FAQ: Plows, Trails and Bike Lanes Oh My!

As the region digs itself out from the 2 feet of snow that fell this weekend, we wanted to provide a few updates. With such a historic snowstorm, it is an endeavor to get the transportation network back to normal.

We’re doing our best to keep up on trail and bike lane conditions over on Twitter. Head on over and let us know how your ride went.

When are bike lanes plowed?

During last year’s comparatively lighter snowstorms, the bike lanes were plowed on the second go around. The first pass with the big plows pushed snow to the sides of the streets (often into the bike lane) and the second pass removed this pushed snow from the bike travel lanes. With the amount of snow added to our roads this storm, bike lanes will take some time. In DC, DDOT is predicting that it will take several days for them to clear the lanes and for DPW to clear bridge sidewalks. The 14th St Bridge has been cleared. 

So, is the same thing true for the protected bike lanes?

No, not quite. The flexposts of the protected bike lanes often mean that a smaller specialized snowplow is required rather than the primary plow crew. They will be plowed but the plow is having challenges with the volume of snow. A frontloader has been hard at work removing snow from the 15th St cycletrack.

The Pennsylvania Ave cycletrack this morning.
The Pennsylvania Ave protected bike lane Tuesday morning.


Each jurisdiction and maintenance entity operate independently under different protocols. But trail plowing is becoming an accepted part of repairing the transportation network after a snowstorm. Not everyone is on board yet but we are getting there. This storm is particularly tricky because the sheer volume of snow is difficult for the small snowplows to handle.

The Metropolitan Branch Trail late Friday night.
The Metropolitan Branch Trail late Friday night.

As of the morning 1/27/16, we have reports of the following trail conditions:

Capital Crescent Trail: Montgomery County Parks and Recreation Department has plowed the Montgomery County section and National Park Service has plowed the DC portion.

Arlington has been clearing their Snow Removal Priority Trails in tandem with the roads. The Custis Trail was plowed and the W&OD has been plowed north of the junction with the Custis though sections of compacted snow remain. Four Mile Run from Shirlington to Route 1 has been plowed. The W&OD south of the Custis Junction remains unplowed though portions eastbound in Fairfax from Vienna were plowed yesterday. Arlington County policy can be found here.

Metropolitan Branch Trail – DDOT was out on Sunday plowing and successfully plowed from Edgewood St to New York Ave. The pedestrian bridge to the Rhode Island Ave Metro has been plowed. DDOT is working on plowing south of New York Avenue.

Mt. Vernon Trail – Current policy is to not plow the trail. NPS is considering changing their policy to potentially plow next winter.

Anacostia Riverwalk Trail – Status unknown.

Anacostia Tributary Trails – Current policy is to not plow the trails.

Rock Creek Trail – Current policy is to not plow the trail.

Georgetown Branch Trail – Current policy is not plow the trail.

Holmes Run Trail – Unplowed.

Alexandria – Trails are unplowed. County policy ranks trails as third priority for sidewalk removal for the city after school walking areas, accessible curb ramps and sidewalks near key transit stops such as Metro stations, & retail zones, and walks expanding out from schools, parks, and municipal locations.

Fairfax – Current policy is to not plow trails.

So my commute is full of snow-blocked lanes, how do I report them?

DC: Report blocked lanes as “Snow/Ice Removal” through DC’s 311 system or by giving them a call at 311. If you are calling from outside the district, call 202-737-4404. 

Arlington: Issues can be reported here. Alternatively call 703-228-6525 for a trails issue and 703-228-6485 for local roads.

Prince George’s: Issues can be reported here. Alternatively call 311 or if you are calling from outside the county, 301-883-4748. County policy can be found here.

Montgomery: Call 311. If you are calling from outside of Montgomery County, call 240-777-0311. County policy can be found here.

Alexandria: Call 703-746-4357. County policy can be found here.

Fairfax: Call 703-877-2800. County policy can be found here.