How’s that gravel treating you? An update on clean-up efforts

How’s that gravel treating you? An update on clean-up efforts

City crews picking up gravel
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.

Reader Paul Atkinson said he has tried riding in the gravel but after three flats in four days, he’s given up. “I’m out. That’s it. I’m driving til they clean that s#!+ up,” he wrote via a comment, “…maybe I’ll write a note on the three blown tubes and mail them in.”

While we’ve definitely heard a lot of complaints, we’ve also heard from people happy to see their favorite bikeway all cleaned up.

PBOT has been very busy on Twitter all week responding to all the citizen input. They are encouraging everyone to call 823-1700 with the exact location of the gravel. We hear that hotline is very responsive, so please consider using it if you can. As for why the clean-up is still not complete, here’s how PBOT explains the slow progress:

Gravel, leaves in bike lane-4

Not very fun and quite disrespectful.
(Photo by J. Maus/BikePortland)

PBOT says it will be about 6-8 weeks before all the gravel is gone.

Another reason it takes a while for the gravel to be cleaned up is that there are only so many maintenance staff hours to go around. Or so says our resident PBOT maintenance staffer who comments here regularly. He/she recently gave us the inside scoop about the clean-up effort:

“On the gravel cleanup, we do our best to get it up as fast as we can. Clean, safe bike lanes are important to a lot of us at PBOT. The city is not giving us the hours they did in 2008 [when we had our last major storm event] to clean it up so it will take longer. Instead of 70hrs a week for two weeks, we will work 50hrs. That will mean about 200 less curb miles less per week, per shift. That’s a lot of gavel [sic] staying on the roads until the next time we regularly sweep that street. I’m sure happy I have Kevlar 2.35’s with Slime tubes and lots of XC experience right now, cornering can be dicey at speed.”

One interesting question that a few people have raised on Twitter is this: Why does PBOT need to lay out so much gravel to begin with? “Maybe gravel is a bad idea. Is one day of somewhat improved conditions for motor vehicles worth the mess?” asked @Klickitat this morning. PBOT responded by saying they’re open to suggestions.

We’re curious: How are things going for you out there? Have you called in a gravel clean-up request? Does the gravel bother you? Is this a non-issue? Let us know.

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