Portland has teeny-tiny bike lane sweeper. We should use it a lot more

(Click for captions. Photos: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

Keeping Portland’s bike lanes clean is a major problem. Even today, many weeks after the last leaves have fallen off the trees and three weeks after the city’s official “leaf day” pickup, many major bikeways are still full of a dangerous mix of slick leaves, water, and debris. It’s maddening!

Can we get to 25% bike mode share by 2030 if we can’t even offer people clear and safe bike lanes on a consistent basis?

Just today I biked on the new protected bike lanes on SW Broadway and one block was so full of leaves and water that I had to leave the lane and merge into a shared lane. My stress levels went up not just because I was suddenly in front of a car driver, but because I feel like our city should do better at this. Dirty bike lanes have been a perennial problem and the Portland transportation bureau has yet to offer a strategy or plan to tackle it.

From the owner’s manual.

In 2013 I thought we’d make big progress on the problem when PBOT purchased a small sweeper with the expressed intent of cleaning bike lanes with it. That model was much narrower than other models and at just 7.4-feet wide it was billed as something that could fit into some of Portland’s protected bike lanes. But the problem persisted. And with many of our protected lanes still too narrow, we needed an even smaller sweeper.

Bike for scale.

Now we have it: The new Mathieu MC 210 is a diminutive 50.4 inches, or just over four feet wide (without mirrors). That means it can fit in nearly all of Portland’s protected bike lanes (which range in width from about five to eight feet). PBOT shared a video of the MC 210 when they first bought it in 2019, but I hadn’t seen it in person until Monday.

As you can see in the photos, it’s tiny! It’s just a bit wider than the wheelbase of my bike (a Tern HSD, about 45 inches wide).

It’s great to know PBOT has such a narrow sweeper. It’d be even better if we had 10 more of them so we could actually get all the bike lanes swept in a timely manner. Asked why — especially with at least two bike lane-specific sweepers in the fleet — they still haven’t swept many bikeways, a PBOT official told me yesterday: “As you know, we have a lot of bikeways in Portland and it takes time to sweep them all.”