Bike Lanes Last to be Plowed
Cyclists are used to being at the bottom of the priority list when it starts to snow. In Washington, D.C., the official policy is not to clear bike lanes of snow until after general motor vehicle lanes are plowed. Even worse, the snow plows actually pile snow on the side of the roadway, right on top of designated bike lanes. Piles of plowed snow can sit for days or weeks.
Another problem is the lack of specialized equipment. Protected bike lines are narrower than general purpose roadways – too narrow for regular snow plows. DC has specially-equipped narrow plows called Toolcats, to plow its 69 miles of bike lanes. But, the few Toolcats in service have been dedicated to the Metropolitan Branch Trail. Other trails in the city go without.
Research has shown that protected bike lanes are even more effective in snow. Where protected bike lanes are cleared and maintained – such as Minneapolis – twenty percent of bicyclist keep riding all winter.
What can cyclists do to get some snow respect? Lobby your representative, either individually or through bicycle advocacy groups, like WABA and People for Bikes. Stage a winter group-ride to show people winter biking can look like. Grab a shovel and clear the bike lane in front of your home, or where you usually ride. Your neighbors and fellow cyclists will get the message.