Plowed

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.

Plowed

I just have to take the nicely cleared lane.

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

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35 Comments on "Plowed"


Eric Herot
December 18, 2013

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?

Yeah.

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

You so rock.

December 18, 2013

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

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 :)

December 19, 2013

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.