Polar Vortex Made Cyclists’ Commutes Impossible

Washington area bicyclists found themselves struggling to pedal through the snow, ice, and slush with this year’s Polar Vortex – one of the worst winter seasons in several decades. As daily commutes have begun to return to normal over the last few weeks, cyclists have found themselves still struggling to reach their destinations via their preferred method of transportation.

According to Shane Farthing, the executive director of the Washington Area Bicycle Association, it can sometime take weeks following a snowstorm before bicyclists can actually ride on the trails or paths again. In many cases, the paths just don’t get plowed. Some areas will hire contractors to clear the paths, but progress is inconsistent.

Washington, D.C. has a significant population of cyclists who take advantage of the Capital City’s bike trails, paths, and lanes. Currently, D.C. is one of the leading bike-friendly cities in the country.

In an effort to communicate important bike safety information during this season’s winter weather, many cyclists have taken advantage of social networking to spread information. These media tools have allowed riders to map their routes on trails like the Washington & Old Dominion Railroad Trail and share pictures of dangerously covered sections on the path.

Some trails are made of gravel, which can be difficult to clear properly. Other trails have excessive snow and ice formations that have caused many bike riders to get into various bicycle crashes.

Because there is not a formally set plan to clear most of the area bike trails, some individuals have taken it upon themselves to try to help. Privately owned snow blowers, sweepers, and small plows have been used to clear off portions of the trails throughout D.C. and Montgomery County.

However, what cyclists really would like is to see a set plan put in place. Advocates want transportation officials to see the bike trails and paths as more than just a recreational facility, but as a genuine form of public transportation for area riders.

Sadly, it seems that even the designated bike lanes on D.C. streets take a back seat to regular traffic lanes when it comes to priority plowing. With more than 200 miles of bike trail in Montgomery County, alone, the task is a huge undertaking; one that many areas just got tackle right away.

The reality is though, that if the bike trails and lanes don’t get plowed in a timely manner, then cyclists are forced to ride in the middle of other traffic. This can be especially dangerous in hazardous winter weather road conditions, causing bike collisions with motor vehicles.

Have any comments about this story? Know someone struggling to stay safe during a bike commute on Montgomery County’s bike trails and lanes this winter season? Like us on Facebook and share your story with us.

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