In addition to leaves and cars and gravel and puddles and signs and construction equipment, another all too common object that blocks travel lanes used by bicycle riders are those big trash and recycling bins. Far too many people disrespect bike lanes and their lack of attention to this issue creates a significant safety hazard when road users are forced to steer around the bins and into other lanes. The issue has become more acute in recent years as the Portland Bureau of Transportation has created more curbside, parking-protected bike lanes.
The issue should be handled automatically by the city through a mix of marketing, education, design and enforcement. But until that happens, like many other street safety issues we face, the burden is on us to file a complaint with the city.
Last week we had a reader contact us about a repeat offender who was leaving several bins in the new bike lane on N Lombard each week. She lives in an apartment and noticed how workers from her property management company were to blame. When she brought the issue to their attention, they “repeatedly dismissed” her concerns. Then last weekend, the bins were struck by a car driver. Frustrated and worried, our reader decided to go a different route: She emailed the Oregon Department of Transportation (they manage this section of Lombard) and the Portland Bureau of Planning & Sustainability (who are in charge of the waste and recycling).
“I shudder to think what would have happened had a cyclist approached this sudden wall of cans in the rainy dark weather and darted into traffic to avoid them,” she wrote in an email copied to BikePortland.
One day later she got a reply from a BPS staffer. The staffer said they got in touch with someone at the property management firm and was told they would place the bins up on the sidewalk and out of the bike lane from now on. The BPS staffer also shared sage advice for how to report the issue so it gets handled correctly.
If you come across bins blocking the bikeway (especially repeat offenders), you can file a complaint with Bureau of Development Services by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 503-823-2633.
The applicable code is found in Chapter 29.20.010:
K. Obstructions to sidewalks, streets, and other rights of way. Keep the adjacent rights of way free of anything that obstructs or interferes with the normal flow of pedestrian or vehicular traffic, unless specifically authorized by permit or ordinance to do otherwise. This responsibility includes, but is not limited to, removal of earth, rock, and other debris, as well as projecting or overhanging bushes and limbs that may obstruct or render unsafe the passage of persons or vehicles.
It’s unfortunate bicycle riders are burdened with having to report these obstructions and I realize not everyone is willing to do it. But if this is your type of thing, at least now you know where to take your concerns. Hopefully they’ll get taken care of quickly.