A bicyclist's request that DCR ensure its bike paths are plowed and salted to bare pavement within a couple days after a large snowstorm has DCR officals saying enough's enough: Bicyclists with "poor judgement and unrealistic expectations" who can't find other ways to get around in the days after a snowstorm should consider moving to a warmer city.
UHub was forwarded a series of e-mail messages over three days between and about one bicyclist and DCR staffers, on the condition we excise names. It started with e-mail on Feb. 11 from somebody who rides to work on the Southwest Corridor:
The condition of the Southwest Corridor Bike Path today is absolutely unacceptable. From Boylston St. near the Stony Brook T-Station to New Washington Street, at the end of the Corridor near the Forest Hills T-Station, the path was nearly completely covered in ice. This path is the only safe route to take, and for it to be covered in ice two days after minimal snowfall is detrimental to Boston's cyclists who rely on safe travel to get to and from work every day. The path should either be plowed to the pavement or de-icing techniques should be employed.
A DCR staffer responded:
Thanks for your email. The Southwest Corridor Park bike path location was originally plowed down to the pavement, but there has been some melting and refreezing and current temperatures are not conducive to more melting, even if treated. While we do treat some high-priority crosswalks (such as at schools and T stations) with salt, we do not treat all the pathways and sidewalks throughout DCR (including on the Southwest Corridor) as this can have a detrimental effect on landscaping.
Unless you have appropriate winter bike tires that can handle normal winter weather conditions on these paths, we recommend you use alternate forms of transportations at this time of year for your own safety.
The bicyclist replied:
Thank you for your response.
I find much of your response difficult to believe. I checked the bike path every day since the storms and did not see it plowed to the pavement once. There was always a layer of snow ontop of the pavement. If this were indeed a result of melting and freezing, then why is this only effecting this bike path, and not area sidewalks as well?
Also, you mention that salt is not used because of effects on landscaping, but there are many other deicing materials which can be used in its place. To ignore these options shows to me that bike paths are a low priority, even though the Corridor is a "level 1 priority."
Please have plow operators pay more attention to how much snow they are plowing. I understand that patches of ice in certain vulnerable areas are inevitable and part of "normal winter weather conditions." For an entire section of the path to have no visible pavement, however, indicates a lack of care on the part of DCR to properly prepare the path for the winter as the State and local governments do for all other modes of transportation.
At that point, the staffer forwarded the exchange to higher ups and asked how to respond. One replied:
I thought your response was a appropriate. I have a couple points to add.
A narrow linear path bordered by turf and vegetation (which is covered by snow) doesn't thaw as quickly as a sidewalk abutting a roadway. Even if we did repeatedly apply salt or chemically treat pedestrian routes, thaw and refreezing would continue to be a problem during periods of extended sub freezing weather conditions. This is why our current standard does not call for pedestrian routes to be completely free of snow pack and ice. We do not have the resources to meet that standard.
This past Saturday I walked section 3 of the Corridor from Forest Hills to the Stony Brook MBTA station and while some of the paths were covered in snow pack they were all safely passable for pedestrians - even pedestrians pushing child strollers. A tremendous effort goes into clearing the SWC pathways and our staff should be complimented for their efforts.
Then another even higher higher up forwarded this to staffers:
We should all be stating as a policy that DCR has no responsibility or intent of providing "safe" winter biking opportunities on any of our linear paths or sidewalks. This is impossible! Any path or walk where we do snow removal is strictly to provide reasonable continued passage for pedestrians. If anyone wants to bike our paths in winter they should assume variable and dangerous conditions, and know they are doing it at there own risk.
Frankly, I am tired of our dedicated team wasting valuable time addressing the less than .05% of all cyclists who choose to bike after a snow/ice event. Sometimes during winter in Boston you can safely bike, and I do it when it is dry and safe. This is not one of those winters! We should not spend time debating cyclists with poor judgement and unrealistic expectations, and stick with [the staffer]'s recommendation that they find other transportation. If someone is completely depending on a bike for year-round transportation, they are living in the wrong city.
Feel free to forward this to those complaining.