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When the going got tough, this cyclist created a bicycle with a snow plow

Appliance repair guy and longtime bike tinkerer Phil Marciniak was uniquely prepared for this week’s snow — he’s already invented a homemade bike plow
Phil Marciniak stands beside his cargo bicycle with a homemade plow for clearing bicycle lanes and sidewalks. TIMES COLONIST

Most cyclists hung up their helmets when 30-plus centimetres of snow dropped on the capital region this week.

Not Phil Marciniak. The appliance repair guy and longtime bike tinkerer was uniquely prepared for the challenging conditions.

Last month, Marciniak, who had been toying with an idea for a bike-mounted plow, cut a plastic rain barrel into quarters, used a few 2x4s and attached the split-shovel contraption to the front of his cargo bike — and waited for it to snow so he could test his invention.

He got his chance Monday night. When the snow was starting to stick, he took the bike plow out for a test spin, and managed to clear 16 kilometres of the Galloping Goose trail, at speeds of up to 23 km/h, on his maiden run.

“The plowing went surprisingly well,” said Marciniak, who runs both an appliance-repair and a bicycle-modification business. “The front wheel is powered by a lithium-ion battery carried in the cargo box and I helped by powering the rear wheel.”

The 33-year-old, who was born in Vancouver and moved to Victoria in 2016, is no stranger to purpose-built modifications. Through his company, Sustainwave, he builds and converts pedal-powered bicycles into electrically powered units for customers.

He also modifies others to carry items not generally associated with bicycles, such as a trailer that can accommodate a sailing kayak.

His bicycle-plow contraption sits on a home-built cargo bicycle that serves as his appliance business’s main form of transport. He estimates he has pedalled about 60,000 kilometres on it, performing thousands of service calls in the eight years it has been on the road.

The design was inspired by cargo bicycles he saw when he was vacationing in Europe.

“I estimate that by using it instead of a trade van, I have prevented roughly 30 tonnes of CO2 from being released into the atmosphere,” said Marciniak, who started his bike company in 2021.

His Monday-night route took him by Saanich municipal hall, where he cleared the sidewalk as well as the bike lane.

He wanted to make the point that the municipality needs to rethink its car-centric perspective to snow clearing, which often ignores the needs of pedestrians.

Marciniak, who lives on Quadra Street, said municipal vehicles often bury sidewalks in cast-off snow when they clear roads. He would clear the sidewalk in front of his residence for pedestrians, only to see it buried every time a grader would come by.

Although friends have encouraged him to patent his invention and make “a pile of money,” he plans to do the opposite, filming a step-by-step build-it-yourself video that he will put on his social-media page.

He’s at @PhilipMarciniak on Twitter.

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