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Snow day means biking bliss in Portland

Snow day means biking bliss in Portland

Snow Day 2016-7.jpg

Peninsula Park.
(Photo by James Rohl)

Portlanders woke up to the first real snowfall of the season this morning. The white powdery stuff was sticking to streets and beckoning us out into before most of us had finished our first cup of coffee.

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(Photo: J Maus/BikePortland)

As our streets here in north Portland filled with kiddos, I knew there was only one thing to do. Get out the sleds and the mountain bike and start pulling them around. After many laps around the streets in front of our house (which were wonderfully quiet and calm), it was time to conquer new horizons: the local park.

On our way I saw our friend Wake Gregg shoveling out the parking lot in front of his business, The e-Bike Store. Wake saw us and immediately said, “Want to borrow an e-bike?” “Absolutely,” I replied. A few minutes later, Wake had set me up with an eZee Forza model with big knobby tires. It had a twist-throttle and pedal-assist to engage the 500 watt motor — plenty of power to pull the kids in the sled.

I could hardly contain myself (and neither could the kids).

We rolled over to Peninsula Park, I twisted the throttle, and the rest is history. My friend James caught some of the action…

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A video posted by James Rohl (@portlanddad) on

Here are a few more photos of the fun…

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(Photos: J Maus/BikePortland)

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Thanks PBOT for the traffic diverter medians on Rosa Parks at Michigan. They were a good spot for snow angels!
(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)
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What a perfect way to cap off the holiday break. Hope you got a chance to enjoy it – while you can. Chances are it won’t stick around for long. There’s rain in the forecast, so things could get dicey in the coming week.

— Jonathan Maus, (503) 706-8804 – jonathan@bikeportland.org


The post Snow day means biking bliss in Portland appeared first on BikePortland.org.

Mix of snow, slush and ice make for tricky biking conditions

Mix of snow, slush and ice make for tricky biking conditions

Bad biking conditions made the evening news.

With the worst of the snow and ice storms behind us, the roads are slowly returning to normal. That is, unless you are trying to walk or bike.

As auto traffic volumes return to normal, people are finding that the conditions of bike lanes, neighborhood greenways, and off-street bike paths are full of a dangerous mix of slush, snow, and ice. This isn’t a surprise given that it’s the current policy of the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) to only plow major roads and arterials.

PBOT does not plow any bike-only areas including the paths across our major downtown bridges or facilities like the Springwater Corridor and Eastbank Esplanade. Separated bike paths — like NE Multnomah Street and the curbside bike lane on Broadway near Portland State University — are also left to fend for themselves. And on streets with bike lanes, plow trucks usually only clear the standard vehicles lanes while pushing the snow onto the area where people usually ride. (If you walk or roll your wheelchair, you’re at the mercy of adjacent property owners to shovel sidewalks.)

This lack of attention to key bicycle routes has resulted in poor riding conditions throughout the metro area. We reported about these concerns a bit yesterday and we’ve heard a lot more from readers since then. Before I share more from readers, I just noticed that KGW-TV featured a segment titled, Bicyclists have tough commute post-storm on their newscast last night.

Watch the video below:

Yesterday we asked folks to share their experience with the conditions. We got a lot of report in the comments to our story yesterday and via Twitter. We heard some reports of smooth sailing, but most people reported mountains of slush and snow and very difficult — if not impossible — conditions…

We also heard from several sources that the Springwater Corridor was nearly unpassable last night and into this morning.

For their part, PBOT has responded by referring folks to their snow plow map, telling people on bikes to be careful, and encouraging people to report specific hazard locations. Their responses on Twitter have included: “trying to make as much of a given road as passable as possible for all modes of transport” and “as we pick up sand, we’ll prioritize roads w/ dedicated bike lanes/ heavy bike traffic 4 safety”

This morning we were happy to see PBOT send out this tweet acknowledging reality:

It has become crystal clear in recent days that PBOT’s priority is to make sure the main roads are cleared first. That’s a reasonable policy, especially for a city (understandably) not fully equipped to handle snow and ice storms. But the abysmal condition of many key bikeways raises some important concerns. If Portland wants to be a place where bicycling is more attractive than driving (that’s the stated policy goal in adopted city plans), then bikeways should be given more attention during storm events.

One possible solution would be to simply add a few key bikeway connections to the city’s official Snow and Ice Priority Routes map (PDF). PBOT might also want to consider buying the snow removal attachment for their recently purchased bike lane sized street sweeper.

If there was at least one bike route through the central city and one route to each of the five quadrants that people could rely on — no matter what the weather — it would make a huge difference in safety and in the number of people who could safely travel during and after storms.

I realize there’s a tendency for PBOT and the public at large to say, “Come on bicyclists! The city is doing all it can. It’s just a few days. Deal with it!” I get that. But when it’s another few days in the fall when piles of leaves fill bike lanes and shoulders, and another few days when various festivals and events compromise important bikeways downtown, and another few days for inconvenient bike detours, and another few days for construction projects that spill into bike lanes, and another few days when debris and gravel make riding unsafe and unpleasant, it all adds up.

And it all adds up to people deciding they just don’t have the tolerance we require them to have in order to make bicycling their everyday mode of travel. It’s not just challenging weather that keeps people from biking, it’s how that weather exacerbates the already poor conditions that exist on far too many of our bikeways far too often.

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

— Read all our 2014 winter storm coverage here.

Only 32 bikes crossed the Hawthorne Bridge Sunday, counter says

Only 32 bikes crossed the Hawthorne Bridge Sunday, counter says

The Hawthorne Bridge bike counter on
Friday, in a lull between the storms.
(Photo by Roger Geller.)

Mother Nature finally found a way to keep Portlanders off their bikes on Sunday: a foot of fresh snow followed by a dangerous ice storm.

The Hawthorne Bridge bike counter (which was donated by Cycle Oregon) detected only 32 pairs of wheels crossing in both directions during the entire day. It’s by far the lowest total recorded since the counter was installed in August 2012.

On Friday, the counter picked up 308 bikers, the second-lowest weekday traffic to date after Christmas Day, 2013. On Thursday, when the storm hit midday,
“>1,773 people made it across the bridge westbound
.

On a more normal midwinter day, like last Monday, the counter usually finishes the day with totals in the 4,000s and low 5,000s. In summer, daily totals are usually in the high 6,000s and 7,000s.

The bike counter isn’t perfectly precise, and it’s likely that a layer of snow and ice on the bridge dampened the bridge counts a bit. But it’s safe to say that Sunday was not a great day to cross a bridge on your bike.

Update 6:20 pm: City data collection specialist Tom Jensen writes to add: “I would think the hoses would be fine for counting unless they were in solid ice or in a couple of inches of packed snow. This morning it looked like the path had been more or less clear of snow but I don’t know when or by who (probably MultCo).”

Data from the bridge counter’s website. (Click to enlarge.)

Stormy street conditions report for Monday, February 10th

Stormy street conditions report for Monday, February 10th

Stormy roads 2-10-14-5

Slush. Yay!
(Photos by J. Maus/BikePortland)

As we enter the fifth day of a major storm here in Portland, the snow that has accumulated since last week is now beginning to melt. Over the weekend, temperatures stayed below freezing and the metro area was covered in a layer of ice. Those conditions presented a set of challenges on their own. Now, with temps climbing just a bit above freezing, the Great Thaw has begun in earnest.

I rode from north Portland to downtown this morning and here’s what I experienced…

Residential streets remain a big challenge to ride on. It’s easier with larger, aggressively treaded tires; but for the most part a lot of snow and ice still remains. PBOT does not plow residential streets, and they don’t get much auto traffic, so they will be the last ones to be clear of snow and become easier to ride. Neighborhood collector streets, like N Ainsworth shown below, are a bit better as long as you take the lane and ride in the wheel rut created by auto traffic.

Stormy roads 2-10-14-2

N Ainsworth looking westbound toward Interstate Ave.

One thing to note are the piles of snow forming in the transition zone between smaller and larger streets. I strongly advise putting a foot down and hiking your bike over those sections.

Once I got onto N Interstate, a larger neighborhood arterial, there was even less snow. Most of the bike lane and shoulder was still not rideable, so I tried to ride more quickly in a lane shared by more — and faster-moving traffic. As a general rule, as the streets get easier to bike on, they also come with a higher volume of faster moving auto traffic.

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Southbound on N. Interstate. Less snow and slush; but more people to share the road with.

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With the bike lane and shoulder full of snow, it becomes a test of sharing with others.
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Slush in the shoulder of Interstate, just before the Larrabee ramp.

The next challenge came as I tried to enter the bike path/sidewalk of the Broadway Bridge. The transition from street-to-ramp-to-path was full of dirty and loose snow, making it almost impossible to ride. The path itself was also slushy and tricky. It made me wonder whether PBOT might consider a special crew to clear key, non-auto connections like this bridge path.

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Not an easy transition from green bike lane to bridge path.
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It was slippery.

As I photographed the bridge path, I noticed other riders didn’t even attempt to take it. They simply stayed on the bridge deck and shared the lanes with other road users.

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Stormy roads 2-10-14-13

Another key bike connection that could cause big problems during tonight’s rush-hour is the northbound side of the Broadway ramp leading up to the bridge. As you can see in the image below, the street is in fine condition, but the bike path/sidewalk adjacent to it is not rideable. If people on bikes take the lane on the uphill this evening, there will be a major speed differential with other road users and it could be dicey. Perhaps this is another place where PBOT can send out a crew ASAP?

Stormy roads 2-10-14-16

Taking Broadway through downtown was relatively easy as most of the roadway is clear of snow and ice.

Even with less snow and ice on the roads, it appears that many people are still opting to not ride bikes. I only saw three people biking for my entire, four-mile trip. That’s one of the lowest totals I can ever remember.

The last thing I’ll note is that we’re clearly in for some messy biking conditions for the next few weeks as the snow recedes and gravel remains in the bike lanes and shoulders.

Stormy roads 2-10-14-18

The detritus and damage from storms like this wreak havoc on our streets.

As per usual with these reports, please share your experiences and tips below. For more, up-to-the-minute information, follow @PBOTInfo on Twitter. They’ve been doing a great job posting conditions, photos, and official notices throughout the day.

Riding the icestorm in Portland: A few tips

Riding the icestorm in Portland: A few tips

My snow bike

My chosen tool for bike fun today.

With the City of Portland and other agencies telling everyone to stay indoors due to the sheet of ice that has blanketed our town, I couldn’t wait to leave the house this morning and see if I could still ride a bike.

So, I went out to my shed, pulled down my mountain bike and headed out. Turns out it’s not as bad as I expected. That being said, if you do plan to play around the neighborhood on your bike today, here are a few tips to consider.

  • The bike I’m using is a 29-inch mountain bike with 2.2-inch knobby tires. Either a similar mountain bike or a fat bike is highly recommended.
  • Lower your tire pressure to get more traction. Less air means more of the rubber and knobs on your tires will come in contact with the ground. More contact the better.
  • Use flat pedals if you have them. Platform pedals are easier to quickly step out of and give your shoes more surface area.
  • Lower your saddle. This does several things: It will lower your center of gravity and it will make it easier for you to put your feet down/out for balance. My saddle is low enough that I can walk my bike down the street like a child on a balance bike.
  • Stay perpendicular to the ground. When you turn your bars or your bike, make sure you are as upright as possible. Any leaning to either side and you will likely slide out.
  • Avoid hard-packed areas like where cars have been driving. The softer sections yield much more traction. Yes, you have to break through a top-sheet of ice, but I find that much easier than riding on the very slippery hard-packed sections.
  • Watch for little ruts; but if you do find yourself mounting one, don’t panic. Panic is a killer. If you have low tire pressure, just let it roll when you hit a bump or a rut, stay upright, and you’ll probably be fine.
  • Try the sidewalk. On many streets, the sidewalk is a good option. Not only can you avoid any auto traffic and those wheel-ruts, but there’s likely and softer snow on the sidewalk. That being said, watch out for sections of sidewalk that have been shoveled as they can be the slickest and iciest of all.
  • Be honest and assess your abilities before trying to ride in these conditions. In other words, if you don’t feel comfortable and your gut tells you it’s a bad idea: don’t try it. If you feel you can push your comfort level just a bit, and you know you have good bike-handling skills, then give it a try.

Feel free to share your tips and experiences with today’s conditions in the comments. And have fun out there (or in there if you’ve decided to just stay inside)!

Snowstorm updates and open thread

Snowstorm updates and open thread

Phillip Ross knows how to take
advantage of a snow day.
(Photo courtesy Phillip Ross)

Snow! It’s everywhere and it keeps coming down! I know many folks in other parts of the country more accustomed to snow are laughing at us; but here in Portland the amount of accumulation we’re seeing is pretty rare. It’s stayed cold and dry enough for several days that the entire city is covered in several inches.

To us, this is sort of a big deal.

Parks and streets have been transformed into winter wonderland scenes and with the weekend upon us, and many events cancelled (including The Worst Day of the Year Ride, see below), people are getting as much snow-play in as they can. And for many of you, that means biking. Very fun biking.

With most people opting to not drive anywhere, the streets are nearly carfree. And there are so many people out playing on them that it’s like a citywide Sunday Parkways (h/t to Russ Roca at PathLessPedaled for that idea).

Here’s my little boy owning the road on his balance bike out in front of our house in north Portland:

Whose streets?

I spent the morning tearing around the block while pulling kids on a sled behind my mountain bike. And so did many others from what I’ve seen around the neighborhood and via our social media streams.

Off-road bikes and fat bikes seem to be the tool of choice for these conditions. I’ve heard Mt. Tabor is full of mountain bikes and I know of several groups that have jumped on fat bikes and headed into Forest Park. Check out the shot below from Gabriel Amadeus:

Descending!

Before signing off, we’d just like to say that pretty much everything in our Weekend Event Guide has been cancelled or rescheduled. Just a few minutes ago, the organizers behind The Worst Day of the Year Ride made the tough decision to cancel the entire event (not just the long “challenge ride” as was announced Friday).

With more snow and probably freezing rain on the way, we’re far from seeing the end of these storms.

What have you been up to? Please share your experiences and any important updates on conditions or event cancellations below.

‘Worst Day of the Year Ride’ cancels completely on account of weather (updated)

‘Worst Day of the Year Ride’ cancels completely on account of weather (updated)

First snow day of 2014-25

A rider on the street Thursday.
(Photo by J.Maus/BikePortland

Update: The Worst Day Ride’s organizers said Saturday that they’ve canceled Sunday’s event completely (making various earlier misreports about the cancellation retroactively accurate, I suppose). People who’d bought places in the ride will get automatic entry in next year’s.

As of Saturday afternoon, the National Weather Service expects another 4 to 8 inches of snow to fall by Sunday afternoon, plus freezing rain and ice in some areas, on top of the three to five inches that fell Friday and continued to pile up Saturday.

Here’s the announcement from their site:

Alas, Mother Nature wins this round. We have been forced to cancel the event, or more accurately, postpone for one year. Worsening weather conditions and a forecast of freezing rain tomorrow make for unsafe conditions.

Your safety and the safety of our support staff is our number one concern, and conditions have dictated that it would be nearly impossible to guarantee the well being of everyone during this event.

We appreciate your understanding of this decision and want to thank you for your support by guaranteeing your entry into next year’s Worst Day of the Year Ride.

In its voicemail message Saturday, Good Sport Promotion said an email in the next week will contain instructions on how to claim next year’s ride. It didn’t mention whether cash refunds will be available on request.

Our original Thursday night post follows.

The organizers of Portland’s Worst Day of the Year bike ride love to mention that in its 13-year history, it’s never really rained.

Looks as if the event may have found a way to live up to its name without breaking that record.

Three days before this year’s ride, organizers have called off their 46-mile “challenge” route through the West Hills “for safety reasons.” (Willamette Week sounded off on this with the semi-accurate but pretty amusing headline “Worst Day of the Year Ride Canceled Because of Bad Weather.”)

Read More Read More

Snow Day ride report: Friday, February 7th (Photos)

Snow Day ride report: Friday, February 7th (Photos)

Snow day 2-7-14-3

This woman had reason to smile. The sun popped out and the roads were nearly empty in and around downtown as she rode over the Burnside Bridge.
(Photo by J. Maus/BikePortland)

With yesterday’s storm finishing up over night, we woke up to several inches of snow covering Portland streets. Before the next storm makes it way to us something this evening, I headed out today to see what was going on.

With many businesses and all public schools closed for the day and tons of people staying home from work, the roads were quite calm. Residential streets that had little to no auto traffic and that don’t get any official plowing attention were difficult to ride on; but larger streets were relatively easy to navigate. Of course, I had to take the lane in order to stay out of the powder sections; but other roads users were much more calm and courteous than usual.

I ride side-by-side with a woman on N Vancouver Ave, chatting pleasantly as people drove their cars slowly behind us and waited for a large opening to slowly go around. Same thing happened on NE Martin Luther King Jr Blvd, where I took the right lane and people simply drove by in the left lane.

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Calm enough on Vancouver to ride two abreast outside the bike lane.

I stopped to check out the Lloyd District and noticed that the new bike lane NE Multnomah St. hadn’t been plowed at all. There were a few inches of fresh powder to negotiate and it didn’t help that in front of the Lloyd Center Tower, valets parked cars and scooped snow from the sidewalk right in it.

Snow day 2-7-14-2

Multnomah St. bike lane not looking so hot.

It was smooth sailing from the Lloyd, along NE 12th, then back toward downtown on Couch and the Burnside Bridge. Once on the bridge, I even noticed a guy who was using a hand-held snowplow to clear off the bike lane!

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As for “sneckdowns” — a term popularized by our friends at Streetsblog to show how snowy streets can illuminate how little space auto traffic actually needs (versus how much we devote to it) — I didn’t see much of that. I think it’s because so far our snow is too dry and the air is still too cold so it’s not melting yet. The only sneckdown I did notice was on an I-5 on-ramp where we clearly have room for a few cycle tracks…

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As for downtown, it’s pretty mellow with nothing interesting to report except for a bunch of white stuff all over the place. Here’s a shot of W Burnside just east of Third.

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My social media timelines are full of people exploring parks with their mountain bikes and generally enjoying the day. A group from Joe Bike on SE Lincoln are headed up into Mt. Tabor later today for some riding action.

What are you up to on this fine snow day?

And just FYI, the forecast is calling for another storm this evening, so keep that in mind if you plan to travel around this weekend.

Snow Day ride report: Friday, February 7th (Photos)

Snow Day ride report: Friday, February 7th (Photos)

Snow day 2-7-14-3

This woman had reason to smile. The sun popped out and the roads were nearly empty in and around downtown as she rode over the Burnside Bridge.
(Photo by J. Maus/BikePortland)

With yesterday’s storm finishing up over night, we woke up to several inches of snow covering Portland streets. Before the next storm makes it way to us something this evening, I headed out today to see what was going on.

With many businesses and all public schools closed for the day and tons of people staying home from work, the roads were quite calm. Residential streets that had little to no auto traffic and that don’t get any official plowing attention were difficult to ride on; but larger streets were relatively easy to navigate. Of course, I had to take the lane in order to stay out of the powder sections; but other roads users were much more calm and courteous than usual.

I ride side-by-side with a woman on N Vancouver Ave, chatting pleasantly as people drove their cars slowly behind us and waited for a large opening to slowly go around. Same thing happened on NE Martin Luther King Jr Blvd, where I took the right lane and people simply drove by in the left lane.

Snow day 2-7-14-1

Calm enough on Vancouver to ride two abreast outside the bike lane.

I stopped to check out the Lloyd District and noticed that the new bike lane NE Multnomah St. hadn’t been plowed at all. There were a few inches of fresh powder to negotiate and it didn’t help that in front of the Lloyd Center Tower, valets parked cars and scooped snow from the sidewalk right in it.

Snow day 2-7-14-2

Multnomah St. bike lane not looking so hot.

It was smooth sailing from the Lloyd, along NE 12th, then back toward downtown on Couch and the Burnside Bridge. Once on the bridge, I even noticed a guy who was using a hand-held snowplow to clear off the bike lane!

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Snow day 2-7-14-6

As for “sneckdowns” — a term popularized by our friends at Streetsblog to show how snowy streets can illuminate how little space auto traffic actually needs (versus how much we devote to it) — I didn’t see much of that. I think it’s because so far our snow is too dry and the air is still too cold so it’s not melting yet. The only sneckdown I did notice was on an I-5 on-ramp where we clearly have room for a few cycle tracks…

Snow day 2-7-14-5

As for downtown, it’s pretty mellow with nothing interesting to report except for a bunch of white stuff all over the place. Here’s a shot of W Burnside just east of Third.

Snow day 2-7-14-7

My social media timelines are full of people exploring parks with their mountain bikes and generally enjoying the day. A group from Joe Bike on SE Lincoln are headed up into Mt. Tabor later today for some riding action.

What are you up to on this fine snow day?

And just FYI, the forecast is calling for another storm this evening, so keep that in mind if you plan to travel around this weekend.

UPDATE: Several people have asked how I’m getting around so easily in these conditions. I’m riding the same bike I ride throughout the year — my custom Ahearne (see below). The only modification I’ve made is to lower the tire pressure for extra traction. It’s working out great so far…

Riders brave severe winter storm (Photos)

Riders brave severe winter storm (Photos)

First snow day of 2014-17

Conditions were tricky on the Hawthorne Bridge, with some people opting to walk their bikes.
(Photos by J. Maus/BikePortland)

What happens to all of Portland’s bike riders when the worst snow storm in years hits the area? I was curious too so I spent a few hours out there with my camera tonight.

Turns out many people took the riding as a personal challenge. Bundled up like they were climbing a mountain, most the riders I saw pedaled through the storm with equal parts concentration, determination, and smiles. I did see quite a few people that had thrown in the towel and decided to walk their bikes as the snow continued to fall.

And I couldn’t blame them. The conditions were some of the toughest I’ve experienced in my 10 years as a Portland resident. As the evening commute picked up steam, so did the snow. And the wind howled too, driving the flakes horizontal and making it difficult to see and keep the bike upright. The snow so far is extremely dry and fluffy, so riding in the deeper sections is akin to sand. Your tires get squirrelly and you just have to hold on and pedal through it.

Then there was the traffic. People in cars were backed up all over the place tonight. I-5 was jammed. SE Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd and Grand were at a standstill. So were the Broadway and Burnside Bridges (in both directions). Meanwhile, the bike lanes and paths were free and clear. I had pretty smooth sailing all over town on my bike. That is, except for N Williams Avenue where the snow in the bike lane was deep and had become quite slippery. Eventually myself and a few other riders simply rode in the left lane where the traction was better.

For more perspectives on what tonight’s commute looked like for people on bikes, check out more of my photos below…

First snow day of 2014-1

The bus was a popular option.
First snow day of 2014-2

Waterfont Park and the Esplanade were almost empty.
First snow day of 2014-3

First snow day of 2014-4

First snow day of 2014-5

First snow day of 2014-8

First snow day of 2014-10

First snow day of 2014-6

This guy on the Burnside Bridge wasn’t hiding his face in shame for walking, he was shielding his eyes from the snow drifts.
First snow day of 2014-7

First snow day of 2014-12

First snow day of 2014-13

First snow day of 2014-15

First snow day of 2014-18

First snow day of 2014-19

This part of the Hawthorne viaduct was sort of a free-for-all. Many people drove their cars in the bike-walk lane.
First snow day of 2014-20

This is SE Hawthorne at about SE 8th.
First snow day of 2014-21

First snow day of 2014-22

It took determination and concentration to not fall over.
First snow day of 2014-24

If you could handle your bike — and the cold — you could avoid a lot of traffic jams.
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First snow day of 2014-28

The bike lane on N Williams Ave was tricky as the snow piled up.
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First snow day of 2014-29

First snow day of 2014-30

One of many smiles people shared with me as they rode by.
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Remember this photo when you’re pedaling up Williams in a tank top this summer!
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First snow day of 2014-37

First snow day of 2014-40

First snow day of 2014-41

First snow day of 2014-39

Gabe Graff was having a ball.

We’ve got a lot more snow and other interesting weather to come in the next few days. Let us know how you’re dealing with it.