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Gravel eats up bike lanes; critics say city doesn't prioritize cleanup

Dodging potholes is a problem for people on two or four wheels, but the gravel that blankets some bike lanes is causing problems for cyclists.

"It can lead to a lot of crashes and be pretty dangerous," said Ben Helgren, owner of Block Bikes in St. Johns.

Along North Rosa Parks Ways, gravel is all over the bike lane as riders cross Interstate 5. Pockets of it continue as the rider goes up Willamette Boulevard. The worst of it is on the sidewalk at the St. Johns Bridge.

"It's not an acceptable level of maintenance at all," said Jonathan Maus, who runs BikePortland.org, a blog that covers active transportation issues in Portland.

Maus alerted ODOT and PBOT of the gravel that had taken over the sidewalks. On Wednesday PBOT said it would take care of the problem within a week.

"We're a month out," Maus said, referring to January's snowstorm. "I'm glad they're going to go pick it up, hopefully this week. I wonder if we didn't raise a big fuss about it if it would have gotten picked up even then."

Helgren had noticed how bad the conditions were getting and wanted to call the problem in.

"In the past week (I've) been noticing how dirty it is, not even sure on who to contact about it," Helgren said. "Because it should be cleaned at some point."

While the St. Johns Bridge is maintained by ODOT, it's PBOT's responsibility to clear the sidewalks.

"The public doesn't know who to call to get something fixed," Maus said.

Maus says the issues with the St. Johns Bridge highlight a much bigger issue. He says the city doesn't properly prioritize clearing bike routes and making sure they're safe.

"There's no strategic plan to make sure that specific routes. Specific, very important routes, are kept safe and clean of debris and gravel," Maus said.

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