Seattle set to pay $225,000 for special bike lane street sweeper

SEATTLE -- You could pay the Seattle mayor's salary for about a year and a half; finance more than three new police officers for 12 months; even buy an in California.

There's a lot you could do with $225,000, including, city officials say, buy a special, slim street sweeper designed to clean bike lanes.

The six-figure sum has been allocated to purchase the new equipment, said Seattle Department of Transportation spokesman Rick Sheridan, because transportation workers found that traditional street sweepers were too large for the new Capitol Hill cycle track, which is separated from the street and the sidewalk.

"Given the narrow space of the cycle track, we can't fit a typical street sweeper through there," Sheridan said. "We have to have one that's appropriately sized."

The actual price of the equipment may be slightly less, Sheridan added. Portland recently bought a similar street sweeper for about $210,000, said Diane Dulken with the Portland Bureau of Transportation.

The Seattle city council has also earmarked more than $2 million to plan and study future cycle tracks and greenways in its 2014 budget. The amount includes some money for design, and is part of the Bicycle Master Plan.

"To me, it's nuts. I've been here 45 years now," said Capitol Hill business owner Denny Aker. "The word 'study' bothers me. Everybody thinks that you don't need a car to live in Seattle anymore."

Aker owns an auto repair shop on Broadway, where the city has been building the cycle track, along with the First Hill Streetcar line. Aker has lost parking spots out front - and, he says, business from his bottom line.

"It's just not friendly to business. Let's put it that way," he added.

About 10 blocks east, Daniel Malony spent part of Friday repairing bicycles at 20/20 Cycle. He had mixed feelings about the city's budget for a mini street sweeper.

"Leaves can mess you up, for sure," he said. "You see glass here in the streets for months on end. (But) I feel like there's probably a better way the city could spend their transportation budget. People get more flats from potholes than from glass."

The city council is slated to vote on the 2014 budget - including the transportation funding - on Monday. Detailed expenses can be found here.

The $225,000, however, is already budgeted, with the city expected to purchase the mini street sweeper by spring.

"People used to come up here, be able to park their car, go shopping, go do their thing," Aker added. "In the last year it's changed more than ever, and not for the good."