Reader Peri sent us the photo above yesterday. It shows a giant crack in the middle of 1st Ave W between Comstock and Highland. Likely caused by a tree root, the crack is large enough to throw someone from their bike.
And Peri should know, as noted in this email to the city and Seattle Bike Blog:
Cleavage in the pavement, probably caused by a tree root, is so abrupt that it threw me over the handlebars while going between 10 and 15 mph. As you can see by the photos, this is a very tall bump with relatively steep edges.
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Several people saw the incident. Since I was riding at night, I did not see the height and steepness of the cleavage. When my front tire struck it, I felt the handlebars being ripped out of my fingers and I was rapidly thrown over and skidded for a few yards. Fortunately, I ended up with some major scrapes but no severe injuries. It could have been much worse.
Evidentially, other bicyclists have crashed on this hazard as well.
While bike traffic is low on this route (I normally take Queen Anne Ave), if one does take this route and doesn’t see the cleavage, they are destined to crash.
Please let me know if this can be scheduled for repair.
As you might guess, this is not the only reader email I have received from someone concerned about a road hazard. Whether it’s a particularly nasty pothole, a road construction sign placed in the bike lane or a traffic signal that does not detect bicycles, what can you do to fix the problem?
If there is some kind of extremely serious and dangerous hazard like large road debris or downed power line on the road or sidewalk, call 911.
Get out your phone right now and save this number: 206.684.ROAD (7623). This is the city’s general purpose road issue line. You can call 8–5 Monday through Friday and talk to an actual person who will make a note of the issue and assign a work order to the relevant people.
This is an awesome city service, and the city is usually quite responsive to requests. It is fast and easy, and you don’t need to know any special jargon to use it. Just describe the problem as best you can, answer the follow-up questions and the city will plan to fix it if possible.
If you have a little more time or prefer to do things online than on the phone, the city has some excellent online reporting tools. Here you can use the city’s handy and fairly robust pothole reporting system, report dangerous sidewalk cracks and issues, report overgrown plants blocking bike lanes or sidewalks and even report traffic signal issues like long waits after pushing the walk button or signals that don’t detect bikes.
When you report, you give the city your contact info and they will follow up with you if they need more information to place a work order.
Find It, Fix It
The city’s most recent innovative tool for reporting road issues is Find It, Fix It, a mobile app for iPhone and Android (UPDATE: Seattle Neighborhood Greenways pointed out to me that there’s also a web version). You can report everything from potholes to illegally parked cars (in the bike lane!)
The app is very easy to use and has the added advantage of using your phone’s GPS to help you more accurately mark the location of the problem. When you notice an issue, pull over and report it right then and there. You can even take a photo of the issue to help the city find it. Then hop back on your bike and pedal on, knowing you did your part to make the streets a little bit safer for everyone.
If the issue you are reporting is not in the default list (many bike-specific issues are not), don’t worry. Just select the “other inquiry” option and describe the problem.
Do you have any other questions about reporting road hazards? Do you have any success/failure stories trying to report issues to the city? Let us know in the comments.
UPDATE: Wheel-grabbing sewer grates
Another common hazard on streets: Sewer grates designed in such a way that a bike wheel can fit right into the drain slots. This can, obviously, be extremely dangerous, and Seattle Public Utilities does have a program to replace dangerous grates with a more modern, bike-safe design.
Bob Anderton, a Seattle bike lawyer and SBB sponsor, pointed out the ongoing danger in a recent blog post. SPU responded by urging people to report dangerous sewer grates to 206.386.1800. You can also report them to BikeWise.org. For more on the danger of sewer grates, see this post from our archives.