Video: What bike lanes looked like after the storm

In this video you’ll get a close-up view of what some of Portland’s bikeways looked like after the Great Storm of 2024. Sunday was the first day I felt safe enough going for a proper ride, so I grabbed my cameras and did a loop from my house near Peninsula Park, down to the Pearl District via Broadway Bridge, then back up on the N Greeley path and Rosa Parks Way.

Listen to my narration or read the captions for more details.

Thanks for watching and make sure to subscribe to BikePortland’s YouTube channel to never miss a video.

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)

Founder of BikePortland (in 2005). Father of three. North Portlander. Basketball lover. Car owner and driver. If you have questions or feedback about this site or my work, feel free to contact me at @jonathan_maus on Twitter, via email at maus.jonathan@gmail.com, or phone/text at 503-706-8804. Also, if you read and appreciate this site, please become a supporter.

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EEE
EEE
1 month ago

Time to add back my bike broom to the daily kit.

Watts
Watts
1 month ago

It is not our job as bike riders to sweep the bike lanes. I understand where you’re coming from with your idea to try to organize some cleanup efforts, but this is something PBOT really has to do. They’ve got the staff, budget, mandate, and responsibility to do this.

And they’re the ones who put down all the gravel in the first place.

Sid
Sid
1 month ago
Reply to  Watts

Okay but they aren’t going to do it. Either you do it or wait for 4 months of rain to wash it away.

dw
dw
1 month ago

Good video. I’d be interested in helping out with a bike lane cleanup. Anybody organizing one? I don’t have many tools but I have labor, time, and mediocre dad jokes to contribute.

Keith
Keith
1 month ago

This event shows how bollards for protecting bike lanes are a mixed blessing. For example, the Barbur section close to downtown and Beaverton-Hillsdale Hwy, which are maintained by PBOT, have snow in the bike lane because the plows obviously can’t run over the bollards. This results in more gravel and debris that will be there for months given PBOT’s street sweeping schedule and lack of machinery designed to service physically separated bike lanes.

SD
SD
1 month ago
Reply to  Keith

Weird that bike lanes without physical protection are also filled with gravel for months also.

John V
John V
1 month ago
Reply to  SD

Yeah but that doesn’t change the fact that it isn’t possible to plow bike lanes with bollards (or any physical protection) unless there is some other dedicated bike lane plow that I’m unaware of (and PBOT clearly doesn’t have).

It does raise a real problem I’m not sure of the solution to (other than said bike lane plow I’m not sure is real). I’ve never lived anywhere other than Oregon, so I don’t know how places that get regular snow deal with it. Surely it’s a solved problem, I just don’t know.

I did notice that on Rosa Parks, the sections that have the small concrete curb for protection are relatively clean. So that makes me think a lot of the gravel in the bike lanes comes from vehicles pushing the gravel to the side, not the plows.

John V
John V
1 month ago
Reply to  SD

Oh I’m well aware of the sweeper, and that it somehow never gets used. I thought we were talking about clearing roads when it’s snowing. Or that’s what I was talking about. My mistake.

Watts
Watts
1 month ago
Reply to  John V

I know it’s pretty high-tech, but I’ve lived places where people affix snowplows to their pickups, which are able to plow spaces that are narrower than where a full-size truck might fit.

Perhaps some solution like that would allow PBOT to clear bike lane and lay down a good layer of gravel for us to ride on.

John V
John V
1 month ago
Reply to  Watts

Hey, I don’t know anything about snow plowing. If that would work, and fit, then yeah they should do that. I’m sure with our measly amount of snow it shouldn’t be hard for a pickup. I guess the question then would be where do they plow it to. Maybe they can fit it all in the parking strip or something.

SD
SD
1 month ago
Reply to  John V

This discussion reveals one of the dirty secrets of bike lanes:

They are actually gutters and shoulders with a bit of paint.

Ted Buehler
1 month ago
Reply to  SD

SD — which unprotected bike lanes in particular? My experience is that unprotected bike lanes in Portland get cleaned out pretty fast by motor vehicles going in and out of them.

Ted Buehler

SD
SD
1 month ago
Reply to  Ted Buehler

The first few that come to mind immediately are Marine drive, Highway 30, Terwilliger. These are the ones I have the most experience with, but I would think that there would be others. I understand there are jurisdictional issues with who is responsible for these roads. Today, Vancouver still had a decent amount of gravel from Legacy to the Rose Quarter, but that may clear up “naturally” over the next couple of weeks. Strangely, Vancouver had a clear line where it looked like gravel was intentionally swept from car lanes and left in the bike lanes, i.e. it didn’t follow a pattern of car travel.

Andrew Kreps
Andrew Kreps
1 month ago

You know what? I do have a broom. See you out there.

Champs
Champs
1 month ago

By Saturday we’d been shut in for a week and a half, neither safely getting farther than the sidewalk I cleared largely by myself, nor covering my benchmark “20 minute neighborhood” trip to New Seasons (your destination may vary, hopefully) without significant risk. Suffice it to say that running errands on foot was impossible and by bike was a disaster. Posting as much to Reddit felt 50% support, 50% flames.

The detractors were a composite of people who drove and couldn’t see the problem with my “toy” as our only vehicle, and people who lost power and were in an objectively worse place. The latter certainly have a point, but what I know come summer is that collective amnesia sets in and “bikes go to the front of the line” will be the narrative again.

This city needs to come together and appreciate that we need to work together. Part of it is clearing the damn sidewalk and maybe more—I went beyond my own and my elderly neighbors’—so that people can walk. It also means being patient with people riding bikes outside the unusable bike lane if we aren’t going to clear them, because some of us simply don’t have cars.

Disaster Relief Trials are held in the summer. The real thing was these past two weeks, and we failed.

Chris I
Chris I
1 month ago
Reply to  Champs

Do you own shoe chains? They make a huge difference on the ice. I was able to get around the neighborhood without much issue. They are something I keep in the car for winter trips, and use around the neighborhood during snow and ice storms.

Chris I
Chris I
1 month ago

Climate change silver lining: should be fewer events like this in the future.

Lisa Caballero (Assistant Editor)
Editor
Reply to  Chris I

Not really, I think we can probably expect more weird events.

prioritarian
prioritarian
1 month ago

The climate science literature predicts jet stream weakening and increasing episodes of southward movement of arctic air as an outcome of global heating:

comment image

To all those who celebrate and live a western lifestyle, ENJOY!

Lisa Caballero (Assistant Editor)
Editor
Reply to  prioritarian

I was thinking of the gulf stream slowing, and Europe becoming much colder. But, yeah, the jet stream too!

Chris I
Chris I
1 month ago
Reply to  prioritarian

Sweet. Better skiing on Mt. Hood!

Time to buy studded tires for my Chevy Tahoe XL grocery hauler.

Watts
Watts
1 month ago
Reply to  Chris I

It’s all part of a virtuous cycle.

Jay Cee
Jay Cee
1 month ago

Interstate was pretty bad this morning with all the gravel in the bike lane. Made the tiny bike lane almost not visible with all the debris

qqq
qqq
1 month ago

It seems like someone could organize some curling clubs to clean up the gravel in the bike lanes. They go out in the cold and sweep long, narrow pathways for fun. It could be some nice training for them, and they sweep incredibly fast.

In fact, the sport of curling was created by 19th-century European road maintenance crews, as a way to keep their winter gravel-sweeping skills honed during the warmer months. Road maintenance crews from nearby towns would meet in organized competitions to enliven their training and build professional comradery. It eventually developed into the Olympic sport we know today.

Watts
Watts
1 month ago
Reply to  qqq

I’ve always wondered why Canada has such clean streets. Thanks for the history lesson.

Ted Buehler
1 month ago

Nice video, you should do it again this week when the snow is gone, and we can see how much gravel/garbage there is in the protected bike lanes.

FYI, if folks don’t want to sweep streets themselves, PBOT will happily sweep them if you make a request at safe@portlandoregon.gov or through the PDXreporter app. PBOT has the budget, they have the crews, they just have a policy of not sweeping unless there is a citizen request.

So. Make a nice request, limit to about 5 blocks at a time. Sent a photo if you can. If the problem area is more than 5 blocks long send in more than one request. Each request should have the start location and the end location. They’ll get to it in a couple business days.

And while this may be cumbersome, if we want the city to sweep bike lanes on a regular basis as a matter of policy, it really helps to have a flurry of sweeping requests coming in after a storm like this.

I sent in a request to sweep N Whittaker Road today. The new protected bike lanes there are mostly blocked with leaves, seed pods, gravel, garbage, broken glass and standing water. This is on the I-5 bike route between Portland OR and Vancouver WA. I figure PBOT can do better here. We’ll see what happens.

They used to look like this —
https://bikeportland.org/2022/06/03/first-look-new-bike-lanes-on-n-whitaker-355197

Ted Buehler

Toadslick
1 month ago

Gravel being dumped for another year was the last straw regarding my personal bike advocacy. The thought of convincing anyone to try bike commuting in this city when cars are bigger and drivers are more distracted than ever, most bike routes have not meaningfully improved in well over a decade, and now there’s gravel and more pot holes than ever since the city has done nothing to curb chain use.

Every bike trip will be more perilous for months just so that the city could appease the most polluting, inefficient, and destructive mode of transportation for a couple of days when most folks should not have been traveling anyway. And that is a clear demonstration of their priorities.

Meanwhile the max and bus stops are constantly disgusting and inhabited by folks who are just scary to be around.

Given these conditions, why would I ask anyone I care about to not drive? I’ve been car-free for almost 20 years and that won’t change, but I wouldn’t wish this experience on anyone else.

John V
John V
1 month ago
Reply to  Toadslick

I feel like people are making this out to be a bigger problem than it is. Really, it feels like you’re doing the opposite of bike advocacy, you’re fear mongering about it and making it out to be this perilous, terrifying, brave thing to do.

It IS a problem, don’t get me wrong. If you are surprised by it and not using caution on a corner, you could go down. And that’s dangerous, and the city should be responsible for dealing with it. But if you’re incapable of staying upright on gravel – when you know in advance you’re going to be riding on gravel – it’s dangerous for you to ride a bike anywhere. But I don’t think that’s true for most people.

After all, do we ever hear people saying that about driving? The city won’t clean up these potholes, that’s the last straw in my driving advocacy. Nah. It’s just annoying and illustrates a thing the city needs to fix.

qqq
qqq
1 month ago
Reply to  John V

Remember that the gravel was mentioned as the “last straw”. Last straws often aren’t significant in comparison to what’s gone before them (and Toadslick does list several larger problems).

Also, the issue with the gravel isn’t just whether it’s possible to ride through it, it’s also the attitude behind it being spread out and then left for months.

So while riding through it may be readily achievable by many people, I can still see why it’s a last straw for people advocating for biking. I can also see it being a last straw leading someone to choose driving over biking for their next trip.

John V
John V
1 month ago
Reply to  qqq

Yeah I get the concept of “last straw”, I just can’t imagine this really being a straw at all. Seems like an odd thing to blame for not wanting to suggest people ride a bike.

I agree it’s frustrating the gravel gets left behind. But imagine for a second it was like the weather – nothing you can do about it other than prepare. Would that really be a thing that convinces you it’s not safe to ride? I don’t believe it; no matter the previous “straws”, it just seems odd to focus on this. Given that there is something that can be done, something should be done and I’m angry that it isn’t.

Although this is one of MANY problems left from the storm still outstanding, e.g. a tree blocking a whole car lane of Ainsworth even now. I mean, I know that tree will be cleared before the gravel, and that’s an annoying consistent depiction of who gets priority. But I can’t find it in myself to understand why someone would allow that to be “the last straw” that makes them stop advocating for biking. I would advocate for biking even if we had no infrastructure at all because it’s still a good thing to advocate for!

Watts
Watts
1 month ago
Reply to  John V

the weather – nothing you can do about it other than prepare. Would that really be a thing that convinces you it’s not safe to ride?

Lot’s of people don’t ride in the rain, and I don’t ride when there might be ice. So yes, the weather can and does convince people not to ride.

I no longer advocate for others to ride either. Not so much because of the gravel, but because I don’t know that I’ve ever once convinced someone to change their behavior, and I’d rather talk about other things.

The gravel is just one more thing on a long list of things that help me understand why most people simply prefer driving.

John V
John V
1 month ago
Reply to  Watts

You and I just can’t communicate I guess.
When I say “the weather” I’m simply using that as an example of something that you can’t change. I’m not comparing the gravel to rain, which is a real deterrent to riding.

I don’t know that I’ve ever once convinced someone to change their behavior

This explains approximately all of the beliefs you espouse in these comment sections.

I also struggle with knowing how to convince people to change behavior. But I believe it is possible. Otherwise, there would be no reason to do politics, we’re just deterministic automatons that don’t respond to stimuli. Doesn’t seem true.

I mean, I have changed my own mind and behavior on things. I started commuting to work at some point, I didn’t always do it. And I’m under no illusion that I did that without any cause or influence. Something made me realize that driving everywhere just isn’t the way. Lately, Bike Portland and The War on Cars have been influential (i.e., convincing) to me. Clearly minds/behaviors can be changed.

Watts
Watts
1 month ago
Reply to  John V

You can change behavior by changing incentives. Governments do it all the time, as do social movements.

On an individual level, maybe you can persuade a driver to ride their bike, but I can’t. More power to you.

I can’t even convince people to hang out their laundry out on a sunny day, which seems a far easier sell than riding a bike.

qqq
qqq
1 month ago
Reply to  John V

I’m not going to question whether someone else’s “last straw” is valid for them–especially not someone who’s been car-free for 20 years, who’s only saying how they feel, and not how anyone else should feel or respond.

Also, several people in these recent snow/grave/weather articles have mentioned injuries from gravel, such as:

some fine medical workers got to spend close to an hour picking little bits of gravel out of my various wounds. Made me super thankful that local anesthetic is a thing.

I realize it’s not an issue to you personally. But the articles and comments indicate it is to many other people.

John V
John V
1 month ago
Reply to  qqq

For what it’s worth, that anecdote was about a car running them off the road, not caused by the gravel. The gravel was just the obstacle they fell on. Drivers running you off the road is the real problem.

I would take the comments people espouse here about how they feel about gravel with a grain of salt (not to be used on the road, of course). It’s important for us to complain loudly to all who can hear that stuff like the gravel mess needs fixing. Because statistically, it is going to increase accidents. It’s dangerous. At the same time, saying it is the last straw that keeps you from advocating for cycling is about as cringe as Sarah Iannarone’s comment that she couldn’t make the in person meeting a few miles away because of gravel. We all have to hype each other up about how bad conditions are. It’s a problem worth addressing for sure.

But hey, if that’s the straw that makes you quite bicycle advocacy, I can’t change that of course. I definitely question how they feel about it, and it seems like an unfortunate overreaction that someone is letting this stop them from advocating for cycling especially when said advocacy is literally one of the things that can help fix the problem of not clearing bike lanes!

Toadslick
1 month ago
Reply to  John V

“But if you’re incapable of staying upright on gravel – when you know in advance you’re going to be riding on gravel – it’s dangerous for you to ride a bike anywhere. But I don’t think that’s true for most people.”

Nowhere in my comment did I say that I’m incapable of riding in gravel? I’m not interested in having a convo about things I didn’t even write.

SD
SD
1 month ago

Very happy to say that it looks like Vancouver gravel was swept from Legacy to NE Weidler.