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Snow still blocks many bikeways, one week after storm

Posted by on February 19th, 2021 at 3:14 pm

(Many key bikeways still a dangerous mess nearly one week after the snow fell.)

The major snow and ice storm that moved into Portland Friday is still having negative impacts on bicycling conditions throughout the city. While conditions for drivers have improved greatly in the past few days and some bikeways are clear — large amounts of snow, ice, gravel and debris continue to block access to most bikeways and walkways.

N Greeley Ave path southbound is one bright spot! It’s clear from Willamette to Interstate Ave.
(Photo: Jonathan Maus/BikePortlanD)

The lack of sweeping on major bikeways shows that either PBOT doesn’t prioritize them or that they are unable to address the issue due to capacity limitations. Either situation should be cause for concern.

One issue that seems to be causing the problem are protected bikeways. I’ve noticed several bikeways that have concrete curbs and/or plastic wands separating them from other lanes that look to have not been touched by sweepers. Portland has a very small street sweeper that was purchased in 2013 specifically to reach narrow bike lanes, so it’s not as if they don’t have the equipment.

Below is an example on N Interstate Avenue at Skidmore where it looks like plows cleared the street but protective wands in the bike lane prevented them from clearing all the snow.

N Interstate and Skidmore on Wednesday afternoon.
(Photo: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

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Here are more photos from around town (including some from reader Robert B)…

Reader Robert B sent us several photos yesterday that show major bikeways are still impassable by bike. The Burnside Bridge is still in bad shape, as are the approaches to the Broadway Bridge. “What I’m seeing is infrastructure not designed to be maintained and actually made worse by snow ‘removal’,” Robert shared. “With no attempt to keep bike lanes and crosswalks operable. There is no apparent connection between the active transportation people at PBOT and the road crews.”

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In my neighborhood, North Rosa Parks is completely under snow in most places. And reader Brendon C shared via Twitter that even as of Friday morning (today), the bike lanes on N Denver Avenue were “Completely blocked by huge piles of snow that must’ve been shoveled/plowed from nearby roads/driveways all the way from Kilpatrick to Rosa Parks.”

Bike lanes on NE Cully Blvd and NE 57th are still “pretty messy” with “mostly gravel but still some snow” another reader shared.

It appears PBOT crews are clearing and sweeping some bikeways and the natural melting is slowly doing its trick; but it’s been a week!

The presence of snow piling up in bikeways and walkways is dangerous because it forces people to spend more time exposed to more dangerous vehicle users in a shared-lane environment.

We raised this issue in 2017 and found that PBOT’s plow routes and snow removal plans didn’t include neighborhood greenway streets — which are in many ways the backbone of our network. I’ve reached out to PBOT once again to ask about bikeway-specific clean-up plans and will update this post when I hear back (see below).

How are the bikeways where you ride? Please share status updates in the comments. See reports on conditions in this Twitter thread.

UPDATE, 3:17pm: PBOT says “Yes, we have been clearing bike lanes and streets that have downed trees. If there is a lane that needs attention, please encourage your readers to call our maintenance hotline — 503-823-1700 — to report it and get it on the list.”

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org
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NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. BikePortland is an inclusive company with no tolerance for discrimination or harassment including expressions of racism, sexism, homophobia, or xenophobia. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

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GlowBoyHello, KittyqqqJonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)D2 Recent comment authors
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Champs
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Champs

The I5 access trail off N Marine comes to mind when I say that the pea gravel will be haunting us for months, maybe even years.

maxD
Guest
maxD

In addition to the bike lanes disappearing under snow along Interstate, the northbound hill on Interstate has a deadly mix of snow/ice, gravel, and branches. Navigating that in the dark last night was kind of harrowing.

drs
Guest
drs

The westbound bike lane on the approach to Hawthorne bridge was still an issue yesterday morning, though the rest of the bridge had been cleared.

Nadia Maxim
Guest
Nadia Maxim

Thanks for advocating for clearing the vital Greenway streets! I did a bit of shoveling on my street to free up the corners from the snow berms. Those big berms really make it tricky for pedestrians.

cmh89
Guest
cmh89

PBOT also pushes snow into sidewalk crossing to make walking extra hard.

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

I’m not surprised that PBOT focused on clearing the way for the motorized vehicles at the cost of the “modes of the privileged”. PBOT’s primary mission is “equity,” which seems to (bizarrely) demand prioritizing motor vehicles.

That sounds a bit snarky, but it’s what I learned from the Hawthorne project.

Enjoy gravel season!

squareman
Subscriber

Bobcycle caught this lovely thing that Tesla did, clearing the snow out of their parking lot, but dumping onto the bike path: https://forums.bikeportland.org/t/slush-and-snow-status-reports/960/3?u=squareman

soren
Guest
soren

The NE Multnomah pseudo-protected bike lane still has massive plow piles that have been intentionally pushed into the bike lane.

It’s depressing to bike commute these days because people driving no longer expect to see people cycling and drive in an exceptionally careless and aggressive manner.

Nadia Maxim
Guest
Nadia Maxim

Maybe PBOT should organize a volunteer bike path cleanup crew? I think it would be fun to drive that cute little Dutch bike path sweeper they have for a few hours on a weekend. No salary and benefits required. I’ve never seen any PBOT employees using it anyway so why not let a few volunteer cyclists take it out for a spin? As Jonathan wondered a few years back, does it come with a snow plow attachment? Probably wouldn’t be equitable to plow the bike paths though. Ugh!
https://bikeportland.org/2013/11/18/meet-portlands-new-bike-path-sized-street-sweeper-97302

Keith
Guest
Keith

Probably 20 years ago now, the bike advisory committee asked PBOT to prioritize sweeping bike lanes after snow events, and it appears to me that PBOT has done this. I can appreciate the difficulty in clearing streets initially during challenging conditions and poor visibility. Similar to street sweeping after a snow event, PBOT should adopt a policy for snow plowing by returning in the days immediately following a storm to do a better job clearing bike lanes and crosswalks – at least on major streets. As it is now, bike lanes have not been usable this week and may remain that way into next week. Think of the political heat the mayor/PBOT would get if streets were impassible for motorists for this length of time!

Another issue worth considering is the impact of wands and other physical barriers that separate cyclists from traffic. While they’re great when the bike facility is clean, it’s the opposite when they’re full of snow because they can’t be plowed. Following the snow melt, they’ll be full of gravel and debris for weeks or months. PBOT needs a maintenance strategy for these facilities.

Middle of the Road Guy
Guest
Middle of the Road Guy

Where should the snow be plowed?

Steve Scarich
Guest
Steve Scarich

In Bend, these conditions can last for several months, depending on snowfall. Bike lanes never get a clean sweep until Spring. The City touts itself as pedestrian/cyclist friendly, but that all goes out the window for five months a year. The City itself is the worst offender, because they create big berms in the sidewalks and bike lanes. Responsibility for clearing sidewalks is the landowner, and that is hit or miss. The sidewalks on some of the bridges over the river, which are City responsibility are completely covered with 3′ of snow.

RH
Guest
RH

Inevitable consequence of the proliferation of tortuous, unmaintainable, third rate gutter obstacle course “bike paths”, intended to get bikes out of the way of motor vehicles, while pandering to the sidewalk riding mentality.

mark smith
Guest
mark smith

So…a plow on the front of an ATV doesn’t work anymore? Or do they have to use their fancy german made unit that moves at snail pace..

mran1984
Guest

Snow and ice are more welcome than tarps and human excrement. I had zero issue commuting this week. No, I don’t like the gravel either. If the city is going to give away river view real estate then I would like FREE TUBES & TYRES during gravel season.

qqq
Guest
qqq

From the article and comments, it seems like lots of people noticed what I also did–that biking and walking were made more difficult because of snow being shoveled or plowed off of vehicle areas (street lanes, driveways and parking lots) onto bike lanes, crosswalks, and sidewalks.

Chrystal
Guest
Chrystal

Thanks for posting the maintenance hotline number I will be calling. I ride up the interstate ave. hill to get to work and there are branches down in bike lane. That road is really narrow, cars tend to speed up that hill, and I felt bullied by cars a bit when taking the lane this morning.

Carrie
Guest
Carrie

OMG that quote from PBOT about clearing the roads with downed trees. They cleared the huge tree that feel across SE Bybee by the Eastmoreland Golf course and put the tree parts IN THE BIKE LANE on both sides of the street. The tree fell and was ‘cleared’ a week ago. How the hell is that clearing the bike lane?

FDUP
Guest
FDUP

This is a clear case of unintended consequences; it could easily have been foreseen that show removal would be a problem if bike infra was separated from car infra by barriers of any sort.

ChrisP
Guest
ChrisP

Revoke our platinum status, now.

This is just one more piece of prima facie evidence. There is more work to be done,

Javier Sodo
Guest
Javier Sodo

Well, all powerful Mother Nature has now done what PBOT could not do. 🙂 The snow is gone! (Well, except for the big berms and piles of snow pushed into the bike lanes). 🙁

Chopwatch
Guest
Chopwatch

I also wanted to comment I noticed snow shoveled to the side by some construction site in Central Eastside that they carved out just enough snow for fully able bodied pedestrians to get through the temporary barrier thing, but certainly not done to the expectations of ADA clearance standards. Bike lanes and ADA issues have pretty low priority in Portland.

D2
Guest
D2

I’m legitimately tempted to design a bicycle powered sweeper and loan it out to people assuming that even under human power we can do it much faster than the city or metro will.

qqq
Guest
qqq

An interesting question (based on a common situation): The City plows the street and creates snow drifts that can be 3′ or 4′ high on the adjacent sidewalks in front of all the businesses. Now aren’t the property owners responsible for clearing the snow drifts off their sidewalks? The law says they are.

It probably never comes up because the law doesn’t seem to be enforced. And the property owner who doesn’t clear their sidewalks can legitimately argue, “If the City expected me to clear my sidewalk, why would it pile snow on it?” Or even, “I’d like to clear it, but I don’t know how to get rid of several tons of snow the City dumped there”.