The New York City Sanitation Commissioner apologized Monday for not having the equipment and resources necessary to quickly and efficiently remove snow from the city’s bike lanes. In a Streetsblog article, Sanitation Commissioner Edward Grayson admitted that while his department cleared snow from streets, it did not do the same for bike lanes and sidewalks.
Last Wednesday, a snowstorm dropped between 6 and 10 inches of snow on the city, one of the biggest storms in years. The New York Times lauded Grayson for quickly clearing the snow from the city’s streets but failed to mention the lack of effort made toward clearing the bike lanes. A photo accompanying the Streetsblog article shows a bike lane covered in snow and ice while the street next to it is clear.
The pandemic has cut Grayson’s workforce by about 400 people, leaving him with much less manpower than it takes to clean up a city as big as New York. Plus, the rise of outdoor dining during the pandemic has introduced new obstacles to the snowplows that have to travel up and down the streets.
Bike lanes have become increasingly popular as more New Yorkers opt to ride their bikes to work instead of taking the subway. As such, the city has added about 100 miles of bike lanes to the city’s 6,300 miles of streets since 2015, shortly after Mayor Bill de Blasio took office. However, the increase in narrow bike lanes has not paralleled the increase in narrow snowplows needed for them. The city’s sanitation department has not purchased any new equipment that could be used for snow removal from bike lanes, according to Streetsblog.
Grayson told Streetsblog that his department is looking toward buying narrow plows to use on bike lanes, but at the moment, they do not have it in their budget to buy them. The smallest plows they have are eight and a half feet wide, which is too wide for many bike lanes. “It’s not that we don’t care. I want your readers to know that some of those smaller tractor units would be helpful. We just got decimated on what we are buying,” Grayson told Streetsblog.
While the roads have been long-cleared for people with cars, bicyclists are still waiting for some relief as far as snow removal. Navigating an icy lane deep with snow is basically impossible. And many bicyclists do not want to ride in the city streets alongside cars, buses, and taxis, who may not see them. It is the sanitation department’s policy to clear roads first and bike lanes and pedestrian sidewalks second, but Grayson said he is actively working on doing better for the remainder of this winter and next winter.
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