City Explains Gap in Snow Removal From Protected Bike Lanes This Week

Residual snow in bike lanes was a problem this week, putting cyclists in slippery situations. Twitter messages popped up about snow still in the Kinzie protected bike lane after the area’s first snowfall Sunday night — and Chicago’s second winter with protected bike lanes. The issue was discussed at yesterday’s Mayor’s Bicycle Advisory Council, where Chicago transportation officials explained what happened and how they plan to improve snow removal from the growing network of protected bike lanes (now at about 16 miles).

Sara Travis, owner of The Brew Hub bike-coffee cart, brought up the issue at MBAC yesterday afternoon, calling the snow removal in bike lanes “hit or miss.” And it wasn’t just protected bike lanes that weren’t being cleared. Randy Neufeld, director of the SRAM Cycling Fund, asked if more could be done about buffered bike lanes.

“Right now, CDOT’s In-House Construction is clearing protected bike lanes,” said CDOT Bicycle Program project manager Mike Amsden. Since the Department of Streets and Sanitation plows everywhere else, that sometimes means that after CDOT plows the bike lane, Streets and San crews will come by and push the snow back into the bike lane.

Another issue CDOT deals with in clearing Kinzie and other parking-protected bike lanes is that they must truck around the narrower Bombardier-made plows. On the wider lanes – 18th Street and Franklin Boulevard, for example – pickup trucks can be driven directly to plow the bikeway.

Amsden hinted that this wasn’t ideal. “We are continuing to push other departments to do this,” adding that they would love for Streets and San to do this job.

I also emailed Scott Kubly — a deputy commissioner at CDOT for few more days — to find out why, 48 hours after Sunday’s snowfall, the Kinzie bike lane was still covered in snow. He wrote back that the two crews on the Chicago River main branch, one using the Bombardier plows and the second a salt crew, plow the Kinzie bike lane first. They continue on, removing snow from the bridge sidewalks from Franklin/Orleans on the west to Columbus on the east. “Once finished,” Kubly wrote, “they go back over the same routes as many times as needed until clear and the snow program is over.”

He explained why Kinzie ended up with snow still covering the bike lane’s anti-slip bridge plates and piles of snow that cyclists had to bike around:

Unfortunately, what happens on Kinzie and a lot of other places, is that once we are finished and have cleared the bike lane, [Department of Streets and Sanitation] or private businesses push the snow [from sidewalks] into the bike lanes. [The] Kinzie bridge was cleared by us; all that snow is from DSS pushing it into bike lane. This is what happens when it snows a few inches.

A change in CDOT policy should improve conditions on Kinzie. Kubly said that, going forward, the main branch crew must come back to plow Kinzie after refueling and before returning to the yard, adding “this should get some of the snow that gets pushed into the lanes.”

Kinzie was finally, fully cleared by Wednesday afternoon
Kinzie was fully cleared by Wednesday afternoon.

Bill Higgins, policy analyst and transportation expert for the 47th Ward office, suggested at MBAC another change in policy. He said that neighborhood greenways (like Berteau Avenue and Leland Avenue next year) are classified as lower-priority residential streets but should receive more attention. He suggested they should get a second plowing in winter and a second street sweeping the rest of the year.

CDOT is asking for help in identifying places where there’s still snow in protected bike lanes 24 hours after a snow storm. You can call 311 or email them.

  • David Altenburg

    Haha, I love that guy. He seems to have gone silent lately though.

    I actually have no problem with vehicular cyclists as people who ride. If that’s their preferred method of riding, I think that’s just fine. I actually found Effective Cycling to be a useful and informative book. My problem is when vehicular cyclists try to impede the development of infrastructure that most people who bike or would like to bike prefer by citing a bunch of studies from the 70s while ignoring the evidence of last few decades about all the benefits that come with well-designed infrastructure. Especially when they’re unable to do so without ad hominem attacks against everyone who disagrees.

  • oooBooo

    Where did I claim uniqueness? I wrote it is the american way to dumb everything down to mediocrity. To cater to a lack of effort. In many other countries bicycles are not and were not considered equal vehicles under the law or otherwise. In many states including Illinois, bicycling is explicitly equal, and building these things is destroying that. Adopting that second-class toy like attitude formally rather than simply culturally.

    Let’s look at the common chicago bike lane. It’s a show case of mediocre. It’s squarely in the door zone of parked cars. They are far too narrow to be used as they are interpreted, as the sole space for bicycling. most often it can’t be used at any sort of serious I have to get somewhere bicycling speeds. Not if the rider values his life and not ending up crippled. I know some do, I wouldn’t. I need to at least have my tires on the left edge of where the line is typically painted.

    Bicycle lanes and street parallel trails and bike sidewalk space, all of these treat bicycles as toys. A place to putter along at low speed. Where bicycle riders are second class or worse road users who are expected to yield frequently and move slowly. And thus, there’s no serious need to clean them from snow or debris either.

    The lanes are made for riders who see bicycle riding on the level of playing with a toy. Not as operating a vehicle. It’s about how they ride, not where they ride to. Back when I frequented bicycling ng’s they were called “POB” which stands for person on bicycle. It’s a derogatory term to differentiate them from bicyclists.

    The bike lanes IME changed the attitudes of drivers for the worse towards vehicular bicycling. Mostly because drivers think everyone on a bicycle is in the same group. They don’t know why the 8mph rider is off in the bike lane and the 20-25mph rider is in “their” lane. They wouldn’t think twice about driver doing 20-25mph, a typical speed for drivers on many city streets, but the bicyclist angers them, because to them, he belongs in the bike space.

  • oooBooo

    Why would someone support bicycling infrastructure that drops their speeds significantly and increases their travel times and ups the annoyance levels? People who aren’t lowest common denominator don’t usually like lowest common denominator “solutions”. The opposition shouldn’t be a surprise.

  • Alex_H

    When I drove 25mph for 2 miles down Augusta, a line of cars backed up behind me and one car eventually passed me.

  • David Altenburg

    Thank you for illustrating my point about ad homimen attacks and condescension so well.

    I’ll answer your question, though, because I think it illustrates the difference in my mindset to the vehicular cycling one so well: I don’t mind infrastructure that causes me to ride below my top speed[1] because I like to ride without having to shower and change clothes once I reach my destination. You see, despite your comments about “toys”, I rely on my bicycle to get around the city. You think being a “person on bicycle” is a bad thing, but you can call me that all you want. That’s exactly what I am when I’m on my bike.

    [1]Your comment suggesting 8mph is typical bike-lane speed is way off. I typically ride around 15mph in bike lanes in the city, and I seem to pass and get passed with about equal frequency. Timing stop lights is of course far more important than average moving speed when it comes time to reach a destination.

  • oooBooo

    ad homimen? condescension? The argument you made against vehicular bicycling was that it didn’t open up bicycling to the thousands and thousands, the masses as it were. You argued that for these large numbers to take up bicycling was worth making bicycling worse for the minority.

    You made and continue to make the lowest common denominator case. The case of building infrastructure to replace knowledge, effort, and skill to make bicycling more appealing to the masses.

    Now when I state that the minority might oppose sacrificing their quality of riding for the benefit of these masses, you claim it’s ad homimen and condescension?

    At no time did I suggest moving at top speed all the time. However, my typical cruising speed of 17-22mph is unsafe in the typical chicago bike lane anywhere but the very left edge of it at best.

    Why are your concerns of not wanting to sweat have to come at a cost to mine of wanting to move at higher speeds? Vehicular bicycling, wide curb lane solutions, do not force you to go faster. The same pavement space is there, it’s just not a bike only space. I’ve biked vehicularly when tired… when my speeds drop to about 10-12mph. No problem with wide curb lanes at those speeds.

    “Your comment suggesting 8mph is typical bike-lane speed is way off.”

    I never stated it was typical in any shape or form. It’s a safe speed for most of that road space. It’s a typical ‘speed limit’ on bike/multi-use trails too. 15mph in the very left edge of the door zone is about as far as I’ll push it.

  • The thing is, having good cycling infrastructure for people who want to use it doesn’t harm in any way YOUR ability to keep cycling the way YOU prefer — whereas, if you obstruct the construction of that infrastructure, you are preventing THEM, in most cases, from cycling at all.

    So take the lane and leave the folks in the protected bikeways alone. Once they get used to it, some may even join you out in the jungle.

  • oooBooo

    Perhaps you didn’t follow the entire discussion. Once a bike space is created, that’s where drivers expect everyone on a bicycle to be. It does not matter that a bike space is dangerous at 15 or 25 or 30mph. The drivers do not understand why I am not in the bicycle ghetto, even if I am doing the PSL or close to it and some of them tell me to get back over there and some of them go further than words.

    I have been assaulted, hit once and forced to dodge being hit more than once by drivers who demanded me to be in a bike space that was unsuitable for my speed. Many more times than that there have been drivers who decided I needed a lesson to teach me to me to be in the bike space. They only aim to give me a good scare. Now most of these occurred on a suburban roads with a multi-use paths, glorified sidewalks, running alongside them, but I have had drivers get angry with me in the city as well for not using the door-zone bike lanes.

    Thus I avoid all roads with poorly thought out bicycling infrastructure as it is called. If it can’t support my speed, I don’t use that road at all. It’s not worth it.
    Once a road gets a bike space designed for lower biking speeds I can no longer ride it the way I prefer without putting myself in harms way. So, YES IT DOES HARM MY ABILITY TO KEEP CYCLING THE WAY I PREFER. All in caps, since that’s the way you communicate.

  • That’s the exact same experience that people who AREN’T you experience in non-protected bike lanes (and it’s been going on since before there were lanes striped on streets).

    The solution is to get enough cyclists — of ALL abilities — out on the road that drivers gradually learn bikes deserve space on the roads, too (whether in own-lanes or taking a traffic lane).

  • oooBooo

    No, it’s not. Before bike lanes in the city the wide curb lanes worked well. When I got tired and slowed down and moved a bit right to ease passing and because I was going slow enough to deal with the hazards nobody bothered me. Even on major city streets.

    The wide curb lanes were also cleared of debris and snow. They don’t add complexity and confusion to the roads/intersections. They work well for riders of all levels. What they don’t do is provide an illusion of safety from hit from behind, which is rarely how bicycle riders are hit by motor vehicles and usually only happens with a murderous or impaired driver, neither which plastic sticks or paint protect from.

    If you want road space, take it. Use it. Show some confidence. Be polite, keep right as practicable. That’s what it takes. Those who cower at the edges are going to attract bullies and while the bike lane perception might help with that tiny percentage of drivers, the exchange is that a much larger group, the self-proclaimed enforcers of the law (their idea of it) and social standards now go after those who ride outside the marked bike space.

  • While getting struck from behind on a bike is unusual, it’s not an unrealistic concern. At least two of the four bike fatalities in Chicago last year were bicyclists who were struck from behind. While plastic posts or paint don’t necessarily prevent this, locating the bike lane, so that cyclists are protected by parked cars, can help prevent these kind of crashes.

  • oooBooo

    Have you read the crash type manual for bicycles? I have. The vast majority of bicycle car collisions happen in ride-outs (all types added together). Where a bicycle rider enters or crosses the road. This is what makes street parallel bike paths and sidewalk riding so dangerous even though people think it’s safer to put bicycle riders over there out of the way, but that’s the problem, practically nobody is looking over there, especially for anything moving at or near the speed of cars on the road. After that, various intersection related collisions. (all added together) Hit from behind (types added together) was pretty far down the list and often due to an impaired driver. And I’ll guess one of those two if not both were impaired drivers or “road rage”.

    On the other side of parked cars… another bone headed piece of road design that will only increase the more common types of bicycle-car collisions due to segregating bicyclists where motorists will not be looking for them, increasing intersection complication and so forth. For what? For making 2.5% of collisions less common.

    Personally I’d be scared to death to ride in a protected bike lane like that. Especially if it was on say the west bound side and I was going east bound. It would be like wrong way sidewalk riding, which is the most dangerous way to ride.

    Often what people feel is safe in bicycling is more dangerous and what is safer is what people feel is dangerous. That’s what the data shows over and over again. But then again I realize that the politics is about making driving more painful first and foremost.

    anyway… here ya go…

    I’ve since misplaced where I totaled things up.

    Hit from behind is: ( 1.2% of all crashes )
    And ( 1.3% of all crashes )

  • Vijay

    Snow remove is WORST this year in almost all streets in Chicago. Either through mis-management the city laundered all the money or just lack of concern for peoples here who pay their tax yet not getting the basic service. Almost all side walks are loaded with snow, whatever seems clear is just by walking by pedestrian not by any active snow removal process. The entire city is in mess (except some selected spots). Extremely bad service by Chicago city

  • A-bomb Nation

    Hey Steven,
    Any more updates on bike lane snow removal? Today’s trip down Augusta Ave was a reminder of the daily treachery I dealt with last winter.

  • A-bomb Nation

    I also spotted one of those mosaic tiled potholes, kind of got me thinking about DIY bike lane snow removal efforts.


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