(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.
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.
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:
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?