[Updated] Ask WeBikeEugene: How often are the off-street paths cleared of leaves?

Slippery when wet!

Before we get this article underway, I’d like to acknowledge that I am, indeed, blatantly ripping off the idea for this feature from BikePortland. If you can’t beat ’em (and who could?) join ’em copy ’em.

Today’s question stems from a hodgepodge of posts that showed up on the GEARs mailing list over the last few days.  Posts like:

“The River Trails were great yesterday!  However, the leaves are falling at a good rate and are starting to cover the pavement in spots, really well, hiding those areas that may cause someone to fall or worse.”


“I’d love to know the answer to how often they clear off the river paths.  I roller blade (yesterday) as well as bike (today on my rain bike – ’93 Specialized Rockhopper) and last winter I was EXTREMELY PLEASED to find the paths occasionally cleared.  Or maybe it was my imagination?  Or maybe it was the wind?  I really don’t know.  Does anyone?”

So how often does the City clear the leaves on the off-street (multi-use) bike paths?  Did the budget cuts which we were warned about back in April affect this schedule?  What can we do when we encounter a path blocked by leaves?

These are the questions that I asked the City of Eugene’s intrepid Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator Lee Shoemaker.  I summarize and expand on his answers after the jump!

It turns out that the off-street path cleaning schedule for 2011 is two sweeps per year, which is the same as it’s been the past two years.  This is in addition to the Parks and Open Spaces (POS) division maintaining the River Path with leaf blowers throughout the leaf season.  It was unclear from Lee’s response how often POS clears the path, but I will update this story if I can find that out.

So, long story short: The City doesn’t have very frequent routine cleanings of off-street paths, but if you report a hazard to them they’ll clean it as soon as they can.

Update:  I found out at last night’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Comittee (BPAC) meeting that POS tries to clear the 14-15 miles of path system with leaf blowing machines about once a week during leaf season.  Officials stressed that the machines are loud and visibility when using them is limited, so please be very cautious when approaching and passing the leaf blowers.

It is good news that the sweeps won’t be declining (not that two a year is very much) in light of an April 29th Register-Guard article which ominously said that under the new proposed budget  “Routine maintenance of bike paths also would be eliminated.” Many took this to mean that regular pothole fixing and sweeping would no longer continue on the multi-use paths.  For the most part, it appears that what little regular sweeping they do will continue.

In some ways, how often the paths are scheduled for cleaning isn’t entirely relevant to how often they are cleaned.  Cyclists have many ways to report paths and bike lanes hazarded by leaves and debris which will get them cleaned earlier.  They can call the City Maintenance Line at (541) 682-4800 or the Leaf Hotline at (541) 682-5383.  They can also report hazards using the City’s  online bike lane service request form.  Despite the name, the website works for off-street paths as well.  You’ll have to switch to aerial view on the map in order for bike paths to show up, however, because they use Bing as their map engine.  Bing, unlike Google maps, does not show bike paths on their street maps.

(If you are riding in Springfield you can report hazards by calling (541) 726-3761)

Online Bike Lane Service Request!

I personally know that the Fern Ridge path is swept more than twice a year, mainly from my experience reporting hazards and having them cleaned up.  For instance, when the Fern Ridge Path flooded last spring the city had the debris  cleaned up within 48 hours (I would have preferred a tad faster).  In general, the city responds to calls concerning leaves, glass, and debris on the paths and in bike lanes very quickly.  So, if your route has hazards, call them in!  Program (541) 682-4800 into your cell phone and call whenever you see a hazard.  If you feel extra techy, snap a picture of the hazard and send it to the Eugene Bike Accessibility Issues Flickr Group.  If you are reporting the hazard using the City website, you can include a link to the picture so they know exactly where to clean!

So, long story short: The City doesn’t have very frequent routine cleanings of off-street paths, but if you report a hazard to them they’ll clean it as soon as they can.

It should be noted the the City will continue the weekly cleaning of the 20 miles of high-priority bike lanes (pdf) during the 2010-11 leaf season.  I’ll be posting more on the overall leaf program in the future.

This small broom fits in my Xtracycle, but it'd fit in a large pannier too!

If I may, I’d like to add one final suggestion when it comes to path maintenance.  If you have the inclination and enough storage on your bike, why not carry a small hand broom and clean minor debris problems yourself?  I’ve been carrying a little broom/dustpan combination for about a year now, and it’s nice to be able to clean small amounts of broken glass when I first encounter them.  This saves the City time and money, and frees them up to respond to bigger problems more quickly.  This also prevents others (and you on your return trip!) from encountering the hazard in the several hours which may pass before the City can respond.  You could simply sweep the glass off the path into a safe area of grass, against a curb, or even carry a can to put the glass in if you are extra motivated.  It’s good bikema, why not do it?

If you have question for WeBikeEugene, ask us!

Author: C-Gir


4 thoughts on “[Updated] Ask WeBikeEugene: How often are the off-street paths cleared of leaves?”

  1. I’ve been using the City of Eugene maintenance line for over two years to report glass. Seems to work, though of course the City does not have the staff to respond to calls after hours or on weekends.
    I have also swept glass using borrowed brooms from local businesses. During these times I noticed how many cyclists come upon the glass, try to avoid it, then ride on. It is the classic mattress in the road phenomena: “Look, a mattress fell off a truck and is in the road. Have to drive around it. Someone should move it out of the road”. Meaning that we all have to work together to keep glass from causing flats.
    I did propose to the former Eugene Bicycle Coalition that we should support legislation that would have raised the deposit on bottles. I was told that this was not a core issue for bicyclists, and that it would not be a part of cycling advocacy.
    Glass is especially bad near the west side of campus. I have also encouraged the University based bike advocacy group to spend some energy patrolling this area each Saturday to do glass clean up. No response.
    Eventually the amount of debris to clean up will overwhelm our limited City resources. While we lose important revenue by providing free parking ($220,000 a year) and $150,000 is lost in in unpaid parking citations, the Eugene Weekly reports a $153,000 cut to path maintenance.
    To help correct this imbalance (it’s easier to drive than bike), we need to speak up and at the bike/ped strategic planing. More people will bike, but not if they get flats riding but can park for free downtown if they drive.

  2. Two other maintenance numbers y’all may want to know:

    744-8080 – ODOT
    682-6900 – Lane Co.

    These folks tend to be responsible for the bike lanes in Glenwood. (mostly ODOT)

    I’ll do a full post on this later.

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