Potholes, what are they good for? Absolutely nothin’!

Photo by autumnlight, via Flickr creative commons

Let’s face the facts. The road conditions around much of Los Angeles County STINK.

When it comes to cycling in the region, there’s nothing worse than knowing you’ll inevitably be encountering one of the many potholes, bumps, cracks, and cratered manholes scattered throughout the area. Too often, they tend to ruin a perfectly good ride. Don’t believe me? Try speeding down Wilshire Boulevard on a bicycle, it’ll feel like you’re sitting on a massage chair … from hell.

In my opinion, potholes and cracks are a cyclist’s worst enemy. Not only do they make it dangerous to ride, but they make it stressful as well. They slow us down, force us to swerve left and right in traffic, and can lead to serious injuries and expensive bike repairs.

Imagine such a scenario: One moment you’re riding down a street with nothing but smiles, then KA-BAM! A wide enough crack on the road sucks your front wheel in and the next thing you realize, you’re flapping your arms like a distorted seagull having been launched into the air like a human cannonball. Then, impact. Ouch.

Fellow cyclist Lynn shows the injuries she received (right) after crashing from a pothole (left) on a night group ride.

I’ve had a few fellow cyclists, including myself get pretty banged up after our own unfortunate encounters with a pothole. With injuries ranging from minor scruffs to severe broken bones and deep road rashes, shabby road conditions are no laughing matter.

And, in addition to causing physical injury, our poor precious bikes suffer just as well from potholes. Hit one hard enough at a good speed and you’ll end up with a flat tube, a bent wheel, and/or in the worst scenario, a broken frame. Any carbon road bike owner would shudder at such an event.

So what can we as Angelenos do to improve our hazardous roads, which at times often resembles the streets of a war-torn city? How can we make our commuting less hazardous, and more importantly, help make commutes safer for other cyclists? Surprisingly, the answer isn’t really that difficult, but few seem to know how to follow up on it.

If you ever see a hazardous road condition such as a pothole that affects your commute, simply report it to the department within that city that handles street maintenance; for example the city of Los Angeles’ Bureau of Street Services via their online Service Request Form. If the hazard is within the boundaries of an unincorporated part of L.A. County, you can report it to the Los Angeles County’s Department of Public Works through this webpage.

If unsure of who to report to, you can always use the County’s online Service Locator to find the answer. However, anything reported through the County’s webpage is usually forwarded to the proper handler. As unbelievable as it may sound given the illusion of how dysfunctional and financially strapped our local government is, the report-it-and-we’ll-come-out-and-fix-it system actually works!

As of today, I’ve reported a grand total of 14 road hazards which range from deep potholes to wide cracks on the road, all of which I had to painstakingly avoid during my commutes. So far 11 of the 14 hazards have been fixed, and each report was taken care of within a month to three months of having reported on it. Not bad at all if you ask me.

So the next time you’re on your bike and have the unfortunate pleasure of biking into or coming across a road hazard like a pothole, don’t ignore it, report it. Do it for yourself and for your fellow cyclists here in L.A.

Categories: Bicycle