Instead of snowplows, the City of Victoria is using brushes to clear bike lanes and cyclists say it’s the best method.
The municipality began using the brushes – which attach to the existing Bobcat fleet – when the region got snow in early 2019, explained Sheldon Johnson, manager of engagement for Victoria.
The City currently owns two of the large brushes and simply attaches them to the existing low-sulphur diesel-powered Bobcat utility vehicles. Johnson pointed out that the brushes work better because they fit in the bike lanes.
Corey Burger, a board of director member for the Greater Victoria Cycling Coalition, explained that aside from the fact that the brushes actually fit the bike lanes, brushing is better than plowing because it makes the road safer. The large, cylindrical brushes conform to the surface of the road and “get as close to a bare surface as possible,” he said.
In the past, Victoria has plowed the bike lanes, but the plows aren’t thorough enough, Burger said. He noted that salting the bike lanes isn’t a good option either because, unlike vehicles, bikes aren’t heavy enough to crush the salt into the snow and can’t handle slush.
People are still biking in the winter, even if there’s snow, Burger said, and the process of adding beet brine to the lanes to warm the surface, brushing the snow away and then sanding as needed makes it so cyclists will be safe doing so.
Johnson pointed out that the time it takes to clear the bike lanes varies “depending on the nature of the event.” If the snow is still falling, it will take crews longer to get the lanes ready for cyclists.
Burger emphasized that he feels sidewalks should be cleared before the bike lanes as a matter of equity. He pointed out that while it is the homeowner’s job to clear the adjacent sidewalks, many don’t or can’t. Burger wishes the snow brushes would be used to clear walkways and bus stops so that everyone who isn’t driving can still get around.