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How Madison keeps its bike paths clear through the winter

The city’s efforts to keep bikers, runners and walks on cleaned paths.
Published: Jan. 7, 2021 at 8:31 AM CST
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - Winter means tougher conditions for outdoor activities like biking and running, but efforts from the city of Madison’s engineering division make it a bit easier by keeping paths around the city clean all winter long.

The process of keeping the paths clear takes a lot of behind the scenes work and some heavy-duty machinery. Crews from the engineering division work to predict and plan before a storm hits, gauging the workload. When conditions do turn, crews hit paths, clearing 90% of them with toolcats, big four-wheelers sporting massive brushes. Paths are cleared before the morning commute and again at night, and during a storm, crews will start work around midnight, clearing snow through the morning.

And toolcats are busy seven days a week, making sure that everyone can utilize the paths safely every day. The constant clearage helps avoid icy buildup but also is important for those headed to work. According to data gathered in 2019 by the American Community Survey, roughly 4.5% of Madison residents commute to work, making the paths essential to part of the city’s workforce.

Paths are also used recreationally by bikers, runners and walkers. All outdoor options that some are choosing over a gym during the pandemic. For all those using the bike paths, the toolcats are busy clearing snow, all winter long.

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