Fresh off leaves-in-the-bike-lanes season, it’s time to gird yourself for gravel-in-the-bike-lanes season.
How are things looking out there on the bike lanes you use the most?
Since our post last week there’s been big progress on some key bikeways we’ve been watching and I’m curious how the clean-up is going for you.
In particular, and since we helped make such a big deal out of it to begin with, I want to share the progress on Highway 30 and the St. Johns Bridge.
Sweeping has happened on the bridge sidewalk. It’s not perfectly clean; but it’s a vast improvement. I got some video the day it was swept (2/17):
With a shovel in his hand to drive the point home, Portland reporter Reed Andrews with KATU (our ABC affiliate) highlighted the problem of gravel in the bike lanes on their news broadcast last night.
Andrews focused his story on the layer of gravel on the St. Johns Bridge sidewalk we reported on Tuesday. He interviewed the owner of Block Bikes, a bike shop just steps away from the east end of the bridge who vouched for the problems it causes for his customers. The story also included an interview with a bicycle rider who said he often rides miles out of his way just to avoid riding the bridge sidewalk.
The only refuge from fast-moving (and often irate) people driving cars across the St. Johns Bridge is still covered in a layer of gravel a month after the last snow storm.
As we first reported nearly three weeks ago, while driving is pretty much back to normal following major snow storms, biking is still hazardous. Massive potholes plague streets and many bike lane markings have all but vanished due to the constant scraping from tire chains, plows, studded tires, and gravel. And there are still many trees and limbs that block bicycle-only lanes — forcing people into adjacent lanes which increases the risk of collisions.
All our various road agencies need to place a much higher priority on the safety of all road users when it comes to their storm clean-up plans.
One of the most egregrious spots is on the sidewalk of the St. Johns Bridge. There’s so much gravel that in some parts you can’t see the surface of the sidewalk. This is a big deal because the St. Johns Bridge is a vital bicycling connection and the roadway lacks bike lanes. With large diesel trucks rumbling inches away, the narow St. Johns Bridge sidewalks are already sketchy enough. Add slippery gravel and you’ve got even more stressful situation.
Earlier this week the PDX Transformation Twitter account put out a call for volunteers for a public service project
I inquired what was going on and found out the project was to do some winter gravel cleanup. I thought that sounded like fun!
Ultimately five of us showed up. PDX Transformation loaned some safety equipment, and we each brought brooms. We rode out to the raised bikeway at 85th and Division and went to work. The raised bikeway was a good choice, because I assume it’s one of the harder places for PBOT to run a sweeper, and it also doesn’t get any vehicle traffic to help push the debris away.
See more photos below the jump…
For people who ride bikes in Portland, those nasty winter storms are far from over. The weeks of rain, ice, snow, studded tires, chains, and plows have wreaked havoc on roads — especially in the space used for cycling.
It’s one thing to deal with it in a well-cushioned car, but another thing entirely when trying to navigate a bicycle: Ride in the gravel, mud and other hazards and you risk flats or losing control; ride in the lane and you risk interactions with motor vehicle users.
We hate to complain; but this situation is not new. It’s also dangerous and we haven’t seen significant steps taken to improve it even though it has been on the City’s radar for many years. We’ve documented hazardous post-storm cycling conditions (and PBOT’s response to it or lack thereof) in 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2014.
in their trademark, two-sweeper formation.
(Photo: LiUNA Local 483)
The on-street gravel treatments that added traction to Portland’s streets during February’s snowstorm have been cleared from the bike lanes and shoulders two weeks earlier than expected, a city spokeswoman said Tuesday.
The city managed to clear 1,700 lane-miles of gravel from its streets in four weeks, rather than the six to eight weeks it first expected, by devoting additional crews to the task.
“In addition to the night crews, we had day crews,” spokeswoman Diane Dulken said. Related overtime cost the city about $100,000, she said, 14 percent of the total storm response. “Because it is a priority, we did these things to speed it up.”
in their trademark, two-sweeper formation.
(Photo: LiUNA Local 483)
It’s been about 10 days since the City’s effort to clean-up about 1,000 cubic feet of gravel began. With so many bikeways full of the annoying little rocks, we figured it was a good time to check in and see how things are looking.
If comments we’ve seen here on the site and elsewhere are any indication, it’s clear that there’s still a ton of gravel out there. I can also say from personal experience that many key bikeways in all parts of the city look like they haven’t been touched by a sweeper at all. Yesterday I rode on NW Everett into downtown. This is a stretch well known to PBOT for the high rate of collisions due to right hooks at NW 16th, so I was dismayed that it hasn’t been swept. After all, braking and making sudden movements to avoid a collision is all but impossible on gravel.
It’s been a challenging week transportation-wise here in Portland. First we were hit by snow and strong winds, then freezing rain, then a blanket of ice. After that, we had to trudge through tricky slush-piles. Now, thankfully, the weather is getting back to normal; but one last challenge remains: gravel.
(Photos by J. Maus/BikePortland)
On the official City of Portland bike map, NW St. Helens Road/Highway 30 looks like a nice solid bike lane (see below). It’s the only north-south bike lane on the west side of the Willamette River between northwest Portland and Sauvie Island (and beyond). As such, this bike lane is an important route for many people — whether they’re commuting to St. Johns or using it as a gateway to many popular riding destinations.
Unfortunately it’s usually full of dirt, gravel, and other debris. It’s so bad that I recently learned in some circles it’s known as “Dirty 30”.
they biked during the storms last
winter. 78% of them said bikeways
were in poor condition.
(Photo © J. Maus)
Mayor Adams’ office has released the results of a survey they conducted to learn more about the experiences of people who rode their bikes through our spate of severe winter snow storms.
The bike survey was conducted separately from a general storm response survey because the Mayor’s office completely forgot about bikes in the first one.