Tech Talk: The best street sweepers for clearing protected bike lanes

April 21, 2014

Michael Andersen, Green Lane Project staff writer

As protected bike lanes have spread, so has a new problem: how to keep protected bike lanes clean.

Traditional sidewalk sweepers are often narrower than needed for this job. Conventional street sweepers don't fit between curb and barrier. And though there's a wide array of industrial sweepers on the market, machines designed for indoor use have hoppers that fill up too quickly.

That said, if you ask around for long enough, you will find a few sweepers that fit the separated bike lane niche. Building on a directory started by Austin engineer Nathan Wilkes, here's what we've found.

Madvac LS100

(pictured above)

Minimum operating width: 48 inches
Max operating width: 89 inches
Suction head width: 24 inches
Hopper capacity: 0.9 cubic yards
Top non-sweeping speed: 16 mph
Price range: $80,000 to $110,000

Used by Montreal, this product formerly known as the CN100 is among the smallest and narrowest sweepers in its class. It only needs four feet of clearance at a bikeway pinch-point, but can extend its brushes more than seven feet. The narrow vacuum head and sweeper underneath the body mean that it's best suited to bike lanes protected from road debris by curbs.

MacDonald Johnson CN201

Minimum operating width: 52 inches
Max operating width: 123 inches
Suction head width: 32 inches
Hopper capacity: 2.3 cubic yards
Top non-sweeping speed: 25 mph
Price range: $124,000 to $140,000

Used by San Francisco, the CN201 sweeper has the widest operating-width range of any sweeper we could find, capable of squeezing its body into less than five feet and stretching to more than 10. Its "optimum sweeping width," however, is 7.5 feet. Another machine that's better suited to curb-protected lanes than post-protected ones.

Ravo 5 Series

Minimum operating width: 94 inches
Max operating width: 94 inches
Suction head width: 24.8 inches
Hopper capacity: 5 cubic yards
Top non-sweeping speed: 55 mph
Price range: $226,000

Used by Portland, the Ravo 5 needs almost 8 feet of clearance but has almost the largest-capacity debris hopper in its class.

Stewart-Amos R4, R6 and Starfire S4

Minimum operating width: 102 inches
Max operating width: 120 inches
Suction head width: 80 inches
Hopper capacity: 4.65 cubic yards for the R4, 6.12 for the R6. The S4 has a 4-yard hopper that's equivalent to a 6-yard regenerative air alternative.
Top non-sweeping speed: 65 mph

Leased by Chicago for $5,000 per week, the S4 (pictured) is another sweeper on the large, wide side of the spectrum. The R4 and R6 are bigger still. All three can travel at highway speeds to and from worksites. The rear broom can "handle miles and miles of heavy debris" without clogging, said Mike Amsden of the Chicago Department of Transportation.

Schwarze A4 Storm

Minimum operating width: 90 inches
Max operating width: 120 inches
Suction head width: 80 inches
Hopper capacity: 4.5 cubic yards
Top non-sweeping speed: 70 mph
Price range: $160,000

The A4 Storm has a fairly large body and a massive suction head. Like the Starfire, its big suction head and rear broom suit it to debris-laden streets.

Tennant Sentinel

Minimum operating width: 70 inches
Max operating width: 126 inches
Elevator width: (used instead of a suction head) 51 inches
Hopper capacity: 3.4 cubic yards
Top non-sweeping speed: 25 mph
Price range: $155,000-$190,000

Tennant is one of the big North American brands in the industrial sweeper business, and the Sentinel is their largest product. A relatively narrow wheelbase and four-wheel drive makes it unusually maneouverable.

Tennant Green Machines 636

Minimum operating width: 47 inches, with a hard vehicle width of 45 inches and minimum clearing width of 51 inches
Max operating width: 80 inches
Suction hose width: 12 inches
Hopper capacity: 1.3 cubic yards
Top non-sweeping speed: 25 mph
Price range: $95,000-$105,000

The narrowest of all the street sweepers in this directory by one inch, the 636 has a slightly larger hopper and slightly higher top speed than its closest peer, the LS100. This is another that works best in relatively low-debris situations like curb-protected lanes.

Have you seen other makes or models of street sweepers in action keeping bike lanes clear? Let me know: [email protected] We'll add it to this list.

The Green Lane Project is a PeopleForBikes program that helps U.S. cities build better bike lanes to create low-stress streets. You can follow us on Twitter or Facebook or sign up for our weekly news digest about protected bike lanes. Story tip? Write [email protected]

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