Fallen Leaves Create Hazards For Bicyclists

Fall is in full swing, which means there are piles of leaves accumulating all around the city — in yards, on sidewalks and, unfortunately, in piles that congest bike lanes. Bicyclists are at risk when traveling over slippery piles or swerving into lanes of vehicular travel to avoid the piles. Property owners are liable for any damage resulting from improper leaf placement. Just a few years ago, Public Works Maintenance Operations Manager Jim McLaughlin asked Ken Kato, who works in the InfoGraphics Lab and the Department of Geography at UO, and Marc Schlossberg, from the Public Planning, Policy and Management Department, to help design a mobile phone app that would make it possible for citizens to report problems. Kato and Schlossberg had designed GPS-based apps before and, in 2012, released iBikeEugene.

The mobile app allows bicyclists, walkers and drivers to send reports of traffic obstructions to the city. Kato says the most valuable part of the mobile app is that it sends the information directly to the city’s data system. This cuts out the need for someone to manually enter the information into a system and then dispatch someone to clean up the obstruction, which accelerates the entire process.

EW gave it a test run. On Nov. 10, we reported piles on 14th Avenue at Hilyard Street, on 5th Avenue at Lincoln Street and on 18th Avenue at Van Buren Street. The app asked for a description of the obstruction, a picture for easy identification and our contact information. We suspected the leaves had been sitting in those piles for more than just a few days by their black, wilted appearance. Sometime within the next three days, the piles were gone. These collections could have been prompted by our reports or by the city’s scheduled leaf collection program that started on Nov. 12.

This leaf collection program was created in the 1960s as a means for flood control. According to its website, citizens are asked to wait until the weekend immediately prior to collection to put their leaves in the street. Often a parking lane exists right next to the curb, providing an ideal location for leaf piles prior to collection. But in areas without a lane for parking, leaves are often left directly in bike or traffic lanes.

Collection started on Nov. 12. The first round for the Central Zone of Eugene lasted until the 15th. The first round for the south, west and north sides started on Nov. 18 and will continue through Dec. 20. A second round of collections begins on Dec. 23 and will last until Jan. 24.

For up-to-date details on leaf collection, guidelines and maps, visit eugene-or.gov/leaf.