Plateau, Ville-Marie boroughs testing new way to keep bike paths clear this winter

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Plateau-Mont-Royal councillor Marianne Giguère said the pilot bike path snow clearing project is a resounding success with cyclists so far and well-adapted for Montreal winters.

"Cyclists have noticed it. They're very happy about it. You can see the difference," she said. 

What makes the new process so effective is the combination of physical and chemical components: a snow sweeper clears away residue before spraying a calcium chloride solution that melts any remaining snow or ice and keeps it from refreezing.

While the method has many cyclists feeling safer, some are asking whether the water-based clearing technique could also be used to improve sidewalk safety.

"It can be used for sidewalks, but it wouldn't be as efficient," said Giguère, who is also Montreal's executive committee member in charge of active transportation.

The new process improves traction for bicycle tires, but for pedestrians, she said it's better to stick with traditional methods.

"When you walk it helps a lot to have something that is a grain, like the salt grain or small rocks that we put. They're more abrasive, so it's safer for pedestrians," she said. 

"Since we have so many episodes of very cold and then very warm weather, we can't always use the same method for walking surfaces and those for tires. We're really working hard right now to change and adapt our winter clearing methods for all kinds of transport," said Giguère.

Giguère said she hopes keeping bike paths clear through the winter will encourage Montrealers to use sustainable transport all year round.

The Plateau and Ville-Marie borough councils plan to share the success of the snow removal technique with other boroughs so that it can be adopted city-wide.

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