Bike plows are the new fixies, but we'll never be as cool as the Danes
Get ready to have your preconceived notions of bike plows exploded by the unreal power of this prize-winning four-wheeler built around the gearbox of an old riding mower. (You DID have preconceived notions of bike plows, right?) This recumbent, direct-drive beauty is like the triumphal neigh of a pure white Colt on a moonlit night, only it plows snow:
OK, so maybe you’ve seen that one before. But were you aware that there is a whole universe of bike plows as multifaceted as the Hindu pantheon? And that people in other countries laugh at us for having to plow our own bike lanes?
Get ready for a hot lump of shame, America …
Photo: David Peterson
This is David Peterson’s bike snow plow, with which keeps his local bike trail clear for other cyclists. He doesn’t get paid to do this, and we have no idea how he maintains traction on that fluffy snow (studded tires?). This is a totally badass idea, and probably not a very sustainable solution to the mess that is winter riding, given the level of commitment required.
Photo: Craig Smith
Bike plows are also useful for keeping your driveway clear, and a nice alternative to the old standby.
Photo: Lloyd Alter
But bike plows wouldn’t be necessary if it weren’t for stuff like this. This image was snapped in Toronto, which is basically America, especially under Canada’s current leadership. Irate local Lloyd Alter added the angry red arrow to illustrate that Toronto could care less whether or not its bike commuters are able to get to work in the morning. This scene is typical of countless other cities in North America.
Contrast that with Copenhagen, where even in winter 80 percent of commuters bike to work every morning. How is that even possible? The city is crawling with purpose-built snow clearing machines that run 24/7, even in the middle of the night, during blizzards.
Via Copenhagenize, here’s an awesome video of two of the machines at work; one, a plow, the other, a sweeper:
As if that wasn’t enough, the city also has a small brigade of “snow slingers” for when the snow gets really heavy. These machines suck up the snow and dump it into an accompanying truck:
Copenhagen is a city so devoted to bicycle commuting that its snow-clearing priorities are more or less the inverse of those of U.S. municipalities. Here, for example, is what happens if you’re foolish enough to park your car next to the bike lane on a snowy day:
Some American cities are getting hip to the importance of keeping bike lanes clear for commuters. Here’s NYC Council David Greenfield complaining that the bike lane on Ocean Parkway in Brooklyn was cleared before the side streets:
While it’s not cool that his constituents are apparently about to freeze to death because trucks can’t get them heating oil, what he might not realize is that the bike lanes on Ocean Parkway are the responsibility of the Parks Department, “so it’s not as if plowing it diverted any manpower away from Sanitation,” says Gothamist.
Also, it’s important to note that the City of New York isn’t forced to rely on foot-pedaled plows to keep its bike paths clear. We’ll take Scandinavian practicality over Yankee ingenuity any time we can get it.
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