Winter commuting in Ottawa comes with a hefty price tag

A recent article from the Ottawa Citizen caught our eye:

Plowing bike lanes and paths to make winter commuting by bicycle more appealing is a priority for the city, but at a cost it’s not quite ready to pay.

The $200,000-a-year price tag to scrape clean an additional 16 kilometres of pavement all winter puts the city government in a Catch-22: Winter biking is difficult on snowy, slushy, icy roads, so not all that many people do it. But because not all that many people do it, it’s hard to justify the expense of making it easier.

Read the full article by clicking here.

they even plow the bike paths and pedestrian walkways ;)
(photo by Brian Kusler)

I have heard tales that Minneapolis plows some of their bike paths BEFORE the roads…I don’t know if this is true, but I’d sure love to hear from folks who live in areas where it is really snowy: What does YOUR city do to keep bicyclists on the roads once the icy curtain comes down?

I imagine it is a large expense everywhere, not just in Ottawa, to keep the lanes and paths cleared of snow…and I do know that where I live, which has over 330 miles of connected paved bike trails, those trails are at the mercy of Mother Nature and do NOT get plowed.


  1. Jeremy

    I can vouch for Minneapolis clearing the biking and running trails very quickly. However, they don’t salt very much or do much to keep the ice cleared off. I do ride through the winter, but end up going to the roads to avoid the trails when they get icy. I’d rather fight traffic then ride on an icy trail. A lot of people do use studded tires, I just haven’t forked over the money yet.

  2. Matt

    Northern Virginia has been discussing keeping the W&OD trail (a key commuter and exercise path through the region) clear of snow – but we haven’t had much for a couple years so I don’t know what the status is.

    In reference to the article – it being Ottawa, my bet is that $200k is a rather small fraction of what they spend on snow removal each year.

  3. Graham

    No need for such expenses here in the South. If it even hints of snow or sleet, or even very cold rain the entire region goes into lockdown and no one goes anywhere anyway.

    In fact, I’m still trying to convince the town that placing the bike path 3 feet below the road grade facing oncoming traffic was a bad idea and that they need to put up a screen or something to keep cyclists from being blinded at night.

    If that’s too expensive, then I shudder to think what it would look like if we actually got winter weather!

  4. Doug D

    I think that maybe someone is making a bigger profit than might be desirable. The city of Calgary clears 700km for $400000. Even accounting for Ottawa having twice as much snow, that works out to more than 20 times the cost per km.
    It still works out to be less than 0.3% of the $65M annual snow removal budget.

  5. Champs

    Minneapolis clears trails like the Midtown Greenway, which is great, but there’s nothing you can do about mounting snow banks. By Christmas, if not sooner, they’ve creeped over the curb and started encroaching on bike lanes. They start retreating in March, but that just replaces the snow with ice, as everything melts and refreezes. That’s the Greenway’s problem all winter: snow melts off the landscaping and overpasses, drains onto the trail, and then…

    In Portland, the city has very few plows, and Oregon has no road salt, although other anti-ice treatments are selectively used. Just stay out of the West Hills and hope that the one or two snowfalls you get are only enough to be pretty. I’ve never seen worse.

  6. Raiyn

    That snowblower attachment on the Bobcat seems like overkill to me. I grew up in NE Minnesota and my hometown had one of these guys
    with a V-plow that made quick work of the town’s sidewalks and was able to punch through the snowbanks left by the graders and plow trucks rather easily.

    That said, I’m sure it would do a bang up job on a bike trail provided people used sensible tires for winter conditions.

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