Winter Road Clean Up – A Response From The City

Our letter to city commissioners, the mayor and the Portland Bureau of Transportation, sent last week, led to a great deal of conversation  on social media, in store, and even the local news (Bike Portland) (KPTV / Fox 12). We did receive a prompt response from PBOT about the process and they, along with other staff at City Hall, are keeping us informed of what to expect going forward. In the time since we asked for prompt road and bike lane cleanup we’ve seen and heard from folks all over the city that the work is well underway with routes being cleaned each day. That said, it will be a long process and dangerous conditions remain. In their response, PBOT also noted the impact snow removal has on bike lane striping and that this will be an additional workload placed on crews during this same time period. Just as with gravel and debris, if you see dangerous riding conditions due to missing striping or signage, let us know and we will pass the location along to our contacts at the city. From PBOT:

“PBOT understands the frustration that cyclists, motorists, pedestrians and other modal users may be feeling at this time in response to the gravel that remains in the public right-of-way. While PBOT is committed to removing the gravel and sand as quickly as possible, it is important to note that we expect the gravel removal process to continue over the next several weeks. To help explain why the clean-up may take longer than PBOT would like, and others might expect, I would share the following rule of thumb: For every day that PBOT spread sand or gravel in the public right-of-way (i.e., roads and bike lanes) during the recent winter storm event, it takes 3-5 days to pick-up the same amount – pending no unforeseen circumstances or emergencies.* This delay is due, in part, to two factors: (1) the sweepers PBOT uses to remove gravel from the roadway can only travel about 5 MPH – and must cover several hundred miles of roadway, and (2) PBOT has fewer sweepers than we do sand and gravel spreaders.

·   Once the storm passed, PBOT was able to get the streets into a basic navigable condition so that our transit system could safely operate. This gave people, including those who would normally bike, an alternative mode of transportation.

·   PBOT will continue to look at expanding the current snow and ice route to include de-icing neighborhood greenways, important travel routes for all modal users including cyclists. However, before any final decision can be made, PBOT will need to determine the costs associated with expanding the current route to include additional roadways or greenways.

·   Snow removal has also impacted bike lane striping. PBOT crews will also be working to re-stripe where necessary; however, weather will influence when and how this occurs.

·   PBOT media releases, which update the public about inclement weather events, always includes language reminding motorists to keep an eye out for people walking and biking – who are also trying to make their way during snow-related events.

In the time since we received this response, the City of Portland released an updated Winter Storm Strategy just a few days in advance of the icy conditions we find ourselves in today. Sadly, there is not mention of neighborhood greenways and residential streets that so many of us use for bicycle transportation. No doubt, the conversation will continue as Portland hopes to increase its mode share numbers. For detail and commentary on the plan, read this report on Bike Portland.

Please stay in touch with us and with the City of Portland on this matter.

Portland Bureau of Transportation

PBOT 24/7 maintenance + repair

Commissioner Dan Saltzman (oversees PBOT)

Mayor Ted Wheeler