SNOW PROBLEM: Scores of Bike Lanes Pretreated Before the Gathering Storm

They brined the Prospect Park West bike lane — and 140 other bike lane segments. Photo: Gersh Kuntzman
They brined the Prospect Park West bike lane — and 140 other bike lane segments. Photo: Gersh Kuntzman

We’re pickled!

Workers from the Department of Sanitation pre-treated about 140 bike lane segments in advance of Monday’s expected blizzard by “brining” protected bike lanes as well as many roadways starting on Saturday afternoon, the agency said.

The city is expecting a foot of snow, starting overnight on Sunday and continuing into Tuesday.

“We got through our routes by about 8 a.m. Sunday in all five boroughs,” said DSNY spokesman Joshua Goodman, adding that crews hit “significant parts” of the East and West villages, Soho, and the Lower East Side bike routes such as Delancey, Chrystie and Clinton streets; “major sections of Harlem’; Kissena Boulevard, Cypress Hill Street, Corona Avenue, Woodhaven Boulevard and parts of Queens Boulevard in Queens; Richmond Terrace in Staten Island’ parts of the South Bronx including Bruckner Boulevard and St. Anns Avenue; and Prospect Park West and “some areas” in southern Brooklyn. such as Gerritsen Avenue south of Ave X and “a lot of” Shore Parkway.

A brining team on Queens Boulevard. Photo: Department of Sanitation
A brining team on Queens Boulevard. Photo: Department of Sanitation

The brine, as the term suggests, is a liquid salt solution that can prevent the accumulation of snow and ice on roadways. But it’s not always employed before storms, Goodman said, because New York often gets rain that turns to snow, rendering pre-treating useless.

“Treated surfaces should experience [lower] accumulations and are easier for our plows to clear later on,” Goodman said. (That news will obviously please Brooklyn resident Darren Goldner, last spotted shoveling out the Prospect Park West bike lane himself, as Streetsblog reported.)

Of course, New York cyclists will still end up frustrated, as nothing has changed regarding the Sanitation Department’s stated snow policy: all roadways are cleared for drivers first, sometimes with multiple passes, before anything is done to make roadways passable for cyclists (and corners cleared for pedestrians).

“Protected bike lanes on main avenues will be addressed first after the end of snowfall,” Goodman said. “And PBLs on other streets will be addressed within 24-72 hours.”

The agency won’t even bring in its part-time “snow laborers” until Tuesday to “start addressing pedestrian ramps, bus stops, and other facilities,” he added. (On Monday, readers are urged to email Streetsblog to report all unsafe conditions.)

And, um, what happens in neighborhoods without heroes like Darren Goldner, who takes it upon himself to shovel bike lanes? Photo: Gersh Kuntzman (not a hero)
This was hero shoveler Darren Goldner taking it upon himself to clear the Prospect Park West bike lanes in December. File photo: Gersh Kuntzman (not a hero)

In other words, drivers will likely be able to get around on Monday (though they should not do so, Mayor de Blasio warned in a rare Sunday press conference), but cyclists will remain out of luck — as they were during December’s storm, which left bike lanes impassible for days and led to an apology from new Sanitation Commissioner Ed Grayson. (Goodman did not respond when asked if this weekend’s brining was a response to criticism of how DSNY handled the December storm.)

Of course, whatever New York City does to encourage winter cycling is nothing — like, literally nothing — compared to Oulu, Finland, as this film shows (maybe we can all move to Oulu?):

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Last summer, a group of Queens residents began organizing as the Queens Bike Initiative. Their mission: to push the city to build bike connections linking their neighborhoods in northern Queens to the borough’s parks. Nine months later, DOT has presented a plan to stripe a bike route on 31st Avenue [PDF], which the Queens Bike Initiative is lauding […]