DC now has crews to clear bike lanes, wheelchair cuts after snow

Nevelion Williams of D.C.'s Department of Public Works briefs D.C. Council Committee on Transportation and the Environment chair Mary Cheh on newly purchased snow removal equipment. It's called a Ventrac. (Courtesy Kelly Whittier)
Nevelion Williams of D.C.’s Department of Public Works briefs Mary Cheh, chair of D.C. Council’s Committee on Transportation and the Environment, on newly purchased snow removal equipment. It’s called a Ventrac. (Courtesy Kelly Whittier) (Courtesy Kelly Whittier)
Ventrac equipment will be used to help clear snow from D.C. bike lanes, bridge deck sidewalks, and ADA sidewalk cuts. (Courtesy D.C. Department of Public Works)
Ventrac equipment will be used to help clear snow from D.C. bike lanes, bridge deck sidewalks and ADA sidewalk cuts. (Courtesy D.C. Department of Public Works) (Courtesy D.C. Department of Public Works)
Christopher Shorter and Nevelion Williams of D.C.'s Department of Public Works talk with D.C. Council Committe on Transportation and the Environment chair Mary Cheh on Friday. (Courtesy D.C. Department of Public Works)
Christopher Shorter and Nevelion Williams of D.C.’s Department of Public Works talk with D.C. Council’s Mary Cheh on Friday. (Courtesy D.C. Department of Public Works) (Courtesy D.C. Department of Public Works)
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Nevelion Williams of D.C.'s Department of Public Works briefs D.C. Council Committee on Transportation and the Environment chair Mary Cheh on newly purchased snow removal equipment. It's called a Ventrac. (Courtesy Kelly Whittier)
Ventrac equipment will be used to help clear snow from D.C. bike lanes, bridge deck sidewalks, and ADA sidewalk cuts. (Courtesy D.C. Department of Public Works)
Christopher Shorter and Nevelion Williams of D.C.'s Department of Public Works talk with D.C. Council Committe on Transportation and the Environment chair Mary Cheh on Friday. (Courtesy D.C. Department of Public Works)

WASHINGTON — D.C. is doing something different this season when it comes to snow removal: There’s a new “non-motorized trail” work detail specifically assigned to clearing bike paths, bridge deck sidewalks and ramps compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act at intersections.

To help accomplish that, the city purchased new equipment.

“It’s still a little too wide to do all of the (city’s) bike lanes, but it looks pretty good to do many of them, those that aren’t hemmed in by cars like the cycle track,” said Mary Cheh, chair of D.C. Council’s Committee on Transportation and the Environment.

Cheh examined the new equipment after sponsoring a roundtable discussion on D.C.’s snow removal operations plan for winter 2018-19.

“This piece of equipment will be much more effective in clearing bike lanes and other non-motorized trails,” said D.C. Department of Public Works Director Christopher Shorter after characterizing previous tools used for the task as “less than ideal.”

This week’s snow melted off quickly. But, more significant snowfall plowed into piles can last months, which isn’t good when sidewalk cuts get blocked by walls of snow pushed by passing plows. That has happened during previous snow events.

“You’d have to practically climb Mount Kilimanjaro to get over some of them, the mounds they’d create,” Cheh said, remembering.

Hearing about the Department of Pubic Work’s new commitment to clear ADA ramps at intersections pleases Cheh, who said it’s a quality-of-life issue.

“For some people, it might simply be dangerous. But, for others — especially for seniors or people with disabilities — it basically prevents them getting around. They can’t go. They can’t go out,” Cheh said.

She’s also happy about the focus on bike lanes. “If we really want people to use that as an alternate way of getting around, we have to remember it’s not just summer and spring and fall. It should be throughout the winter as well.”

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