Transportation

Denver Goes Electric to Keep Its Bike Lanes Clear

In addition to the fleet of 21 full-sized street sweepers, a smaller electric version will work within the city’s six miles of protected bike lanes.

by Andrew Kenney, The Denver Post / November 26, 2018

(TNS) The most noteworthy new vehicle about to hit Denver’s streets isn’t an electric bike or a rental scooter.

It goes about 10 mph when it’s doing its thing. It has four wheels, two seats and two big brushes. Its water tank holds 58 gallons. And its battery runs for eight hours.

The city just finalized its $221,060 purchase of one of the nation’s first fully electric street sweepers, specifically designed for use in bike lanes and other tight spaces — and it’s the envy of public works departments everywhere.

“There are a lot of cities that are really interested in the product. Everybody’s trying to find budget money,” said Walt Tokunaga, the street sweeper salesman who just sealed the deal.

The Dulevo D.zero² sweeper will patrol the city’s six miles of separated bike lanes, which can’t fit a full-sized vehicle because they’re protected by barriers.

It isn’t Denver’s first bike-lane sweeper; it will replace a diesel sweeper when it rolls out in the coming weeks. But it’s an example of the unique challenges and spending that come with a cycling network.

“It’s the case with all kinds of roads — even highways,” said mobility advocate and architect Jonathan Fertig. “Everybody wants to cut a ribbon on something new, but nobody wants to deal with the logistics of maintaining it.”

A daily cyclist, Fertig frequently harangues the city on Twitter for its failure to keep the bike lanes clear of cars, snow and construction equipment. This month, his photo of an icy Cherry Creek Trail prompted a TV news report and a quick plow job.

Without good maintenance, he said, the city will never have a year-round commuter network. And with Mayor Michael Hancock’s goal of 125 new miles of various types of bike lanes, the question’s not going away.

The new sweeper seems to be making a good impression already. In a test run, cyclists offered plenty of enthusiastic thumbs ups, rather than the vitriol that sweepers sometimes encounter, Tokunaga said.

“They were very excited about not having a diesel or gasoline engine going down a bike lane,” he explained.

The Dulevo has an Italian lineage. In a promotional video, the stubby truck with enormous windows wends through classical archways and along mountainous shorelines to an electronica soundtrack. Denver’s purchase marks the first time it’ll come stateside, Tokunaga said.

A non-electric bike-lane sweeper can be had for $210,000, about 5 percent less than Denver paid for its electric model.

Los Angeles also is racing to get one of the new sweepers: “We hope to be either the first or second locality in the US to operate this made-in-Italy electric sweeper,” wrote Greg Spotts, assistant director of the L.A. Bureau of Street Services, on Twitter.

Denver’s sweeper will be a tiny companion to a fleet of 21 full-sized machines, also new from Dulevo.

It wasn’t an easy choice: The city even hosted a showdown to see how much flour, sand, water and debris the units could handle.

“The funny thing about it: They invited all our competition to show up for this comparison,” said Tokunaga, CEO of HardLine Equipment. “We were the only ones to show up.”

Meanwhile, he said, the industry already is working on the next big leap: autonomous sweepers.

©2018 The Denver Post. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.