A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Why there’s debris in highway bike lanes

Written June 18th, 2024 by Hasso Hering

Looking along the southbound bike lane on Pacific Boulevard, just south of 29th Avenue in Albany on June 14, 2024.

“As a fellow cyclist,” Albany resident Travis Remington asked me, “how do feel about the upkeep of the main bike lanes through Albany?”

In an email on June 9, he explained: “I commute from North Albany to Tangent on my bike daily and am frustrated with the amount of debris in the bike lanes. I have contacted the city about it, and they don’t seem to care. Some of the bike lanes are well kept, but others, specifically Hwy. 99 and the bridges across the river, are horrible.”

Because of high-speed motor traffic only inches away, the bike lanes on Highway 99E between Albany to Tangent test any bike rider’s resolve, and debris on the pavement doesn’t make the trip any easier on the nerves, never mind the tires.

Mindy McCartt is the public information officer for the Oregon Department of Transportation in this area. I asked her what she could tell me about sweeping the bike lanes along the state highways in Albany.

“The plan is to sweep this area once a quarter, however, our sweeper suffered a significant mechanical failure in May, so the schedule has been delayed significantly,” she replied. “Once the sweeper is repaired (the current estimate is mid-July), the entire Albany area will be swept first.”

When it works, this one sweeper is shared between five maintenance sections in Linn, Benton, Lincoln and southwest Polk counties, McCartt said. The same machine is used to sweep all bridges on Highway 101 from Florence to Tillamook.

“The good news is we were able to secure funding to add an additional sweeper to our fleet along with replacing the current machine that is quickly becoming unreliable,” McCartt wrote. “The bad news is they are not expected until the fall of 2025.”

As you know, ODOT has been hard put to pay for all the things it’s supposed to be doing to maintain, improve and expand our highway system. Debris in the bike lanes is just one result.

McCartt ticked off other things that people will notice, such as deterioration of pavement, less frequent cleanup of litter, graffiti and roadside campsites, and fewer big projects to modernize the highway system.

The legislature’s Joint Committee on Transportation (Rep. Shelly Boshart Davis, R-Albany, is a co-chair) has been going around the state talking to people, hoping to prepare some kind of transportation funding package for the 2025 legislative session.

Debris in the bike lanes is not the biggest problem ODOT faces. Congestion is. There are too many vehicles on a highway system built for a population less than half its current size. (hh)

Here’s a wider shot of the same bike lane, giving a view less exaggerated than in the photo above.

10 responses to “Why there’s debris in highway bike lanes”

  1. Peg says:

    How many people use this bike lane daily? Is such a question considered irrelevant?

    Or is it absurd to expend resources on keeping the lanes pristine for the occasional user? Perhaps automobiles should be forbidden and only bicycles permitted?

    • bubba smith says:

      so because YOU dont use it its a waste of money? got it
      if you want to know how many people use the bike path get you a lawn chair and sit next to the bike path and count

  2. Sheri Jakeman says:

    I was wondering what they are going to do with the street entering the hospital. The pot holes there are so bad, and have been there for years, and getting worse

  3. Dennis says:

    ODOT has spent a considerable amount of money building and maintaining the MAX line in Portland over the past 20 years. I knew someone at ODOT who said 20 years ago the focus at ODOT is mass transit, not highways. Thus we now have crowded I-5, and other major highways that have needed additional lanes and new overpasses for years.

  4. Al Nyman says:

    I used to walk Bryant Way and I walked in the road because the bike lane was full of trash. Don’t know what you can do about it as the cars move junk off the driving lanes to the side.

  5. TLH-ALB1 says:

    As for the pot holes, grab some potted plants and a bag of dirt…(you get the idea). We could have some colorfully named roads…pansy parkway, begonia byway, red tulip turnpike, daffodil drive, sunflower street, daisy dead end. Which is pretty much the way of any improvements.

  6. david pulver says:

    more traffic cams, new ev chargers, roads with potholes, and a broken down street sweeper. we voted for this, we ask for it, we got it. very simple to figure out who is responsible for this. the real question is… will we do something about it?? ill bet a cold soda pop the answer is no.

    • Bubba smaith says:

      as there are 22k demacrats and 33k republicans in linn county who do you blame?

  7. Katie says:

    Since bicyclists pay nothing into the revenue stream to maintain these bike lanes, and funding is so drastically diminished until legislature approves a change of funding source structure, I don’t see this changing. Crews are so small, individuals are trying to do the work of multiple positions due to lack of funding for staffing, you simply cannot continue the same expectation that they will do more with less as it has been for 30 years… they have to start with highest urgencies and keep moving til the funding runs out.

  8. Tbone says:

    I also bike a lot around Albany (commuting) and for fun other areas, over 15k miles in last 3 years. Albany’s bike lane infrastructure is actually pretty good and I would rate it in the top 10% where I’ve been but the crap in lanes is really bad in certain areas, i.e. sections of Hwy 99 and the bridges, and is easily the worst city I’ve biked in. In the past 3 years I’ve had to fix 12 tires due to glass, screws, staples, and splinters – and I run thick tires.
    I agree it is a cost/benefit thing but certain areas should just get cleaned more and others less due to the traffic trash. It becomes a re-prioritazation of where work is needed.
    I do purchase gas, pay income and property taxes, so it isn’t like I get free roads.

    An interesting idea to keep public costs down and cause those contributing to the issue is to require land owners to clean/sweep the area (sidewalks and bike lane) in front of their property once a quarter. The worst areas (besides the bridges) are in front of places that have gravel driveways, gravel parking lots or specific industry that invites punctures (Burcham and the manufactured homes). I know…Just a pipe dream but seems reasonable…and yes, I do it in front of our house when it gets bad :)

    I’ll end with a story. I ran into a friend that rides a lot. Used to commute from Albany to Corvallis every day. He was biking on Springhill past the golf course where the bike lane is just a white line and I asked why he did this given how tight car traffic was and the windy road, since it scares me a bunch. He replied the roads were just so much better outside the city and didn’t need to worry about flats. Personally a flat seems better then death but I understand his thinking


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