Urban Tribe - Ride with your kids in front.

How’s that gravel treating you? An update on clean-up efforts

Posted by on February 21st, 2014 at 11:26 am

City crews picking up gravel
in their trademark, two-sweeper formation.
(Photo: LiUNA Local 483)

It’s been about 10 days since the City’s effort to clean-up about 1,000 cubic feet of gravel began. With so many bikeways full of the annoying little rocks, we figured it was a good time to check in and see how things are looking.

If comments we’ve seen here on the site and elsewhere are any indication, it’s clear that there’s still a ton of gravel out there. I can also say from personal experience that many key bikeways in all parts of the city look like they haven’t been touched by a sweeper at all. Yesterday I rode on NW Everett into downtown. This is a stretch well known to PBOT for the high rate of collisions due to right hooks at NW 16th, so I was dismayed that it hasn’t been swept. After all, braking and making sudden movements to avoid a collision is all but impossible on gravel.

Reader Paul Atkinson said he has tried riding in the gravel but after three flats in four days, he’s given up. “I’m out. That’s it. I’m driving til they clean that s#!+ up,” he wrote via a comment, “…maybe I’ll write a note on the three blown tubes and mail them in.”

While we’ve definitely heard a lot of complaints, we’ve also heard from people happy to see their favorite bikeway all cleaned up.

PBOT has been very busy on Twitter all week responding to all the citizen input. They are encouraging everyone to call 823-1700 with the exact location of the gravel. We hear that hotline is very responsive, so please consider using it if you can. As for why the clean-up is still not complete, here’s how PBOT explains the slow progress:

Gravel, leaves in bike lane-4

Not very fun and quite disrespectful.
(Photo by J. Maus/BikePortland)

PBOT says it will be about 6-8 weeks before all the gravel is gone.

Another reason it takes a while for the gravel to be cleaned up is that there are only so many maintenance staff hours to go around. Or so says our resident PBOT maintenance staffer who comments here regularly. He/she recently gave us the inside scoop about the clean-up effort:

“On the gravel cleanup, we do our best to get it up as fast as we can. Clean, safe bike lanes are important to a lot of us at PBOT. The city is not giving us the hours they did in 2008 [when we had our last major storm event] to clean it up so it will take longer. Instead of 70hrs a week for two weeks, we will work 50hrs. That will mean about 200 less curb miles less per week, per shift. That’s a lot of gavel [sic] staying on the roads until the next time we regularly sweep that street. I’m sure happy I have Kevlar 2.35’s with Slime tubes and lots of XC experience right now, cornering can be dicey at speed.”

One interesting question that a few people have raised on Twitter is this: Why does PBOT need to lay out so much gravel to begin with? “Maybe gravel is a bad idea. Is one day of somewhat improved conditions for motor vehicles worth the mess?” asked @Klickitat this morning. PBOT responded by saying they’re open to suggestions.

We’re curious: How are things going for you out there? Have you called in a gravel clean-up request? Does the gravel bother you? Is this a non-issue? Let us know.

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.

  • Jen February 21, 2014 at 11:37 am

    I’m trying to stick mostly to roads without bike lanes, since I have to slow down so much to accommodate the gravel. Terwilliger heading into downtown was still really full of gravel and debris, so I take the lane. It doesn’t always make the car drivers happy, but the posted speed limit is 25 (and I fully admit to speeding on my bike).

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    • JV February 21, 2014 at 3:28 pm

      I think this whole article is just a thinly-veiled advertising attempt to increase demand for the hot new bike trend of 2014 : Gravel Bikes

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      • Opus the Poet February 21, 2014 at 6:14 pm

        Gravel bikes are for roads without any pavement to slide on under the gravel. This $4!* just be crazy dangerous. Once you start to slide there’s little to no chance of recovery until you either crash or get a foot down and catch the bike, and even that is 50/50.

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    • RC February 21, 2014 at 10:55 pm

      I guess its the mtb background, but I’ve actually enjoyed riding the gravel on the road bike. Makes my 30 mile rt commute a lot less boring.

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      • dan February 24, 2014 at 12:56 pm

        I find it makes my 60 mile rt commute, some of which happens in the dark, unpleasantly squirrely, but different strokes for different folks, I guess.

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    • Barbara Stedman February 22, 2014 at 8:05 am

      Terwilliger was indeed a mess especially after ther ecent wind storms added a carpet of tree debris on top of the gravel. Luckily, Terwilliger was swept by Thursday morning!

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  • Robert L. February 21, 2014 at 11:39 am

    Yesterday I noticed they cleaned the bike lane on Bell at the Springwater trail detour. Very much appreciated.

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  • Blake February 21, 2014 at 11:41 am

    I sent in a cleanup request on Greeley right after the storm and it was much improved the next day by Adidas and a little below, but the improvement mystifyingly stopped right after the onramp from Swan Island. I haven’t ridden this week because I was sick so I don’t know if they got to it, but they have been responsive to requests.

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    • Dan Forester February 21, 2014 at 11:57 am

      I bike that stretch every day – there’s still plenty of gravel between N Going & Interstate on Greeley Ave. Potentially dangerous because avoiding the significant gravel piles means riding right on the white line next to trucks going 50 mph… so I go slow through the gravel. Looking forward to this getting cleaned up in 6-8 short weeks.

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      • Dan Forester February 21, 2014 at 11:59 am

        I forgot to mention – I did call the hotline about this area and the person who took my request was very courteous.

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        • Curt Ailes February 21, 2014 at 2:16 pm

          I sent PBOT a tweet about this stretch after reading the comments here. Maybe a little more squeaking will get it cleaned.

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          • Blake February 21, 2014 at 2:44 pm

            When I tweeted them to thank them for cleaning the upper stretch and asking when the rest would be cleared, they responded:

            “don’t have projections on specific locations. several factors to consider when prioritizing. to report esp. bad spot: 503.823.1700”

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    • Denis C. Theriault February 24, 2014 at 11:48 am

      I filed a request, too, soon after the snow melted. It’s still awful after Going and it gets worse the closer you are to Interstate 5—especially with water pooling because of the rain. I’m glad to have reinforced tires. And I’m also glad that I can rely on this mantra: “I’m on the North Portland Greenway. I’m on the North Portland Greenway.” Etc.

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  • BIKELEPTIC February 21, 2014 at 11:45 am

    There’s also a phone app! PDX Reporter – you can b*tch & whine about all sorts of various conditions and not just gravel on the road. Abandoned vehicle, graffiti, illegal parking, park maintenance, plugged drain/inlet, potholes, sidewalk cafe violations, street lighting…has a place for you to take a photo right in the app, enter location & comment. If you are in a hurry and just snap a photo with your phone and want to fill out the app later, the app works off of gps so while you can manually enter your coordinates. . . it’s just a nuisance to do it. FYI. It’s possible to do it after the fact, but annoying.

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    • Spiffy February 24, 2014 at 7:59 am

      I used it to report a non-compliant drain grate and they fixed it right away…

      I use it often to report illegal parking and rarely ever get results from that…

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  • Scott H February 21, 2014 at 11:56 am

    I’m trying to wrap my head around the sheer amount of money the city wastes pouring rocks onto the road, and then picking all of those rocks up.

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    • Oliver February 21, 2014 at 1:31 pm

      Agree. The amount we spend on “sanding” combined with the amount we spend mitigating the damage from studded tires could cover* the purchase of winter tires for everyone.

      *I’m only making a point, I have no idea what the actual numbers are. But you know it ain’t being covered by the gas tax.

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    • Mike February 22, 2014 at 7:36 am

      Any other suggestions on how to deal with snow and ice when it arrives?

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      • dr2chase February 23, 2014 at 2:42 pm

        Not sure it is better, but in the Boston area they don’t use gravel, and most people don’t use studded tires on their cars.

        What we get instead is transformation of the road into an ocean beach — plowing, loads of sand, and loads of salt. Slightly better for your tires than gravel, somewhat terrible for your drivetrain.

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      • Scott H February 24, 2014 at 11:03 am

        The only effective way to deal with ice is chains, and even then, it’s not exactly safe and almost all of us ( wisely ) stayed off the roads while they were icy. A little gravel doesn’t do much to stop you on a sheet of ice.

        For snow, again, the best tools are chains or four wheel drive at which point, you aren’t benefiting much from a little gravel. On Feb 8th a lot of people demonstrated to the public that they didn’t have a clue how to equip themselves to drive when a snow storm hits, so again, gravel didn’t help them.

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  • Alli February 21, 2014 at 12:00 pm

    Riding up the SW Jefferson bikelane into WA park I was pleased that it seemed mostly cleared. Until the lane passed under the Vista Bridge. I don’t know if that’s the ODOT boundary or such but there is a clear line where the sweeper pulled off and left. And the rest of the bike lane is an absolute disaster–not just gravel but mud and branches.

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    • Alli February 21, 2014 at 12:03 pm

      Meant to add that this was yesterday afternoon.

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  • spencer February 21, 2014 at 12:14 pm

    why do people assume a cheap summer unbelted tire functions well with gravel? riding a belted tire in the winter = NO FLATs unless there are extreme circumstances. quit whining about flats people!

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    • Criss Cross Crusade February 21, 2014 at 12:22 pm

      I think people were probably caught offguard by all the flats that these rocks create. no need to shame them for it. not all tires that are not touring tires are cheap either. you make another assumption there. you are actually the one whining.

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      • spencer February 21, 2014 at 12:34 pm

        breaking down and driving and then threatening to mail three used tubes to the city could be classified as whining (as mentioned in the twitter comment). A belted tire, though 2-3 x the cost of the cheapo Performance skinnies, will inevitably last 2-3 x longer that the cheap tire, so any cost issue is mute.

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        • Criss Cross Crusade February 21, 2014 at 12:36 pm

          Again, why are you pegging everybody as a bargain basement Performance shopper? Plenty of Gatorskins getting shredded out there.

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          • spencer February 21, 2014 at 1:02 pm

            mine aren’t, nor have they gotten shredded, unless they exceeded 12 months of use. I feel that if gatorskins are popping/ getting shredded they’re beyond their life-cycle. i concur that the marathons are great tires and a good bet to avoid flats. lets be friends now. ‘suerte’ w/ the ride home

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            • Criss Cross Crusade February 21, 2014 at 1:04 pm


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          • Paul Atkinson February 21, 2014 at 1:03 pm

            Gatorskins are precisely what I’m running. I tried lowering the pressure to 70 but still lost the third tube. Thus I have little faith that changing to another tire is going to solve the problem. If one of you can assure me that you know a tire that’ll do this for me, I’m listening.

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            • Bill Walters February 21, 2014 at 1:29 pm

              Lowering the pressure helps traction — but makes flats more likely, if anything. If it will clear the frame/fork, a wider tire can allow lower pressure without more chance of pinch-flats.

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            • spencer February 21, 2014 at 1:35 pm

              i know people really like the specialized armadillos as they have a THICK rubber rolling strip. if you ride those tires for a long time though they tend to turn square and dont descend well. you should get a relatively flat free winter out of a pair of them.

              I put my wife on continental’s contact touring 28c tire in September and she is a daily 14 mile commuter (so far with no flats – knock on wood).

              I’m biased towards continental tires as i think they’re rubber on the mid to high end tires grips asphalt well.

              The schwalbe marathons ( or marathon plus’s) have almost a 1 cm rubber in the rolling strip, and have excellent flat protection. I had a pair and they were awesome for 99% of the time, however their one flat took an hour to change because the tire is so stiff and hard to seat the bead. I ended up selling them used to citybikes.

              the other commenter was correct in saying that nothing is %100 percent, and i made an ass of myself by assuming everyone was on light summer tires.

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              • Glenn February 25, 2014 at 6:54 am

                I am on my first set of Schwalbe Marathon Plus tires (700×32). I got my first, and to date only flat, at 7,900 miles. I now have about 8,600 miles on them. By the looks of the amount of tread wear, I’ll be able to get 10,000 miles. I commute daily and also have a couple thousand miles of loaded touring on these tires. One complaint often heard is that they are heavy. Heavy compared to what? Commuting in the rain and dark, peace of mind and reliability are important considerations to me. Another complaint is that they are difficult to mount. They are indeed stiff, and it takes patience, but oftentimes you only mount them once. When I repaired my flat, I was able to re-mount them with fingers only. There definitely will be another set of these tires in my future.

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            • davemess February 21, 2014 at 2:21 pm

              Schwalbe Marathon! It has a crazy thick rubber surface (making it pretty hard to puncture) and they last a long time.

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              • Chris I February 21, 2014 at 2:47 pm

                I like the Durano Plus. A bit lighter than the Marathon, but they still have great flat protection.

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              • Todd Hudson February 21, 2014 at 3:17 pm

                All my bikes run on Marathons and I haven’t had a flat in nearly a year!

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    • davemess February 21, 2014 at 12:23 pm

      I don’t think people are assuming that much of anything functions well with gravel, they just want the gravel gone!. We should have to break out special tires for a once in 5 years, 3 day long weather event that cyclists then have to bear the burden of for 8 weeks.

      And with that in mind I don’t care that much about the gravel, I just think gravel is kind of stupid overall (but that’s just my “I’ve lived in other places” bias coming in).

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      • spencer February 21, 2014 at 1:15 pm

        I think the gravel sucks also, in fact i’ve avoided roads with bike lanes since the snow to avoid the gravel.

        i’m not proposing studded tires, but the winter ( 9 months of wet) requires running a slightly wider (25c) and slightly tougher tire (conti gatorskins, or 4 seasons GPS, or schwalbe marathons, specialized armadillos, etc) along w/ lower tire pressure than in the summer. the majority of winter flats are prevented with having such a belted tire (even in the gravel).

        Most flats aren’t caused by debris piercing the tire, they’re caused by TINY debris working into the slits of a worn tread and then successive revolutions pushing the debris deeper into the tire. This why you’ll see people wipe their tires after they’ve rolled through glass etc.

        This is also why pro team mechanics and thrifty roadies deflate their tires and push superglue into the slits periodically, so that they cant fill with debris.

        Feel free to ride summer weight unbelted tires year round, its your own prerogative. But be prepared to change numerous flats and be late for work or dinner. all it takes is changing one flat in 32 F pissing rain to encourage you to avoid flats. A lot of tires sold in high end shops, and in bargain basement retailers (performance) are geared for summer riding of which we have 3-4 months of mostly dry roads.

        As for tires, I’ve long preferred the continental gatorskin (wire bead) for winter/training, as its relatively cheap but still belted and still supple and fast for descending Germantown road.


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        • davemess February 21, 2014 at 2:19 pm

          I just find your use of “summer riding” kind of funny.
          Bottom line is that cyclists shouldn’t be subjected to gravel for 8 weeks, regardless of the tires they are running.

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    • David McCabe February 21, 2014 at 12:32 pm

      No tire will prevent all flats. I ride a belted, low-pressure tire and still get punctures from time to time. It’s just a matter of time for you too.

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      • spencer February 21, 2014 at 1:36 pm

        touche’. nothing is 100%. you’re right. I think the key is to ride a belted tire, at lower pressure, with a wider contact patch (28C or 32C) for road bikes during the winter.

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        • dwainedibbly February 21, 2014 at 5:34 pm

          or even wider. 650B x 38 (or 42) is great. Gravel? What gravel?

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          • Bill Walters February 21, 2014 at 11:21 pm

            Or even wider: 29er (700 x 52ish). This gravel is boring. Any staircases on the way home?

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        • spare_wheel February 22, 2014 at 9:28 pm

          thanks for the free advice but i’ve been riding skinny high pressure tire during the pnw rainy season for 20+ years.

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    • MaxD February 21, 2014 at 3:35 pm

      I have giant, belted Schwalbes with drum brakes and a generator hub. The rocks sliced through my tires on my way to work. LBS replaced the tube but remounted incorrectly leaving by brake cover open. The drum rusted, now it squeals like a banshee and I will have to pay to have it resurfaced or for replacement parts. I find your comment about people whining to be uninformed, arrogant and insulting.

      I find the rocks to be not worth it. The buses and ambulances have chains, as do delivery trucks. In fact, if people want to drive in snow they are expected to use chains. I think it is an unnecessary expense

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  • davemess February 21, 2014 at 12:20 pm

    I was shocked when my street (SE Duke) was cleaned a couple of days ago. It’s really nice now. We’re a decently trafficked arterial, but I was still presently surprised that we somehow got priority over other inner streets. The gravel wasn’t actually even that bad on it to begin with.

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  • Rita February 21, 2014 at 12:21 pm

    Midwesterner here: that little bit of traction from the rocks went a long way toward preventing people who aren’t used to snowy conditions/have bald tires from sliding into powerstations and taking out utilities for people, loss of private property, loss of life. I know it doesn’t seem like it, but it does. I have hated biking on, over, around, through the drifts of gravel on Sandy/SE 7th during the last few days, but I don’t blame the city for putting it there. It’s not a waste.

    Looking forward to the cleanup efforts, and hope that budgeting for rock & cleanup for 1 major storm per year gets into the annual budget.

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    • mw February 21, 2014 at 12:40 pm


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    • JV February 21, 2014 at 12:52 pm

      I would much rather have gravel once every few years than the regimen of salt that is used in many parts of the US. Salt is bad for bike, cars, and the environment.

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      • davemess February 21, 2014 at 2:22 pm

        I disagree. bring on the salt!

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    • GlowBoy February 21, 2014 at 3:10 pm

      Thanks, Rita. As a native midwesterner but longtime Portlander I’m more than a little embarrassed that so many people complain about this infinitesimal taste of real winter. You get snow and ice, you expect crud on the roads. It’s that simple.

      This matters to me not only because it distracts from more-serious safety concerns around bicycling, but because (ugh…) I’m going to have to answer for it next time I’m back east. Believe me, word of our wussiness is getting out once again (in my case, to people who are digging out from 10-17″ of new and windblown snow this morning). Cancellation of the WDOTYR and Polar Plunge might be ironic and humorous to outsiders, but actually defensible once the freezing rain conditions are explained. This, on the other hand, I cannot defend.

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      • dan February 24, 2014 at 1:07 pm

        Yeah, because in the midwest (with no hills or freezing rain), they’re so great at driving in snow.

        Oh, except not in Minnesota or Wisconsin.

        Perhaps the “people in XXX really can’t drive in the snow!” meme is more about chest-thumping (“I’m so much cooler than everyone else here!”) and less about, you know, actual differences in driving ability.

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        • GlowBoy March 2, 2014 at 9:49 pm

          Wow, like two pileups are proof of midwesterners being bad snow drivers? Have you driven in both places when it’s snowy? I sure have. It’s no contest. Midwesterners have lots of experience, most northwesterners have very little. Nothing to get ruffled and defensive about.

          You are right that it’s hillier here, but your “no hills” comment is obviously based on extreme ignorance: the hills may be taller here, but that doesn’t always mean they are steeper: in parts of the Midwest, lots of streets back there have 6-10% grades. And people still drive on them! The difference is the steeper grades don’t last as long, and the steep hills usually have a flat runout not too far away.

          You’re also right that the upper midwest rarely experiences the freezing rain that periodically hits Portland, and if you had fully read my post you would notice I said I could defend cancelling those Sunday events on that account. A related point is that the snow here tends to be much more slippery, because it’s usually wet stuff that’s near freezing. The cold, crunchy (when packed) snow I grew up with in Minnesota has a LOT more grip than what we usually see.

          And of course another legitimate excuse for shutting Portland down when it snows is that we don’t have enough plows. Midwestern cities would shut down after 5″ of snow too, if they had the same plowing ability that we do. People there are so used to it they take it for granted, and don’t realize what conditions are like here after a snowfall.

          All that said, those are all legitimate excuses, but none of them makes northwesterners better snow drivers.

          And again, my point wasn’t about who’s a better driver (thanks for bringing it up FWIW), but that while snowy traffic tie-ups here are excusable, petulant whinging about a thin layer of perfectly rideable sand on the road is not.

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    • Mike February 22, 2014 at 7:45 am

      This article is a good example of the whiny factor of portlanders. Snow arrives, whine. City doesn’t plow, salt or gravel the roads, whine. When the city does get active on making the roads safer during inclement weather people whine about the aftermath. Jeeze people what do you want the city to do during snow storms? It’s a matter of public safety when the roads become so dangerous for commuters. Also, for all you salt haters do you really think the frequency that salt would be needed here really be that detrimental to property and the environment?

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      • davemess February 22, 2014 at 9:55 pm

        It’s not like we got three inches of rain right after the snow to dilute the salt. Wait a minute…….

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  • Andy K February 21, 2014 at 12:24 pm

    The 1.7mi Sunset Bike Path is in really bad shape. I left a VM w/Tom Woodword (ODOT Maintenance – Sylvan), so hopefully it’s in their jurisdiction and it gets cleaned up quickly.

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  • Criss Cross Crusade February 21, 2014 at 12:30 pm

    Barbur is pretty bad wherever it’s hilly. interestingly the flatter parts are pretty clear of gravel. must be a water runoff physics thing. what’s funny is that now there’s a ton of logs and pine branches following those windy days a couple days ago, so it’s very much like biking up and a thawing ski resort lol.

    I “run” Schwalbe Marathon Plus tires ever since the first melty Monday where flats were being handed out like free breakfast on the bridges.

    Bike traffic does not appear to have waned. I see all my buds out there… long white beard guy, pink shirt gal, Retroreflective shimmering white gal, BMC kit guy, the dude rocking the sick throwback Klein, Fluo Yellow guy who works right next to me so it looks like i’m stalking him when I suck his wheel the ENTIRE way to the office… Mud Boots gal… all the regulars.

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  • chris balduc February 21, 2014 at 12:40 pm

    I commute to the Couve from Milwaukie a few days a week. The 205 bridge bike path is a mess of gravel and other debris, but that’s pretty normal overall.

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  • Christopher Sanderson February 21, 2014 at 12:51 pm

    Not sure if it is related or not, but I had two flat tires on my front wheel on the same day (Monday). Both were separate incidents with the tire getting punctured by glass. I did notice on Belmont, just west of Cesar Chavez that there’s a bunch of gravel on the side of the road, and also a bunch of glass in the same place. Looks like a car was broken into. Needless to say, I see that stuff, and I take the freaking lane, much to motorist’s dismay.

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  • matt f February 21, 2014 at 1:00 pm

    non-issue…cyclocross tires

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    • Chris I February 21, 2014 at 1:31 pm

      Ya, didn’t everyone spend $2000+ to buy brand new gravel blasters this year? It’s totally the new cool thing to do. You’d think everyone would be welcoming the gravel.

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      • matt f February 21, 2014 at 3:37 pm

        last time I checked you can get new tires for $50 or less

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  • Alan Love February 21, 2014 at 1:02 pm

    My confusion on this whole lies in the resource allocation used in each phase. It took 3 days to spread a thousand cubic yards of gravel across multiple lanes of traffic, but the cleanup (really just one “lane” of traffic each direction since the auto lanes are “self cleaning”) takes several weeks. I have no doubt the clean up crews are working hard. My frustration lies with the speed and responsiveness of enhancing traction for one group of users for a few days, at the expense of other groups for months. Might the city invest in cleanup as much as it invests in the initial phase?

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    • Opus the Poet February 21, 2014 at 7:14 pm

      The difference is the spreading trucks can move at the speed limit and be operated 24 hours a day if required, but the sweepers move at 2-3 MPH and pretty much have to run daylight to see the debris. Also “F-U, Cars”. What else can I say? Bicyclists are not the primary customer of PBOT. They have to handle their primary customer first.

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    • Poisonpony February 24, 2014 at 7:56 am

      To be devils advocate here. At PBOT the management gets hammered by both the cagers, and the bicyclists. PBOT is funded with gas tax dollars. A recent study showed bike issues get 7% of the available dollars and serve 3% of Portland residents. There is also the complaints by cagers that bikes pay no gas tax, and in their opinion don’t pay at all for the services they receive. (If you don’t have a car, that’s true). Just as bike riders are calling to clean up the gravel, we get calls complaining we are focusing too much on bike lanes.
      The bottom line is funding for everyone’s services are lacking being based on gas tax revenue alone. Taxing Hybrids and electric cars more, or a Portland gas tax is not the answer. A stable revenue source is needed. We need a lot of road maintenance, more bike lanes, and the bike Boulevard programs need to move forward. Tri Met buses pound our streets and pay no taxes for roads. People come from other cities and states and buy gas there, again not paying their share. If we had a $5.00 a month Portland employment tax paid by everyone who works in Portland that was only for road repairs and improvements for City owned properties, (not county bridges or Tri Met projects), everyone could say they paid their fair share and we could get some decent roads and new bike ways.

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      • MaxD February 24, 2014 at 10:02 am

        another approach could be trying to find way to increase taxes on parking and parking lots to try to keep more people off the road. Also, expanding the streetcar would help (eventually) get some buses off the road. Also adding some taxes to studded tires. Basically, I think the city should seek funding that serves the dual purpose of discouraging single-occupancy driving and replaces buses with more resilient infrastructure (rail or dedicated bus lanes)

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        • Poisonpony February 24, 2014 at 11:13 am

          Well said. This is a crisis at this point, and all legitimate ideas should be considered.

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  • scott February 21, 2014 at 1:05 pm

    All the bike companies are releasing these new bikes called gravel grinders. From the magazines about cycling it seems everyone has to have one. I suggest spending as much money as possible on one of these completely unique, and totally different from any other bike ever bicycles as soon as possible.

    Then, the next time it snows like this, you can look down on everyone during the snowstorm from the saddle of your fatbike, and then from your gravel grinder in the aftermath.

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    • GlowBoy February 21, 2014 at 3:12 pm

      Or (even if you have a racing bike) you could just buy tires that work in winter.

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      • Chris I February 21, 2014 at 5:08 pm

        No way, man. These bikes are totes way different. You can’t just ride, like, any bike on the gravel. Are you crazy?!

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  • John Lascurettes February 21, 2014 at 1:08 pm

    The mixing zone on westbound NE Sandy at the 39th Ave onramp for westbound I-84 is a mess. Will have to call that one in later. Thanks for the info.

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  • AndyC of Linnton February 21, 2014 at 1:28 pm

    Dirty 30 report:I was thrilled to see the city sweeping last week. Biking South on the West side toward downtown from my place at 108th Ave was good for a couple miles(and I mean Dirty 30 good, not actually good, more on that below).
    After passing under the St.John’s bridge, 30 is completely covered and awful. You know, “normal”. There is maybe one foot or so past the fog line that is clear, and sometimes you have to ride the fog line. This continues all the way to Kittridge Ave, and the bike lane on St.Helen’s road(where it veers off toward NW industrial/downtown) is also not swept.
    So, things are pretty much normal for 30 winter riding. There has been a ton of flooding on the highway, so my assumption is that maybe the city is waiting for the lakes and rivers to subside a little before continuing sweeping. Either that or they’re calling it “self-cleaning”.Fingers crossed.
    The “clean” portion of 30 looks as if it has been swept a bit between the St.John’s bridge and Sauvie, though there have been a couple rock slides, and the usual detritus is in place.

    Took some photos, but can’t figure out how to publish them here. I suppose it’s not that big of a deal, most of you are aware of the garbage that fills these lanes.

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    • AndyC of Linnton February 21, 2014 at 1:44 pm

      Oh, and heads up if yr gonna bike out to Sauvie or something this weekend: the St.John’s Freight and Automobile Bridge That You Are Even Lucky We Allow You On At All sidewalks are completely gravel filled. I don’t know what the treatment options are for this facility, but i assume it is “wait until it magically disappears.”

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  • Todd Hudson February 21, 2014 at 1:30 pm

    We will be riding on this gravel for months to come. It’s a safety hazard, and being a purist about not using road salt is a little ridiculous.

    Maybe it’s time to consider using salt in Portland salt during declared snow emergencies.

    Chronic use of road salt for months at a time is bad for the environment. Using it once every five years however, will have much less impact.

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    • scott February 21, 2014 at 1:47 pm

      No less ridiculous than acting like sales tax is the devil incarnate and that fluoridation of our water would lead to the zombie apocalypse.

      Forget ye not that you live in a state where science and data can find ways to be made useless! Huzzah!

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      • Todd Hudson February 21, 2014 at 2:20 pm

        Can I interest you in these magic healing crystals? Use them and you don’t have to vaccinate your kids.

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      • davemess February 21, 2014 at 2:26 pm

        Does agreeing with all those things make us bad progressives, Scott?

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        • scott February 21, 2014 at 2:58 pm

          Portland does not agree with fluoridation or sales tax.

          I’m confused by your question.

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          • davemess February 22, 2014 at 9:56 pm

            I’m saying I live in Portland, and agree with Fluoridation, sales taxes, and salting (i’ll even throw in vaccines), though I am amazed at how few agree with me. I was agreeing with you.

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    • davemess February 21, 2014 at 2:24 pm

      Come on fish clearly are more important than human life.
      (Granted most people should just stay home and not try to drive in inclement weather).

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    • q`Tzal February 21, 2014 at 2:50 pm

      Like that crazy azz ice storm back in 2003/2004 that knocked out MAX for a week and dropped up to 2 inches of solid black ice on the east side.
      I it was cool riding my studded bike tires on something too slick to walk on but as long as it stayed below freezing the economy was paralyzed waiting for ice plows couldn’t remove.

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  • Adam February 21, 2014 at 1:50 pm

    Highway 30 from downtown to Sauvie Island – a ton of gravel, not swept at all. So, that’s great. I’ll just slide to my death in 60 mph traffic.

    Barbur Blvd not swept. Again. I’ll just die wiping out on gravel on this bikelane.

    Thanks ODOT! Glad your sweeping crews are busy having a “rest” while the rest of us are trying not to die.

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  • James Sherbondy February 21, 2014 at 2:10 pm

    “Clean safe bike lanes are important to A LOT of us at PBOT” Uhhh..shouldn’t they be important to EVERYONE at PBOT!

    Anywho, rode from my place on 30th and Sandy to essentially the Powells Warehouse in the industrial district. Gravel and trash EVERYWHERE! It’s pretty annoying, but I don’t thinks it unsafe, except where it’s pretty deep. Problem is, those deep spots come up on you fairly quick. Can’t wait for it to all be gone. Lloyd Ave. was particularly dirty, even before the snow storm.

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  • Fred February 21, 2014 at 2:38 pm

    Terwillger is cleaned up as of this morning. Waiting for SW Capitol to be swept now. Lot’s of gravel and tree branches in the bike lanes.

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  • Elliot February 21, 2014 at 2:55 pm

    I noticed that SE Gladstone was swept Wednesday night or Thursday morning. The sweeping is very thorough – nary a stray speck of sand to be found. Kudos PBOT!

    However, it was the first bike lane I’ve seen swept in the 2 weeks since the storm, so… faster please. Not sure why the City has this pushed so far down their priorities list.

    Like the commenter on SE Duke observed, I’m not sure why Gladstone got swept before, say SE Hawthorne and Madison between 11/12th and the Hawthorne Bridge. That stretch of bike lane surely gets 10 times the use of Duke or Gladstone.

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    • Criss Cross Crusade February 21, 2014 at 4:48 pm

      Gladstone is brand new and fresh and shiny. good advertising if its clean.

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    • davemess February 22, 2014 at 9:57 pm

      I”m thinking the crews were just sticking to specific zones?

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      • Poisonpony February 24, 2014 at 8:04 am

        That’s right, doing our arterial routes. Now if you want a main bike route swept scream louder. 503-823-1700

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  • GlowBoy February 21, 2014 at 2:57 pm

    If you’ve gotten 3 flats on Gatorskins, maybe it’s not because of the kitty litter on the roads. Maybe it’s just bad luck. Hey, last year I got 3 flats in the middle of a 60-mile day ride — after having gone two years without a single flat at all. I didn’t blame it on the conditions; sometimes it just happens.

    It’s WINTER! Yeah, sometimes the roads are going to get full of crud. Outside the unreality of Arizona and California, road grit is A Normal Part of Winter. Running sub-inch-wide tires with the thickness and tread of a child’s toy balloon is a matter of simply not dressing properly for the conditions. Like forgetting to put on your jacket when you walk outside into the rain.

    Don’t worry, even if the bike store sold you an inversatile racing bike, you don’t need a dedicated gravel bike, nor a cyclocross or hybrid or touring or monstercross or mountain bike. Almost any road machine can run 700x28s, and in some cases 32s. There are plenty of durable, still fast-rolling tire choices in those sizes which will handle this micro-gravel just fine. Really just about anything with a decently thick center tread and a faint tread pattern; you don’t need to go to the opposite extreme and get slow-rolling Armadillos or Marathon Pluses.

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    • BURR February 21, 2014 at 3:58 pm

      IMO, it’s not about punctures, it’s about traction for two-wheeled vehicles on an unstable, slippery surface – which gravel is – and tire width is largely irrelevant.

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      • GlowBoy February 22, 2014 at 9:29 pm

        Hmm… I’m not finding the gravel unstable or slippery. I even rode notorious 7th Avenue the other day and had another cyclist complain to me about how “horrible” the gravel was, but I personally did not find it problematic. Yes, my tires skidded slightly when the light changed abruptly at Morrison and I had to jam the brakes, but that doesn’t take too much skill to handle, I still stopped more than fast enough.

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      • davemess February 22, 2014 at 9:59 pm

        And the fact that that slippery surface is EXCLUSIVELY now in the bike lanes and not the car lanes. Disproportionate burden for vehicles that didn’t benefit from the gravel to begin with.

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      • Bill Walters February 22, 2014 at 11:14 pm

        Nope, width is relevant if you use its ability to run lower pressures with fewer pinch-flat consequences. At a lower pressure, a tire will come closer to “oozing” over gravel without disrupting it, so you’re likely to slide or skid less often and less severely.

        True not only with gravel but with loose surfaces made of smaller granules. You must not be a mountain biker.

        But yeah, if you run wider tires and *still* inflate to 110 (for instance), no help.

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    • Criss Cross Crusade February 21, 2014 at 4:55 pm

      whatever dude… it’s the gravel, you know, that they are literally pulling out of their tire. I don’t know how you can be so condescending about bike tires. you hit all these assumptions that everybody’s out there riding Parlees or something. peep all my homies riding barbur every day and you will see trusty steeds made for commuting on crappy roads. It is abnormally crappy out there and so people are getting more flats. i’m not afraid to make that causal conclusion.

      the bike store sold you an inversatile racing bike? that’s so petty… really you should be ashamed of yourself. everybody’s a rube but you eh?

      stop reading the Wildcat Rock Machine so much.

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      • GlowBoy February 24, 2014 at 11:09 am

        “really you should be ashamed of yourself. everybody’s a rube but you eh?”
        Durable tires are inexpensive, contrary to your claims earlier in this thread, so for you to call me elitist is getting it precisely backwards. It’s a pretty inverted perspective to view all-purpose tires as specialized equipment. Ultra-narrow, paper-thin tires are the special-purpose gear here; those riding them and expecting the world to conform to their special needs are the elitists.

        By the way, those complaining about the use of kitty litter because it supposedly “benefits” only motorists are taking the elitism to an even more ridiculous level.

        Once again, the kind of crud on our roads is mild compared to what most of the country has to deal with. The world isn’t made of smooth, clean pavement. Get a pair and deal with it.

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        • davemess February 25, 2014 at 7:52 am

          “those riding them and expecting the world to conform to their special needs are the elitists.”

          So you have absolutely no expectation that the city/state ever keep bikeways clean/clear? Tree goes down? Oh well, those cyclists will get great cyclocross practice. This is really no different. We have a reasonable expectation that our bikeways will be kept decently clean. The fact that you seem to be fighting this and labeling everyone else but yourself a “whiner” is just silly. Your threshold of expectations seems to be pretty low. The argument that “most of the country has to deal with worse crud” is also silly. What does that have to do with anything? We USUALLY have cleaner roads throughout the winter, thus we have expectations of how the roads would be. I don’t care that the roads are worse in Iowa’s winter. I’m not biking there (and they don’t pull nearly the same magnitude of winter cyclists that we do). Some perspective is nice (I often think Portlanders get too insular and forget what the outside world is like), but the more useful comparison is to our own region during other winters, not some completely different city with a totally different climate.

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          • GlowBoy February 25, 2014 at 9:49 am

            We usually don’t have crud on our roads in winter because we usually don’t get snow and ice. Well, guess what: this year, we did.

            The outside perspective seems to be needed because some people don’t seem to realize that the leftover grit is a natural consequence of a snow/ice event.

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            • davemess February 25, 2014 at 2:13 pm

              And I think many are saying that they don’t agree with the use of the gravel to begin with (even if we have had a snow/ice event) (esp. given the long periods of clean up it is requiring).

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              • GlowBoy February 25, 2014 at 4:35 pm

                Yes, and the fact that there are people who question the use of traction materials during a snow/ice event is precisely why a dope-slap is needed from people who’ve actually lived with real winters.

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  • TOM February 21, 2014 at 3:47 pm

    JM said >> it’s clear that there’s still a ton of gravel out there.

    that should be tonS

    I rode SE 122 yesterday from Powell to Stark , hasn’t been swept at all. Division from 139 to 122 hadn’t either. 🙁

    spencer: mute=moot ?

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  • BURR February 21, 2014 at 3:55 pm

    As of last Sunday the bike lane on SE Sandy/SE 7th between Burnside and Hawthorne still hadn’t been swept, and more recently I see that the bike lane on eastbound SE Hawthorne from Grand to SE Ladd hasn’t been swept yet, and there is a big pile of gravel right in front of the bike box on SE Madison at Grand headed westbound.

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  • dwainedibbly February 21, 2014 at 5:38 pm

    SW 6th where it crosses over 405 is pretty bad, and there’s lots of gravel on the sidewalk, too. That sidewalk stuff isn’t going to be swept by the trucks. It’ll end up on the bike lane, bit by bit, over the next 6 months.

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    • Mossby Pomegranate February 21, 2014 at 6:30 pm

      Continental Top Contacts have been working great for me and I encounter a lot of gravel on my commute on everything from the Going street sidewalk to Swan Island, and the Halsey overpass at 205. Hmmm will they sweep sidewalks too?

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  • Kevin Wagoner February 21, 2014 at 9:51 pm

    Is gravel worth it? No sweeping on my street. I continue to sweep the mess off our new sidewalk and out of my driveway. No sweeping on the section of Terwilliger I ride. Thank goodness most of my commute is along the river on the trail.

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  • stephen salter February 21, 2014 at 11:41 pm

    i called 823 1700 and left a voicemail a few days ago in reference to rosa parks and hwy 30. to my surprise the next day rosa parks was swept! i guess it still could be some kind of crazy coincidence but i think this calling in thing might just work?! i have yet to ride on 30 and there seems to be comflicting reports. i am riding on it tomorrow however so we shall see

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  • Beth February 22, 2014 at 10:28 am

    I have called twice abut NW Everett heading into downtown and so far it’s still filled with gravel. As it’s my only direct route over I-405 from work down to light rail (I go multi-modal), it’s really annoying to have to take the car lane when the bike lane is too litted to use safely.

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    • Poisonpony February 24, 2014 at 8:08 am

      Swept NW 18th and 19th last night. Way parked up and did the best we could. They need to no park those streets on the bike lane side to do it right.

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      • El Biciclero March 3, 2014 at 3:48 pm

        Hm. Not only do cars necessitate the gravel mess, they also prevent effective cleanup. I can’t see how drivers have any right to complain about spending gas tax money on cleaning up bike lanes. It would be like smokers complaining about having to pay for cigarette butt cleanup in parks.

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  • Ted Buehler February 22, 2014 at 11:48 am

    Ride to Ikea and back yesterday. Gravel in all bike lanes along the way — 47th, Cornfoot, Alderwood, Cascades Parkway. I’ll call them in. Steep hill on 47th was dicey going down, very little traction to work with.

    Keep that PBOT hotline ringing, folks.

    Ted Buehler

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  • Peter Michaelson February 22, 2014 at 1:14 pm

    As I tweeted (Klickitat), I’d love to see a rationale analysis of whether and why the gravel is worth it. Maybe it’s just old habit. What are the factors involved in the decision to lay down gravel? Who decides? What rationale and authority do they use? If we can get this issue addressed in a serious way then perhaps progress can be made.

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  • David Bosch February 22, 2014 at 2:09 pm

    Reading this from Grand Rapids, Michigan. Glad that you are wanting gravel-free commutes but I don’t think that PDX realizes how good you have it. The worst commute in Portland would be a welcome reprieve from the potholes and ice that we are dealing with.

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    • Ted Buehler February 22, 2014 at 5:10 pm

      Just because things are “good” doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to make them better!

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  • Aaron February 22, 2014 at 6:30 pm

    I’d prefer the gravel wasn’t there, but ultimately, it’s not that big of a deal to me.

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    • emily March 4, 2014 at 10:00 am

      I agreed with you about the gravel – until this morning when I discovered my back tire was completely flat. One of only a couple of flats I have had in two years of commuting.

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  • JCV February 22, 2014 at 7:31 pm

    Division from 205 to 181st is appalling. I rode it this morning and afternoon and there are some really scary spots. Covered in gravel the whole way.

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  • Kathy February 22, 2014 at 8:36 pm

    How do Amsterdam and Copenhagen treat their roads and bike lanes when it snows?

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  • Kittens February 23, 2014 at 5:04 am

    Maybe if they expended even half as much energy cleaning it up as they did throwing the stuff in our roads it wouldn’t take two months to get back to square one. It doesn’t seem unreasonable to expect something that takes three days to do shouldn’t take 6 to 8 weeks to undo. Obviously we have a limited budget, priorities need to be made, but placing some road users safety so below others is really crappy policy.

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  • TOM February 23, 2014 at 8:11 am

    with all the time/work/expense of putting this stuff down and then all the time/work/expense of picking most of it back up, it raises the question …

    Is it effective ?

    It obviously doesn’t melt ice like salt does, so then does it really provide any traction ?

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    • GlowBoy February 23, 2014 at 10:47 am

      Um, is a sunny sky blue? Of course grit helps immensely with traction on snow and ice. When I was a youth in Minnesota, I used to keep a small bin of chicken grit handy just in case my RWD vehicle got stuck somewhere.

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    • dr2chase February 23, 2014 at 2:52 pm

      Can’t speak to gravel, but sand sure as heck helps. Clean hard ice, you had better have studded tires. Throw a little sand on that, and you can get acceptable traction with ordinary tires.

      An alternative to NaCl salt, given you rarely you apparently need treatment, is CaCl2. It’s much more expensive, but you would use it rarely, right? A little also goes a long way. When we grumbled at Cambridge about the ice-rink conditions on the cycle track not too far from their drinking water reservoir (and park), that’s what they used.

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      • Poisonpony February 24, 2014 at 2:11 am

        CaCl2 (calcium chloride), is the chemical name for common salt and has many ecological and environmental drawbacks. The City uses CMA (calcium magnesium acetate), it has many environmental benefits over CaCl2 and is the least intrusive to the ecosystem out of all the chemical options. It has two big drawbacks. First is cost, around $3.00 a gallon. Second is its effectiveness. It works really good if it is applied in advance in dry conditions to prevent the forming of frost, or light ice. It also aids the snow in binding to make it easier to plow. It is virtually ineffective when used on heavy ice or compacted snow in cold temperatures. The State uses Mag Chloride, (magnesium chloride). It has some environmental drawbacks, one is that it is corrosive. Not anywhere close to being as corrosive as salt, but you should wash your car and undercarriage first chance you get. The big benefit is the price, around $.80 a gallon. Crews that use this product also like that it’s “Hot”. Meaning it will react on ice and compact snow and break it up. ODOT was spraying Mag to break the bond the compact snow and ice had on the road so they could plow it. It is also effective at melting light ice and snow at colder temperatures than CMA.

        On the gravel issue, it’s training. Portland has very few big snow events. We train on how to setup the equipment and operate it safely. There is no budget for much more. There are a few of us that come from cold climates that have bad winters and know about gang plowing on fixed main routes, the most effective way to clear roads fast. We also know to sand lightly at stop lights and corners with inclines or declines. Just driving around willy nilly on flat road with your sander on leads to this mess. I did hear the instruction from my supervisor to use sand sparingly. I’m not sure what other groups were doing. I do know your input is important. It is a learning curve. I know the roads I ride are still trashed. This effects bikes way more than cars. I think it would be beneficial that all the main bike corridors be put on snow route maps and workers told to sand only as necessary on those routes, and make written record of where they sanded. Then sweep those routes first.

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  • pennyfarthing February 23, 2014 at 6:34 pm

    Well, most of the gravel is gone from N. Interstate finally but now I am wondering how long it will take before they can address the gravel that is covering the sidewalks all over town…for example: The Steel bridge and the sidewalks going up the hill on Mississippi.

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  • Spiffy February 24, 2014 at 8:02 am

    since it’s been wet and I’ve been mostly walking the gravel is very annoying all over the sidewalks…

    did a little riding this weekend and it wasn’t too bad… mostly with the kiddo on roads without a bike lane though so I wasn’t trapped/forced into gravel…

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  • Oliver February 24, 2014 at 9:18 am

    I’ve found the gravel removal has been going pretty well. Terwilliger yesterday was very clear (they must have been over that two or three times), Interstate is not bad, but could use a second going over. I would avoid Greeley, inch deep drifts between Going and Interstate combined with large fast moving vehicles seems unsafe.

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  • Zaphod February 24, 2014 at 9:38 am

    I’ve had two flats. One on a massive kevlar lined tire called the fat frank on my cargo bike and the other on a cyclocross tire of my son’s who weighs 65#. Both caused by gravel.

    The failure to clean the streets properly continues to be a cultural problem within this city and our country.

    If autos were frequently getting flats at the same rate, leaving workers and families stranded where they are or forcing them to pull out the spare and take ~15 minutes on the side of a dirty dangerous and likely wet road, there’d be some action from the city.

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  • Kristen February 24, 2014 at 9:47 am

    City of Tigard had a sweeper out on McDonald St the day after all the snow had cleared. Very refreshing to see. They’re trying to get all the gravel up that they can, but it will be slow going. I’ve found that Tigard and Tualatin are both very responsive when it comes to crap in the bike lane.

    There’s nothing they can do about Hall Blvd, 99W and Upper Boones Ferry, unfortunately, because those are ODOT’s roads.

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  • John Watson February 24, 2014 at 9:58 am

    I think that the gravel is helping efforts on my touring bike. My custom Geekhouse Touring machine is a bike I have always dreamed of and this gravel helps me to think of riding with my well known buddies on trails looking for the adventure that I always dreamt of doing backward skidders to barspin pogos at the infamous Brooklyn Banks when I started Peel Sessions in my (very little) free time working tirelessly as a graphic designer in New York. Regardless, I have been lucky enough to gain the reputation as a lycra clad warrior of the road, gravel, dirt, snow, and sand and this gravel on the Portland streets does nothing but tickle my fancy to ride my many bikes and sport my Giro New Road collection while thinking of my next blog post.

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  • Joe February 24, 2014 at 10:03 am

    ODOT seems to be taking their time. 🙁

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  • Joe February 24, 2014 at 2:38 pm

    gravel fixed skids the best.

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  • Poisonpony February 24, 2014 at 5:37 pm

    One more important note. Our managers have us sweep downtown at night three to four times a week. That takes a sweeper crew out of their field location wherever they are in town, and sends them downtown. This in effect cuts about 5 hrs of sweeping time each night this happens, (Around 15mi lost production). The crew basically wastes the time returning to downtown. (The three wheeled sweepers do 15mph tops. If your in outer SE, that’s a wasted hour.) The crews get real frustrated with this, as they want to stay on the gravel cleanup.
    Maybe if enough people gripe about this it might change. Whats more important. Reducing a serious public safety hazard, or placating the downtown business owners? They definitely already get way more attention than they pay for. We could be sent to main bike routes instead.
    503-823-4000, to get transferred to the PDOT Director, and Commissioner Novak.

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  • Joe February 25, 2014 at 8:49 am

    how about a more bio grade safer method that would take less time and energy to clean up? gravel seems wasteful.

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  • Robert Burchett February 25, 2014 at 10:21 am

    This seemed like more fine until I got two flats in two days, and I don’t skimp on tires. No flats for months before.
    Portland ‘bike infrastructure’ that failed due to snow moved by plows: The 2-way lane thing at NE 33rd and Going, and the fancy lane splitter on Vancouver outside Emanuel Hospital. Big bucket of snow right in the bike lane there.

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    • Robert Burchett February 25, 2014 at 10:22 am

      fine whine

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  • Jen February 25, 2014 at 6:18 pm

    I think they got tired while sweeping Terwilliger. Headed north from campus drive only about half (and sometimes less) of the bike lane was swept. Then from the gas station/ light into downtown (where terwilliger becomes 6th) it’s very sandy, and especially deep in a curve. It wouldn’t be so bad, except it’s down hill and curvy the whole way (even though the decline is small in some spots). When it was apparent it hadn’t been swept at all, car drivers were more forgiving, but now that it looks clean they seem to have less patience with me taking the lane when I need to.
    I did call the # yesterday.

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  • resopmok February 25, 2014 at 6:37 pm

    It’s the 25th of February, and I’ve seen lots of bike lanes swept of gravel so far, but still the section of Sandy/7th south of Burnside is full of gravel. Many less important routes are gravel free, why hasn’t the city dealt with this area? Very strange prioritization if you ask me.

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    • Poisonpony February 28, 2014 at 2:09 am

      Sometimes the boss listens. Showed him this note, and he said ok. Hope your ride is better now

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  • John Liu
    John Liu February 26, 2014 at 6:06 am

    It seems pretty clear that PBOT should not routinely use gravel during our infrequent snow events. It only helps for a few days, but the cleanup cost and obstruction to cyclists lasts for many weeks – at the current rate, months. Use it at the most dangerous spots – on hills and curves – only.

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