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Portland buys a new, bike path-sized street sweeper

Posted by on November 18th, 2013 at 1:15 pm

PBOT new sweeper-1

PBOT’s latest acquisition is this bike path friendly sweeper from The Netherlands.
(Photos by J. Maus/BikePortland)

Ever since Portland built its first protected bikeway on SW Broadway over four years ago, the question of how to keep them clean has gone unanswered. That’s because the Bureau of Transportation’s existing fleet of street sweepers have always been too large and cumbersome to operate on our new breed of narrow bike paths that are separated from auto traffic by stationery objects like parked cars, plastic lane delineators, or in the case of NE Multnomah Street, large planters.

The bike path on SW Broadway a few weeks ago.

This has left key bikeways strewn with leaves for days, which causes slippery conditions, creates a glaring symbol of bicycling disrespect, and does nothing to inspire a rider’s confidence. In other words, we imported the bikeway designs from Europe, but we didn’t import the equipment to sweep them up.

That is, until now.

We’re happy to report that PBOT has taken delivery of a new sweeper that is specifically designed to fit inside narrow bike paths. Their new RAVO 5-Series sweeper has only been in service since last month, but it’s already gotten a lot of action. PBOT spokeswoman Diane Dulken said it can sweep the new bikeways on NE Cully Blvd, SW Broadway, and NE Multnomah thanks to its narrow profile and agile handling.

The RAVO sweeper is shorter, narrow, and easier to maneuver than the other sweepers in PBOT’s fleet. We have yet to see the new sweeper in action, but we did spot it parked inside the City’s Albina Maintenance Yard. In the photo below you can see how the RAVO compares to another one of PBOT’s sweepers. It comes in at 105-inches tall, 89-inches wide (7.4 feet), and 178-inches long.

PBOT new sweeper-2

New sweeper on the left.

Dulken says PBOT is still experimenting with the new sweeper’s capabilities. She cites its narrow profile, light weight, and lower height as major advantages in getting into areas other sweepers can’t reach. On the flip side, it can’t carry as much debris as other sweepers, and it works slower than the larger sweepers so it can’t be used in tandem operations like the City’s Leaf Day pickups. (Note: This sweeper won’t be used exclusively for bikeways.)

“The upshot,” Dulken says, “is that this new sweeper allows us to get to hard to reach places, such as protected bikeways, so we’re pleased to have this addition to our fleet and to expand the tools available for street cleaning.”

PBOT’s new sweeper is similar to the ones I saw working on Copenhagen’s cycle tracks earlier this year:

Copenhagen Day 2-22

For anyone who has tried to pilot a bicycle through one of these leaf-filled messes, this new sweeper is great news. Now, I wonder if it comes with a snow-plow attachment?

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  • Steve B November 18, 2013 at 1:21 pm

    What a releaf!

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    • Alan Love November 18, 2013 at 3:05 pm

      Uch, how could we Fall for that one? I’m turning red with embarrassment.

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  • Justin November 18, 2013 at 1:23 pm

    It’s a Zamboni!

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  • kittens November 18, 2013 at 1:26 pm

    so cute

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  • Anne Hawley November 18, 2013 at 1:29 pm

    Great news. Can’t wait to see it–or at least the results of using it–on NE Multnomah.

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  • RWL1776 November 18, 2013 at 1:44 pm

    Thanks for Buying Made in USA! Next time, they should check out a company like this: and spend our tax $ on something made here!

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    • Dave November 18, 2013 at 2:25 pm

      Do they make a narrow sweeper?

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    • Cory Poole November 18, 2013 at 2:29 pm

      I have hired the pickup truck mounted sweepers like the one you link to. I dont think it would be up to the task. They don’t scrub the curb like the imported one will also their storage is very limited. Fine for a side business of cleaning empty parking lots at night. But not for heavy dirt and leaves on busy city streets. Secondly there is something to be said for getting a brand and model that has been doing the exact job already. and doing it well. Lastly as a skateboarder I am very happy to see this. Little rocks and debris is even less fun on a skateboard than it is on a bike.

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    • indy November 18, 2013 at 4:05 pm

      Which almost certainly is made from parts sourced all over the world. Just because a company is based elsewhere doesn’t mean you aren’t supporting the United States.

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      • John Lascurettes November 18, 2013 at 6:21 pm

        And the converse of that: just because something is an American brand doesn’t mean it’s American made. I don’t see anything on that site that implies anything American-made about those trucks other than the base chassis is of American branding.

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        • Tony November 19, 2013 at 7:24 am

          As of 2013, the most “American Made” car (most parts made in and assembled in the US) is the Toyota. Built and assembled in Tennessee with the fewest amount of parts outsourced from Asia or Mexico.

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  • Paul November 18, 2013 at 2:29 pm

    It’s about time!

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  • Nick November 18, 2013 at 2:38 pm

    God I love this city.

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    • JV November 19, 2013 at 10:50 am

      They also use a version of these in various German cities – they are adaptable for snowplowing as well, can carry a water tank for spraying, and are used for cleaning sidewalks in parks and other infrastructure where a standard truck is too big. These are a smart tool for the city, and it is useful to have a right-sized vehicle for the task. Clearly we are learning from cities that are doing this right.

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  • indy November 18, 2013 at 4:02 pm

    Would rather have x miles of dedicated pathways than one of these.

    This seems silly, how often do leaves really impact bikers day to day?

    Seems spurious/low priority in the grand scheme of things.

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    • Alan Love November 18, 2013 at 4:24 pm

      Wet, 6 inch thick piles of leaves are slippery, dangerous, and conceal other hazards. This Fall hasn’t been too bad, but I remember many others that induced a few slides.

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      • indy November 20, 2013 at 2:59 pm

        You exaggerate the leaf situation dramatically.

        Even if you don’t, what high-traffic bike/car path will have this many leaves AND be cleaned up by this machine?

        This is a 2-3 month issue (at most)and we’re throwing a very expensive Zamboni at it that won’t be able to get to 10% of any leaf coverage in this city.

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    • Alex Reed November 18, 2013 at 4:29 pm

      Leaves impact me extensively. I refuse to ride in leaves after having spun out on them at ~15 mph.

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    • Brian November 18, 2013 at 5:26 pm

      Not me. Leaves are only type of debris we deal with. Getting a flat in the dark and rain at 6am sucks. The condition of bike lanes compared to car lanes are deplorable. I’m stoked for this and hope it runs 24/7.

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      • indy November 20, 2013 at 3:03 pm

        1. It won’t run 24/7
        2. It almost certainly won’t reach streets that need it most.
        3. Leaves are not the only type of debris we deal with.
        4. In my mind separated tracks from cars is a far, FAR, greater priority for the city’s financial expenditures.

        I’ll eat my words if you can show before/after paths of more than 10% of the city being helped by this machine.

        The problem is leaf coverage is usually at its worst during and after heavy rainfall+fall+windy. We don’t get that that often here in Portland. When we do, it’s all over. This thing just won’t be able to get to the areas that might be helpful.

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    • John Lascurettes November 18, 2013 at 6:18 pm

      Only time I’ve ever broken a wrist was slipping on leaves in the bike lane when turning a corner.

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      • indy November 20, 2013 at 3:05 pm

        The only time I was hit by a car it was 75 out and sunny and the driver didn’t see me.

        What exactly is your point? That anecdotally you think this will prevent your issues?

        Let us know where it occured, and I’ll see if this leaf cleaning device has hit that spot yet. Portland only has hundreds of miles worth of roads.

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    • Dan Morrison November 19, 2013 at 1:37 pm

      Yes, let’s not spend anything on maintenance. Just capital improvements. No maintenance at all.

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  • jeff November 18, 2013 at 4:11 pm

    one? for the entire city?

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    • Erinne November 18, 2013 at 4:34 pm

      Considering that we only have a few protected bikeways, and no big plans for anything else exciting, one should do the trick. I wish that wasn’t true.

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      • Nathan November 18, 2013 at 4:47 pm

        I talked to the street cleaning crew at Sunday Parkways this summer, and it turns out they only have 3 sweepers running during daytime anyways, and they do almost all of the side streets. A crew of 8 sweepers does main arterial roads at night. Considering the relative number of protected/narrow bikeways to the number of regular roads, having 1 narrow sweeper compared to the 3-8 typically on duty doesn’t seem that unreasonable. Hopefully as we get more protected bikeways (knock on wood?) they’ll get more sweepers to keep up!

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        • Terry D November 19, 2013 at 9:07 am

          No wonder they only sweep the streets once a month. I REALLY wish Portland could get it together enough to at least make that ONE DAY auto free for the entire street so they could actually clean it properly.

          Inevitably the one day the street sweeper comes there are parked cars, so sweeping is a useless activity. San Francisco requires everyone clear their cars out for a day once a WEEK, I do not see how once a month would be that much to ask. Oh…I forgot…walking a few blocks in the rain to get to your car makes Portlanders melt.

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          • Nathan November 19, 2013 at 9:52 am

            The reason is because sweeping is done cyclically by neighborhood. For example, they might do all of inner SE Portland one week, then do part of NW the next week, etc. You’d have to take all the cars off the street for up to a whole week in the whole neighborhood. I’m sure they schedule in advance which area they’re sweeping, but even so, it’s not really practical to close a whole neighborhood for a week, and it’s certainly not always at the same time each month. It might be possible, but it would be a lot of extra logistics and inconvenience for PBOT and the people who live there.

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            • indy November 20, 2013 at 3:07 pm

              In my old neighborhood, the one day a year a sweeper came by the street was full of cars, negating the investment for us entirely. I lived there 13 years.

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  • John Liu
    John Liu November 18, 2013 at 5:04 pm

    Very nice thing to see!

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  • Adam November 18, 2013 at 5:26 pm

    I hope it will do bikelanes as well as cycle tracks. I notice the street sweepers come thru and do the road, but leave the bikelanes full of leaves, even although there is not a single impediment (planters, cones, bollards) to them accessing the bike lane.

    I also second the above commenters – this needs to pay a visit to NE Multnomah Street, stat. That cycletrack was supposed to be a world class facility. At the moment, it is little more than a dangerous joke.

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  • dwainedibbly November 18, 2013 at 5:59 pm

    Does that mean that all new bike lanes will be at least that wide?

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  • John Lascurettes November 18, 2013 at 6:16 pm

    That’s going to be one busy sweeper if it’s the only one serving bike lanes.

    Note: This sweeper won’t be used exclusively for bikeways.

    Of course. Sigh.

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    • Chris I November 19, 2013 at 6:30 am

      This is a good thing. As a taxpayer, you want flexible equipment that can be used for multiple purposes. This sweeper is going to be very useful on narrow Portland streets, as well as cycle tracks. If they need more, they can buy more.

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  • mh November 18, 2013 at 6:52 pm

    I hope they use it on streets whose only accumulation is in their bike lanes. All leaves falling onto Lloyd Blvd. go into the bike lane on the south side. No reason to sweep it for any other vehicles.

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  • Kari Schlosshauer November 18, 2013 at 8:05 pm


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  • Doug Klotz November 18, 2013 at 11:39 pm

    Don’t know about bike lanes, but as Dwaine notes, it does seem that cycletracks and protected lanes will now be designed at least 7.4 feet wide!

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  • BIKELEPTIC November 19, 2013 at 12:36 am

    There probably wouldn’t be nearly as many leaves in the street if people actually freaking BAGGED their leaves when they RAKED them like normal yard work used to be instead of lazily using an annoying power blower to send them and other debris into the street for the city to deal with.

    Whatever happened to that bill that if the street was on your property the leaves that came from it were your problem lest you get billed for the removal?

    Community pitch in, all work together yada yada? Can we get a city-wide ban on leaf blowers while we’re at it?

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    • Brian November 19, 2013 at 6:18 am

      In addition, if your business/residence has a gravel driveway you are responsible for sweeping the gravel from the bike lane back into the driveway.

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    • John Lascurettes November 20, 2013 at 1:11 pm

      Better yet. Don’t bag them. Don’t put them in the street. Use them to compost all your garden and flower beds. Return those nutrients to the soil directly instead of waiting for the city to turn it into soil that you run to the nursery to pay top dollar for.

      Now, that said. I do still send plenty of leaves to the city compost because I have plenty still to cover my grounds.

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  • q`Tzal November 19, 2013 at 2:01 am

    Can Parks dept use it to clear the Eastbank Esplanade and Springwater Trail?

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  • John Liu
    John Liu November 19, 2013 at 7:08 am

    There probably wouldn’t be nearly as many leaves in the street if people actually freaking BAGGED their leaves when they RAKED them like normal yard work used to be instead of lazily using an annoying power blower to send them and other debris into the street for the city to deal with.
    Whatever happened to that bill that if the street was on your property the leaves that came from it were your problem lest you get billed for the removal?
    Community pitch in, all work together yada yada? Can we get a city-wide ban on leaf blowers while we’re at it?

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    Read up on Portland’s Leaf District rules.

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    • BIKELEPTIC November 19, 2013 at 1:06 pm

      you mean the part where it says NOT to blow leaves in the street? Should I start taking photos of offenders to send to the police? There’s not an option on PDX Reporter app for Leaf Terrorism.

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      • Dan Morrison November 19, 2013 at 1:40 pm

        Leaf terrorism? Even if you’re going for ridiculous, that’s a bridge too far. They’re just leaves. How do you cope with the real hazards on the road if leaves set you off so bad?

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        • q December 30, 2016 at 5:24 pm

          Blowing leaves into the street means other people have to pay to get rid of them. It also means clogging storm sewer grates, which floods streets and paths, meaning more danger, pedestrians getting splashed on the sidewalk… It’s not just slippery leaves that are the problem.

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  • TOM November 19, 2013 at 8:29 am

    Wish they could use it in Gresham . There are more branches, dead rodents and broken glass in the lanes out there than anywhere else I ride πŸ™

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  • Terry D November 19, 2013 at 9:02 am

    It is about time. In Madison in the early 1990’s they had some, which of course could be outfitted with snow plows for the multi-use-paths.

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  • Barbara Stedman November 19, 2013 at 10:30 am

    I noticed that Sw Broadway was finally swept last week! Great to have one of these now!

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  • Jim November 19, 2013 at 10:40 pm

    How come this isn’t pedal powered?

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  • William November 20, 2013 at 5:10 am

    Wouldn’t it have been even cooler if the City had, instead, taken the money spent on this equipment and upkeep and fuel and used it to explore other methods of cleaning the bike paths? What about hiring an employee to – gasp – use a rake? The insistent use of fossil-fuel machines (especially big, heavy, expensive, specialized ones) to do simple tasks that require no more than human input is sad – especially when it comes to cleaning lanes dedicated to vehicles that use no fossil fuels. I encourage the City and bikeportland readers to start thinking outside the fossil fuel box. We can applaud the City’s dedication to cleaning the bike lanes, but we should question the methods chosen.

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    • Chris I November 20, 2013 at 2:36 pm

      And what do you do with the leaves when you rake them up and you have multiple piles of leaves weighing hundreds of pounds, in the middle of a dense urban environment? A fleet of bakfiets that will haul it to the nearest compost pile?

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  • Lost guide December 28, 2016 at 10:05 pm

    Now might be a good time to deploy this tool since the bike lanes received all the swept cinder from the roadway post-ice. It’s rough out there with skids, flat tires, etc.

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  • TAJ December 29, 2016 at 9:08 pm

    Agree Lost Guide… gravel used to keep cars from skidding on ice are now an unaddressed hazard in bike lanes. It’s making some bike lanes unsafe, forcing bikes to the edge of the bike lane and sometimes into traffic.

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  • dwk December 30, 2016 at 7:46 am

    The gravel on the bike lanes is ridiculous. The “separated” facilities on Multnomah are barely rideable.
    This is why “separated” bike lanes are a bad idea.

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    • Adam H.
      Adam H. December 30, 2016 at 9:08 am

      No, it’s a reason to build raised bike lanes. If the separated bike lanes were raised above the roadway by a few inches, the cars wouldn’t push all the gravel into them.

      I do agree with you about NE Multnomah, however. That is a sub-standard facility and if it was chosen as the design for future protected bike lanes, I would object. Same goes for 2nd Av downtown. Our separated facilities should be more like SW Moody.

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      • Dwk December 30, 2016 at 9:25 am

        The Multnomah lanes are raised! You obviously have not seen or ridden them. Raised surface, separated and are basically like riding a gravel road.

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        • Adam H.
          Adam H. December 30, 2016 at 9:33 am

          Oh, you meant SW Multnomah, not NE Multnomah! Yeah, those facilities are terrible. They are not raised up enough – my guess is maybe an inch at most, practically at road level. Nor are they remotely wide enough, so you are forced to ride way too close to motor traffic, and there’s no room to avoid debris.

          When I say raised, I mean more than an inch and a sharp 90ΒΊ angled curb, not those mountable curbs Portland loves to build. Think SW Moody, or the eastbound cycle lane/sidewalk of SW Multnomah.

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      • dwk December 30, 2016 at 9:32 am

        To each his own… I think Moody is one of the dumbest, congested. slowest bike route in the city. Built for 5 year olds…

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        • Adam H.
          Adam H. December 30, 2016 at 9:41 am

          And that’s a bad thing? Don’t we want our cycling facilities to be safe for children?

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          • dwk December 30, 2016 at 9:47 am

            It was supposedly built for bicycle transportation.
            Moody and the Tillikum is what happens when people who do not ride bikes design bike facilities.
            5 year olds are not riding to get to work downtown.

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          • dwk December 30, 2016 at 9:55 am

            Moody would be way more efficient and pleasant to ride as just a Greenway. Ride in the street. There is hardly any traffic and the speed limit should be 15 mph (all greenways should have this speed limit.)

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            • Adam H.
              Adam H. December 30, 2016 at 10:48 am

              No, Moody/Tilikum is what happens when people who DO ride – but don’t like sharing space with aggressive drivers, or don’t love being forced into a narrow door-zone lane – design a facility. Which is the vast majority of people. It’s about designing a facility for the people we want to start riding, vs. for the people already riding who are comfortable sharing space with cars. That says nothing about the east side path, however, which seems like it was designed by someone who has never even seen a bicycle, let alone ridden one.

              Speed limits can be ignored. A hard curb, on the other hand, is a bit more challenging. Our greenways simply do not work during peak hours, so it would be unwise to continue to expand this design. Especially in Central City, where motor traffic volumes are higher. Additionally, the streetcar tracks on Moody make it inappropriate as a shared space.

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              • dwk December 30, 2016 at 11:27 am

                the Tillikum is a ghost town except for tourists….

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              • Adam H.
                Adam H. December 30, 2016 at 11:51 am

                Wait until both sides of the river are built up. Also, remember that Tilikum is primarily a transit bridge and gets a ton of use in that regard. TriMet was smart to add a cycling and walking path to the bridge, but that was never intended to be the majority travel mode.

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              • dwk December 30, 2016 at 11:28 am

                I also see more people riding the wrong way on Moody “bike path” than anywhere in town.

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