What Obstacles Prevent Good Street Sweeping?

Garbage and pollutants accumulate on streets, roads, highways and in parking lots. If this garbage is left out in the open, it can be swept away by rain and make its way into water system. Small particle pollutants can also get pulled into the air as well, which affects the health of people who live or work in surrounding areas. Street sweepers work to minimize the amount of garbage and pollutants that enter waterways and airways.

Of course, street sweepers can’t completely eliminate all garbage and pollutants, even in just one city. People and businesses contribute such a significant amount of garbage to the environment every day, there is not enough street sweepers to keep up with the amount of work.

Because it is already so difficult to keep up, how can we limit other things that slow the productivity of street sweepers? How can you help? We have all the facts about the problems and solutions of street sweeping, so keep reading to find out.

Problem #1: Badly Maintained Roads

When a road is not maintained well by the city or county, it naturally has more cracks and crevices that can hide garbage and pollutants. It’s a lot harder to clean a road with a surface like an alligators hide than it is a smooth, clear road.

Roads that are classified as poor are typically the most difficult to keep clean of debris. At a minimum, communities should maintain their roads at a fair rating to glean a minimum benefit from street sweepers.

Obviously, roads that are rated good are more effective at maintaining a clean street. At the very least, communities should repair cracks and potholes to prevent significant debris from being stored on road surfaces.

Problem #2: Curbs

Studies show that the majority of sediment and gathered pollutants congregates within 3 feet of street curbs. One study in Madison, WI found that up to 75% of sediment gathers in that 3-foot area. So good street sweeping companies focus on those dirty areas near curbs. Roads without curbs don’t accumulate nearly as much debris, meaning they don’t need to be maintained nearly as often.

Of course, it would be counterproductive to remove curbs from roadways, because debris wouldn’t collect in a convenient place to be swept up. Also, curbs are necessary in cities for sidewalks and other walkways, so the benefits would be minimal.

Problem #3: Parked Cars

You may live in an area that uses street sweepers, and so you’ve experienced the obligatory “No Parking” days on your street. You may even be the unfortunate victim of a parking ticket for not observing street cleaning days. Of course, it can be a pain to move your car one day a week, and it’s certainly annoying to get a ticket, but the benefits of street cleaning days far outweigh the inconveniences.

Did you know that one parked car on the street essentially leaves three car lengths un-swept on the street? Even the most skilled street sweeper drivers can only maneuver so well around a parked car. They can generally sweep around a parked car, but leave about one car length on either side of a parked car as dirty as they found it. Street sweeping vehicles are just so big and bulky, tight maneuvers are not possible. And remember, since the curbs generally hold 75% of dirt and debris on the road, street sweeping in that section of road won’t help prevent debris from entering the air and water.

So the next time you see a street sweeper, remember to move your car from the road on street sweeping days.

Problem #4: Fast Drivers

Have you ever accidentally gotten stuck behind a street sweeper? You probably had to wait quite a while to pass around it. The optimal street sweeping speed is 5 miles per hour. While such a low speed may be frustrating to other drivers on the road, it’s the best way to keep the streets clean.

Street sweepers should stay within a range of 3 to 7 miles per hour while cleaning up the streets. That way the driver can speed up or slow down, depending on the amount of debris he encounters.

So the next time you end up behind a street sweeper, don’t get annoyed by its slow speed. Remember that a slow street sweeper is an effective street sweeper.

Problem #5: Tiny Pollutant Particles

While street sweepers are very efficient at removing large debris from the roads, they are typically less effective at removing tiny particles, usually 60 microns or smaller. This is a problem because the majority of pollutants that cause damage to humans are this tiny size.

However, you should know that only about 3% of particles in accumulated dirt are smaller than 10 microns. To put it in perspective, the eye of a needle can hold over 1000 microns. That means street sweepers are cleaning the majority of debris that is accumulated in roadways.

Street sweepers are working on developing technology that can pick up these tiny particles. Until then, the technology does its primary function quite well and it removes dirt and debris from roads.

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