time.

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  • kww February 13, 2014 at 10:36 am

    I have seen pictures of those ruts where the sidewalk stripes are still in the rut. Those ruts are from heavy vehicles, not studded tires.
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    I don’t believe you, show me a photo of a major arterial where those stripes are, and a bus stop isn’t.

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    • davemess February 13, 2014 at 5:18 pm

      People know that the “Patch” the tire ruts on plenty of cross walks, right? Fairly common practice, especially downtown.

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    • Sigma February 14, 2014 at 6:52 am

      4th ave downtown, pretty much every intersection.

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  • Jonathan Gordon February 13, 2014 at 11:28 am

    I just want to say Jeff Bernards is a citizen activist hero. Thanks for all the work you do Jeff!

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  • bendite February 13, 2014 at 1:11 pm

    I have seen pictures of those ruts where the sidewalk stripes are still in the rut. Those ruts are from heavy vehicles, not studded tires.
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    Sorry Jim, but the ruts I see are the width of car, and on streets that have little truck/heavy vehicle traffic.

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  • Peter February 13, 2014 at 1:53 pm

    Reducing – or eliminating – studded tire use would have a positive ripple effect on our transportation infrastructure even beyond road maintenance. Their use eliminates permeable and open graded pavements from even being considered on many streets and parking lots, putting more pressure on our storm and combined sewer systems.

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  • Dave February 13, 2014 at 7:22 pm

    Okay, I have to ask this–do studded tires allow less attentive driving and unreasonably high speeds for conditions? FWIW, I bought my most recent car tires from a national chain that ISN”T les schwab and they showed me at least five snow-worthy all season tires.

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    • Pete February 17, 2014 at 11:03 am

      I think you have a very important (and overlooked) point here. Slippery roads conditions are NOT just handled by the tire, they’re handled by both the driver and the type of vehicle they’re driving. I grew up in icy conditions and the worst vehicle I’ve ever driven in the snow is now one of the most popular SUVs. When I lived in the gorge we saw SUVs and pickups rolled over frequently at one spot on 35 where curves straightened out into a slow ascent, and I suspect it’s because those vehicles lose traction while accelerating and not having the weight over the rear tires (4WD doesn’t matter on an improperly-balanced vehicle at speed – also many have a tighter steering radius for off-road use, which can more easily cause over-correction in slides). More recently I drove a FWD car with all-season tires up I-5 during the big icy blast (that took out SRAM’s hydraulics πŸ˜‰ and had no problems, simply because (most) drivers were driving the appropriate speed for conditions.

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  • Dave February 13, 2014 at 7:23 pm

    Posted prematurely–I meant to posit the idea that banning studs would force greater attention and more reasonable speeds on drivers.

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  • esther c February 13, 2014 at 7:50 pm

    Ban studs. If you feel that you absolutely cannot drive over high mountain passes without additional traction put on chains for that section of the drive.

    I have driven all over on solid sheets of ice in a Prius with Blizzaks and been able to brake without any problem. I remember one early morning, 2am, driving home from work watching other cars just sliding around without any traction what so ever. I gave everyone else the right of way since no one had any ability to stop at lights or signs.

    I had one friend that had a 2 ton floor jack and he would just take his studs on and off as needed. He put them on the few days a year he needed them.

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    • GlowBoy February 13, 2014 at 9:06 pm

      Most of the objection to studded tire bans comes from Eastern Oregon, where people can end up driving long distances on ice. Chains are limited to 30mph, and except for extremely heavy duty models will only last a few dozen miles before wearing out.

      I should also add that chaining up and de-chaining is itself a risky proposition. I was nearly killed by a few years ago when I pulled over on a freeway with an extremely wide shoulder to remove my chains, and a semi came way over the fog line. Fortunately I was standing behind the car dropping the chains in the trunk, as I felt a wave of slush wash over me as the big rig ripped the open door off my car. Seconds earlier I had been standing right next to that open door removing chains from my left front tire. I’ll chain up when necessary, but it’s still better to own the best tire for the conditions you expect to encounter regularly.

      I will repeat that I think most people – myself included – do fine with studless winter tires, but some of the opinions offered here of what OTHER people should do are unrealistic, and smack of classic Portlandia-style imposing our own moral code on others. Don’t like studded tires? Don’t use them. (And again, I’m fine with a stiff tax on them, which will make them rare enough to not be a problem. Encourage the less-damaging option, but let people make their own choices).

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  • kww February 18, 2014 at 3:05 pm

    4th ave downtown, pretty much every intersection.
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    Yeah, that’s where buses stop.

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