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Shawne’s latest adventure: Adopt-a-road clean-up by cargo bike

Turns out you don't need a big truck to Adopt-A-Road.(Photos: Shawne Martinez)

Turns out, you don’t need a big truck to Adopt-A-Road. (Photos: Shawne Martinez)

Shawne Martinez is one of Portland’s most prolific urban bike riders. He and his e-assist cargo bike can be seen on daily rides throughout the city, and especially near his home in southwest. You might recall his epic 40-mile journey to Gateway Green with this five-year-old which tested the range of his battery. His latest adventure? Helping a friend on an adopt-a-road cleanup mission, and doing it all by bike. Take it away Shawne…

“In the past we used my giant diesel pickup truck to transport the road signs and tools. Now we own cargo bikes.”

Adopt-A-Road is a Washington County program that lets regular folks volunteer to help keep roadway corridors clean. I received an email from Rick Kappler asking for help with an Adopt-A-Road litter cleanup that was coming up in a few days. Rick coordinates the event for the group Friends of the Red Electric Trail. We’ve teamed up for a few years cleaning litter on sections of SW Scholls Ferry and SW Taylors Ferry roads. This year Rick presented a interesting challenge: We would pick up all of the Adopt-A-Road equipment by bike! In the past we used my giant diesel pickup truck to transport the road signs and tools from the Washington County yard in Hillsboro. We no longer own that truck. Now we own cargo bikes.

The plan was to take our cargo bikes on MAX light rail from Beaverton Transit Center to the end of the line in Hillsboro. I had never taken my cargo bike on the MAX. It’s a long-john style box bike and I had reservations about it fitting, but Rick assured me it would work.

With our 5-year-old kid in the bucket of the bike we rode off through Tigard and met Rick for the ride to Beaverton Transit Center. We rolled up to the MAX platform, paid our fare and I nervously waited for the next train. “Is this going to fit?” I asked myself.

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The train arrived and the doors swished open presenting a mostly empty train car. Near the bike hooks there is a priority seating area, one side with a folding bench and one side with no bench. Both are marked with a wheelchair symbol on the floor and decals on the windows explaining that you are required to move for seniors and people with disabilities. I nosed the bike in, the rear wheel protruded a bit into the space between the two sets of doors. Not completely blocking but also not completely clear. The doors closed and off we went.

“It’s upsetting how many drivers don’t slow down to at least the speed limit while we’re working roadside. Even with road signs and safety vests.”

As the train stopped at the next station, the ramp alarm beeped as a person in an electric wheelchair was ready to board the train. I quickly raised the kickstand on the bike and exited the train as soon as the doors opened. “Let me get out of the way!” I said on the way out and the person in the wheelchair rolled inside. Rick was still standing in the train car as I yelled, “I’ll see you at the station!” The train whooshed away and left us at Beaverton Central to wait for the next one. “No biggie,” I said to our kid as I explained the priority seating rules. “Luckily we have frequent train service!” About 12 minutes later we were back on board. We found Rick waiting for us at the Mark O. Hatfield Government Station which is the end of the blue line. We rode about a mile to the Washington County Walnut Street Center to pick up the equipment.

The entire train ride back I was scanning the platforms at each station in preparation to exit the train to give priority seating to anyone that needed it. I was a little nervous and didn’t want to upset anyone that may want to sit there. This time we had two large collapsible orange road signs in the bucket with the matching telescoping metal stands on the rear rack. Rick was carrying the large trash bags, litter pickers and safety vests. We made it back to Beaverton with no issues.

The litter pick-up the next day was successful. We filled five large bags with trash we picked up over two, one-mile sections of the road. We also trimmed many roadside blackberries which seems like a losing battle, especially on Scholls Ferry near the county line. There something strange about picking up and transporting so many car parts by bike: pieces of headlights, taillights, amber lenses, entire plastic wheel-wells, body moulding and mirrors along with the single use cups, bottles and cans that come flying out of vehicles.

It’s upsetting how many drivers don’t slow down to at least the speed limit while we’re working roadside. Even with road signs and safety vests, some drivers won’t even move a bit towards the giant empty center lane to make things a little safer for us.

A few days later we made the same bike/train trip to return the equipment. We returned the signs to Washington County and headed back on a much more crowded train. I rode next to a person using a walker and we talked all about e-bikes. There were many more bikes on this train, some that can’t fit on the bike hooks, some that could. With the increase in bicycle use this may be something TriMet needs to address. The front wheel of many modern e-bikes can’t fit in the provided hook and people must stand with their bikes in the doorway or in the priority seating area.

As ridership increases and trains get more crowded, I’ll be more reluctant to take the bucket bike on the MAX again. I’m glad I tried it and know that it can be done. For the size of the Adopt-A-Road gear, maybe next time a giant backpack and a regular bike with panniers would do the trick? We’ll see. In the meantime, please don’t litter. And ride your bike. Thanks for reading!

— Shawne Martinez, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org
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