Splendid Cycles

After man adds warning paint to sunken grate, state roads agency calls it vandalism

Posted by on August 5th, 2015 at 1:23 pm

A 2012 photo of the offending grate, long before Parsons’ unsanctioned paint job.
(Photos: Jim Parsons)

Update: After this and other media coverage of Parsons’ action and ODOT’s repsonse, the agency has announced plans to fix the grates and says it is grateful for Parsons’ work.

A local man who says he’s been warning state officials for seven years about a sunken grate in the middle of Barbur Boulevard’s northbound bike lane has finally gotten some action from the agency.

After he marked the grate himself with yellow warning paint and with the letters “ODOT KNOWS,” the agency is planning to visit the site … to erase his paint.

In a Wednesday email to the man, Jim Parsons, an Oregon Department of Transportation staffer with the title “citizen’s representative” scolded him for what she said would make the street more dangerous.

“Cyclists may take that as a sign that they must avoid the drain and steer themselves into a lane of traffic,” wrote the staffer, Monica Bustos. “Mr. Parsons, I was made aware that you painted the drain yourself. It is dangerous, you are on the highway without proper traffic control to advise the public that someone is on the roadway. It is also illegal to vandalize (paint) ODOT property. The ODOT Maintenance Manager will now be spending the already limited maintenance budget funds on removing the vandalism from ODOT property.”

In an interview earlier this week and in previous emails to ODOT over the last week, Parsons said he had first notified ODOT about the problem in 2008, but was moved to start worrying about it again in June after he accidentally crossed it while biking to Portland State University and broke a spoke from the impact.

“Front wheel in, front wheel out, rear wheel in, rear wheel out,” Parsons said Wednesday, describing the jolts of crossing the grate. Here’s a photo he took showing the depth of the grate:

In an email to ODOT Monday and in an interview with BikePortland Wednesday, Parsons said his preferred solution would be to “grind the thing smooth.”

“You don’t have to raise the grate, you don’t have to pave it, you just have to grind the damn thing,” Parsons said.


Parsons said the site is north of Barbur’s two narrow bridges where the bike lanes vanish and south of the crosswalk that ODOT installed after the 2010 death of a woman walking her bike across the street.

Parsons said he decided to paint the street himself only after a series of responses from ODOT dating back to 2008.

“Every time I call they’re like, ‘Oh, we’ll be paving that area next year,'” Parsons said in an interview last week. “They just don’t think it’s a problem.”

Beaverton to Tualatin ride-14

Jim Parsons in a 2011 photo.
(Photo: J.Maus/BikePortland)

Parsons applied his paint Friday. The “ODOT KNOWS” message, he said, was intended to be a message to any lawyers whose clients might be injured by collisions with the grate.

“It’s downhill,” Parsons said. “With a tailwind, you can hit 40 mph easy. … Sooner or later, somebody’s going to hit that thing the wrong way.”

Parsons said he had previously painted warning paint around the grate back in 2012, but without the “ODOT KNOWS” message.

Also on Friday Parsons also applied paint to another location just to the south. Here are his photos of that grate before his paint job (with a Home Depot paint stirrer to show the scale):

The divot between grate and pavement runs parallel to the roadway, so a bicycle wheel might be caught in it.

And here’s his unsanctioned treatment:

Parsons does seem to have received one fairly detailed email reply about his problems, sent on Monday by ODOT Active Transportation Liaison Jessica Horning. She sent this in response to his emailing a link in which he shared his photos of the unsanctioned paint job.

Hi Jim,

Thanks for the update. I’ve forwarded your message on to our maintenance crew, who will take another look at this area. As I mentioned last time, we plan to adjust these grates next time we have work scheduled in the area. I do not currently have a timeline to give you.

As I mentioned on the phone, ODOT recently conducted a Road Safety Audit on Barbur. The whole RSA team rode over these grates on a bike ride from Naito to the “Crossroads” (Capitol Highway/99W/I-5 interchange) and back… and the consultant leading the RSA bike commutes on Barbur daily. The RSA report will include prioritized recommendations for near and long term bike safety improvements on Barbur. I know that storm grates are included on the long list of issues that were noted during the RSA, but do not know where they will fall on the draft prioritized list. I will let you know when there is a complete version of the RSA report ready to share. You can also read more about the Barbur RSA on our website: www.BarburSafety.org.

(We reported about ODOT’s in-progress road safety audit in May.)

On Wednesday morning, Parsons received the email from Bustos, saying that “The ODOT Maintenance Manager has looked at the drain and determined that paint lines are not in the best interest of anyone” and informing him that ODOT would be spending part of its maintenance budget to remove the paint. It didn’t mention any schedule for fixing the grates.

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  • John Lascurettes August 5, 2015 at 1:30 pm

    Unbelievable. Just. Wow.

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    • Bella Bici August 5, 2015 at 1:45 pm

      Far from unbelievable. Especially on Barbur Blvd.

      Bicyclists are given the gutter with all of it’s obstructions and detritus. Yeah, the land of third-class transportational citizens.

      ODOT, you suck when it comes to planning that is inclusive of the safety of bicyclists!!! Boooooo!!!

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      • rick August 6, 2015 at 6:50 am

        pedestrians too for Barbur because there are many floating sidewalks

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    • Mike Ard August 7, 2015 at 12:01 pm

      This is only the tip of the iceberg. When ODOT does maintnance on the corridor and closes a travel lane, they provide warning signs in advance to tell motorized vehicles that the right lane is closed. The warning signs completely block the bike lane, so people on bicycles get no advance warning that their lane ends at a sign and they need to merge with traffic that regularly travels at speeds in excess of 40 mph.

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  • Rob Chapman August 5, 2015 at 1:32 pm

    Good on Jim, shame on ODOT.

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  • rainbike August 5, 2015 at 1:34 pm

    Imagine the equivalently scaled hazard in the adjacent auto lane, and how long it would be allowed to persist.

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    • Spiffy August 5, 2015 at 2:27 pm

      it looks like the hazard is the total height of a normal bicycle tire sidewall… higher then the usual fast bike tire…

      if there was a 4″-6″ (typical auto tire sidewall) ditch across 75% of an auto lane it would be fixed that same day…

      these types of bike lane hazards are simply not acceptable…

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    • q`Tzal August 5, 2015 at 3:37 pm

      Separate and Unequal.

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      • K'Tesh August 5, 2015 at 4:37 pm

        What do you expect for you 1/2¢ from gas taxes?

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        • q`Tzal August 5, 2015 at 6:23 pm

          Less than I do than from the property and general taxation I contribute to Oregon’s roads.

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  • Captain Karma August 5, 2015 at 1:35 pm

    Paintgrate scandal. Like watergate.

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    • :add Ave. pedestrian August 5, 2015 at 2:17 pm

      How well do you remember 1973? Watergate was a bona fide consitutional crisis, and the senate hearings were an entire summer’s high drama.

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    • bob August 6, 2015 at 10:47 am

      I’m so glad you clarified what “paintgate” meant. I was lost there for a second.

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  • K'Tesh August 5, 2015 at 1:40 pm

    What’s more… the northern grate has the sudden drop-off that parallels the direction of travel, you drop down, then try to steer out of it… You are going down. You’ll be lucky if there isn’t a passing car, or bus there to run over you as you sprawl out on the road.

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    • nuovorecord August 5, 2015 at 2:06 pm

      Good on ‘ya, Jim!

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    • K'Tesh August 5, 2015 at 2:32 pm

      BTW… I used striping paint, which is intended to be permanent, instead of marking paint which is temporary.

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      • Dan August 5, 2015 at 2:37 pm

        Where do you get it from? Don’t ask why….

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        • Spiffy August 5, 2015 at 3:16 pm

          you can get the good stuff at Sanderson Safety Supply on SE 3rd/Salmon…

          but most hardware stores should have some consumer level stuff…

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        • K'Tesh August 5, 2015 at 3:30 pm

          Home Depot

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          • q`Tzal August 5, 2015 at 10:17 pm

            One of the techniques I’ve used to make painted patterns withstand surface wear is to embed them in the surface.
            It doesn’t take much depth. Once you have that depth you can almost pour in a paint and it’ll wick in to the relief you’ve defined.

            Acetone would work wonders it this specific situation.

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      • Chris Anderson August 6, 2015 at 6:01 am

        I have a can of Reflect All that’s been looking for a use. The nasty grates downhill on NE Wheeler are at least well-lit.

        I was also thinking it’d be fun to paint some of the smooth paths I’ve found through the bumpy stretches of Going St, so anyone who looks at the ground can have the benefit of years of daily ridings, sometimes trying to keep a baby asleep in the bike.

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        • Anne Hawley August 6, 2015 at 12:54 pm

          I am a frequent Going Street rider, and I approve this idea!

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        • K'Tesh August 7, 2015 at 2:42 pm

          Reflect all isn’t all that effective. I’ve tried it before.

          For the “good stuff” you need reflective vinyl, or the ability to mix the glass beads that are used by transportation agencies into your paint. For the drains, I sprinkled my stockpile of the beads into the wet paint. My stockpile was what I was able to salvage from a site where ODOT spilled some on the shoulder of HWY 217 when they were restriping it years ago.

          Yellow and white striping paint is $5.27USD/can (less by the case) at Home Depot.

          Reflective vinyl (Oralite from Oracal) is available from Multicraft Plastics in Tigard Oregon (~$15.00USD/yard x 24″/color). This is the type of material I used to make my bike reflective (see avatar).

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      • Mike Ard August 7, 2015 at 12:36 pm

        If they have to grind off the paint, maybe we can keep painting it until they have done enough grinding to eliminate the hazard. Or they could just grind off the paint by FIXING IT.

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  • Dan August 5, 2015 at 1:42 pm

    Grow up ODOT.

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  • invisiblebikes August 5, 2015 at 1:44 pm

    Jim, we’ve passed each other a few times on that section of our commutes and I have also reached out to ODOT and gotten zero response along with using the PDXreporter app (which is useless!) for this exact issue.

    Michael or Jim is it possible for you to post that email from “Monica” with her email address so we can respond individually?
    Jim can you post it on FriendsofBarbur Facebook page?

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    • Michael Andersen (News Editor)
      Michael Andersen (News Editor) August 5, 2015 at 1:51 pm

      The email is Ask.ODOT@odot.state.or.us, and I got her last name by calling her number: she’s Monica Bustos.

      Obviously I wouldn’t encourage anyone’s emails to be less than courteous.

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      • invisiblebikes August 5, 2015 at 1:54 pm

        noted. I just haven’t gotten any responses when I’ve emailed multiple contacts on this very same issue so I figure trying this one with a courteous reminder that she needs to keep it professional as well?

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      • nuovorecord August 5, 2015 at 2:11 pm

        I’m assuming Monica is in the Salem office and probably didn’t write this response, but is merely passing it along from someone at Region 1. Spend your energy and time talking to Jessica Hornung.

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    • PDX Reporter app doesn’t work in that location because Barbur is managed by ODOT, not by PBOT. ODOT does not get reports from the PDX Reporter app.

      This is one of the problems we’re trying to solve as we develop a more featured NearlyKilledMe site – automated detection of which agency (and even possibly which person) should receive reports of road hazards for a given reported issue. We’re also considering features to automate following up on issues, to remind transportation agencies to deal with a report if it hasn’t been resolved after a certain amount of time.

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      • Seth Alford August 5, 2015 at 7:36 pm

        Do you have a kickstarter or gofundme or similar account set up for people to contribute to your efforts?

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  • K'Tesh August 5, 2015 at 1:49 pm

    Hi Mr. Parsons,

    Thank you for contacting Ask ODOT at the Oregon Department of Transportation’s (ODOT) Citizen Representative Office. Per our discussion, I am following up on the concerns you shared during our conversation on Thursday, 7/30/15.

    1. Status of locust trees on SW Caruthers, 5th Ave and Broadway (where 5th and Caruthers meet). As I mentioned in our conversation, the locust trees have been cut back in the past. They have grown back. Our crews began cutting and trimming the area yesterday (8/4/15).

    2. Could paint be added to the storm drains to make them stand out? No. The ODOT Maintenance Manager has looked at the drain and determined that paint lines are not in the best interest of anyone; cyclists may take that as a sign that they must avoid the drain and steer themselves into a lane of traffic. Mr. Parsons, I was made aware that you painted the drain yourself. It is dangerous, you are on the highway without proper traffic control to advise the public that someone is on the roadway. It is also illegal to vandalize (paint) ODOT property. The ODOT Maintenance Manager will now be spending the already limited maintenance budget funds on removing the vandalism from ODOT property.

    3. Need for maintenance on 4th/ Caruthers/ Broadway where trees are growing and cracking the sidewalk. The ODOT Maintenance Manager has made me aware the City of Portland is responsible for that sidewalk. You may wish to bring this to their attention by calling 503-823-1711 or emailing sidewalkrepair@portlandoregon.gov.

    Thanks again for contacting Ask ODOT. Please feel free to contact us again if you have further questions.

    Best Regards,


    Citizens’ Representative
    Ask ODOT
    1-888-275-6368 FREE Toll Free
    503-986-3434 Direct

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    • nuovorecord August 5, 2015 at 2:09 pm

      Keep in mind that “Monica” is probably just passing along a response she received from Region 1 staff. Don’t shoot the messenger.

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      • q`Tzal August 5, 2015 at 3:28 pm

        Why not?
        We have casualties in the war on “not-cars”.
        Maybe if some of ODOT is burned on the stake of public derision they might have some small inkling of what we go through.

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    • Adam H. August 5, 2015 at 3:49 pm

      The fact that taking the lane to avoid the drain is considered too dangerous for ODOT means that Barbur is in serious need of traffic calming.

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      • 9watts August 5, 2015 at 8:49 pm

        I was wondering about that too. Smoking gun?

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        • Eric Leifsdad August 5, 2015 at 10:42 pm

          We’re going to need a lot more paint.

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    • Tom Hardy August 6, 2015 at 8:55 am

      Being friendly to ODOT at the least. I think it would be easier to replace the Maintenance Supervisor and the Inspector that is deciding that road hazards are more important to be left in place than being eliminated to begin with.

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  • PNP August 5, 2015 at 1:51 pm

    Yet another example of more concern about paint than safety.

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    • q`Tzal August 5, 2015 at 6:25 pm

      And automotive throughput.
      That’s all that matters: how fast you can cram as many vehicles as possible.

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  • TonyJ August 5, 2015 at 1:51 pm

    Funny how ODOT was able to make changes to the “tire eating” Arch Bridge in Oregon City less than a month after Joe Rose reported on it. http://www.oregonlive.com/commuting/index.ssf/2015/07/oregon_citys_tire-popping_arch.html

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    • John Lascurettes August 5, 2015 at 7:48 pm

      Well, automobiles are sacrosanct.

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    • lop August 5, 2015 at 8:59 pm

      From the article it looks like after a few years of property damage, no mention of injuries or worse, a reporter made some noise about the issue so ODOT responded by putting down paint and reflectors. All for a bridge that sees more than 10k vehicles a day. To treat cyclists the same should barbur first see 10k bikes a day, and shred a tire every week or so for a few years before ODOT puts up some paint?

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      • TonyJ August 5, 2015 at 10:30 pm

        No. To prevent a grievous injury or worse of a human being, hazards in the right of way should be dealt with at the highest priority, regardless of traffic volume. If there were a place where car tires could get easily stuck and the car would flip over, the road would be closed until it was fixed. We have those situations all over the city and on roads like Barbur (Streetcar tracks anyone?).

        No one should have to have advanced training on their commute to avoid wiping out.

        (I couldn’t tell if you were being facetious here or not, so I responded sincerely)

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        • Tom Hardy August 6, 2015 at 2:34 pm

          Yes TonyJ we need to put streetcar tracks back in on Barbur. it might be a real traffic calmer. Better yet just scrape the asphalt off of those that are still buried there

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          • TonyJ August 7, 2015 at 2:56 pm

            I don’t quite get what you are saying. I am saying that there are extremely hazardous situations for cyclists (like streetcar tracks) all over the city that are a level of hazard that would NEVER be tolerated if it was causing injuries or crashes for motorists.

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  • Lester Burnham August 5, 2015 at 1:53 pm

    LOL…now you know what it feels like to live and bike in east PDX.

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  • Adron Hall August 5, 2015 at 1:55 pm

    If that’s vandelism, the road work that ODOT often does should be considered full on assault.

    Seriously… they need to get their perspectives straightened out.

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  • Tony T
    Tony T August 5, 2015 at 2:00 pm

    “Cyclists may take that as a sign that they must avoid the drain”

    Imagine that!! Because they should!

    Riders are MUCH more likely to wreck and end up IN traffic, then they are likely to get hit from momentarily nearing the white line.

    Absolute and total failure on the part of the Oregon Department Of Driving.

    Terrible. Seems that the only way to get them to move on anything is for someone to lose a limb. Any volunteers?

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    • Tony T
      Tony T August 5, 2015 at 2:01 pm

      “Parsons said he had first notified ODOT about the problem in 2008.”

      2008! That’s criminal. Finding it hard to not use profanity with this one.

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    • John Lascurettes August 5, 2015 at 4:17 pm

      ^ This. This exactly. I don’t think these ODOT staffers know what the word “safety” means.

      Cue Inigo Montoya: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G2y8Sx4B2Sk

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  • LC August 5, 2015 at 2:04 pm

    So take the lane instead of riding in the gutter. You won’t surprise anyone by veering into traffic because you are part of traffic.

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    • Chris I August 5, 2015 at 7:23 pm

      Have you ridden this section? The cars go 50mph. Go ahead and take the lane. I’ll be looking for the article on this blog.

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      • Dan August 5, 2015 at 10:54 pm

        I can’t remember anymore, is 50mph fast? A driver went by my house today at more than 40mph (the speed display sign couldn’t show a speed until he slowed to 38), in a residential neighborhood.

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      • LC August 6, 2015 at 8:57 am

        Yes, and I tour all over; I have no issue taking the lane on roads like these.

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  • Todd Hudson August 5, 2015 at 2:05 pm

    Never antagonize bureaucrats.

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  • K'Tesh August 5, 2015 at 2:06 pm

    FWIW: I found the same kind of problems going up to Pill Hill (coming Up from Barbur to the VA Hospital) today. However, I was on my way to an appointment, and was in unfamiliar territory, and very tired.

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    • jen August 6, 2015 at 5:07 pm

      drains and manhole covers with drop offs from the pavement in the bike lane all along terwilliger. I usually take the lane around each one, which shouldn’t be a problem as the posted speed limit is 25mph. It is a problem as most people drive about 40mph.
      I’ve been tempted to paint them for years. Kudos to Jim for trying to make things better.

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  • nuovorecord August 5, 2015 at 2:06 pm

    “It is dangerous, you are on the highway without proper traffic control to advise the public that someone is on the roadway.

    Lemme see if I understand ODOT’s line of reasoning here. It’s dangerous to be painting lines on the shoulder of Barbur. But perfectly OK to walk or ride your bike there. Amirite?

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  • rick August 5, 2015 at 2:11 pm

    ODOT has lots of money for new overpasses, by-passes, interchanges, but where is the cash for people?

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    • 9watts August 5, 2015 at 8:51 pm

      And it is our money, let’s not forget.

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  • Charlie August 5, 2015 at 2:15 pm

    ODOT’s response is one for the ages. Please, whatever you do ODOT, don’t fix the problem.

    I guess the bright side of this is that it clearly shows ODOT is aware of the grate problem… So when someone is maimed after hitting it and losing control proving liability won’t be an issue.

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    • K'Tesh August 5, 2015 at 2:27 pm


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      • Spiffy August 5, 2015 at 3:26 pm

        that’s going to become a new protest sign…

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        • q`Tzal August 5, 2015 at 3:50 pm

          If it wasn’t so long since WWII “collaborator” would be a vicious barb to toss around.
          I mean they aren’t directly responsible for all the road deaths in Oregon… they just make it easier and more likely.

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      • q`Tzal August 5, 2015 at 3:32 pm

        I like this #ODOTKnows slogan.
        Someone needs to make up a stencil.

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        • Anne August 5, 2015 at 7:33 pm

          Shortened to “O NO”. (See what I did there?)

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          • q`Tzal August 5, 2015 at 7:36 pm

            Something pointless that removes all contextual meaning?

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            • Chris Shaffer August 5, 2015 at 9:53 pm

              That wasn’t very nice.

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  • Patrick August 5, 2015 at 2:18 pm

    If ODOT wants to “remove” the paint, all it takes is some gray spray paint and 10 minutes of time. It shouldn’t be a big deal.

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    • Justin Carinci August 5, 2015 at 3:29 pm

      Maybe they’ll remove it by grinding it down.

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      • K'Tesh August 5, 2015 at 3:41 pm

        We can only hope.

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      • 9watts August 5, 2015 at 8:53 pm

        I find that highly unlikely. That would be too reasonable.
        When has ODOT done the sensible, logical, ethical thing?

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      • Spiffy August 6, 2015 at 4:21 pm

        you may have meant grinding down the hazard but when I read your comment I imagined them grinding away the paint and creating another sunken obstacle…

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        • K'Tesh August 7, 2015 at 6:29 am

          I meant that in the process of grinding away the paint, they end up accidentally fixing the dangerous areas on the northern grate.

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  • Bike Manufacturer August 5, 2015 at 2:20 pm

    We have been complaining about the grates, grooved gutter, and narrow lane since before 2000, with ZERO positive response. The street has been completely re-paved and stripped at least twice since we started complaining with no improvements to the road for cyclists. We now use the side street route pioneered by Portland skateboarders in the 60’s as an alternative. Taylor’s Ferry Rd./2nd/Ruby Tr. or 5th/5th/ Terwilliger. Ruby Terrace is very rough for bikes.

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    • rick August 5, 2015 at 3:34 pm

      What street has been repaved twice since 2000? Barbur?

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  • kittens August 5, 2015 at 2:28 pm

    ODOT’s pissy response is telling and transparent, going out of the way to say it will take money from the maintenance budget. Like this will cost a hundreds of thousands of dollars to paint over.

    They are just *so* annoyed at regular people taking initiative to increase safety but can’t be bothered to fix the underling problem lest we realize how easy and simple some of these fixes are and how bad ODOT is at responding to them.

    Someone in ODOT with half a brain should do a cost/benefit analysis and determine it is not in the agency’s interest to respond like this, if only for purely political reasons.

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    • 9watts August 5, 2015 at 8:55 pm

      “it is not in the agency’s interest to respond like this, if only for purely political reasons.”
      I heartily agree. The fact that ODOT doesn’t appear to know this adds insult to injury and gives me little hope.

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  • Pat Franz August 5, 2015 at 2:30 pm

    Well at least ODOT did experience shame, it caused them to lash out…
    Next step for them: growing up.

    I think this citizen action is a great idea. Nothing has been done for 7 years. Something had to be done, and it was. And it looks like it would be a great help to everyone that rides there.

    Next great idea: making a stencil, so the job can be done quicker and more safely. And more easily done in more places. And more easily redone when state resources are wasted massaging egos at ODOT.

    I realize everything can’t be fixed right away, and that ODOT has a lot of things to do, but there is a simple fix for something that SHOULD NEVER HAVE BEEN CREATED. Whoever did the paving should never have done that. Whoever inspected and approved the paving should never have allowed it. It should have been fixed by the contractor a long time ago.

    Instead of sending a crew to paint over the paint, send a crew to FIX THE PROBLEM.

    THEN the problem will be fixed. And the PR and liability problems too.

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    • 9watts August 5, 2015 at 8:57 pm

      Drop pre-cut rectangular 1-1/8″ plywood into that hole. You could even pre-drill a bunch of holes so the nasties from all the cars can wash down the grate with the rain – if it ever rains again.

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  • dan August 5, 2015 at 2:34 pm

    “It is dangerous, you are on the highway without proper traffic control to advise the public that someone is on the roadway. ”

    LOL, and yet it’s safe enough for cyclists to ride there? Don’t know whether to laugh or cry.

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  • Dan August 5, 2015 at 2:39 pm

    “You don’t get to make the road more dangerous for cyclists! Only we get to do that!”

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  • Fred August 5, 2015 at 3:07 pm

    This is why I ride a fat bike.

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  • Ed Birnbaum August 5, 2015 at 3:12 pm

    Jim, did you talk to or Email anyone at BTA about this? Has anyone? Response? I’d like to know if BTA (I’m a member) can be our voice for this sort of thing or would they say only for larger matters of policy. I don’t think this is trivial. And it does seem to crystallize the way ODOT has behaved in general. Makes me wonder whether anyone at ODOT has ever ridden a bike when they suggest that riding around the grate constitutes the real safety issue!!

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    • Tony T
      Tony T August 5, 2015 at 3:29 pm

      “Makes me wonder whether anyone at ODOT has ever ridden a bike when they suggest that riding around the grate constitutes the real safety issue!!”

      Ding, ding, ding! We have a winner!

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    • K'Tesh August 5, 2015 at 4:32 pm

      Sorry, can’t remember if I did or not. I mostly was calling ODOT, and then with follow up calls, getting the runaround. I’ve been kinda busy lately graduating from PSU (officially did), and now preparing to go to Asia to teach English.

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    • Spiffy August 6, 2015 at 11:22 am

      from the article…

      The whole RSA team rode over these grates on a bike ride from Naito to the “Crossroads” (Capitol Highway/99W/I-5 interchange) and back… and the consultant leading the RSA bike commutes on Barbur daily.

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  • Alan Love August 5, 2015 at 3:29 pm

    I’ve been riding that section of Barbur for years, and noticed the improved “signage” a few weeks ago. At no point did I feel compelled to take the lane (the bridges, however, are a different story) because of the warnings, but did appreciate the extra bit of warning time from seeing the bright paint sooner. Should ODOT decide legal action against Mr. Parsons is needed to deter such citizen improvements, I would gladly testify on his behalf regarding the actual vs. perceived implications of such marking.

    My only criticism of his signage is that I was uncertain if ODOT themselves painted the “ODOT KNOWS” markings, as in ODOT saying “Yes, yes, we know about the problem and we intend on fixing it. Stop calling to tell us about it.” Wishful thinking, I guess.

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    • K'Tesh August 5, 2015 at 3:44 pm


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      • K'Tesh August 7, 2015 at 12:12 pm


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  • Buzz August 5, 2015 at 3:30 pm

    Honestly, I’ve also been thinking of carrying a can of marking paint to mark all the hazards that exist along my normal bike routes. The alternative is just to ignore them until someone gets hurt.

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    • Dave August 6, 2015 at 8:22 am

      If you ride a bike with a rigid, steel fork, a bottle cage fastened to one fork leg would be handy–similar to how marathon gravel riders carry extra water only you’ll be carrying paint. Keeps a nice bike bag from having permanent paint in it.

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  • John Liu
    John Liu August 5, 2015 at 3:48 pm

    I applaud the painting.

    Sure, ODOT doesn’t want people to be painting whatever they want on the roadway. But that just means they should get out there and fix the hazard.

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  • B. Carfree August 5, 2015 at 3:50 pm

    Silly me. I thought Oregon adopted the (grossly inadequate) AASHTO standards decades ago. Those standards require that bike lanes have a minimum of three continuous feet of rideable surface. Unless someone at ODOT has redefined what is rideable or what distance a foot is, it looks like it is ODOT who is violating state law.

    Wouldn’t it be fun if someone found a way to hold the bureaucrat responsible accountable in some meaningful way.

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    • Eric Leifsdad August 5, 2015 at 5:24 pm

      Perhaps require someone who works at ODOT to ride it at least monthly?

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      • Spiffy August 6, 2015 at 11:25 am

        from the article…

        The whole RSA team rode over these grates on a bike ride from Naito to the “Crossroads” (Capitol Highway/99W/I-5 interchange) and back… and the consultant leading the RSA bike commutes on Barbur daily.

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    • Dead Salmon August 6, 2015 at 2:44 pm

      Goobermint bureaucRATS can get away with anything they want. YOU must follow the rules OR ELSE!

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  • ac August 5, 2015 at 3:54 pm

    There were crews there most of last winter dealing with the bridge guard rail extensions.

    They had traffic control there for MONTHS — the grates could have been simply dealt with then, no?

    i just rode this Sunday and I intentionally avoided each and every one by taking the lane
    (granted Sunday morning is easier for that)

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  • q`Tzal August 5, 2015 at 3:58 pm

    2. Could paint be added to the storm drains to make them stand out? No. The ODOT Maintenance Manager has looked at the drain and determined that paint lines are not in the best interest of anyone; cyclists may take that as a sign that they must avoid the drain and steer themselves into a lane of traffic.

    See the problem is this is EXACTLY backwards.

    If there is a hazard in the bike lane we are permitted, possibly requied, attempt to avoid it.

    ODOT has acknowledged that the hazard exists but does not think that bicycle riders are allowed in to their precious automotive space or that there is any reason to leave the bicycle lane.

    The Oregon Vehicular Code provides the legal right to ride a bicycle safely EVEN IF that means leaving the bicycle lane.

    ODOT just wants to bury their heads in the sand.

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  • Michael August 5, 2015 at 3:58 pm

    If ODOT removes the paint, there is no good reason not to paint it again, and to start painting warnings at other locations that present road hazards.

    Reminds me of the successful effort to get the Soviet Tank removed from the city of Prague: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monument_to_Soviet_Tank_Crews

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  • q`Tzal August 5, 2015 at 4:02 pm

    Do you have a written record backing up this statement:

    “Every time I call they’re like, ‘Oh, we’ll be paving that area next year,’” Parsons said in an interview last week. “They just don’t think it’s a problem.”

    It would be useful in building a case for targeting ODOT’s institutional inaction.

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    • K'Tesh August 5, 2015 at 4:34 pm

      Again, this was mostly done over the phone… Basil and Jessica should have records of what was said within ODOT.

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      • q`Tzal August 5, 2015 at 10:59 pm

        Oh bother.

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  • fourknees August 5, 2015 at 4:04 pm

    Barbur Blvd – The Deadliest Road in Portland…For all users.

    Really ODOT, the cost is too much? I’m sure the cost will be less than the $100,000+ settlement that is reached when a cyclist is severely injured here. I just hope they don’t fall into the first lane where traffic drives below the “45” mph speed limit.

    Another ODOT road, same issue and it was fixed?

    City of Tigard at least tries to warn people before a permanent fix:

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  • encephalopath August 5, 2015 at 4:05 pm

    “‘Cyclists may take that as a sign that they must avoid the drain and steer themselves into a lane of traffic,’ wrote the staffer, Monica Bustos.”

    I’m starting to think some of the people at ODOT don’t really have even half a functioning brain.

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  • Curtis Roth August 5, 2015 at 4:09 pm

    I ride that on my commute to work. It wouldn’t be acceptable for cars. Add to that the area where Barbur connects with Front – rough paving that jolts the rider.

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  • J_R August 5, 2015 at 4:12 pm

    Matt Garrett (ODOT Director), Rian Windsheimer (Region 1 Manager) and Monica Bustos should all be REQUIRED to ride bicycles over that grate next to an ODOT dump truck driving 45 mph and straddling the bike lane stripe.

    THEN they can each certify that it is SAFE in it’s present condition. If they do that, I’ll pay to have the “vandalism” removed.

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    • K'Tesh August 5, 2015 at 4:36 pm

      Here’s what I sent to ODOT (and the recipients)

      From: K’ Tesh
      Sent: Saturday, August 01, 2015 11:07 PM
      To: CHRISTOPHER Basil R; HORNING Jessica; Jonathan Maus BikePortland; Ray Thomas; Charley Gee; Michael Anderson; Rob Sadowsky
      Subject: Let’s get this fixed… Once and for all… (99W by the Rapid Flash crossing)

      I’d really like to find the supervisor who has been ignoring this for so long, weigh him down until he matches me with a full book bag (that would be over 400lbs), and send him over this grate at top speed (about 40mph)… at rush hour…

      It’s a little photo intensive, so please follow the link to check out these hazardous drains on 99W.


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    • nuovorecord August 5, 2015 at 11:29 pm

      You know, Gov. Brown is Garrett’s boss. And, after he had to tell the Legislature that ODOT had botched the modeling #s that were being used to get a transportation funding bill passed, he may not be the most popular person in Mahonia Hall these days. Maybe she ought to be aware of how the state’s transportation agency is treating cyclists?

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  • peejay August 5, 2015 at 4:35 pm

    Nothing more to be added, other than we should do a class action suit against ODOT for gross negligence.

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    • Buzz August 5, 2015 at 5:40 pm

      PBOT as well, there are sunken double-wide grates like this all over the city, including all along the substandard narrow bike lanes on Interstate Ave. This often reduces the effective width of usable bike lane to 12″ to 18″ and sometimes even less.

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      • KristenT August 6, 2015 at 10:08 am

        Forgot to add: ODOT has installed these grates all up and down Hall Blvd in Tigard, so we can add that to their “gross negligence”. They show a pattern of routinely placing hazards within the bike lane as a matter of course and then get mad when someone points out that they’ve put a hazard in the bike lane.

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      • MaxD August 6, 2015 at 1:18 pm

        SB Interstate Ave under the Tillamook Viaduct has this EXACT situation: sunken grate, reduced bike lane+ effective bike lane of less than 1 foot! PBOT has been asked numerous times over the years and they do nothing (or worse- they add sign no one can see and call it a day). PBOT is just as lame as ODOT

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        • K'Tesh August 14, 2015 at 5:23 am

          Sorry, this one got by me (buried by all the other posts).

          ODOT’s Ask ODOT email is: AskODOT@odot.state.or.us

          Sending email with photographs makes it a lot harder for them to ignore (It’s a better record that they were informed).

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    • KristenT August 6, 2015 at 9:50 am

      It would be easy to show a pattern of gross negligence– besides Barbur, there’s Hall blvd with it’s orphan sidewalks and horrible maintenance as far as street sweeping goes; Upper Boones Ferry with it’s here and then gone sidewalks and bike lanes (either side of Durham Rd); and Scholls Ferry aka Hwy 210 with it’s missing bike lane and sidewalk connections.

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  • Brian August 5, 2015 at 5:10 pm

    I love it. There are many great ways to have a positive impact on the safety of our streets. http://www.mlive.com/news/detroit/index.ssf/2015/05/potholes_not_pots_for_hamtramc.html

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  • Todd Boulanger August 5, 2015 at 5:15 pm

    Hey…don’t push ODoT so hard they detour maintenance funds away from “my” safety deficiency locations north of Kenton. ‘-)

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  • Todd Boulanger August 5, 2015 at 5:15 pm

    ODoT – the critical thing to remember is that many of your facilities are key regional bike commuter routes that have may be the only bike route or have very poor second options without travelling miles out of direction.

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  • Ed Birnbaum August 5, 2015 at 6:05 pm

    Congratulations, K’Tesh, on your graduation! And thanks for what you did for us.

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  • q`Tzal August 5, 2015 at 6:16 pm

    The following will be generically applicable but targeted ato this specific situation:

    Jim Parsons:
    “Every time I call they’re like, ‘Oh, we’ll be paving that area next year,’” Parsons said in an interview last week. “They just don’t think it’s a problem.”

    This situation has been acknowledged by ODOT as a genuine safety concern and they are on record as saying it is on the work list for construction projects.
    Problem is that “next year” keeps getting pushed back.

    The fact is that this and other bicycle infrastructure safety issues have been placed in a perpetual construction limbo.

    SO…. Lets use this unintentional construction status to force something slightly safer to occur.

    Let’s pretend that this actually IS a construction zone hazard. This is not much of a stretch; ODOT keeps saying it will be part of a construction fix but this is simply left as an open pit hazard.


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    • q`Tzal August 5, 2015 at 6:36 pm

      In the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) Section 9 (http://mutcd.fhwa.dot.gov/htm/2009r1r2/part9/part9c.htm) deals with bicycle signage. In Section 9C.06 Pavement Markings for Obstructions it states:
      01 In roadway situations where it is not practical to eliminate a drain grate or other roadway obstruction that is inappropriate for bicycle travel, white markings applied as shown in Figure 9C-8 should be used to guide bicyclists around the condition.

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      • Spiffy August 6, 2015 at 2:19 pm

        this is great to know…

        ODOT is removing a marking that is code compliant so that more people are likely to hit an obstacle that’s not code compliant…

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        • Spiffy August 6, 2015 at 2:20 pm

          no wait, your white line should have been 30 feet long…

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    • q`Tzal August 5, 2015 at 6:36 pm

      Figure 9C-8 (http://mutcd.fhwa.dot.gov/htm/2009r1r2/part9/fig9c_08_longdesc.htm) “Examples of Obstruction Pavement Marking” shows markings almost exactly like what Mr. Parsons applied.
      This is meant to be a more permanent marking when the hazard will not be removed. ODOT keeps saying it will be removed as part of construction.
      Let’s see how that is handled.

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    • q`Tzal August 5, 2015 at 6:38 pm

      A blockage in the bicycle lane (which may be considered a shoulder) is also simultaneously a blockage within the traveled way of a highway.
      What makes this distinctly different is the duration with which this will remain; it could be only a year but history does not support this conclusion.

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    • q`Tzal August 6, 2015 at 11:41 am

      There are large chunks of this missing and all the links.
      I tried posting all of it but the comment server or moderator locked me out.
      I gave this article a “+” on G+ and left the entire thing as a comment tied to my G+ profile on this main blog post.
      Link below.

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  • Aaron August 5, 2015 at 6:18 pm

    Kafka would be proud, ODOT.

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  • q`Tzal August 5, 2015 at 6:41 pm

    I’d post my MUTCD suggestion dump in the forums if they existed anymore.
    At least there I could include images.

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  • ethan August 5, 2015 at 7:13 pm

    If that’s vandalism, I wonder what they would call it if someone dug holes into the middle of the travel lanes?

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    • Psyfalcon August 5, 2015 at 10:28 pm


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    • lyle w. August 6, 2015 at 8:35 am

      They’d figure that out while they were shutting the road down, putting up barriers, and immediately fixing the hazard.

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  • Kevin Wagoner August 5, 2015 at 7:14 pm

    Going downhill at roughly 30mph I absolutely avoid that drain. I’m not sure what would happen if I hit it at that speed, but it could certain cause me to lose control, wreck, pinch flat my tire and/or break my wheel. I guess none of those things could happen as well. As a rule I don’t just ride into a hole like that by choice and I’ve had everything above happen by riding into holes except for a broken wheel. As an experienced cyclist I actually appreciate warnings on hazards like that so I appreciate the paint. I’ve been wondering if that paint was an ODOT message or a concerned citizen…thanks for finding out for me! If paint is not the right answer it would be great to see it fixed.

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  • Chris I August 5, 2015 at 7:27 pm

    The aggravating factor is that Barbur does not need the additional northbound lane here. So frustrating.

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  • mran1984 August 5, 2015 at 7:47 pm

    I will happily repaint the grate every time ODOT spends 3k to remove it. At least the idiotic response is public record now. Oregon Department of Short Sightedness. They must really like that drain. Free wheel replacement program should be automatic too.

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  • Matti August 5, 2015 at 8:09 pm

    When ODOT removes the paint, they will set up traffic cones to merge the outer traffic lane and allow bikes to safely pass the work zone… and let’s see, that will remove a lane of traffic! A reduced capacity demonstration project!

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    • Scott H August 5, 2015 at 9:39 pm

      So if we paint it ourselves every night and force ODOT to remove the paint every day, we’ll get the road diet we’ve been pushing for!

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      • q`Tzal August 5, 2015 at 11:01 pm

        If you apply paint in the correct way each successive removal grinds the edge down smoother.

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        • Dead Salmon August 6, 2015 at 2:47 pm

          They will probably just paint over your paint with asphalt colored paint, making the hole a little deeper each day.

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          • q`Tzal August 6, 2015 at 3:39 pm


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  • Jim Otterson August 5, 2015 at 9:47 pm

    ODOT: Put some hot melt loop sealant in the longitudinal crack – takes 10 minutes, MAX, problem solved. Raise the drain inlet grate on the other location, and add a grate with transverse bars, then add asphalt to raise the surrounding grade: Time to complete – one evening shift. Dollars spent, not much. Dollars saved from lawsuit by injured cyclist/dead cyclist: Incalculable, but definitely NOT cheap. I’m a civil engineer with 34 years experience in the highway and traffic industry, this is easy guys. Get with the program.

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    • Scott H August 6, 2015 at 10:41 am

      That’s all well and good, but the only problem is that ODOT doesn’t care.

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  • Jim Otterson August 5, 2015 at 9:50 pm

    Portland cyclists: If you want these problems solved QUICKLY, find the Risk Management section/divion in ODOT and start HAMMERING on the Chief Risk Management officer. That will SOLVE the problem quickly.

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  • Scott Kocher August 5, 2015 at 9:53 pm

    I’m with Nathan: an app that routes reports and a web site where everyone can see them.

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  • Joe Adamski August 5, 2015 at 10:15 pm

    a third world solution to a third world problem. Hey, it works.
    Hey, we don’t have the budget for bikes,eh?

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  • Psyfalcon August 5, 2015 at 10:35 pm

    Didn’t ODOT themselves add paint like this to that dumb street lamp in the HWY26 bike path? That one was also diagrammed on the forums. (big hint for BP)

    Someone needs to show ODOT how many ways grates can maim you. Most of us do exactly what the marking suggests already. Avoid the grate. The grate is the hazard, the sunken part just makes it worse. That seam is the worst of them, turning the safe route around the grate into a trap. Now we can see the grate.

    ODOT should put fresh paint around every grate they have.

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  • Mike August 5, 2015 at 10:39 pm

    Haven’t I written here enough times that ODOT does not car about you unless you are driving a car or you are a politician with clout? They (all DOTs really) are a brainless organization that gives government employees a bad name.

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  • K'Tesh August 5, 2015 at 10:46 pm

    Biking home from the BTA Birthday Party tonight, I spotted another grate (N. Wheeler, behind the Moda Center) in the bike lane that has the exact same problem… I called it into the 24hour hotline (again) 503 823 1700.

    I was told that someone will go out and look in the morning. If nothing is done about it, someone please keep on PBOT about it (It’d be kinda hard for me to check on it if I get the job in China).

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    • K'Tesh August 6, 2015 at 4:58 pm

      Spoke to the Sewer’s Supervisor for this part of PDX. He went out there, found the grate in question. I got a call this afternoon, and a work order has been placed to get the drain elevated to the same height as the rest of the bike lane…

      Thanks PBOT!!!

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      • Scott H August 6, 2015 at 10:16 pm

        Sounds like it’s time to dissolve ODOT region 1 and give the roads to PBOT.

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  • K'Tesh August 5, 2015 at 11:04 pm

    Oh… I should have mentioned this:

    Oregon Revised Statutes (ORS) 810.150 requires that storm drains be designed so that bicycles may pass safely:

    “810.150. Drain construction; compliance with bicycle safety
    requirements; guidelines.

    (1) Street drains, sewer drains, storm drains and other similar
    openings in a roadbed over which traffic must pass that are in
    any portion of a public way, highway, road, street, footpath or
    bicycle trail that is available for use by bicycle traffic shall
    be designed and installed, including any modification of existing
    drains, with grates or covers so that bicycle traffic may pass
    over the drains safely and without obstruction or interference.

    (2) The Department of Transportation shall adopt construction
    guidelines for the design of public ways in accordance with this
    section. Limitations on the applicability of the guidelines are
    established under ORS 801.030.”

    Read more about it here:

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    • Spiffy August 6, 2015 at 4:53 pm

      not sure if that applies since the grate cover itself is compliant… nothing over the drain hole is a hazard, it’s the drop down to the grate that’s a hazard…

      but it’d be nice to have a lawyer’s opinion…

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  • HJ August 5, 2015 at 11:14 pm

    So, ODOT’s trying to get people killed wasting resources removing the paint this guy was kind enough to put out to mark some serious hazards they didn’t have the resources to mark. Right. >.<

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  • K'Tesh August 5, 2015 at 11:48 pm

    Good NEWS EVERONE!!! According to KGW, ODOT’s not going to prosecute me. Bad news is, again according to KGW, ODOT is going to return the grates to their original state. >.<

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    • rick August 6, 2015 at 6:48 am

      When were they last at their original slate?

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    • John Hart August 6, 2015 at 8:34 am

      Not going to prosecute you… yet. There is often a difference between what *should* happen and what actually *does* happen. It appears that ODOT is intent on refusing to fix the problem (which they themselves have created), and what will probably happen next is an “enforcement action” with police actively seeking out anyone marking hazards in the road, then issuing citations and making arrests.

      Don’t be surprised if ODOT puts up a surveillance camera to catch you or anyone else using spray paint to try to save lives, so that they will have video footage to use against you in court. It won’t surprise me if the amount spent on setting up a “sting” operation and prosecuting well-meaning “violators” exceeds the cost of fixing the actual problem.

      Meanwhile, the “prolific bike thief” mentioned in another article on this site continues his REAL criminal activity unimpeded. Very sad.

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      • K'Tesh August 6, 2015 at 9:02 am

        In the video, Don Hamilton talks about how dangerous it would be if a cyclist were to swerve in to traffic to avoid paint. I painted it to warn people of the hazard posed by the grates (which are there all the time).

        Don, perhaps we should start removing other warnings… (Curves Ahead, Slippery When Wet, Lane Narrows, Bridge Out, Falling Rock, etc.) because they may cause people to swerve out of their lane? I think warnings are a good thing, and you can’t convince me otherwise. Fixes for what hazards that exist are even better.

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        • Carl August 6, 2015 at 11:58 am

          Did Don just call you a gorilla?!

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          • q`Tzal August 6, 2015 at 1:33 pm

            I’m sorry, where the F did you get that?!?

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            • K'Tesh August 6, 2015 at 1:59 pm

              Guerrilla… as in warfare.

              However I am a great ape.

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              • q`Tzal August 6, 2015 at 3:38 pm

                Dats nuff outta you Ceasar ;P

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              • K'Tesh August 7, 2015 at 7:28 am

                Ok… So, I’m an Awesome Ape. 😉

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  • Jeff M August 6, 2015 at 2:58 am

    “determined that paint lines are not in the best interest of anyone”

    WTF is ODOT’s problem? They seem to actually hate anyone that isn’t in a car.

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    • Dave August 6, 2015 at 8:23 am

      I would say that ODOT’s approach to cyclists sounds like Florida Congressman Alan Greyson’s description of a Republican health care policy. Look it up.

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  • Lester Burnham August 6, 2015 at 7:48 am

    Platinum! Keep saying it and maybe it will be true!

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  • Leslie August 6, 2015 at 8:43 am

    Odot needs to treat this issue just like pot holes on the roads for cars. People need to be safe!!

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  • David Peacock
    David Peacock August 6, 2015 at 8:44 am

    Good job Jim. I have thought about painting hazards in bike lanes to assist the next rider avoid a pothole or whatever. ODOT can’t do it all, maybe we should all take a little responsibility for keeping our lanes clear of debris etc. Having broken a collar bone on a similar grate that did not have warning paint, I would like to say thanks to Jim.

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  • SW August 6, 2015 at 8:55 am

    I emailed ODOT about a problem in 2007

    no answer ..ever

    In 2014 ODOT sent a reply …”Please rate our answer to your question” 🙁

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    • Alan Love August 6, 2015 at 12:58 pm

      Ha! Your satisfaction score should be prorated based on inflation.

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  • Noel T August 6, 2015 at 9:25 am

    Shouldn’t ODOT give him money for doing their job as to warm cyclist of potential dangers? WOW just WOW, ODOT man up to it.

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  • cariel August 6, 2015 at 9:39 am

    Lodge this one under the file of “Help! Help! Your bicycle infrastructure is trying to kill me!!”

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    • Tyler August 6, 2015 at 10:54 am

      Did you ever hit this when you rode down Barbur?

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  • Bald One August 6, 2015 at 10:07 am

    How come the design standard for roads isn’t a “reverse crown” to the lateral road grade so that all roads could drain to the center line of the road where the storm drains should all be located instead of draining to each side of the road from the center high point, or crown? Seems like the road construction budget would get twice the bang for the buck if they didn’t have to put a storm drain on each side of the road and instead could put them all down the center of the road. Not to mention the obvious benefit to all of us gutterbunny cyclists.

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    • John Lascurettes August 6, 2015 at 1:23 pm

      Interesting. Never thought of it that way. That would certainly change things. Good points! I’m going to venture this guess as to why not:

      Detritus would end up in the center of the road and more windshields would break. Automobiles are sacrosanct, so we can’t have that.

      Automobiles would have to drive over the grates and that would make for big bumps. Automobiles are sacrosanct, so we can’t have that.

      People who fall asleep at the wheel would automatically be brought into the center of the lane, potentially causing a head on collision instead of banging into a parked car or curb (or a cyclist or a pedestrian). This one is probably a real reason.

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    • ac August 6, 2015 at 1:43 pm

      have you ever driven back from hood river in the left lane on 84 where the road banks to the left and hit some of the standing puddles at highway speed?

      you don’t want the possibility of clogged drains in the middle of the road, even tho it seems like a good thought at first

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    • q`Tzal August 6, 2015 at 1:48 pm

      Historically all roads have been a single surface built ans expanded from the center out to meet growing demands.
      Median strips where road supporting infrastructure can hide but vehicles can NOT drive is a relatively new invention.

      Since most roads start their growth cycle as a single unbroken width of pavement any additions of storm drain systems are usually added to only one side, installed while keeping the road open (thus done as a cut-and-cover job) so it can’t be in the center or a combination of both.

      The highway engineering gospel that “a crowned road is self cleaning” speaks to the opposite you propose: a “reverse crowned” road “must” be an expensive abomination and a crime against their sensibilities.

      Perhaps when we have affordable 4′-8′ tunnel boring machines we will find that this work can be done remotely from a nearby portable building with sonar and radar helping the operator guide a tunneling rig under a road that doesn’t need to be dug up or blocked.

      Until then we’re stuck with Roman era road engineering principles guiding 21st century roads.

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    • Spiffy August 6, 2015 at 2:53 pm

      it’s not just for drainage, it also steers your car away form oncoming vehicles is you aren’t paying attention or fall asleep…

      it also steers those drivers into pedestrians and cyclists who are more vulnerable…

      much like designing auto exhaust to point at the pedestrians/cyclists the people that design streets and cars don’t care about others…

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  • spencer August 6, 2015 at 10:20 am

    well done K tesh! keep it up. we need to end this paralysis by analysis paradigm in portland

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  • Tony T
    Tony T August 6, 2015 at 10:24 am

    My email to ODOT Risk Manager Penny Evans. Available at 503-373-1585 and penny.evans@oregon.gov

    Hi Penny,

    Regarding this story: http://bikeportland.org/2015/08/05/man-adds-warning-paint-sunken-grate-state-roads-agency-calls-vandalism-154842

    As a 47-year-old who has been commuting by bike for 27 years, I just wanted to emphasize that the grate featured in the story is THE problem, not the paint. In fact, the paint could save a life.

    This quote, “Cyclists may take that as a sign that they must avoid the drain and steer themselves into a lane of traffic.” demonstrates that ODOT staffer Monica Bustos, and by extension ODOT, does not understand that the drain/grate absolutely MUST be avoided.

    The idea that going around the grate constitutes the risk here is a mind-boggling disconnect from the reality of riding a bike.

    Understand that the Portland cycling community now knows about this risk and that you have known about this since at least 2008. Whether it is your job to manage risks to road users, or liability risks to ODOT, you now know that this grate represents a risk on both fronts.

    At the very least, this grate should be painted much as Mr. Parsons already did, and as recommended here http://mutcd.fhwa.dot.gov/htm/2009r1r2/part9/fig9c_08_longdesc.htm

    Ideally the drain should be raised and the current grate replaced by a grate with a pattern more friendly to bike tires.

    You and everyone else now know the risks to riders and to ODOT. Your response to this situation is being watched.

    Thank you,

    Tony T

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    • ethan August 6, 2015 at 11:27 am

      Have you gotten any response yet?

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      • Tony T
        Tony T August 6, 2015 at 12:29 pm

        Not yet. It just went out this morning.

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    • Psyfalcon August 6, 2015 at 5:48 pm

      From the design manual.


      Once they grind it out, whoever re-draws it, make sure its long enough. At least 60 feet down the road assuming a 30mph rider and a 2 ft obstruction.

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  • pdx2wheeler August 6, 2015 at 10:52 am

    Once you start looking for them you realize these are everywhere… Here’s an identical clone on the downhill section of Greeley Ave Southbound. This grate presents itself just as people on bikes really start to pick up speed on the downhill and are getting pinched between the Jersey Barriers and people in vehicles going 45+ mph. Not sure if this would be ODOT or PBOT jurisdiction…


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    • K'Tesh August 14, 2015 at 5:28 am

      Start calling and emailing these in. Photos are really helpful. Better if you can show what kind of height differences there are (It was hard to tell in the photo you linked). That’s why I included the photo with my foot taken at grate level.

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  • Dave Cary August 6, 2015 at 11:07 am

    Let’s accept one fact: ODOT DOESN’T CARE!

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  • Jonathan Radmacher August 6, 2015 at 12:09 pm

    Not that ODOT should do anything about the paint, but a brush and a few swaths of black paint would eliminate it without any kind of budgetary strain on ODOT.

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  • Adam August 6, 2015 at 12:21 pm

    I’ve often fantasized about the BikePortland community coming together and purchasing a mini street sweeper to sweep the bike lanes on ODOT roads. You know, the ones with gravel, three-foot long tree branches, pieces of exploded tire etc every 50 feet.

    It would have “**** ODOT” in huge graphics on the back as it made its way slowly up Highway 30, down Barbur Boulevard, etc etc.

    Who’s in??!!

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    • rick August 6, 2015 at 12:53 pm

      There are still big logs and big tree branches on the bike lanes of Barbur, per last night.

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      • Spiffy August 6, 2015 at 4:09 pm

        don’t cut them down or ODOT will get angry and go plant some fresh obstacles…

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  • Justin Gast August 6, 2015 at 12:26 pm

    We should create a pool as to when we believe ODOT will actually give a rat’s ass about someone not traversing our area in a four-wheel metal cage.

    Look what it took to get them to address the issues at SE 26th and SE Powell. Who knows how many ODOT-responsible roads I’ve been on where they pave the vehicle lane, but willingly leave the bike lane undone. Or, when paving rural roads,they actually create a wide enough shoulder where a cyclist could ride without fear of cars passing them closely at highway speeds.

    By doing what Jim did, he proved he takes the safety of others on Barbur more seriously than ODOT does. Well done Jim.


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    • rick August 6, 2015 at 4:10 pm

      One of the worst storm grates, imo, is the old one by the brand-new Oak & Olive restaurant on SW Captiol Highway traveling west. The grate goes out to within less than 8 inches of the painted bike lane.

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  • wkw August 6, 2015 at 12:52 pm

    This guy is my hero.
    ODOT, the worst DOT in the nation, imo.

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    • Psyfalcon August 6, 2015 at 2:30 pm

      I don’t know. Maybe worst compared to its giant metro area.

      Is it really worse than Florida with its terrible death rate?

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  • Lizzy August 6, 2015 at 1:43 pm

    Thats a very dangerous drop onto a slippery surface and you’d have to pump to get back up the other side – if you saw it in time. You could just as easily crash into traffic if it surprised you. I think he did a good paint job and I’d appreciate that kind of warning when approaching such a grate.

    A few years back I was cycling in an unknown neighborhood. I turned right at the intersection, going downhill and was suddenly surprised to see an unmarked slanted hole grate, which stretched across the width of the entire road with the size of holes that could easily catch a bike tire. The drop was 3-4 inches. At the same time I was at the grate a car passed slowly on the left, right next to me. To the right I had nowhere to go and I couldn’t stop. I held on tight, dropped my front bike wheel diagonally to the left, then twisted the wheel quickly to the right diagonal as I pumped the bike up over the other side. I did the best I could and survived it but it could have cost me my life.

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  • q`Tzal August 6, 2015 at 2:00 pm

    Google Street view of the drain grate in question: http://goo.gl/maps/CQ8P2 (it seems to have a previous iteration of the Figure 9C-8 hazard avoidance stripe)
    At location 45.48553,-122.68194: http://goo.gl/maps/ritWg

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    • Tom Hardy August 6, 2015 at 2:42 pm

      q’Tzal, that was before ODOT decided that the clearance of obsticles of more than 3 foot in bike lanes was too dangerous. Note that the Google pix gave adiquate clearance. The new lines disregard the pothole grates as a hazard. Yes the iteration was there as a marker by ODOT. Now according to ODOT it cannot have the marker because there is an insufficient distance between the grate and the fog line. Our tax dollars at work. This is what was determined by the Maintenance supervisor and the inspector, both truck drivers.

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      • q`Tzal August 6, 2015 at 3:37 pm

        Yeah, I was mainly just giving everyone a precise reference of where exactly this story refers to.

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      • K'Tesh August 7, 2015 at 12:15 am

        Not quite… That was the first iteration by me… which I did in 2012. It wore off, and whenever I’d think about it (usually riding by it and seeing nothing done), I’d call it in again.

        Round 2 is the one that’s getting all the news.

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  • Dead Salmon August 6, 2015 at 2:30 pm

    ODOT Government maggots at work wasting our taxpayer dollars. That individual needs some serious education on why they are wrong. If they fail to understand the lessons, they should be fired.

    Double dirty dog dare you to go out and paint some curly black hair on that yellow patch.


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  • oregon111 August 6, 2015 at 4:48 pm

    cyclists are terrorists who litter, vandalize and hate america

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    • Psyfalcon August 6, 2015 at 5:51 pm

      You read the KGW facebook comments? (or wrote them!)

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    • Rob Chapman August 6, 2015 at 11:21 pm

      You again?

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    • Pete August 11, 2015 at 1:43 pm

      …but at least are willing to capitalize it.

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  • Mick O August 6, 2015 at 5:18 pm

    People could start using the #ODOTKnows hashtag on Twitter and Instagram when posting about things they’ve alerted the organization to. It’s catchy. When we get a few dozen on there, we can start circulating the list to interested parties… I don’t know

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    • longgone August 6, 2015 at 11:27 pm

      Do it!

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  • Mick O August 6, 2015 at 5:38 pm

    This was my email to ODOT while CCing KGW.


    I am requesting a report on all reports of “crashes or near-crashes” involving bicycles swerving into adjacent lanes due to spraypaint on road surfaces. I noticed that Don Hamilton has now gone on record that spraypainted lines on roads are a safety hazard.

    I presume that ODOT will be momitoring all road and public works construction sites for spraypainted lines on road surfaces that could confuse cyclists.

    Mr Hamilton has stated the spraypaint is a safety issue, while mainaining that sunken grates are not a safety issue. As proof of this he has said the agency has received “zero reports of crashes, or near-crashes, caused by” the sunken grates. Mr Hamilton must surely then have reports of “crashes or near-crashes” due to spraypainted lines on road surfaces in order to determine that the paint on Barbur Blvd is dangerous enough to spend agency funds to remove.

    I will also request that the lines be left there until ODOT is able to “adjust these grates next time we have work scheduled in the area.” Surely that would be the most responsible use of ODOT budget. I would hope that Mr Hamilton and ODOT not prioritize covering up personal embarrassment over the safety needs of the public.

    Thank you for your attention to the public good,

    Michael Orlosky
    Portland, OR

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  • Andy K August 6, 2015 at 10:17 pm

    This grate is a potential fatality for every cyclist that rides past it or over it. I hope resources can be redirected to fix this as soon as possible.

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  • K'Tesh August 6, 2015 at 11:45 pm

    To all the people who say bikes don’t pay any taxes, I want to know where my refund check is.

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  • Dennis Reed August 7, 2015 at 8:27 am

    Way to go Jim. To say they will use budget money to remove the paint is not smart. Leave the warning paint until the problem is fixed.

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  • David Lewis August 8, 2015 at 1:54 am

    I keep reading about Oregon as a cycling paradise, and then I keep hearing from PDX bros who haul their giant SUVs to far-off trailheads to experience Oregon’s natural beauty. Then I hear about fixie riders commuting from SE Portland to somewhere else in SE Portland, and I start to think.

    Oregon is run by people who are – whole hog – addicted to and stimulated by the automobile, and nothing else. If you ride a bike, then they’ll throw you a bone (likely your own); if you run freight they’ll let you block the entire CEID (or NWI just for fun!) during rush hour, but if you drive a car they will give you five lanes of cruisin’ through the city just about anywhere! With free parking to sweeten the deal!!!

    I recommend that bicycling activists stop fighting over bones and gristle (like Clinton St) and start demanding equal access under the law. Folks are moving to Portland in unprecedented numbers, and now is the time to change our city from petroleum-sucking to petro-irrelevant. We do that by enabling bicycling as a viable alternative to nontraditional bicyclists, not by shaming automobile operators. I think that transition is long overdue.

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    • Dead Salmon August 9, 2015 at 1:51 am

      “Equal access” for the 5% who bike regularly would be a couple of streets. I don’t begrudge access for cars – most people use them as do most cyclists. If cyclists adopt an “us versus them” attitude they will lose big-time because cyclists are a very small minority. Cyclists can make small gains now because liberals are in power, but if those liberals irritate car users enough the people will get rid of the liberals and your small gains will get smaller or stop.

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      • Pete August 11, 2015 at 1:40 pm

        You miss the point. Bicyclists already have “equal access” to more than just “a couple of streets”… pretty much all of them, in fact. The bike lanes aren’t for bicyclists, they’re for the drivers who don’t like following them while they’re legally taking the lane.

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  • Dead Salmon August 9, 2015 at 1:40 am

    Each ODOT employee who at one point or another said the paint was the problem and not the hole in the bike lane should be forced to ride a skinny tire bike at high speed over that hole. They would change their tune real quick.

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    • Paul Johnson August 11, 2015 at 11:21 am

      Not that ODOT’s right, but skinny tires ought to stay on the Alpenrose Velodrome…there’s a time and a place for racing gear and skinny tires make about as much sense on your average reasonably maintained street as an indy car.

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  • Paul Johnson August 11, 2015 at 11:20 am

    If Portland were Tulsa, people would just spraypaint a dick around it. For some reason, putting a dick on it gets shit done almost as fast as money.

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