Schwalbe marathon winter tires with studs

Boneshaker Blues (and Public Works Departments)

I met a friend for coffee this morning at a place about two miles from my office. Normally I would have ridden my bicycle. There are good segregated paths all of the way, the temp was warm enough (+16f) for a two mile ride, and time wasn’t an issue (and for this ride the time difference vs driving is fairly negligible anyway).

Workcycles OPA dutch bicycle

City bike with studded snow tires

This multi-use path is generally kept well plowed, though this year has been a bit more challenging for the city with more frequent snows needing to be cleared. I have studded tires on my city bike for the winter so hard packed snow isn’t a problem nor has an inch or so of fresh snow on top been an issue.

I chose not to ride today though—for fear of loosing my teeth. I’d ridden along here Tuesday and just about had them shaken out. I actually did start out on my bicycle but turned back, not desiring a repeat.

An inch of un-plowed salt-slushed snow and lots of people walking and bicycling in it have created an extremely jarring ride.

shoreview mn bike path with winter snow

Underneath the slight bit of fresh snow is a lumpy boneshaking layer of frozen foot-printed and bicycle tired snow.

If a bicycle were my only choice I’d have ridden and, except for wobbling like Captain Jack Sparrow afterwards, I’d have been OK. Since I do have a car as an option, I hopped in an enjoyed the smoother ride.


During the winter there are many people who walk along here and a few who ride. I’ve seen as many as four different bicycle tire tracks, but no more than that.

If I knew that there were a lot of people riding along here I’d be quick to call our public works department to clean things up a bit. One quick pass would likely do it. However, knowing that there are only about three or four of us that routinely ride along here in the winter, are our needs worth the extra expense of more plowings to keep the path rideable? Do I want to become known as a PITA who always complains?

hodgson road shoreview mn

I could have ridden my bicycle along the road instead of the path (to the right), but that is not something that appeals to me, particularly during winter.

And, there’s this. The folks in Shoreview, where this path is located, do a great job of keeping the paths clear. This was the first time this year or last that I was not able to ride my bicycle due to a path not being clear—that’s a pretty good record.

Here’s the deal. Public Works departments, good ones anyway, want to hear from us. They want to know where things can be improved. They may not always be able to correct them very quickly, but they still want to know.

They want to know how many people are impacted and in what ways. (If nobody ever calls they can assume nobody is impacted.) This also helps them plan for the future. If they’re tallying up lots of calls about paths needing to be cleaner, then they can plan to invest in equipment and people to do that better in future years (and they’ve got the calls from citizens to prove the need).

This is also a measuring stick for me. If I choose not to ride for some reason, then I assume that most others without a chamois in their shorts will make the same choice.

Who You Gonna Call?

These paths are along a county road, but snow maintenance is a city responsibility. The crossing buttons at the intersections along this path are however, a county responsibility. (Most of them anyway.) How about intersections that require maintenance by two different cities and the county[1]? Yep, got ‘em.

Schwalbe marathon winter tires with studs

Studs are wonderful!

A central reporting system that could take all reports and get them to the right folks would be nice. Until then, we’ll need to keep track of who’s responsible for what. If in doubt, start with the city.

This also brings up another question. Are there better ways of dealing with all of this snow? I’ll leave that to folks smarter than I.

Note: I have been told that the city of Shoreview, like many cities, does not have a bare paths policy. In other words, they keep them clear enough for walking which means no more than about 2″ – 3″ of snow depth. Roughness is a non-issue. This is a policy and monetary issue, not usually (except in some extreme cold scenarios) a can it be done issue. In this case it simply requires a change in policy and some more money.


[1] It gets worse, try one intersection with a bus stop that requires two cities, two counties, state, and MCTC to care for things.

Walker Angell

About Walker Angell

Walker Angell is a writer who focuses mostly on social and cultural comparisons of the U.S. and Europe. He occasionally blogs at, a blog focused on everyday bicycling and local infrastructure for people who don’t have a chamois in their shorts. And on twitter @LocalMileMN