If you notice a smooth, dry bike lane next to an icy, snow-filled sidewalk, don’t blame the City of Victoria.
After heavy snowfall – like the one that hit the region Tuesday evening – the City gets to work clearing snow from priority areas, and according to Fraser Work, director of engineering and public works for the City of Victoria, bike lanes are cleared as the opportunity arises.
Bike lanes are cleared using a different brushes attached to the existing Bobcat fleet – an add-on tool purchased initially for bridge decks and plazas. Once other spaces are cleared, the brushes are assigned to bike lanes.
“We had resources available with certain equipment useful for the bike lanes that were not being allocated anywhere else,” Fraser says. “They can’t go on sidewalks because they are too big.”
Fraser also notes that Victoria contains about five kilometres of bike lanes, a far more manageable surface area to clear than the 450 km of sidewalks in the City.
But even if they could, the City wouldn’t be responsible for sidewalks. Unless they border a City-owned property, sidewalks remain the responsibility of each property owner. In fact, business and homeowners in Victoria need to have snow cleared from their sidewalks by 10 a.m. the day after a significant snowfall.
The brushes, notes Fraser, can clear snow and debris more thoroughly than the larger plows can clear streets, but using the Bobcats on roadways wouldn’t be very efficient.
“If you stood there and looked at a plow go by on Pandora and it looked like the bike lanes were cleared to a higher standard … it’s the nature of the broom.”
Fraser says the City does everything they can to get both streets and bike lanes clear as quickly as possible.
“I can understand and appreciate the discussion in the public, they want to know we are prioritizing things the right way,” he says. “People aren’t used to this happening every day in the winter time, if we did it more regularly people might get used to the standard and know what to expect.”
Fraser says prioritizing isn’t about bikes versus cars, it’s about keeping people safe and maximizing resources.
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