Advertise on BikePortland

There’s still a layer of gravel on the St. Johns Bridge sidewalk – UPDATED

Posted by on February 14th, 2017 at 1:32 pm

It’s unacceptable to force road users to make a dangerous choice between being run down by fast-moving drivers or riding over small slippery rocks on a narrow sidewalk.
(Photos: J. Maus/BikePortland)

The only refuge from fast-moving (and often irate) people driving cars across the St. Johns Bridge is still covered in a layer of gravel a month after the last snow storm.

As we first reported nearly three weeks ago, while driving is pretty much back to normal following major snow storms, biking is still hazardous. Massive potholes plague streets and many bike lane markings have all but vanished due to the constant scraping from tire chains, plows, studded tires, and gravel. And there are still many trees and limbs that block bicycle-only lanes — forcing people into adjacent lanes which increases the risk of collisions.

All our various road agencies need to place a much higher priority on the safety of all road users when it comes to their storm clean-up plans.

One of the most egregrious spots is on the sidewalk of the St. Johns Bridge. There’s so much gravel that in some parts you can’t see the surface of the sidewalk. This is a big deal because the St. Johns Bridge is a vital bicycling connection and the roadway lacks bike lanes. With large diesel trucks rumbling inches away, the narow St. Johns Bridge sidewalks are already sketchy enough. Add slippery gravel and you’ve got even more stressful situation.

When I first saw the gravel on February 4th I tweeted the Oregon Department of Transportation to put the issue on their radar…

To my surprise an ODOT rep has confirmed with me that they are not responsible for sweeping the sidewalks. Even though ODOT owns and maintains the bridge and roadway, they have a special maintenance agreement with City of Portland Bureau of Transportation. Turns out it’s PBOT’s responsibility to keep the sidewalk clean.

A huge tree is completely blocking the bike lane on Highway 30, just one example of storm damage that remains a big threat to bicycle users.

On February 6th I got an email from PBOT about the gravel. They’d seen my tweet to ODOT and were curious if I was writing a story about it. Yes I was, I replied. “We’re almost a full month since the last snow fell on the ground and I was pretty surprised that such key arteries of our active transportation system were in such terrible shape,” I said. And then I asked, “Can you help me understand why we have the situation we do on the St. Johns Bridge and Hwy 30? How can it take a month (and counting) to address key traffic lanes and routes in places where there is no alternate route for bicycle users?”

I didn’t hear anything back. I followed up three days later and still haven’t gotten a reply. (See below for update.)

As of last night (February 13th) the gravel remains on the St. Johns Bridge sidewalk.

In related news, Highway between downtown and the St. Johns Bridge was in terrible shape as of last week.

Thankfully much of the gravel has been swept in the past few days, but a large tree still completely blocks the bike lane north of Saltzman Road.

Back in January, PBOT said they hoped to have the gravel picked up by mid-February. We appreciate all the work they have done — and continue to do — to clear the shoulders and bike lanes. Perhaps in the future we can do a better job to make sure that key routes like the St. Johns Bridge, Willamette Blvd (which I hear just got swept today), and Highway 30, can be prioritized and cleaned up much more quickly.

We are also concerned about the response times of ODOT and Washington County in addressing this issue. We’ve heard from readers that major streets like Barbur and key bike routes on the West Side remain full of debris. Please continue to share your reports with us (directly and in the comments) so we can keep track of the problem and hopefully get it resolved soon.

UPDATE, 2:57 pm: I have heard back from PBOT about the St. Johns Bridge. Here’s the latest from Communications Director John Brady:

“I can confirm that we have an agreement to sweep the St. John’s Bridge sidewalks. We are aware of the issues that folks have with the gravel. Removing the gravel is a bit more complex than simply running a sweeper because we first have to get it off the sidewalk and into the street. Then we can sweep it up. In order to do this safely, we have to temporarily limit access to the lane. So there is a bit more traffic control involved than just a normal sweeping run. We’ve prioritized and hope to have it done next week. If this schedule changes, we will let you and your readers know.

In terms of the tree down, the best thing to do is to call 503-823-1700. This is also the best line for gravel and other urgent road hazards. Folks can also use the PDXreporter app or email PDXroads@portlandoregon.gov.”

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org

BikePortland is supported by the community (that means you!). Please become a subscriber or make a donation today.


NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Thank you — Jonathan

104 Comments
  • Adam February 14, 2017 at 1:41 pm

    Did ODOT sweep the bikelanes on Highway 30 yet? They were so full of gravel a week ago, all of the cyclists had to ride IN THE TRAVEL LANE. It was terrifying, and completely unacceptable.

    Recommended Thumb up 7

    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) February 14, 2017 at 1:48 pm

      The bike lanes between I-405 and Linnton are PBOT’s responsibility… And yes, after I posted something about it last week I did notice last night that Hwy 30 has been swept up quite a bit. I agree it was completely dangerous and unacceptable!

      Recommended Thumb up 9

      • Adam February 14, 2017 at 1:55 pm

        Interesting! Does PBOT own that section, or just manage it?

        The section I noticed the most was between NW Salzman and St John’s Bridge – the poor cyclists were IN the road, there was so much gravel.

        Recommended Thumb up 6

        • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) February 14, 2017 at 2:01 pm

          That’s the problem, it’s very difficult to keep track of the various maintenance agreements and jurisdicational boundaries of all the agencies that impact our roads. This makes it very hard for even conscientious citizens or advocates to know where to direct their concerns or complaints. For instance, another problematic bike lane is SW Terwilliger near OHSU. Lots of debris and runoff during winter…. But I have been told by PBOT that Portland Parks & Rec is responsible for the trimming and bike lane maintenance there.

          Recommended Thumb up 7

          • Spiffy February 14, 2017 at 2:30 pm

            we’re supposed to be able to send all our concerns to SAFE [503-823-SAFE (7233)
            safe@portlandoregon.gov] and they will route it to the correct agency…

            Recommended Thumb up 5

          • Adam
            Adam February 14, 2017 at 2:32 pm

            SW Terwilliger has a cycleway alongside the road. Why not use that?

            Recommended Thumb up 4

            • rick February 14, 2017 at 3:02 pm

              I’ve rode southbound on the walking trail on SW Terwilliger, but there are often many people walking or running in that space.

              Recommended Thumb up 4

            • Kyle Banerjee February 14, 2017 at 4:14 pm

              Peds. Bikes really don’t belong there unless they go very slowly.

              Terwilleger hasn’t been that bad. But Sam Jackson has been pretty bad. The good news is that the situation has improved notably this week and with some of the repairs, it’s already better than it was before the storms.

              Recommended Thumb up 6

            • soren February 14, 2017 at 9:40 pm

              there are two crappy bike lanes terwilliger:

              https://www.portlandoregon.gov/transportation/article/323778

              the pedestrian facility is not a designated “cycleway”. moreover and imo, it is not a safe bike route (especially down hill) due to deformed, rippled, and broken up pavement.

              Recommended Thumb up 3

              • Adam H.
                Adam H. February 14, 2017 at 10:19 pm

                I’ve ridden it downhill a few times. I feel safer there than in the bike lanes in the roadway.

                Recommended Thumb up 0

              • Adam H.
                Adam H. February 14, 2017 at 10:21 pm

                Also, my mistake for assuming it was a bike facility — it is paved in asphalt rather than concrete, which usually signifies a cycling facility.

                Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Portlander February 14, 2017 at 1:57 pm

    NE Weidler and NE Broadway from the Broadway Bridge to NE 15th is terrible and dangerous!

    Recommended Thumb up 8

    • Adam February 14, 2017 at 2:01 pm

      Call 503-823-SAFE. It’s Portland’s traffic safety hotline. They are really good at responding to calls, and will send a sweeper out.

      I didn’t call for Highway 30, because I don’t know if ODOT even HAS a similar hotline.

      Recommended Thumb up 2

      • Adam
        Adam February 14, 2017 at 2:04 pm

        Hah! I’ve called PBOT at least five times regarding a burnt-out street lamp and three months later it’s still broken. I’ve also reported parking violations to no avail. That hotline is simply unreliable.

        Recommended Thumb up 11

        • Galen Seitz February 14, 2017 at 4:36 pm

          I suspect you will have better luck if you report the streetlight to PGE, assuming it’s in their service area. That’s what I’ve always done.
          https://www.portlandgeneral.com/forms/report-streetlight-problem

          Recommended Thumb up 3

          • Adam H.
            Adam H. February 14, 2017 at 6:04 pm

            Oh, I had no idea this was a thing. Thanks!

            Recommended Thumb up 1

            • Adam H.
              Adam H. February 14, 2017 at 10:53 pm

              So I reported the two broken street lamps on my street to PGE and of course they responded that they are maintained by PBOT and not PGE’s responsibility…

              Recommended Thumb up 5

        • Adam February 14, 2017 at 5:13 pm

          You need to call PBOT’s specific parking enforcement hotline for parking problems.

          It’s 503-823-5195.

          I call all the time, and they usually send someone out within the hour or so.

          If it’s the weekend or evening however, you are screwed. You can call the police non emergency line, but… um… like they are going to prioritize THAT.

          Recommended Thumb up 1

          • Adam
            Adam February 14, 2017 at 5:57 pm

            Yeah, there’s a menu item in the SAFE hotline that directs you to parking enforcement. Thats what I was using. I assume it is the same hotline as the one you mentioned.

            Recommended Thumb up 1

        • Betsy Reese February 15, 2017 at 8:49 am

          “Report a Street Light Problem

          To report a street light outage, a light going on and off (cycling), a light on during the day, vandalism, or any other problem with a street light, call the Street Light Outage Hotline or use the online form.

          When reporting a problem, please provide as much information as you can about the location, especially pole numbers, adjacent addresses, and side of the street.

          Simple repairs take about a week. With over 54,000 lights, we depend on citizens to report problems. You may get voice mail, so please leave your name and phone number.

          Report: Street Light Outage Hotline
          Phone: 503-865-LAMP (5267)”

          https://www.portlandoregon.gov/transportation/index.cfm?&a=192905

          Or use the online form:

          https://www.portlandoregon.gov/transportation/40884?action=UpdateItem&category_id=596

          Recommended Thumb up 2

        • Middle of the Road Guy February 15, 2017 at 9:42 am

          PDX Report App is pretty good for reporting abandoned cars. I’ve gotten a few removed that way on my street.

          Recommended Thumb up 2

          • John Lascurettes February 15, 2017 at 1:51 pm

            Ditto. And the pothole response is usually within a week or two. I’ve only had problems trying to report poorly patched roads when a contractor creates a problem. I usually get the case closed as effectively “not this department’s problem” leaving me wondering who to report it to.

            Recommended Thumb up 1

      • John Brady February 14, 2017 at 3:04 pm

        Hi BikePortland Community,

        Please don’t call 823-SAFE about gravel in the bike lanes! That number is for non-urgent traffic requests, e.g, a new stop sign. Instead, please call 503-823-1700. That number is our Maintenance and Operations line. It is staffed 24/7, and it is for urgent traffic requests, e.g., gravel in the bike lane. You can also use the PDXreporter app or email
        PDXroads@portlandoregon.gov.

        cheers,

        John Brady
        PBOT

        Recommended Thumb up 17

        • Hello, Kitty
          Hello, Kitty February 14, 2017 at 3:10 pm

          Hi John,

          Could you folks at PBOT pretend you received calls to sweep every street where you put down gravel? You know where it all is, and it all needs to get picked up. It’s dangerous!

          Thank you!

          Recommended Thumb up 27

        • Adam
          Adam February 14, 2017 at 3:16 pm

          What? That goes counter to what PBOT tells us. There is an option in the SAFE hotline for repairing street light outages or downed trees. Those do not seem like “non-urgent traffic requests” to me.

          Recommended Thumb up 0

        • dwk February 14, 2017 at 3:31 pm

          As a taxpayer, I would like to know who made the decision to put down all this gravel with no intention to clean it up promptly.
          The gravel made no difference. It was immediately thrown into the bike lanes.
          It is now clogging the storm drains and unlike leaves, will be a much bigger problem.
          The gravel (along with studded tires), has taken off all the paint which now has to be redone.
          If you (Mr. Brady), are responsible for the decision would you let us know, and if not, who was?

          Recommended Thumb up 16

        • Adam February 14, 2017 at 5:16 pm

          Good to know, thanks!

          Recommended Thumb up 2

        • Manville February 15, 2017 at 8:56 am

          John, I may be in the minority on this site but I believe you guys do an excellent job with your limited resources. Keep up the good work making the best with what you have until you get properly funded!!!

          Now we just need some real mountain bike trails in Forest Park.

          Recommended Thumb up 5

          • dwk February 15, 2017 at 10:07 am

            Limited resources? That is because they dumped 1 million dollar of rocks on the road.
            Also, why is the head of PBOT telling us where to call?
            Just clean up the roads!!!!!

            Recommended Thumb up 6

            • Manville February 15, 2017 at 11:01 am

              They dumped the rock since people wanted/needed to get to work and school during a 12″ snow storm. You can’t have it both ways brah.

              Recommended Thumb up 2

              • dwk February 15, 2017 at 11:28 am

                Yeah the rocks worked great.
                Glad you are not in charge…..

                Recommended Thumb up 3

              • Manville February 15, 2017 at 4:17 pm

                I figured there might be personal insults and unreasonable replies. Not sure why I bothered.

                You all are right; those incompetent bastards should have cleaned that stuff up; how dare they inconvenience my bike riding… I am going to get the EPA on some PBOT / ODOT butt…I’ll go back to the Oregonian now.

                Recommended Thumb up 2

              • Hello, Kitty
                Hello, Kitty February 15, 2017 at 11:29 am

                Schools were closed; as were many jobs. People can use chains and drive slow for a week.

                Recommended Thumb up 7

              • Adam H.
                Adam H. February 15, 2017 at 11:48 am

                Yep, exactly. We all had to deal with transportation issues for a week and that’s fine. But there’s no reason that a minority of us still have to deal with repercussions of the snow storm months after it has all melted.

                Recommended Thumb up 3

              • kevin February 15, 2017 at 4:28 pm

                Yes you can, its called salt brah

                Recommended Thumb up 0

              • Hello, Kitty
                Hello, Kitty February 16, 2017 at 9:04 am

                Hey brah, just sit tight. God will clean it up. No need for us to do a thing.

                Recommended Thumb up 0

  • MaxD February 14, 2017 at 2:10 pm

    Even though they have swept Interstate, they did not do very thorough job and the gravel has once again accumulated in the bike lanes. the worst section are between Fremont (Kaiser/top of hill) and TIllamook)

    Recommended Thumb up 4

  • Adam
    Adam February 14, 2017 at 2:10 pm

    The ramp coming off the Hawthorne Bridge into downtown is still covered in gravel, as are the green lanes on Caruthers near OMSI. There has been a downed tree blocking a sidewalk near my house for months now (yes I called Parks – all they did was put some caution tape around it and left the tree where it was). PBOT has such a massive backlog of maintenance, they will never get to it all themselves – especially if they are creating more work for themselves by laying the gravel in the first place. What we need to do now is organize community-led efforts to clean up our streets ourselves where the government services have failed us. This problem will only get worse, not better.

    Recommended Thumb up 4

    • rick February 14, 2017 at 3:04 pm

      What streets would you like? SW Scholls Ferry needs it. Many schools adjacent to it.

      Recommended Thumb up 2

  • Kittens February 14, 2017 at 2:11 pm

    Thanks Johnathan for covering this. Because of the recently nice weather and people venturing out on bikes again, I was waiting for this all-to-routine story. It’s obvious to me and anyone who rides that the priority is entirely one sided on the application. Beyond bikes, I can’t imagine how good this is for the storm drains.

    I’m shocked at how poor the conditions are on our roads.

    It appears to me that PBOT and ODOT are going to have to ask for additional funds if they are going to get our streets back to where they were before the storms.

    Recommended Thumb up 4

    • MaxD February 14, 2017 at 2:29 pm

      The City is likely in violation of the Endangered Species Act by allowing so much grit to enter the storm system/river. From the King County Science of Stormwater page:

      Sediments

      Sediment – often originating as topsoil, sand, and clay – is the most common pollutant in stormwater runoff by volume and weight. Sediments readily wash off paved surfaces and exposed earth during storms. Sediment may seem harmless enough, but it poses serious problems in the water. Excess sediment concentrations turn stream and lake water cloudy, making it less suitable for recreation, fish life, and plant growth. Sediment is of particular concern in fish bearing streams where it can smother trout and salmon eggs, destroy habitat for insects (a food source for fish), and cover prime spawning areas. Uncontrolled sediment can also clog storm drains, leading to increased private and public maintenance costs and flooding problems. Sediment is also of concern because many other pollutants including oils, metals, bacteria, and nutrients tend to attach to soil particles. Therefore when sediments enter water they usually carry other pollutants with them. Cleared construction sites and exposed earth are generally the greatest contributors of soil particles in surface waters. Other sources include erosion from agricultural lands, application of sand and salts to icy roads, fallout from pressure washing and sandblasting operations, dirt from equipment and vehicles, and dirt and grit from parking lots, driveways, and sidewalks.”
      http://www.kingcounty.gov/services/environment/water-and-land/stormwater/introduction/science.aspx

      Recommended Thumb up 8

  • Teddy February 14, 2017 at 2:14 pm

    Did the gravel get thrown up there by plows? If I still lived in Portsmouth I would be tempted to sweep the gravel onto the road. I hope these unsafe conditions are dealt with soon.

    Recommended Thumb up 4

    • Chris I February 14, 2017 at 2:30 pm

      Doing the whole bridge would take hours.

      Recommended Thumb up 4

    • Steve February 14, 2017 at 2:36 pm

      It gets thrown up primarily by the big rigs crossing the bridge, there is frequently small amounts of road debris on the sidewalk.

      Recommended Thumb up 2

    • Tacoma February 14, 2017 at 3:02 pm

      “If I still lived in Portsmouth I would be tempted to sweep the gravel onto the road.” Curious if it would be a violation of some kind to sweep the gravel onto the road. Would the gravel get blown back onto the sidewalk? I expect it would take hours but I’m curious if that is a solution.

      Recommended Thumb up 0

      • Teddy February 15, 2017 at 6:35 am

        Yea, I figured that would get peoples’ attention and make them clean it up faster.

        Recommended Thumb up 0

      • Middle of the Road Guy February 15, 2017 at 9:44 am

        I am sure some enterprising person with a gas powered blower can disperse it into the river.

        Recommended Thumb up 1

        • Mick O February 15, 2017 at 3:02 pm

          Only a small portion of the St Johns Bridge is actually over water.

          Recommended Thumb up 0

    • shirtsoff February 14, 2017 at 4:44 pm

      I swept seven blocks in deep SE Portland the other day because I was fed up with PBOT’s slow response. Those seven blocks took three hours to sweep and made my back and abs sore for days. That bridge without a dozen people is going to take days, not hours to sweep into the roadway which will then require ODOT to come by and pick up. What is needed is quick coordination with PBOT and ODOT and perhaps dozens of volunteers if PBOT is lacking the personal to fulfill their portion of the arrangement. I commend you Teddy but I’d ask any person to seek the help of others before undertaking this courageous task.

      Recommended Thumb up 5

      • SE Rider February 15, 2017 at 8:26 am

        What did you do with that gravel?
        This isn’t just a sweeping issue, it’s also a removal issue.

        Recommended Thumb up 0

        • shirtsoff February 15, 2017 at 8:25 pm

          @SE Rider

          I know. This vexed me, but I simply swept it straight to the curb. It was out of the way of parked cars and thus likely not to be pushed backed into the travel lanes including the restricted bike lanes; however, it IS STILL THERE. I can drive and I can bike and I can skate past these sections safely now but the gravel is there on the shoulder within one inch of the curb. While not a perfect solution, it has eased my fears of travelling through the space and PBOT is welcome to finish the job they should have finished weeks ago as far as I’m corcerned. -_-

          Recommended Thumb up 1

      • Edward February 15, 2017 at 11:07 am

        Call the Multnomah County Sheriff’s office and ask them to use the jail work crews to sweep the bike lanes. Yep, jailed inmates do work to get less time.

        Recommended Thumb up 1

        • shirtsoff February 16, 2017 at 9:21 am

          @Edward, when you’ve contacted Multnomah County Sheriff before what was the turn around between your request and the action being completed?

          Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Paul H February 14, 2017 at 2:34 pm

    The same situation exists on Hwy 99E between Milwaukie and Oregon City (and perhaps further in either direction; I only travel that segment). There are some spots where bikes get moving pretty quickly: northbound between Oak Grove and downtown Milwaukie, southbound in Oak Grove, and southbound heading into Gladstone.

    Braking in those areas right now is (to put it mildly) hazardous. There’s cross traffic and stoplights that frequently make you slow way down or stop altogether, often mid-descent. Aside from the gravel, there are the normal bits of debris; there are too many places where your tires have no decent contact with the pavement.

    Recommended Thumb up 4

  • Spiffy February 14, 2017 at 2:35 pm

    where’s K’Tesh with his “see something, do something” arsenal of maintenance tools? he’s needed back in Portland…

    Recommended Thumb up 10

    • K'Tesh February 15, 2017 at 2:47 am

      I’m in China…

      Recommended Thumb up 3

      • K'Tesh February 15, 2017 at 2:48 am

        To get me back, I’d need a place to stay, and a reliable job. Right now, I wouldn’t have either.

        Recommended Thumb up 2

  • Steve February 14, 2017 at 2:35 pm

    The St. Johns bridge sidewalk cleaning is further complicated by the fact that if you blew the gravel off, it would rain down on folks in Cathedral Park, so I imagine it will take a coordinated effort between PBOT and Parks.

    Recommended Thumb up 1

    • Chris I February 15, 2017 at 2:07 pm

      Sounds like a good reason to never gravel that bridge in the first place.

      Recommended Thumb up 2

      • Hello, Kitty
        Hello, Kitty February 15, 2017 at 2:43 pm

        Seriously… if you can’t pick it up, don’t put it down.

        Recommended Thumb up 3

  • MaxD February 14, 2017 at 2:37 pm

    Suspended solids or sediment in stormwater is major issue, especially since our storm system dumps directly into a salmon-bearing river. Here is what the EPA has to say (Maybe we should start complaining to the EPA about unswept streets instead of PBOT?!)
    https://cfpub.epa.gov/npstbx/files/KSMO_Sediment.pdf

    Recommended Thumb up 5

    • Spiffy February 15, 2017 at 10:17 am

      the EPA is kind of high level…

      start with the DEQ…

      http://www.deq.state.or.us/complaints/dcomplaint.aspx

      Recommended Thumb up 3

    • Gary B February 15, 2017 at 1:10 pm

      There may be some amount of sediment associated with the gravel, but comparatively very little. It’s quite difficult to suspend even sand particles in dispersed runoff flow, let alone small rocks. The only sediment possible to become entrained in the runoff is any fines remaining in the gravel, but they’re using sifted gravel with the fines removed (to the extent possible).

      Recommended Thumb up 1

  • rick February 14, 2017 at 2:54 pm

    B-grade

    Recommended Thumb up 1

  • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) February 14, 2017 at 2:59 pm

    UPDATE, 2:57 pm: I have heard back from PBOT about the St. Johns Bridge. Here’s the latest from Communications Director John Brady:

    “I can confirm that we have an agreement to sweep the St. John’s Bridge sidewalks. We are aware of the issues that folks have with the gravel. Removing the gravel is a bit more complex than simply running a sweeper because we first have to get it off the sidewalk and into the street. Then we can sweep it up. In order to do this safely, we have to temporarily limit access to the lane. So there is a bit more traffic control involved than just a normal sweeping run. We’ve prioritized and hope to have it done next week. If this schedule changes, we will let you and your readers know.

    In terms of the tree down, the best thing to do is to call 503-823-1700. This is also the best line for gravel and other urgent road hazards. Folks can also use the PDXreporter app or email PDXroads@portlandoregon.gov.”

    Recommended Thumb up 3

  • rick February 14, 2017 at 3:00 pm

    SW Scholls Ferry Road and SW Oleson Road both have lots of gravel and many stretches have no bike lane paint. Last month, Washington County had the disrespect to actually plow the snow of the road so that cars were purposely driving in the entire bike lane by the intersection of SW 86th Ave on Scholls Ferry, an access point for the Fanno Creek Trail due to the nearby public staircase. I’ve been using a shovel to pick up some muck and gravel on Scholls by the TriMet bus stop at SW Laurelwood Ave. Darn metal-studded tires on SUVs and Subarus.

    Recommended Thumb up 3

  • Ted Buehler February 14, 2017 at 3:49 pm

    “503-823-1700. This is also the best line for gravel and other urgent road hazards.”

    “Folks can also use the PDXreporter app or email PDXroads@portlandoregon.gov.”

    Use these numbers, folks. Call stuff in, get it fixed.

    Thanks for the story, Jonathan,

    Ted Buehler

    Recommended Thumb up 3

  • David February 14, 2017 at 3:56 pm

    There are three issues, by my count, at play here and they’re being jumbled together in the story and comments. Let’s try to peel them apart.

    First this winter has been pretty miserable. Really. Between the multiple snow storms, some ice on top of that and then the wind storms that have come in more recently and taken out many trees that managed to survive the initial rounds of punishment. It’s a lot to keep track of and keeping the roads clear from everything is a challenge. There are plenty of trees and plants that have and still are impacting bike lanes throughout the city and it has largely not been handled in a timely manner unless auto lanes are also blocked. (Though a big thanks to whoever took an ax to a tree that fell just before the intersection of Beaverton-Hillsdale and SW 30th so that bikes could make it through.)

    With that out of the way we get to what gets everyone here tied up in knots: gravel (it’s not sand if every single piece of it can make a dent in your windshield). The policy on gravel is absolutely unacceptable if the city cares one bit about their cycling mode share. You can’t say “we’re going to lay down gravel/sand at the drop of a hat if cars are having trouble getting around for a few hours” but then tell cyclists “deal with it for 1-2 months until we sweep it up because our resources are strained and we don’t have any capacity to pick it up faster”. I get that it can’t be picked up as quickly as it’s put down but that doesn’t mean that it’s acceptable to litter the streets with this for weeks on end. Any policy on laying down gravel needs to also include a plan to clean it up in a short period of time, it’s called a service agreement and we don’t seem to have one right now.

    Finally the last issue ties into the first two which is that the timing of these storms and the responses to them have make things that much more frustrating. Barbur Blvd was swept within a few days of the very first storm in December, then the next storm rolled through a few days later followed by the one in January and there is still gravel on the ground there. Throughout this winter every road I ride on has been swept 1-2 times however there have been prolonged stretches on each and every one where I have had (and continue) to ride on an inordinate amount of gravel.

    If you made it through all that kudos to you, if not here’s the summary: this winter has been a confluence of events but it really boils down to bike lanes and their maintenance not being a priority when compared to the convenience of cars and trucks.

    Recommended Thumb up 21

    • Bald One February 15, 2017 at 1:19 pm

      I was also impressed when a gravel-covered bike lane on a busy overpass bikelane (includes fast and heavy traffic, inclines) was swept up within a few weeks of the storm. I thought that was good. But then, some other maintenance group came and swept all the gravel from the elevated sidewalk (which looked just like the St John’s bridge) back into the bike lane – resulting in a clean sidewalk and once again completed coated bike lane. Come on people!

      Recommended Thumb up 1

  • GlowBoy February 14, 2017 at 3:58 pm

    I’ve been saying it on other threads too, but I think one of the big problems is the size of grit PBOT and other agencies have been using on the roads. The problem for cyclists isn’t the use of sand per se, it’s the amount of really coarse pebbles and gravel mixed in there.

    Here in Minnesota we use plenty of sand on our roadways, but it doesn’t create as much of a problem for cyclists because:
    1. We use actual sand, not gravel.
    2. Because of the environmental issues others have mentioned, our road agencies are pretty careful about how much sand they put down, and only in conditions where it will actually help. Sometimes rock salt, bring, MgCl, other deicers or sand (or combination thereof) is the best treatment.

    Minneapolis has had 5-6 ice storms so far this winter (besides the usual snow), and despite all the stuff that’s been put down the road surface here is more pleasant to bike on than the gravel on the streets of Portland right now.

    Recommended Thumb up 6

    • Buzz February 14, 2017 at 5:05 pm

      The gravel they use on the roads in Portland also is responsible for countless broken windshields.

      Recommended Thumb up 7

      • shirtsoff February 14, 2017 at 6:13 pm

        @Buzz I would like to use this opportunity to recommend that people look into whether their auto insurance offers $0 Comprehensive Insurance. It may be offered under a name as “Zero Deductible” or “Full Comprehensive.” Either way, when I switched from a $500 deductible with State Farm to a $0 deductible, it cost me $24 more per year. One windshield replacement is usually just over $180. If you need to repair a chip or put a whole new windshield in, that extra $24 per year will pay for the expanded coverage for over seven years on the prior plan. Look into it. Disclaimer: I nor my relatives do not work for State Farm. Some insurers such as All State don’t seem to offer a zero deductible plan from what I can tell. YMMV

        Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Buzz February 14, 2017 at 5:04 pm

    I wouldn’t be riding on that shit!

    Recommended Thumb up 2

  • Dwaine Dibbly February 14, 2017 at 5:57 pm

    The side path along Terwilliger is really terrible from Campus Drive northward at least.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Kevin Wagoner February 14, 2017 at 6:20 pm

    There two topics in this article I would like to hear more about.

    1. How do these things get prioritize (for example should Barbur or the Saint John’s Bridge get swept first.”

    2. Why is it ok for ODOT to simply create a mess for someone else to clean up?

    Recommended Thumb up 6

    • Manville February 15, 2017 at 9:05 am

      Create a mess ==> making bridge safe during a snow storm? PBOT / ODOT is in a no-win situation here. Clean up takes time folks.

      Recommended Thumb up 1

      • Hello, Kitty
        Hello, Kitty February 15, 2017 at 9:22 am

        Maybe PBOT should publish a schedule for cleaning up.

        Recommended Thumb up 3

        • Kevin Wagoner February 15, 2017 at 6:49 pm

          This is an excellent idea. Communicating what will happen and setting expectations goes a long way in gaining credibility. It would also give us information on how long we need to avoid an area. I road Barbur several times in the gravel lately and each morning I left I wondered if I should risk it hoping it was swept.

          Recommended Thumb up 1

          • Hello, Kitty
            Hello, Kitty February 15, 2017 at 6:50 pm

            It would also let people know that the street they’re interested in hasn’t been forgotten.

            Recommended Thumb up 1

        • Adam H.
          Adam H. February 15, 2017 at 7:30 pm

          Ask PBOT about this. They will say they have no idea when your street will be swept.

          Unfortunately, the City does not currently have the tools to provide citywide time-certain information about our street sweeping schedule. Any attempt to provide a schedule online or through the mail would almost certainly result in a frustrated public because too many factors beyond our control always result in delays to our street sweeping schedule.

          Source

          Recommended Thumb up 0

          • Hello, Kitty
            Hello, Kitty February 15, 2017 at 7:55 pm

            This isn’t ordinary sweeping… This is extraordinary emergency safety street sweeping… Surely they can forecast a week or two out.

            Recommended Thumb up 0

            • Adam H.
              Adam H. February 15, 2017 at 8:39 pm

              Ideally yes, however I’d imagine that those “factors beyond our control” still would apply in this situation.

              Recommended Thumb up 0

            • Bald One February 16, 2017 at 1:51 pm

              After some winter event a few years ago, I complained to the city for months about several nasty spots of gravel that never got picked up – it was easy to monitor these spots as I rode through them every day since the day of the storm. After a few months they started telling me that “they have completed the operation for winter gravel removal”. They refused to address spots that they missed. Other excuses they provided on different occasions: “That’s ODOT’s section of the road” – this was shown to be not true; “that’s the night shift’s responsibility – can you call them?”

              Recommended Thumb up 0

      • SE Rider February 15, 2017 at 3:00 pm

        “making it safe” is a pretty liberal use of the term.

        Recommended Thumb up 1

  • James February 14, 2017 at 7:36 pm

    Winter: OMG, gravel everywhere. Help!

    Summer: Gravel grinding is neato.

    Derp.

    Recommended Thumb up 8

    • B. Carfree February 14, 2017 at 10:51 pm

      I fairness, we do gravel grind where there is no real need to hold a line because there aren’t any two-ton steel missiles bearing down on us should we stray a few inches. Once again, it’s the cars and the way they are operated that makes all the difference on our roadways.

      Recommended Thumb up 16

    • Pat Lowell February 15, 2017 at 9:53 am

      Yeah, no. This “argument” that people like to make is moronic. Gravel grinding is undertaken on rural roads that are specifically chosen for their lack of traffic. Commuting on a shitty obstacle-covered bike lane inches away from heavy traffic is not gravel grinding.

      Recommended Thumb up 2

      • Chris I February 15, 2017 at 2:08 pm

        It’s “Urban gravel grinding”.

        Recommended Thumb up 2

    • Pat Lowell February 15, 2017 at 10:56 am

      More about gravel grinding, not that you care to learn what’s actually involved.. “gravel” roads can be anything from dirt to hardpack to loose rock, but it’s generally not the crushed gravel mixed with broken glass, staples, and other road debris that is used by PBOT in the city.

      Also, gravel grinding is a recreational activity that is undertaken by choice. Commuting over gravel on city streets is not. People who don’t like gravel grinding during the summer are still going to have to ride these gravel-covered streets during the winter.

      Recommended Thumb up 2

      • James February 15, 2017 at 3:27 pm

        Was a joke, probably should have used a disclaimer. I don’t think anyone really makes that argument, was just low hanging fruit and I shouldn’t have taken a bite.

        Yes, PBOT please clean the bike lanes…my fenders are done being exfoliated.

        Oh, if you wanna school me on gravel lets meet up and chat about it over some distance, Rickreall? Banff? or I guess HW30 is suitable : ) bikeportland has become so uptight : (

        Recommended Thumb up 1

        • Pat Lowell February 16, 2017 at 7:44 am

          Sorry, a little on edge these days. And I actually have read and heard people making that argument in all seriousness when cyclists complain about bike lane conditions. Trees down in bike lane =/= mountain biking.

          Gravel grinding in Banff, though?? Sounds amazing!

          Recommended Thumb up 1

  • Buzz February 15, 2017 at 10:21 am

    Update on northbound N. Interstate between Larrabee and Tillamook:

    This was cleaned again, but in the process the sweeper left behind multiple small piles of gravel in the typical cyclists path between the white stripe and the drainage grates that need to be avoided by entering the adjacent MV lane.

    I guess the sweeper operators simply don’t check their work in their rear-view mirror or by direct observation in any way shape or form.

    :-/

    Recommended Thumb up 1

    • Bald One February 15, 2017 at 1:28 pm

      Then there’s the section of N. Willamette along the bluff. It got swept, but the issue here is heavily deteriorated potholes – all the road surface gets ground up and thrown into the bike lane, resulting in a very heavy coating of thick rock/gravel. Then they patch the pothole but the patch gets broken up and tossed into the bike lane. If they know about these areas, they need to come re-visit them.

      The main problem I see with the city’s approach on these maintenance issues is that their intended focus is spread to wide and thin and is a shotgun not a rifle; they need to hit with priority the hot spots, priority arteries, heavily traveled bike lanes, and priority greenways that have known winter maintenance issues, hills, and heavy cycle use. They need to visit and re-visit these most important and frequent problem areas on a regular and frequent basis for sweeping and cleaning. They need to keep a list of these priority bike lanes for maintenance and have a supervisor check off each spot once a week. PBOT’s current plan is that all roads in the city (side streets included) are on a schedule that never gets adjusted unless a bunch of people call to complain. They need a smart schedule that is based on need and known history, not on just following a map to cover every street once every few months.

      Recommended Thumb up 1

  • Mark smith February 15, 2017 at 10:59 am

    Pretty sweet deal that odot has with pbot. Odot gets to control the bridge that kills people and pbot is relegated to sweeping up the sidewalks.

    Recommended Thumb up 1

  • Edward February 15, 2017 at 11:18 am

    Took the lane on the St. John’s bridge on Sunday, during the Worst Day of the Year ride. It was glorious. Went back and checked photos, yep, gravel all over the sidewalk.

    https://www.instagram.com/p/BQiyuOylGXQ/

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Edward February 15, 2017 at 11:19 am

    Took the lane on the St. John’s bridge on Sunday, during the Worst Day of the Year ride. It was glorious. Went back and checked photos, yep, gravel all over the sidewalk.

    https://www.instagram.com/p/BQiyuOylGXQ

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Bill Clinton's Ghost February 15, 2017 at 1:10 pm

    This is how you can tell that BP is not a paid shill for the bike repair industry. Tyres are popping all over town. But J. Maus won’t be corrupted by the maintenance lobby’s bribes, he is sticking his neck out to end this cash cow of a problem that the greedy fatcats at the BOTs are allowing to happen. They are the ones in bed with the bike tyre industry!

    (Sometimes I like to pretend that everything works like Washington D.C.)

    Recommended Thumb up 2

  • Bald One February 15, 2017 at 1:34 pm

    Jonathan, thanks for writing about this. I think there are many more sites and sections of Portland’s bike network that have similar byzantine maintenance issues.

    PBOTs program to use winter gravel must end, permanently. They have no way to clean it up effectively or timely. It is simply too much of months-long on-going safety hazard for peds and cyclists with only some dubious, short-lived benefit for drivers without traction tires to drive around on snow.

    Recommended Thumb up 2

  • Ted Buehler February 15, 2017 at 2:32 pm

    When calling or emailing to ask for sweeping, you can always refer to documents like this.

    https://www.portlandoregon.gov/transportation/article/319704

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Bill Clinton's Ghost February 15, 2017 at 2:37 pm

    Could we rig up something to drag behind bikes that would push the gravel off to the side? Ideally into the motor vehicle lane, but if we want to be altruistic about it, we could orient them toward the gutter..

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Pete February 16, 2017 at 11:50 am

    I think this is a systemic flaw in the system. When the city, county or state budgets to create a new bike facility, they aren’t also required to accept the financial responsibility to make sure the facility remains functional. We’ve been failed in this respect for far too long.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • highrider February 17, 2017 at 11:15 am

    PBOT is cleaning the sidewalks on the SJB as I type this.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • TAJ February 20, 2017 at 9:18 pm

    Rode the bridge today. Scattered gravel on the sidewalks, better than it was but not great. Here’s the problem now: the off ramp to/from 30 toward Sauvie is covered in gravel. Impassible. I aborted and turned around after seeing it didn’t improve on 30. Ridiculous.

    Recommended Thumb up 0