How do you shovel a bike lane? New resources for maintaining Complete Streets in snowy weather

nyc-dot-bike-lane-snowCrews clear snow from a pedestrian and bicycle path in New York City last week. Photo by New York City Department of Transportation via Twitter.

A large swath of the country is still digging out from the most recent round of winter snow storms, deploying plows, snow blowers, shovels, sand, salt and even cheese to keep people moving. Many of these strategies focus on keeping roads clear for drivers. What about for people who walk, bicycle or rely on transit?

Complete Streets is a process for funding, planning, designing, building, operating and minting community streets so that travel by all modes is safe and comfortable. In climates where snowfall is expected, Complete Streets mean thoughtful roadway design and appropriate plans and policies for snow and ice management for all users.

Three recent resources can your community on track for the next snowstorm.

Focusing on clear and accessible pathways and transit stops for people with disabilities, a booklet from Easter Seals Project ACTION describes the ways snow and ice present significant barriers to travel, innovative practices and design solutions to clear the way, and the Americans with Disabilities Act requirements for sidewalk maintenance. Some of this material was covered in a recent webinar, which featured Russ Decker of Aspen, CO, Donna Smith of Easter Seals Project ACTION, and Roger Millar, Director of the National Complete Streets Coalition.

Seasonal maintenance is also a topic in the October 2013 Guide for Maintaining Pedestrian Facilities for Enhanced Safety from the Federal Highway Administration. “Removing snow and ice should be thought of as a community responsibility that covers the entire public right-of-way,” say the authors, who provide national and international examples for snow removal best practices and recommendations.

Finally, if you’re looking for guidance on maintaining bike facilities in the winter Alta Planning + Design (a National Complete Streets Coalition Silver Partner) put together a useful white paper on design and maintenance strategies to keep those bike lanes clear and safe.

All of these resources are designed to help local DOTs keep streets clear and safe for everyone who uses them. Unfortunately, no tips about how to build a snowman with all that removed snow.

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    3 Responses to How do you shovel a bike lane? New resources for maintaining Complete Streets in snowy weather

    1. Cathy Lewis says:

      Way back in 1994, a professor asked my graduate school class to write a modest proposal to improve city life. My proposal was to clear the Washington and Old Dominion trail of snow. Even at that time, it served as a major cooridor for pedestrians and bikes commuting to work. when I called the Fairfax County, Arlington County and the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority, they all laughed at me. Arlington County, which likes to tout itself as very smart growth, is STILL unwilling to force businesses to clear their sidewalks of snow. It’s hard to live a transit-oriented life if you can’t walk to the Metro in all weather.

    2. Steve Allan says:

      A most welcome observation. A lot of places are good at building the bike-ped infrastructure, but not so good when it comes to maintaining it. Three days after a moderate snowfall, sidewalks are not cleared, ADA ramps are blocked, while bikes try to negotiate frozen streets.

    3. It’s nice to see cities finally recognizing that bike and pedestrian paths shouldn’t disappear during routine weather events (snow). I am optimistic that someday in the near future we will begin clearing sidewalks as a public service, rather than relying on the “system” of nicely asking every property owner to come out with a tiny shovel and get everything perfect.

      We also need to focus on building better facilities: (1) designing sidewalks and paths that can easily be plowed, (2) creating a place to pile snow that doesn’t get in the way, and (3) maintaining walkways so that they stay in good condition and can be cleared well. I think using one of these snow brushes is most effective at clearing all of the snow:

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