When it comes to keeping streets cleared, most cities pretty much have it under control (despite everyone’s claim that their city is the worst). But when you shrink streets down into bike lanes, suddenly large-format conventional street sweepers can find themselves squeezed out. That’s why Seattle has recently turned to mini-models to keep its bike lanes cleared.
The miniature electric street sweepers are an innovative approach, helping Seattle not only provide safer cycling infrastructure in the city but also keep it well maintained to encourage more riders to use it.
The mini-EVs function similarly to large industrial street sweepers you’ll often see crawling along city streets, but have a smaller form factor that make them perfect for narrower areas like bike lanes.
The Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) recently completed a test run using Schmidt’s eSwingo 200+ electric compact sweeper, and is now performing a longer test to determine its feasibility and durability in the city.
SDOT announced on its blog that it is planning to conduct four to six more pilot projects later this year, and next year to continue testing and operating new electric equipment such as this mini electric street sweeper.
According to the department, “These vehicles will help with a wide range of efforts, which may include street sweeping, bike lane inspections and spot repairs, and potentially other construction tasks.”
It’s not the first time we’ve seen electric mini-sweepers head to the bike lanes.
Earlier this year, Ann Arbor decided to buy their own compact electric street sweeper to perform maintenance on the city’s network of bicycle lanes.
At just 48″ wide (122 cm), Ann Arbor’s mini-sweeper wasn’t fast at just 15 mph (25 km/h), but came with a 62 kWh battery giving it a nine-hour operating time. That meant it could work all day, then recharge at night with a standard J1772 connector for Level 2 EV chargers.
Such small street sweepers are likely to continue playing a pivotal role in preserving the cleanliness and safety of bike lanes as more cities address the growing need for safe, well-maintained bicycle lanes.
Unlike larger roads where vehicles can naturally push away debris or allow them collect in the unused portions of intersections, bike lanes are more prone to the accumulation of gravel, glass, twigs, and other small debris that can pose hazards to cyclists. These impediments increase the risk of accidents by causing cyclists to swerve suddenly or experience tire punctures.
Small street sweepers, with their compact design, can easily navigate the narrow confines of bike lanes, ensuring they remain free of debris. By maintaining clear and clean bike lanes, cities not only enhance safety for cyclists but also encourage more people to consider cycling as a viable mode of transportation, further promoting eco-friendly commuting.