- Washington, DC now has crews to remove snow from bike paths, bridge deck sidewalks and ADA ramps at intersections, reports WTOP.
- The city also purchased new snow removal equipment — a type of compact tractor — to complete the tasks.
- DC officials laid out a host of snow clearing plans for the season during a "snow summit," following an unusual early season snowfall last week.
DC typically doesn't get too much snow in the winter, but the city and its residents are notorious for not handling well what they do get. It's among the many cities that struggle to keep bike lanes clear, especially the newer protected lanes. Cities such as DC that usually get some snow each year often face the conundrum of how heavily to invest in snow clearing services. Nashville and other cities that run the weather border between the "North" and the "South" have similar challenges.
The city has cleared bike lanes in the past, but up until now there hasn't been a crew dedicated to the task, making for sporadic service. The cleared areas tended to be traditional bike lanes that received a sweep when the roads are plowed after a large snow event. The new, smaller tractors will better serve bike lane clearing crews, especially for protected bike lanes. Minneapolis also recently committed to clearing protected bike lanes and has had success with specialty equipment. The service makes biking feasible in the winter, but it is costly and time consuming because protected bike lanes usually need multiple passes.
DC's new snow clearing plan will also ease the burden for people with mobility issues, particularly at sidewalk ramps. Those areas also are tough to keep up with during regular snow clearing because a snow barrier builds up with every pass of a plow. The new tractors will make corner clearing far easier and quicker than trying to shovel the packed snow. Clearing the corner ramps makes them safer not just for people who use assistive mobility devices such as wheelchairs, but also for the general public who is forced to climb over the packed snow on corners, which can lead to a lot of instability, tripping and falling into traffic.