Bikeway conditions are pretty bad right now. Most of the gloriously colorful leaves we loved a few weeks ago are now sitting in slick piles on the pavement. But there’s one stretch of pathway that looks nearly perfect: the I-205 path in Vancouver.
This past Saturday I explored the Washington side of the Columbia River. As I rolled eastward to the I-205 bridge to return to Portland, I came upon a Vancouver Bicycle Club (VBC) clean-up event. There was a traffic cone telling me to slow down and I saw folks with safety vests and tools. One man was using his leaf-blower. Others were stuffing bags full of leaves and chopping vines that wanted to stretch across the path. As my view panned back I saw a perfectly clear path slicing through a heavily-wooded area. It was clear someone worked hard on this little slice of cycling heaven.
I didn’t stop to talk (I try to limit my “work” on the weekends or I’d never survive the week), but I knew just who to email when I got home: friend of BikePortland and Vancouver resident Jan Verrinder. Jan is a VBC member who’s been biking the Columbia River corridor for many years. We first came into contact through a terrible crash on Marine Drive involving her husband Bob in 2007 (he’s doing fine now). She asked a few of the clean-up event organizers to share a bit more information about their work on the path.
Longtime VBC member Jeff Wills has been organizing the clean-up in that area since 2005 and says they’ve been happening long before that. “I remember a couple sessions before 2000 when we chopped the blackberry vines almost to nothing. I’d like to get back to that point but it’s rough, tough work,” Wills shared in an email. He organizes them twice a year — in summer when the rain has stopped and in fall after the leaves have fallen off the trees.
VBC adopted the I-205 path through Washington Department of Transportation through the agency’s Adopt-a-Highway program. Wills says WashDOT is pretty hands-off and easy to work with. “We get the clean-up done, report who and how many hours worked, and [WashDOT] cleans up any debris and detritus we pile up at the end.”
Thanks Jeff, Jan, and all the VBC volunteers who helped out!
Given the woeful condition of many of our regional bike paths, bike lanes, and shoulders, I’d love to see more cycling groups adopt them and get them cleaned up. The Oregon Department of Transportation has an adopt-a-highway program but I’m not aware of any bike groups that are taking part. According to laws that govern ODOT’s program, bike paths are eligible to adopt. Multnomah County also has an adoption program for the many popular rural cycling roads they own and manage such as Skyline, Newberry, and so on.
It’s great to have an official partnership to do volunteer clean-ups — especially in high-profile places that have safety risks where an official agency blessing might come in handy. But you don’t always need to get permission. Back in January we cleaned up the Bryant Street Bridge with a help from a few neighbors. Many years ago members of our forums coordinated a clean-up event. And who can forget the wonderful trash picker-upper Danny Dunn?
If you see a bikeway in need, text a few friends, post a notice in the Forums, grab a broom and a few bins, and get out there and clean it up.
For more coverage and great photos of the VBC crew in action check out this story in The Columbian.
— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and firstname.lastname@example.org
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