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Welcome to gravel-in-the-bike-lanes season


Hello again gravel.
(Photo: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

Fresh off leaves-in-the-bike-lanes season, it’s time to gird yourself for gravel-in-the-bike-lanes season.

With the big winter storm last week, Portland Bureau of Transportation crews were out in force laying down gravel to prevent roads from becoming too slick from ice. That’s all fine and good when you need the traction for driving; but the gravel that’s left behind is an annoyance and hazard for bicycle riders. Gravel can cause riders to slip out, it can damage bike frames and other components, and it hastens the erosion of colored pavement and striping many bicycle riders rely on for “protection”.

It seems like we grapple with this issue every year. 2017 was especially bad.

This year we have reasons to be a bit more optimistic about how PBOT will deal with it. For the first time I can remember, they actually publicly addressed it before us or someone else in the community complained about it. In a tweet yesterday, PBOT announced that they’d already swept bike lanes in key bicycle arterials including: Greeley, Interstate, Rosa Parks (lead photo shows that they didn’t quite get all of it however), the Denver overpass, Schmeer Rd (Columbia Slough), Moda Transit Center, and the Broadway/Williams corridor.

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“We prioritize bike lanes on major arterials,” PBOT announced, but then added, “Cleanup is slow. Our sweepers travel at 3 mph to pick up gravel, a fraction of the speed from when we lay it down. Please be patient as we work.”

Yes. Hopefully everyone’s patient — including people in cars when bicycle riders need to move away from the shoulder or out of the bike lane because of gravel, flooding or other hazards.

Speaking of flooding… Things are pretty brutal out there right now. So much water! I posted a photo of a flooded bike lane on Instagram and asked how folks were coping. The responses are cracking me up:

Hang in there. And please let us know what the conditions are like where you are. If you need to report a hazard or other road issue to PBOT, use 503-823-1700 or email PDXroads@portlandoregon.gov.

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

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