Experienced riders in Seattle are so used to avoiding dangerous sewer grates that it’s second nature at this point. If you have ever thought those grates with gaps long and wide enough to grab a bike wheel seem to be everywhere, a recent report by Seattle Public Utilities says you’re right. The good news is that SPU is spending hundreds of thousands of dollars replacing dangerous or broken grates, prioritizing bike routes in their replacement efforts. The bad news is they have a ways yet to go (though they are working on it).
When the utility began its two-year survey in 2009, it had no idea of the number of grates – hazardous or otherwise – on Seattle’s hundreds of miles of bike routes. By 2010, the city found it had a total of 19,200 storm drains on designated bike routes, of which 4,292 were deemed as potential hazards.
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The city has since replaced 700 of the hazards, or 16 percent of the identified problems. The replacements were for “highest priority” problems, which included fixing broken grates and replacing the old, parallel-slatted grates with a modern, safer design.
The price tag so far for the survey and replacements: $238,000. Coming up next is spending another $160,000 to replace the remaining top-priority 300 hazards.
SPU is also setting aside $60,000 a year to work with the Transportation Department on paving issues that cause the sinking and rising of storm drains.
SPU says they do look at reports of hazardous grates on BikeWise.org, so be sure to report what you see to help target their efforts. Also, the fabled BikeWise mobile app is supposed to be out soonish. Imagine being able to report hazards on the spot to SDOT and SPU just by pulling over and tapping a few buttons…
The SPU report: