Cyclists use portable street sweeper to clean up bike lanes

CHARLOTTE — Ramez Tadros has brought innovative technology to Charlotte, which offers cyclists the opportunity to clean up trash from bike lanes.

“You attach it to your bike, and it will clean the bike lane as you ride,” Tadros told Channel 9.

The portable bike-lane sweeper is a prototype getting tested around the country.

Tadros raised around $2,500 to bring the technology to Charlotte after some dangerous commutes.

“I would ride in the same bike lane over and over again and it was full of debris,” he said. “Riding through a dirty bike lane, you’re likely to get a nail in your tire. Glass is likely to puncture your tire.”

The sweeper uses a solar-charged battery to push debris to the side, which clears lanes about as quickly as you can bike through them.

“If you want it bad enough, now you can do something about it yourself,” Tadros said.

People can get training on how the sweeper works at The Innovation Barn and try it themselves.

Channel 9′s Michelle Alfini got the opportunity to see how it works.

She said the equipment makes a trip uphill a little harder.

“But as it sweeps, it’s plain to see how much easier it will make the trip for the next cyclist,” Alfini said.

The city of Charlotte has one city-owned bike lane sweeper.

Eric Zaverl, from the nonprofit Sustain Charlotte, which is a sponsor of the project, said that the city’s street sweeper can’t be everywhere, especially as the city adds many more bike lanes.

“We want to encourage more people to bike and when they see bike lanes blocked or there’s debris in them, that makes it difficult,” Zaverl said. “They’re going to be less likely to take their kids out there.”

He said any help would create safer streets making them more accessible.

“To get as many people out there cycling as possible,” Zaverl said.

Charlotte residents got to name the city’s street sweeper, Sweepy McSweepface, in May 2023.

The street sweeper cleans bike lanes regularly, city officials said.

Charlotte has about 190 miles of bike lanes so volunteers are welcome to help keep them clear of debris.

“We look forward to collaborating with the people-powered sweeper team to ensure that our bike lanes are an effective mobility option,” city officials said.

Read the city’s full statement below:

The Department of Transportation currently has one, electric street sweeper (Sweepy McSweepface) that is small enough to use in protected bike lanes. Sweepy cleans the Uptown Cyclelink and The Plaza bike lanes on a schedule that varies based on the accumulation of debris. Sweepy is only used for these bike lanes due to the capacity and size of the unit.

The City of Charlotte’s Solid Waste Services Department also uses street sweepers on city streets. However, with more than 5,000 lane miles to cover, it can be challenging to ensure that the bike lanes are clear of debris at all times.

Volunteer groups are a key partnership that cities across the country rely on to not only clean and maintain bike lanes, but also streams, parks, and other amenities. We look forward to collaborating with the people-powered sweeper team to ensure that our bike lanes are an effective mobility option.

Michelle Alfini

Michelle Alfini, wsoctv.com

Michelle is a climate reporter for Channel 9.

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