D.C. transportation team clears snow from bike lanes


Mike Goodno, left, and Jim Sebastian of the District Department of Transportation bike team drove a plow truck along city bike lanes Friday. (Chris Quay/DDOT)

When a snowstorm strikes the D.C. region, road crews historically have followed a sort of pavement triage system that winds up clearing the biggest and most heavily used roadways first. Often, the routes cleared last were those dedicated to cyclists, who often have to wait for Mother Nature to clear the way.

DDOT crew on 11th Street NW
The bike team worked on 11th Street NW Friday. (Chris Quay/DDOT)

That isn’t the case in the District during this storm. On Thursday night and Friday, the District Department of Transportation’s bike team took up the cause on behalf of city cyclists. They drove a light plow truck around the city to clear snow from bike lanes and the Metropolitan Branch Trail. After the first wave of the storm Thursday, the crew worked from 4 to 8 p.m., then after the storm’s second round, the truck was out again, starting at 6:30 a.m. Friday.

Their targets over the past two days included the cycle tracks on L, 15th, 14th and 11th streets NW, Pennsylvania Avenue NW and the Metropolitan Branch Trail that parallels the Red Line north of Union Station.

The District Department of Public Works deploys heavy trucks to clear main roads, but these big plows can’t handle side streets or cycle tracks. That job goes to the light trucks, and DDOT has been using one to clear snow for the cyclists.

Sebastian said there’s a logic in waiting till the big trucks have moved on before tackling the cycling routes with the light truck. The large plows may push some snow back into the biking lanes and clog them up.

By mid-afternoon, Sebastian said, he was feeling a little tired from the several rounds of plowing, “but it’s satisfying. Especially when we see a bike pull in behind us.” That was a common experience, he said, as cyclists got anxious to be back on the road.

Robert Thomson is The Washington Post’s “Dr. Gridlock.” He answers travelers’ questions, listens to their complaints and shares their pain on the roads, trains and buses in the Washington region.
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Robert Thomson · February 14