A couple of months ago we were descending Highridge to the light at Hawthorne when I noticed the road was pockmarked with gnarly cracks and chugholes. They had been there forever but I never thought much about them. You just whiz down, pay attention, and avoid them. It’s not that hard.
Unless you’re riding with someone who hasn’t been doing this since 1982, in which case you realize pretty quickly that what is simply something to notice and avoid for you can be a life altering collision trigger for someone else. My someone else got to the light and shook her head. “Those are so dangerous!” she said.
I thought about it for a second. Then I agreed. “Deadly, in fact.”
Responsive local gummint
The next day my wife went back and emailed me photos of the mined-out roadscape, and I sent them on the City of Rancho Palos Verdes’s public works department, and noted that these were exactly the kind of cracks that can kill vulnerable road users like cyclists.
Twenty-four hours later I got a very nice message from the city saying that the holes and cracks had all been filled.
And they had.
So it occurred to me that taking the time to make a pothole report every now and then was a good thing, especially since the problem actually got taken care of.
A little over a week ago we were coming home on Vista del Mar, in the City of Los Angeles, and my wife hit a gnarly crack that jerked her front wheel violently to the side. She came within millimeters of hitting the pavement and knocking me down, too. I was shaking after she cleared the obstacle.
We got home and I sent an email to the city’s pothole reporting hotline.
There are dozens of dangerous cracks, raised manhole covers, manhole covers with degraded asphalt around them, and potholes in the Number 1 lane of Vista del Mar all the way from Napoleon to Imperial. Numerous of these conditions are dangerous for bicycles and will result in a bicycle collision if the front or rear tire gets caught in the cracks.
The very next day I got this response:
Your Pothole – Small Asphalt Repair request was updated on 07/02/2018 1:19 PM.
Service Request # 1-1085237921
Location: VISTA DEL MAR AT NAPOLEON ST, 90293
Closed – See Comments
No potholes found upon inspection of S/B Vista Del Mar between Napoleon St. and Imperial Hwy.. There were no raised manhole covers either.
So I went for another bike ride, and sent them this:
I am not sure where you were looking or how you conducted the inspection. Attached are photos I took yesterday showing just a few of the cracks, holes, and manhole covers into which a bike tire can easily get caught.
And I included these:
To which the fine folks in the public works department the next day said this:
Thank you for contacting the City of Los Angeles. Please provide the exact location of where these cracks are at. Are they on Vista del Mar? Between what cross streets? I will reopen another request.
Leading me to say:
These are all on Vista del Mar at various locations, beginning at the light at Napoleon and running all the way to Imperial. They are all in the No. 1 lane, southbound headed towards El Segundo.
You will have difficulty seeing them at 45 mph from behind the windshield of a truck. The most effective way to inspect would be on bicycles.
Which resulted in:
Thank you for submitting your Pothole – Small Asphalt Repair Service Request. Please note the Service Request number for future reference.
Service Request # 1-1091425871
Location: VISTA DEL MAR AT NAPOLEON ST, 90293
Ignoring vulnerable road users
In addition to the hideous condition of Vista del Mar southbound, anyone who’s ever done the NPR knows that northbound it’s a billion times worse. But the city’s public works department isn’t really interested in fixing the problem, what they’re interested in doing is creating a record that will provide them with an absolute defense the next time they get sued. You can tell that because the location they’ve identified is “Vista del Mar at Napoleon St.” when I specifically told them it was all the way from there to Imperial.
This past year the city got dinged with a $9 million judgment when a cyclist hit a pothole and suffered catastrophic injuries. When you sue the city/county/state, you have to prove that they were on notice, or should have been on notice, of the dangerous condition. In order to do that the plaintiff makes a public records request to see if anyone has complained about the pothole or other dangerous condition in the past, and if they have and the city has done nothing about it, then the city is “on notice” of the dangerous condition and can be held liable for the resulting injuries.
So the city now has a policy, apparently, of rushing out to the site, giving it a clean bill of health, and calling it good. That way they can “prove” that there was no dangerous condition as of the date of the inspection, and therefore any subsequent collision would have had to have been caused by a “new” pothole that they didn’t know about. Of course Vista del Mar in between Napoleon and Imperial is one long 2-mile dangerous condition, but only for bicycles. The non-inspection performed by the city above gives them cover for their failure to repair.
I still think it’s worthwhile to stop and photograph the cracks and potholes, and to follow up with the city. It only takes a few minutes, and in the case of some municipalities, they will actually do something about it. For the ones that don’t, like L.A., as long as you keep emailing them that it’s not fixed, they’re “on notice.”
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