Somebody Has To Pay For This, Right?

Background Reading

Summary

Transportation Commissioner Gabe Klein (left) and Federal Highway Administrator Victor Mendez (right) riding bikes on Kinzie Street protected bike lane in May. File Photo. | John H. White~Chicago Sun-Times.

Transportation Commissioner Gabe Klein (left) and Federal Highway Administrator Victor Mendez (right) riding bikes on Kinzie Street protected bike lane in May. File Photo. | John H. White~Chicago Sun-Times.

John Kass must be grinning from ear-to-ear. We not only have the shiny new bicycle lanes going in all over the city, but we are only now being told some details about their maintenance. It turns out that when you create these Protected Bike Lanes they come with an additional cost. The “total cost of ownership” (TOC) will include a separate snow removal crew. The explanation is as follows:

Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s decision to create a network of protected bike lanes in Chicago has given way to a divided system of snow removal.

The Department of Streets and Sanitation removes the snow from city streets. The Chicago Department of Transportation keeps the bike lanes clear.

We’ve split up the responsibility. We’ve taken on the bike lane [snow removal] in the Department of Transportation. They get salted, just as a standard roadway would. And we plow them,” said Transportation Commissioner Gabe Klein.

Either there was a lack of planning for this necessity or the numerous complaints being unfairly lodged against building owners along this route has made it a necessity that the CDOT take on the added responsibility for this additional maintenance. This will probably mean that the funding for this will have to come out of the CDOT budget.

Will this split responsibility mean that the cleaning of bike lanes will be costlier than their automobile counterparts? I am guessing that the answer will be, yes. Does the funding for this sort of maintenance come from the save revenue channels as the Department of Streets and Sanitation?

Stay tuned.

Someone Was Not Planning Ahead

Now the Cycling Advocacy lobby is going to spin this as a really neat thing. But here is what was said of the situation:

“We’ll typically wait until the snow stops to get out there and plow the bike lanes. We just use one vehicle. We have some great equipment that we use on it. It’s been working very well,” he said.

There are actually very few protected, separated bike lanes. So, we’re taking those on, and we can do them in a matter of hours with just a couple people.

Transportation Department spokesman Peter Scales noted that CDOT was already responsible for snow removal on the sidewalks of Chicago bridges.

These barrier-protected lanes need smaller equipment to plow than Streets and San uses. This is just an extension of the equipment we have already to clean the sidewalks on bridges,” Scales said.

“We have a number of options. We have pick-up trucks with plows and salt spreaders, small tractors with the same plows and spreaders and snow blowers. None of this equipment is new. We’ve either had it in our inventory or we got a few pieces of equipment from other departments and re-purposed it.”

So if we read between the lines it becomes clear that somewhere the wheels were coming off of the maintenance process. Now that everyone has newly established guidelines for who does what things should proceed more smoothly. At least until the number of people required moves beyond the current “couple of people“. This will no doubt mean that going forward additional people will need to be hired, increased amount of salt, etc. will need to be purchased. This is certainly a disappointing glimpse into the lack of planning that went into this massive push for Protected Bike Lanes.

Stay Tuned.