City Unveils Adorable Fleet of Bike Lane Sweepers

The mini sweepers squeeze in between curbs and protective barriers to make cyclists' commutes a little smoother.

A new street sweeper on Upper Market. (Photo: Nuala Sawyer)

Anyone who’s biked down Market Street on a windy afternoon, dodging needles, crumpled newspapers, and piles of glass — rejoice, because a solution is (finally) here. On Wednesday, the Department of Public Works unveiled three new mechanical sweepers specifically designed to fit into narrow bike lanes. 

Up until now, manual labor was used to clean the bike lanes, as Public Works staff did their best to tackle them with brooms and dustpans. But as more protected bike lanes are built, the workload didn’t scale well. With the help of the SFMTA, Public Works was able to purchase some mini sweepers to get the job done.

“Anytime we get the right equipment to do our job better, it’s a big thing for us, it’s like Christmas,” said Public Works Director Mohammed Nuru. “For many years our city has been changing, and it has been changing in a good way, to make bicycling more friendly. But somebody has to look after those bike lanes, and our sweepers … are unable to really get to the curb.”

Despite the win, keeping our city street clean is no small feat, even for three machines; The city has more than 15 miles of protected bike lanes, all of which need regular maintenance to keep them safe for users. The sweepers soon be on a set schedule, cleaning certain stretches once, twice, or three times a week depending on need. 

“As we figure out the operation, please make your calls to us and let us know if there are areas you’re concerned about,” Nuru said.

The drivers of the mechanical street sweepers strutted their stuff at a live demonstration Wednesday morning near the intersection of Market and Octavia streets. Like a crowd of preschoolers, everyone spectating ooh-ed and ahh-ed as the mini dumpster on the back raised and lowered, splashing water onto the bike lane. The blue front sweepers moved back and forth like insect legs. 

The street cleaners won the approval of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, too. Executive Director Brian Wiedenmeier made an appearance at the Wednesday unveiling.

“As San Francisco builds more protected bike lanes to meet the growing needs of people who bike, those lanes will need to be maintained. That’s why these new sweepers are such a good investment; these sweepers will keep protected bike lanes like Upper Market riding smoothly and will prevent injury or damage due to debris. On behalf of our more than 10,000 members, thank you to the SFMTA for funding this purchase, and thank you to Public Works for operating these sweepers. Biking in San Francisco today just got a little bit better.”

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