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How you can help the city fix road hazards

L1060448Reader 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?

Calling police

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.

Online reporting

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

IMG_1664The 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

Screen-shot-2011-04-11-at-2.07.09-PMAnother 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.

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12 responses to “How you can help the city fix road hazards”

  1. jeff

    You can also report hazards, crashes and stolen bikes at bikewise.org or download the bikewise app (iphone only). Bikewise is run by Cascade Bicycle Club.

  2. Gordon

    This is great Tom. Very helpful. Thanks for writing this

  3. Bill

    Awesome! I just installed the app on my phone.

    I’ve seen really good, fast, response from calling 684-ROAD. The thing that puzzles me is that very few people seem to report problems.

  4. Andres Salomon

    Excellent post, Tom! I’ve been pointing people to the Find it, Fix It web reporting. Now I can just point them to this post instead. :)

  5. Fnarf

    I cycle through Lower Woodland Park (or is it Green Lake Park, the boundaries are not clear to me), on a city street, West Green Lake Way North, which floods over the bike lanes every time it rains more than an eighth of an inch. If the rain is heavy, the water will extend into the traffic lane, especially southbound. This is because the street drains there are nowhere near the low points in the land, possibly because of settling, possibly because of buried streams.

    I’ve called the city and I’ve called parks. No one can tell me who has jurisdiction, and no one can fix it — presumably because it’s not just pulling a few leaves out of a drain — the drainage system needs to be rebuilt.

    That’s what I’d like to see fixed. I hate riding through the deep puddles, I hate swerving out into the traffic lane to avoid them, and I hate being sprayed by cars driving through them.

    Next time it rains I’ll try the app.

    1. Tom Fucoloro

      I hate when the city can’t figure out which department need to fix a problem. Often, this is SDOT vs Parks, though sometimes Seattle Public Utilities also is involved. From a resident’s point of view, it doesn’t matter at all. It’s all the city. Just somebody fix it.

      1. Andres Salomon

        SPU would be my first guess, since they handle storm water drainage/rain garden installation stuff. I haven’t really dealt with them in the capacity of getting stuff fixed, however.

      2. Leif Espelund

        Seriously, the city should have one lead department for this kind of thing. Instead of hemming and hawing about whose responsibility it is, one department should go out and fix it. They can do a budget swap later if it turns out it was another departments problem. Just get it fixed ASAP for the user.

    2. Ballard Biker

      swerving out into the traffic lane

      On rainy days it is just plain safer to take the lane there. The bike lanes there are a joke and “swerving” out into the traffic lane is far more dangerous.

      IMHO that style of bike lane and the type in most of North Seattle like Greenwood and 8th are all about politicians making non-riders think they are doing something. Northbound the bike lane puts you in the door zone and Southbound it is a lake or a trash heap.

  6. I highly recommend the “Find it, Fix it” app. I reported a pothole in the Dearborn St bike lane a few days ago and it’s already been fixed.

  7. Ally

    Thank you for writing this post, Tom – very useful. That number is now in my contacts, and the app installed. Ready to flood the city with some road fix requests!

  8. […] that traffic signal by reporting the faulty signal to your local transportation agency. In Seattle, you can easily report traffic signals that don’t detect bikes using the Find It Fix It app and […]

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