Dave Schlabowske
Bike Czar

How To Avoid Getting Ticketed or Towed in Snowstorm

All the cars making short trips in the city make snowplowing difficult. Try walking or biking.

By , Bike Federation of Wisconsin - Dec 20th, 2013 02:27 pm
Passing good samaritans hop of their bikes to help push a car out of the snow.

Passing good samaritans hop of their bikes to help push a car out of the snow.

A friend of mine (who is a pro-bike guy) recently wrote this open letter on Facebook in response the ticketing and towing during Milwaukee’s recent snow emergency:

Dear City of Milwaukee.
On this wonderful snowy Holiday, please refrain from ruining the days of hundreds of families’ by stealing their cars before they are due for work in the morning. I understand that you are desperate for revenue… but… for real…Its snow!

Others in the thread suggested someone do a study to prove the lost revenue from people missing work because their cars were towed outweighs any revenue the City might gain from tickets. While I sympathize with anyone who was ticketed or towed, I couldn’t help but bicycle advocacy bomb his thread with this response:

Someone already did that study. His name is Donald Shoup, and his book is an 800 page long tome called The High Cost of Free Parking. After his exhaustive study he found out cities drastically under charge for parking and it costs us all a bunch of money, increases our property taxes, causes congestion, etc. Parking is a sacred cow in most US cities, Milwaukee is no exception. We actually subsidize parking even more than most cities. If we spent our money on better transit, better bike facilities and planned for more dense development, it would be way easier to plow and easier for those who have to drive. Too many people drive even short trips (50% drive trips less than 1 mile), which makes it harder for those who must drive.

Cars aren’t bad, they’re just not ideal for urban travel. Even in winter, it is easier to ride a bike for 1-5 mile trips to work or go out in the city ( that covers more than half of all trips made). My family of three drivers has a car, but we don’t use it for those short trips.

Again, sorry to all who got ticketed, stuck or towed. Heck, I got off my bike and helped push a guy stuck in the snow this morning. Just trying to share a very different perspective that is often left unsaid in the US.

This guy never gets ticketed or towed; never has to shovel out his vehicle; never pays for parking; is warm as soon as he starts pedaling, and if he ever does get stuck in a snow bank, he just climbs over it and keeps going.

This guy never gets ticketed or towed; never has to shovel out his vehicle; never pays for parking; is warm as soon as he starts pedaling, and if he ever does get stuck in a snow bank, he just climbs over it and keeps going.

In addition to stories about people being ticketed so the snow plows can clear the snow, multi-car crashes on I-94 in Racine made national news after 50 people were injured and one person was killed. News reports said law enforcement and emergency workers from 13 municipalities responded to help in the tragic crash. The Sheriff reported the crash was caused by people driving too fast for the slippery conditions.

We all know snow and ice are part of Wisconsin winters. We all want our streets plowed and salted as quickly as possible to help prevent crashes, but for those who live in neighborhoods with lots of multi-unit housing, street parking is the only place for their cars. Snow emergencies certainly do cause a lot of problems for those folks. Imagine how much easier it would be to park, drive and clear snow if everyone who lives five miles or less from their workplace would walk, bike or take transit?

I have neighbors who literally drive five blocks to work. I know another neighbor who drives three blocks to go out to dinner, and they drink and drive home. With a little preparation, it really is not much more difficult to ride your bike all winter long.

My winter cycling basics:

  • Windproof and breathable is the key. Many inexpensive jackets and wool pants fit the bill. No need for expensive high-tech fabrics.
  • Cheap rain pants block the wind and let you wear lighter pants so you don’t sweat all day once you get to work.
  • Barmitts “pogies” on the handlebars keep fingers warm even in sub-zero temps.
  • Cheap ski goggles and a scarf or turtle fur keep my eyes from tearing and face warm. I put a little tape over the nose of the goggles to cover the tip of my nose too.
  • Platform pedals and boots are warmer than the best winter cycling shoes and clipless pedals
  • My wife slips on a cool vintage snowmobile suit to ride the five blocks to her work. When it is really bad she skis to work!

I used to work for the City of Milwaukee Dept. of Public Works. I saw first hand where money was wasted, but I also saw where the city was giving tax payers a tremendous value and doing a great job. Clearing the streets of snow is one of the places the city, county and state get high marks in my book for quality of service and price paid. As long as I stick to the streets, riding my bike to work is typically easy, even after a “snowpocalypse.”  The video I shot above shows just how easy it is to ride most of my 4 mile commute in the snow. Just don’t get me started on the bike lanes or trails, though!

This article was originally published by the Bicycle Federation of Wisconsin.

Categories: Bike Czar

2 thoughts on “Bike Czar: How To Avoid Getting Ticketed or Towed in Snowstorm”

  1. Subdivision Sam says:

    But Dave, I’m a lazy loumouth who chose to live 15 miles from my job & any decent shopping.

    How can more people taking transit, walking & biking help me when there’s a snow storm? Won’t they just get in my way as I drive my SUV around town?

  2. Todd Spangler says:

    When I lived in Milwaukee, I did see bicyclists occasionally riding around during snowstorms on city streets and felt that it was an incredibly dangerous thing to be doing. Bad enough to be hit by another car while driving one yourself, but getting hit by a sliding car in a snowstorm while riding a bike has a high probability of causing a serious injury, perhaps even death.

    By the same token, I also felt that walking on the sidewalks in a bad snowstorm on the East Side was much less problematic than trying to drive around in those conditions. Riding the bus would also be safer than navigating one’s own car about in a blizzard. The East Side is not particularly friendly to automobile users in the winter, especially for the poor souls who are forced to park on the streets. Having to dig your car out and being forced to go to the trouble of finding a different parking spot with the streets barely drivable and also narrowed by all of the other parked cars and piled up snow on the sides of the streets — a vision of pure hell from my perspective; albeit a chilly one.

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