This week we got a bit of snow. People are surprised I’m still biking. But really, in this whole transportation mess, I got it easier than most.


I just have to take the nicely cleared lane.

But there’s nothing like a little snow to show a city’s real priorities.

Next Post
Previous Post

You may also like


  • Eric Herot December 18, 2013   Reply →

    Ever wonder why the city pays to plow the roads (over and over and over again throughout the night while the snow is falling) but 98 percent of the sidewalks are basically left to chance?


    • lautaro xavier ovando December 19, 2013  

      it’s called petro-capitalism! cheers!

    • Jack December 19, 2013  

      No I haven’t wondered that, ever. Because its the most sensible thing to do in a snow storm. Roads provide transportation for all kinds of vehicles, including public favorites like, ambulances and fire trucks that respond to emergencies. Seeing how none of the necessary vehicles that provide emergency services are bicycles, its stands to reason that keeping the roads open for them to travel on would be every city and town’s first priority.

    • Eric Herot December 19, 2013  

      Okay firstly: We do not *just* plow the roads to allow emergency vehicles can use them. Almost every other use has a pedestrian alternative. I’m not saying that certain major arteries don’t deserve preferential treatment, but the current state–where tertiary roads are salted down to bare pavement and several stretches of sidewalk on my street haven’t even been touched, is an implicit acknowledgement that sidewalks are not considered to be a key part of our transportation infrastructure.

    • Eric Herot December 19, 2013  

      Also, even the emergency crews have to use the sidewalks once they climb out of their vehicles and attempt to gain access to a building.

    • Jack December 19, 2013  

      Firstly, the sidewalk outside of a house or place of business is the responsibility of the property owner. If you live in Boston, then you got in your mail box or hung on your door a pamphlet telling you as such. So if portions of the sidewalk on your street aren’t shoveled, be angry at your lazy neighbors. (note: there are many elderly or disabled neighbors who are unable to shovel and do not have the monetary means to provide snow removal, for which there is an awesome web app where such folks and ask for assistance)

      “This is not fair! Why do I have to shovel the cities sidewalk?!” Well frankly, until someone invents a universal snowplow that can squeeze in and out of all of the different sized sidewalks and past the telephone polls, postal boxes, street lamps, fire hydrants, and electrical transformer the city has to, it is impractical to suggest that the city maintain an army of people to do all of that shoveling. This being said, there are some sidewalks that are universal enough to be plowed by bobcats (for instance, the morning after the snow storm, the southwest corridor bike path was plowed (though admittedly not salted – which is a reasonable request of the city going forward).

      Also, most people live on tertiary streets, not on main arteries, what good is it to get an emergency vehicle down (for instance) Huntington Avenue, if it can’t get to the top of Mission Hill?

      And you are right, emergency vehicles are not the only reason streets are first priority. There is a huge negative economic impact to not plowing them. A negative impact that couldn’t be solved even if everyone who could bike or walk to work did so.

    • Eric Herot December 19, 2013  

      So I realize that is how the web of responsibility works right now. What I’m saying is that a quick glance down any random street in Boston is proof positive that this approach doesn’t work if your goal is to have a clear path from point A to point B that an elderly or disabled person could traverse. Even many state-owned sidewalks are not shoveled.

      Also, it’s inefficient. A single person with a riding snow-blower is going to be able to do a whole street’s worth of sidewalks for much less time and money than fifty or a hundred individual’s all hauling out their own equipment to do their own fifteen foot stretch.

      And someone has invented this technology. It’s called a snow blower and I dare say it would work for 98 percent of the city’s sidewalks.

      And there is an economic impact from not clearing the sidewalks, too, which is that more people end up driving, which puts more traffic on already narrowed roads.

      And I’m not suggesting we ignore the tertiary roads. I’m suggesting their third or fourth treatment can wait until after the bike path has received some salt (although it’s a nonsensical comparison since DCR doesn’t really control any tertiary roads). The trouble is that DCR has categorized the Southwest Corridor bike path as a recreational route rather than a transportation route, so (I suspect) any resources set aside to plow/salt it are only made available after the annual public outcry.

    • Matthew J December 19, 2013  

      The flaw in your argument Jack is the failure of the City to follow up on what you suggest is a sensible effort to assure emergency response.

      The narrow plowed lanes on the thorougfares, crowded as they are with cars most of the day, hinder emergency response vehicles. Side streets are even worse. Indeed there have been many instances of fire trucks and ambulances unable to reach the site of an emergency on side streets clogged with parked cars and snow, the narrow plowed lane too small for the emergency vehicle.

      If the city’s real concern was emergency response it would impose some sort of congestion control on drivers and ban street parking during inclement weather. The fact it does not suggests the primary motivation for parking is assisting private drivers, not assuring rescue response.

    • dr2chase December 19, 2013  

      Matthew J – exactly so. It’s common, when stopped at one side or the other of Fresh Pond Mall after work, to see ambulances slowed to a crawl by all the auto traffic. If it were just for emergency vehicles, we wouldn’t need to plow the whole road anyway — one lane tends to be plenty for them. (I’ve seen emergency vehicles — ambulance, police, and firetruck — on the Minuteman Bikeway, and it’s all of 12 feet wide.).

    • JohnH January 6, 2014  

      Our village (near-urban suburb of Milwaukee, WI) actually does plow the public sidewalks when we get anything over an inch, as well as the major north-south bike path (the city proper also plows the major bike paths in its territory). The bike lanes on the streets are all still a mess, though, and it’s been weeks since we’ve had any serious snow. Mainly it’s just been too cold for anything to melt and evaporate, and the bike lanes tend to be where the snow from the rest of the road gets pushed in the first place. Or, if people actually observe parking regulations, it’s pushed to the parking lane, and then people just park in the bike lane.

  • Jay B December 18, 2013   Reply →

    You so rock.

  • Opus the Poet December 18, 2013   Reply →

    Hee hee, where I live they don’t even have snowplows and salt trucks. When it snows everybody just goes nuts for a few days and they shut everything down until it melts. Seriously, an inch of snow and nobody can move…

    • mimc December 19, 2013  

      I visited a city like that during a snow storm once. I asked them why everything was shut down and a local informed me there were no snowplows. I then asked them why they needed snowplows for less than an inch of snow. Here we just drive slower.

  • chris December 18, 2013   Reply →

    Funny I was just reading the comments to your last post “traffic talk”, and was thinking to my self that the other gripe I have is the people who complain about the weather, ‘too wet, too cold or too hot…. to ride’ and only a few weeks ago it was (in South Australia) ‘when are we getting some warm weather? I’m so sick of being cold!’ And now today we have our first heat wave for summer and it is over 40c and every one I see and the radio and TV is like ‘OMG it is so hot how can we live with this heat Blah Blah Blah.’
    I just smile and talk about bikes :)

  • Chris December 19, 2013   Reply →

    I lived in the Denver area for five years and remember the first time I went out on my bike to commute to work and discovered that the greenway path (Clear Creek Trail) was cleared of all snow, but the roads were a mess. In that area the park and rec dept contracted to have someone plow the trails (probably with an ATV) and that service was independent of what the road crews were doing and was completed early.

    Then I remember the morning it had began snowing at 5am and had dumped almost a foot of snow by 6am and the path was completely snowed over.

  • Uncle Robot December 19, 2013   Reply →

    Ride all year – only ice stops me, and that not for long. Rode down to (and up) Blue Hill this morning – perfect weather, the roads are all nicely cleared. Bikeyface – you are the Best! Keep the counter-propaganda going.

    • dr2chase December 19, 2013  

      No need to be stopped by ice. Studs!

  • FlatDog December 19, 2013   Reply →

    Cars have to pay road tax, bikes don’t. Drivers are paying for the roads to be cleared.

    • Eric Herot December 19, 2013  


      First off, there is no such thing as a “road tax.” There is a gas tax, but that generally only covers state and federal roads, and even then it only covers a fraction. Most roads (and certainly snow plowing) are paid for out of the general fund, which bicyclists most certainly do pay into, and at a rate that greatly exceeds what we actually use. So in effect, it is the bicyclists that are mostly subsidizing the drivers, not the other way around.

    • Eric Herot December 19, 2013  

      For a more thorough debunking of that myth, see this article and the associated study:

  • Heather December 19, 2013   Reply →

    I get a kick riding those snow packed sidewalks on my bike. I know I’m taking a chance on them, but Its only going to be there only for a short time. So why not enjoy it while its there.

  • MrDotbike December 19, 2013   Reply →

    I’ve had more cars in my way riding this week than cars thinking I was in the way. Sorry FlatDog, but your taxes only go to the highways. Stay on those and share the roads with everyone please.

  • Roger December 19, 2013   Reply →

    Road taxes pay less than 20% of the costs. General fund pays the rest. We all pay the same amount. Most bikers also drive. Except me. We need to clear the sidewalks especially for disabled folk and wheelchairs. Think harder please.

  • dave December 19, 2013   Reply →

    Give me a fucking break. The roads suck for everyone.

    • Eric Herot December 19, 2013  

      Mmm not so. The roads are decidedly better maintained than the bike paths.

  • Steph December 19, 2013   Reply →

    What a great county Hennepin county is. I’d ride until it got in the single digits and only b/c I deemed it too cold for my kids to ride with me on the bike.

    One of our sidewalks (we lived on a large corner lot) was plowed by a little covered gator with a huge spinning brush on the front. It was great! Our off-street bike paths (for the most part) were cleared also.

    I miss living in an inner ring suburb. I miss Minnesota in general. Now I’m lucky to even have a sidewalk (the neighbors on either side of us apparently opted out) and have to wait 1-2 days before the plow comes past our house (with a foot or so of snow, they don’t even bother with a few inches).

  • Dmitri F December 19, 2013   Reply →

    Always fun to hear people on foot wonder how you can cycle in the snow…

    Personally I can best remember how I was cycling in last year’s snow storm and as I was cycling past a major bus station, I heard someone yell “all inner city busses cancelled today!”.

    Haha. Cycling was no picnic but certainly quite a bit faster than walking or waiting for the bus.

    And still people wondered “my oh my how can you cycle”

    Check this out:


    • dr2chase December 20, 2013  

      Dmitry – from some years ago:
      Needed to pick up son’s bike at high school, didn’t want to get stuck in a traffic jam or snow driving.
      Got run off the road on the way back by some clown in a car who “didn’t want to get stuck in the snow” and thus “could not” slow down. (Golly, when I don’t want to get stuck in the snow, I take my bicycle.)

  • Jon Webb December 20, 2013   Reply →

    Here in Pittsburgh the past few weeks have been pretty snowy and icy. It’s been fun riding around on my studded snow tires, past cars creeping along, terrified of slipping. But it is hard to remember to take the lane (instead of riding on the extreme edge of unplowed bike lanes). Thanks for the reminder.

  • Dan de Angeli December 23, 2013   Reply →

    Hi Yall

    I am going into winter this year with one bike set up with fenders and studded tires which I totally dig when the temperature is below freezing like last week. Give up biking for the season. NFW!


  • Lee Hollenbeck January 7, 2014   Reply →

    The minuteman bike path get plowed as well as the Charles river bike paths here in Boston.

  • John Pavelich January 9, 2014   Reply →

    Hi, just found this web site. Luv it. I have been cycle commuting steadily since 1988, and have managed the past three years to go completely through the Ottawa Winter by bike.

    There’s lots of good stuff here that resonates. Like Un-plowed bike lanes that force me into the car lane. My defence is light. Lots and lots of lights. 4500 lumens on the helmet, that flash up every reflective sign post a full city block away, and a bright led-lit reflective vest that makes me stand out like a road side construction worker. The cold is a challenge, but manageable.

    Keep posting, I just love the articles!

Leave a comment