The Chainlink

As I was riding south last weekend at the end of Open Streets, I noticed a nasty hazard.  



As you can see from the first picture, it's right in front of Magnolia Bakery at Block 37 (between Randolph and Washington).  I'd seen this previously and reported it, but apparently my 311 report went into a black hole.

There is a large rectangular hole cut in the street next to the curb.  It's a few feet deep, and covered with the steel plate you see here, which is a few inches too small to cover the hole.  Whoever placed this plate could have put the gap next to the curb, where it would be harmless.  Instead, they chose to put it in the middle of the curb lane of southbound traffic.

I'm glad that I spotted it before riding into it.  I hope that it doesn't cause anyone else a bad accident.  I've reported it again this week.  Could a few more of you help me make some noise about this so the problem gets fixed?  Thanks!

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Besides the good points you mentioned, I'd add:

* Always align plates so leading edge is perpendicular to traffic flow.

* When multiple plates are used, place them so joints align laterally, rather than longitudinally, to the flow of traffic.

* It would be great if city could specify skid-resistant surfaces be used on the plates.

Anne Alt said:

I exchanged a few emails with Gabe Klein in course of getting some answers.  He mentioned that CDOT is reviewing its policy on steel plate use.  I offered the following suggestions for bike safety:

* use of asphalt to create ramped edges/eliminate harsh impact of tire against square edge

* NO gaps in hole coverage at edges of plate(s) or between plates
* if bolts are used to secure plates, set them as low as possible to avoid creating additional hazard for cyclists


Does anyone have additional suggestions?

Paint edges with a bright color so that if any gaps develop they're easy to spot.

Anne Alt said:

I exchanged a few emails with Gabe Klein in course of getting some answers.  He mentioned that CDOT is reviewing its policy on steel plate use.  I offered the following suggestions for bike safety:

* use of asphalt to create ramped edges/eliminate harsh impact of tire against square edge

* NO gaps in hole coverage at edges of plate(s) or between plates
* if bolts are used to secure plates, set them as low as possible to avoid creating additional hazard for cyclists
Does anyone have additional suggestions?

Can I ask how you got Gabe Klein to respond to e-mails about this?

I am truly baffled that I was not able to get any assistance with the exact same situation.

Is the idea here that these standards would be implemented city-wide, or only in places Gabe may be personally at risk?

Anne Alt said:

I exchanged a few emails with Gabe Klein in course of getting some answers.  He mentioned that CDOT is reviewing its policy on steel plate use.  I offered the following suggestions for bike safety:

* use of asphalt to create ramped edges/eliminate harsh impact of tire against square edge

* NO gaps in hole coverage at edges of plate(s) or between plates
* if bolts are used to secure plates, set them as low as possible to avoid creating additional hazard for cyclists


Does anyone have additional suggestions?

Mindfrieze, Cameron - Good suggestions.

Howard - I've established a good working relationship with Gabe Klein and Luann Hamilton through my work with multiple organizations and programs.  I think it stinks that you didn't get a proper response to the plate gap situation you repeatedly described/showed.  That hazardous situation existed for MUCH too long.

My understanding is that he's aiming for better citywide standards.

In the last few days, more steel plates have appeared at locations around the Loop, including Jackson at Clark.  Fortunately the ones I've spotted do NOT have gaps like the one on State St. did.  They all appear to be Bureau of Electricity projects, if the letters on the plates are an accurate indicator.

This morning I noticed the plates are all gone, the hole has been filled with concrete and there's a manhole cover in place.  I don't know how long the concrete and surrounding pavement will play nice together but it's a big improvement!

Thanks for the update.

Tricolor said:

This morning I noticed the plates are all gone, the hole has been filled with concrete and there's a manhole cover in place.  I don't know how long the concrete and surrounding pavement will play nice together but it's a big improvement!

Yes! thanks Anne!

I agree with Sarah. State in the loop is surprisingly ridable. I think the near-constant bus traffic in the curb lanes has trained car drivers to stay out of that lane or at least not to expect to progress very quickly. I usually only ride it for a couple/few blocks until I can get to Plymouth. I take the lane, try to cooperate with the buses and pretty much never have a  problem.


Sarah D. said:

+1 - thanks to you, Anne, for going to bat for all of us - and for the updates!

I ride State 2-3x a month and also find it's all about time of day and bus-driver coolness. 


Juan said:

HT to you people who ride Michigan Ave and State St. Until there is a bike lane there, I will never feel safe riding those strips, your presence and efforts to make the streets safe there are much appreciated. THANKS

I'm seeing increasing numbers of cyclists on State St. in the Loop.  I think a lot of people have discovered that if they learn to co-exist with the bus traffic, it can be a workable option.

I've been using it for my route to work from North Avenue to avoid the bike path around Navy Pier and it's pretty pleasant in the morning.  Evenings I stay away from the roads because it's too dark and busy.

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