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Snow in your bike lane? Here's what you can do

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Chicagoans are a hearty bunch. While the less steadfast residents of other cities may put their bikes away as summer fades, the City of Broad Shoulders keeps on pedaling through the cold — resolute and unrelenting, like the winds off Lake Michigan.

With more and more people riding bikes to get around during the winter, it’s important we all pitch in to make sure our bike lanes are safe to use and free from ice and snow.

This is especially crucial on streets with new protected bike lanes that run along the curb, where snow pushed from sidewalks or the street can accumulate and create potentially dangerous conditions for biking. 

In Chicago, two city agencies share responsibilities for keeping on-street bike lanes open for business.

The Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) uses special equipment to clear protected bike lanes within 24 hours of a snow event, while the Department of Streets and Sanitation is responsible for keeping conventional striped and buffered bike lanes clear on roadways. (The Chicago Park District removes snow from off-street bikeways, such as the Lakefront Trail.)

As the city continues to adapt its snow removal procedures to make our streets and trails navigable on two-wheels year-round, it’s important for advocates to speak up and help identify emerging issues or trouble spots. 

Here are a few easy things you can do to help keep bike lanes free from snow and ice:

Call 311 and report the issue. Or file a report online. This will create a record and enable CDOT, or other relevant agencies, to follow-up with the request. There is even a special report category for reporting snow in a bike lane or at a Divvy station.

Take a photo and document the situation. You can share good and bad photos of snow removal on social media using #ChicagoShovels, which the city is encouraging residents to use. Send it along to Active Trans, too, and we'll share our favorites.

Be an ambassador. If you know of a resident or business that’s clearing snow into a bike lane, try engaging them in a friendly conversation about the importance of keeping bike lanes clean during winter months. 

Bonus points: Ask your alderman or local chamber of commerce what kind of snow removal outreach they’ve done in your neighborhood and encourage them to consider the needs of people who bike in their outreach messages to residents and businesses. 

After you’ve rid every bike lane in the city from the scourge of snow and ice, be sure to sign up for Active Trans’ Winter Bike Challenge. Registration opens soon!

Photo courtesy of Twitter user @bingaman