Plowable Bike Lanes

City Hall needs to figure out how to plow its bicycle infrastructure. No one will use even the best bike lane if it’s buried under six inches of snow.

Safe bike lanes aren’t easy to plow, though. The best ones are physically separated from car lanes—by a curb or some other barrier—so a plow can’t clear them at the same time as it clears a street’s car lanes, and the big city-plows are too wide to fit in a bike lane anyway.

The priority routes for City Hall’s (temporarily paused) sidewalk plowing program would make a very good bike network

City Hall’s popular (but paused) sidewalk plowing program is an opportunity to square that circle. It used smaller plows to clear snow off the sidewalks, and that same machinery could easily clear bike lanes too. That’s how SU keeps part of the University Ave cycle track clear.

The trick is to figure out how to do it efficiently. Giving the sidewalk plows entirely new work will make the program much more expensive. The sidewalk plowing pilot got cut to help shore up the municipal budget, so asking to have those small plows make extra runs down protected street-level bike lanes isn’t a great option.

Some parts of the Creekwalk are level with the existing sidewalk

Some of Syracuse’s existing protected bike lanes—like those on Hiawatha where it crosses Onondaga Creek, or Franklin where the Creekwalk connects to the Empire State Trail—already do this. In those places, the bike lane is above the curb and level with the sidewalk. The pavement is wide enough to give pedestrians and bikers enough room, but there’s no physical barrier between their lanes, and so a single plow can clear the entire area at once.

The Franklin and Hiawatha bike lanes should be Syracuse’s preferred model for future bike infrastructure. They’re safer than painted lanes like those on Onondaga St, and they’re easier to plow than fully separated lanes like those on University Ave. And as a bonus, they provide more sidewalk space for people on foot or using a mobility device too. This is a solution that meets Syracuse’s specific needs.