Harvest Century September 22nd

Injuries mount as Portland fails to fix dangerous potholes

Posted by on May 22nd, 2019 at 10:59 am

I slid 145 feet. I was lucky to escape with just road rash.

(Written by Scott Kocher, a Portland-based pedestrian and bicycle lawyer at Forum Law Group LLC and safe streets advocate advocate. We recently highlighted his efforts to improve Highway 30. Note: Kocher’s law firm is also a financial contributor to BikePortland, but that had no influence on editorial decisions.)

I love to ride in the West Hills. From the central city, they’re the closest place to escape stop-and-go traffic. On weekends, people enjoying Northwest Skyline on bikes seem to outnumber people in cars. On weekdays, commuters zip between Portland and the west side. It feels like a world apart from Highway 26 gridlock.

Which brings me to March 16th. I was riding down NW Cornell from Skyline. There were bad potholes below the upper tunnel. Not just bumps, these were the kind that could easily cause a person on a bicycle to crash — which could be catastrophic at downhill speeds. Hoping to get them filled, I stopped and reported the potholes using the City of Portland’s PDX Reporter web app.

I noted in the report that the holes were a hazard for people on bikes. On March 28th, those potholes weren’t fixed, so I reported them again. On May 1st, I took a day off to go check on the route of a popular group bike ride that typically draws 100s of people. The potholes on Cornell were still there. I marked them with yellow paint, and reported them, for the third time.

Don’t worry, the swear word is protected speech under Article 1 Section 8 the Oregon Constitution.

Half an hour later, I was descending West Burnside from Skyline. It’s a long, wide road with fast traffic. Most cyclists ride with the flow of other traffic and take the lane. It’s nobody’s favorite route, but it’s the most direct route to downtown, and the asphalt is in good shape. Except about half way down, at Arboretum Circle, where, unbeknownst to me, a water main had broken and been repaired. A spot next to the asphalt repair wasn’t fully compacted. I hit the sunken spot at traffic speed. My bike stopped, and I kept going. I tumbled and slid 145 feet.

“He wanted to know if I had finally come to fix the sunken spot, because it made his house shake when trucks hit it, and he’d reported it. Three times.”

After getting checked out and my wounds cleaned at Good Sam, I reported the sunken spot that crashed me. Two days later, I was able to get up there with spray paint. As I was marking the spot so that the City crew could be sure to find it, a neighbor, Bill, saw me in my yellow vest and came out. He asked if I was from the City. He wanted to know if I had finally come to fix the sunken spot, because it made his house shake when trucks hit it, and he’d reported it. Three times.

This wasn’t the first or the second time PBOT didn’t do its job. In May and again in June 2014 I used the PDX Reporter app to report potholes and cracks in the downhill lane of NW Cornell up toward NW 53rd Ave that were “bad enough catch the wheel of a bicycle and cause a fall.” The next month, in July, my friend and riding buddy Richard Lorenz crashed on them.

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Richard Lorenz crashed on potholes that had been reported twice in the previous two months.

Even worse, in 2017, I reported a wretched pothole on NW Thompson. It was multiple layers deep, large, and very hard to see in the leafy shadows. A car driver could have crashed from it. I reported it, noting it was a hazard for bikes – something I don’t do lightly. Nobody fixed it. I heard later that a person on a bicycle crashed on it, and had to have brain surgery. After that, I went back up with a can of paint. It still wasn’t fixed.

I went back up with a can of paint. It still wasn’t fixed.

The concern isn’t limited to the West Hills. After my crash, more people have told me their experiences. One stood out. Unable to cut my own hair, I went to the barber shop. Jessica, who cut my hair much better than I do, told me she used to bike, and loved to commute — all the way from outer southeast to the Slabtown Barbershop in northwest. But she stopped biking after she crashed on a pothole in Woodstock:

“Two years ago I was bike commuting and my tire hit the wrong angle on one of the cracks in the road and I was flipped over my handle bars,” she shared with me. “I reported the incident, but it hasn’t been filled.”

In 2010 OHSU researchers released a study of nearly 1,000 Portlanders who commuted on bicycles for a year. They found, “poor roadway surface conditions” were a factor in 21% of traumatic crashes and 20% of “serious traumatic” crashes.

Here’s what we should do about this

Speed up dangerous pothole fixes. It costs roughly the same whether the crew goes the next day or the next month. Doing that would have saved my injuries, and could save a life. This isn’t just for people on bicycles. E-scooters have much smaller wheels. People on motorcycles and mopeds are also vulnerable to potholes and other asphalt defects.

Get pothole crashes onto the Vision Zero Crash Map. All four of the crashes I’ve described count as “bicycle serious injury” crashes. Yet they are not officially counted. Why? Because like crashes on streetcar tracks, most roadway defect crashes don’t involve an automobile user. Therefore, none of them generate a police report, make it into ODOT’s dataset, or get onto the Vision Zero Crash Map.

Create a user-generated reporting tool. Let’s get these on a map. Too many crashes and injuries go unnoticed. The public has demanded this for years: From BikePortland’s B-SMART tool (now defunct) and Nathan Hinkle’s NearlyKilled.me website to the streetcar track efforts of Active Right of Way (also now offline). It’s not right that individuals and activists have to spearhead these efforts. The proper way to do this would be for the City of Portland to provide a web form for people to report and upload crashes directly onto the Vision Zero map themselves.

If we don’t measure it, we won’t improve it.

We gave PBOT an opportunity to respond to questions and will update this story when we hear back. If you see a dangerous pothole, please report it to PBOT via the PDX Reporter app, 503-823-1700, or by emailing pdxroads@portlandoregon.gov.

— Scott Kocher, @scott_kocher

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81 Comments
  • Avatar
    David May 22, 2019 at 11:19 am

    I wish it was just potholes (this article is at least evidence that they’re not responding to others as well) but also debris and blockages in the bike lane. I generally have to report something 3-4 times for action to be taken, which takes time and I like to give at least 2-4 weeks in between reports so PBOT has an opportunity to respond and fix the issue.

    Having more transparency for these requests would be great and is much needed. PBOT needs to take the lead on this and at least let people know what’s been reported, when the report came in, and if/when it was fixed or addressed.

    Waiting for a traffic light this morning on my bike I saw a little girl riding a scooter (no motor) at a crosswalk with her family fall on some bad pavement, she was just scraped up and shaken a bit but poor pavement impacts everyone.

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    Mike Quigley May 22, 2019 at 11:35 am

    No money vs. overwhelming need. Same goes for other cutbacks like parks maintenance and needle exchanges. Nobody want to (or can) pay for anything anymore.

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      Ken S May 22, 2019 at 11:47 am

      And yet, ODOT is pushing through $500,000,000 for the I5 expansion, PERS is strangling the tax revenue, and a whole host of other budget/spending boondoggles.

      There’s plenty of money. The people spending it are asleep at the helm.

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      jeff May 22, 2019 at 1:14 pm

      there is plenty of money for pot hole repair. Its literally a few shovel scoops of asphalt. Seems like PBOT may need a good lawsuit again to make their attention span a little larger..

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    Bald One May 22, 2019 at 11:40 am

    This city is a mess – complaint driven repairs are the normal MO – is this due to laziness? Love it when the city actually does one repair, but fails to fix anything else that is within spitting distance of the repair – show some initiative COP! You brought your repair crews out to a spot to make one repair, but ignored the others needing it nearby b/c there was no backlog of complaints for the pothole’s sibling, a few feet away – what an efficient use of resources.

    I am sorry for you injury, these are truly scary riding conditions.

    Intentional utility cuts into public streets / pavement disproportionately affects cyclists, as these are frequently in the bike lane or to the side of the road. It seems city has no clear rules of engagement for making these cuts or fixing the pavement after they are done, of if they do, why does it take 6 months to a year (if ever) for the final pavement grade to be replaced? Is this b/c private contractors are free to do whatever they want to the pavement on our roads, with little or no oversight, communication, or enforcement of city policy?

    On the other hand, it seems like the city is using poor pavement conditions as a de facto traffic speed control program. Is this true? Seems like a lawsuit just waiting to happen and some of the most misguided public policy you can imagine – what could go wrong?

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    Buzz May 22, 2019 at 11:58 am

    Yes! I have watched the condition of the roads in Portland steadily deteriorate over the last 30 years, to the point where many locations are truly unsafe to bike now.

    Banning studded tires in the city seems like a no-brainer place to start, they cause unnecessary wear and tear on the roads, severely shortening the life of the pavement, without much safety benefit.

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    HJ May 22, 2019 at 12:10 pm

    This problem is so much worse than you know. Cornell is my daily commute route, as it is for so many others. I’ve been a regular reporter of potholes. My experience matches with it taking large amounts of time to get them fixed.
    I stopped commuting by bike during the winter because of them. New ones were appearing so fast that every time I went down the road there was a new one. At high speed on a bike I wasn’t willing to take the risk on a wet road.
    One of the HUGE problems in the west hills is the jurisdictional pissing match issues. It’s hard at best to figure out who is maintaining a certain stretch of road. PBOT or MultCo? A lot of people report things to the wrong organization. They don’t pass it on to the right one. (regardless of what they say) When one of the folks that lives up here contacted the maintenance manager at MultCo Roads about the pothole problems he flat out lied to her and claimed that there was no possible way a pothole could be filled anytime other than summer. (these are a regular Nextdoor topic in the west hills)
    Here was the full comment, which gives a pretty clear indication the attitude we’re up against:

    “It took a few days, but I was able to talk to James Turner who is the road maintenance manager for Multnomah county.

    This is what I learned:

    Multnomah county has extensive problems with their roads. Virtually no property tax money is spent on roads. It comes from either gas tax and registration or state and federal funds, so there is not enough money to fix roads.

    They set priories for roads based on the amount of traffic (“most utilized”) and that means most money is spent near the city core and Gresham. The west hills is considered “rural” so low priority.

    He also claimed that it’s a myth that potholes damage vehicles. He said people who sue over pot hole damage always loose, so the county could care less if you try to sue them. (I also read if you file an insurance claim on your insurance, it is considered an at fault collision and can raise your rates.)

    He told me they can only patch in the summer and they know the patches only last a year or two. The county wants to buy a truck that can do hot patches which would last longer.

    He also said that some of the roads are very old and many used timber in the foundations which has failed over time and thus for the roads to be properly repaired they need to be rebuilt and that would take millions that “we” don’t have. He said they are hoping to get a federal grant which isn’t likely.

    He said that the best thing we can do is to file a pothole complaint online. He said that is how they prioritize repairs and that it is public record. That “track-able data”. He said the more people that report them, the more they become a priority to fix.”

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      Daniel Hull May 22, 2019 at 1:18 pm

      I support trying to get the roads improved (although I don’t support painting F*CK on the road), but I believe the best thing we can do is take responsibility for our own safety. There are bike setups and riding styles that can deal with any pothole. It’s great to try to improve the road conditions but meanwhile your safety depends on adjusting to the conditions that exist.

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    Jay Dedd May 22, 2019 at 12:40 pm

    So part of the disconnect may have to do with using PDX Reporter, a city app, to report conditions on stretches of road maintained by the county. FWIW, this appears to be the online way to report county road conditions: https://multco.us/roads/road-service-request-app

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      John Lascurettes May 22, 2019 at 2:38 pm

      Was going to suggest the same. My inner Portland PDX Reports (for potholes anyway) seem to get filled in less than two weeks in most instances. I have noticed the reporter app will sometimes show my report “forwarded” when it’s been on roads that I wasn’t sure was a PBOT controlled street or not. And those forwarded reports often go un-repaired or take a really long time to get attention.

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      Carlin May 22, 2019 at 3:38 pm

      PDX Reporter forwards reports to the appropriate municipality. I’ve made several reports that were forwarded to Multnomah County and handled promptly. They sometimes ask additional questions not covered in the PDX app though. Like I reported bushes encroaching on the bike lane on Marine Drive, and they followed up asking about which side of the road and the nearest intersection because the GPS coordinates for my report were not accurate.

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    Edward May 22, 2019 at 12:53 pm

    Wrecking and getting hurt sucks. Thank you for publicizing this. Seems like one of the huge problems is that Portland gave up funding regular road maintenance over a decade ago. Now there’s a huge backlog. Meanwhile, when they do repair or rebuild a road, seems like they don’t always fix it right. Example – PBOT just repaved that section of SE Woodstock / Bybee that goes around the Eastmoreland Golf Course. The same mega potholes are already starting to reform. My inner armchair quarterback says it’s due to be being at the bottom of a hill right above a series of natural springs. Hills mean underground water flow. That means pot holes.

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      Scott Mizée May 22, 2019 at 1:01 pm

      Jay Dedd
      So part of the disconnect may have to do with using PDX Reporter, a city app, to report conditions on stretches of road maintained by the county. FWIW, this appears to be the online way to report county road conditions: https://multco.us/roads/road-service-request-appRecommended 1

      Jay, that’s an interesting comment about PDX Reporter. In an ideal road, the PDX Reporter app would share its reports with Multnomah County or ODOT, depending on whose jurisdiction the road falls under. Does anyone know if that’s the case?

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    grannygear May 22, 2019 at 12:58 pm

    I ride knowing that if I roll the dice, I pay the price.

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      Dan A May 22, 2019 at 2:13 pm

      Cool story.

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  • Kasandra Griffin
    Kasandra Griffin May 22, 2019 at 1:27 pm

    Thanks for your work, @Scott Kocher… both this writing/advocacy, and also for the consistent and conscientious spray paint efforts to try to keep other folks safe(r). I appreciate you!

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    Stephen Keller May 22, 2019 at 1:30 pm

    My experience is quite different. I crashed on pile of concrete that some clueless operator had left in the bikelane on hwy. 30. We reported it with the reporter app; PBOT forwarded it to ODOT; I followed up with ODOT to emphasize I had been injured; they removed the concrete pile the next day.

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    BikeRound May 22, 2019 at 1:54 pm

    If I were on a bike, I would consider any and all crashes due to potholes to be entirely my fault. Just as when driving a car, the operator is not supposed to go faster than what would allow the vehicle to be brought to a safe stop in case that becomes a necessity.

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      Tom May 22, 2019 at 2:03 pm

      Potholes can be very tricky to see, especially in deep shade or windy roads. There is an element of rider awareness required, but we’re talking about systems level issues. Blaming riders is not helpful.

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      dan May 22, 2019 at 2:27 pm

      Just one more area where “The city that works” has become “The city with good intentions”. Sigh. I am down for a pothole patching party. We can get some bags of asphalt patch material and some flagger uniforms and patch potholes in key danger spots. Who’s in? Sunday could be a good day for this.

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      PS May 23, 2019 at 11:26 am

      GTFOH with that nonsense. So, because the road conditions are smooth and predictable, one should be riding with the assumption that at any point there may be a 6″ deep hole or faulty repair in the middle of the path of travel? What is it like to ride around at walking speed?

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        Steve Scarich May 24, 2019 at 12:49 pm

        When I was learning to drive a car, my Dad’s best advice was ‘you need to drive like every other driver out there is trying to kill you’. What he meant, and it has served me well, is to always be on the lookout for danger when driving (riding). Do you realize how fast he had to have been riding to slide 145 feet ?

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          q May 24, 2019 at 1:28 pm

          If you just throw out that example entirely regarding the long-skid crash, there are still plenty of examples of potholes causing safety problems for people going much slower.

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      AndyK May 24, 2019 at 8:48 am

      If BikeRound is nominated for worst comment of the week does BP collect $5 from him/her?

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        Middle of the Road Guy May 24, 2019 at 5:21 pm

        Don’t you just hate it when the comments that many cycling advocates use come back to bite them in the rear?

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    David Hampsten May 22, 2019 at 2:05 pm

    Does anyone know any large (500,000+) US cities where all the streets are in good shape, more or less pothole-free?

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      Ted g May 22, 2019 at 4:49 pm

      I too am very curious as to the yardstick by which PBOT is being evaluated. Clearly, for some, they are “not measuring up”. I can understand the dissatisfaction expressed here but without putting such issues into context how can one person declare things to substandard?

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        David Hampsten May 22, 2019 at 9:06 pm

        When I served on the PBOT Bureau/Budget Advisory Committee from 2009-15, the city & PBOT had to make huge budget cuts in 2008-12 pretty much every year. The city abandoned residential street maintenance almost right away; only a sink hole would justify street repairs. We were told, and I still sincerely believe it’s true, that for every $1 spent on maintenance now, was $11 saved later. But which is more important, paying for street lighting & power for signals or paying for asphalt? Those were our choices. The bike program was gutted in favor of sidewalks for SW and East Portland and continuing Streetcar.

        What we didn’t know was that nearly every other major US city, and most minor ones, also made the same or a similar choices. You go to most cities and the streets look terrible today. DC, Chicago, LA, New Orleans – all full of potholes. The only nice towns tend to be small and wealthy. And it takes a long time to make up a maintenance backlog. PBOT reports over $1 Billion in deferred maintenance, similar to most cities of its size. Every city I visit on my bike, I find myself dodging potholes, alligator pavement, torn gutters, and garbage everywhere.

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      Q May 29, 2019 at 8:51 am

      There are none, it’s kind of like “the drivers in this town are the worst!”. They’re the worst everywhere, you just have to deal with it where you live.
      2″+ wide tubeless tires take the worst of it but not everyone’s frame can manage that.

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    Dani Smartt May 22, 2019 at 2:05 pm

    Perhaps organizing, picketing would get their attention. Anything is worth a try.
    I may get frustrated with so many bikes on the road, but I certainly do not want anyone to get hurt, either in a car or on a bike. And then there are the motorcycles!
    If anti fa and the white wingers can protest and picket, so can be rest of us. And in a much better cause.

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    Glenn II May 22, 2019 at 3:40 pm

    That first photo looks like a trench where the backfill wasn’t compacted properly before patching the asphalt. Bad workmanship, and/or ignoring the specs, and/or not enforcing the specs with an inspection, and/or a lack of specs. But hey, on the bright side, the potholes only developed in the two spots where actual wheels touched it. The rest is holding up great!

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      Glenn II May 22, 2019 at 3:46 pm

      That was a savage civil engineering burn, by the way. You’re forgiven for not noticing.

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    Carlin May 22, 2019 at 3:57 pm

    You can and should report all bicycle accidents to the DMV. That’s the only way the city/county/state will learn about troublesome roads. You have to leave the vehicle information blank and skip to the section of the accident report where it asks about “your collision” with a pedestrian or cyclist. It can be done online or in person. I didn’t know about this when I had my last run in with a pothole, but I used it when a driver hit me with their door.

    Unlike the people interviewed in this article, I’ve had very good luck reporting issues to the city and county. I’ve had a nasty pothole develop on NE 15th and Prescott, twice, and they patched it within days of me reporting it each time. I also reported unsafe speeds on Marine Dr. and within a week they had a speed camera set up near where I made the report; it caught my riding buddy when we were riding out to the gorge on our motorcycles. I also had reported bushes encroaching on the bike lane at the same place and time, and they had also cut them back within weeks.

    Now, what I haven’t had so much luck with is reporting bike thefts in progress. I use the non-emergency line for that and have had abysmal results. I’ve had no police response for three reports.

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    PolyCommuter May 22, 2019 at 4:03 pm

    Dangerous for cycling, and driving, too. Injuries to cyclists, and potentially significant damage to vehicles, which the city almost always refuses to pay for. Personally bent a wheel on one vehicle which cost over $1000 to replace (wheel and tire), no help from the city. They put the onus on the commuter and consider the pothole a “fixed object”, although as others have mentioned, the potholes are usually difficult to spot and safely react to in time. Choices are typically to either hit the pothole, or put yourself in danger/cause an accident. Pretty frustrating, to say the least.

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      Ted G May 22, 2019 at 4:59 pm

      I am curious as to why you would think that a municipal government should be obligated to pay for damages caused by you hitting a pothole?

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        PolyCommuter May 23, 2019 at 2:38 pm

        The city/locality is responsible for upkeep of the roads. We pay for it. Liability for damage caused directly by lack of upkeep of the roads falls at least partly to the city or locality responsible for the road, as well as partially to the vehicle operator. This is pretty standard, and most cities (including Portland) have a process for filing claims requesting compensation for damages resulting from potholes. If a pothole has been reported and the city has not addressed it in a timely manner prior to the reported damage, the city can be found liable due to negligence.

        Historically most claims are rejected, however it is a common, standard practice for the city to compensate for at least some of the costs, handled on a case-by-case basis.

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    danielc May 22, 2019 at 4:10 pm

    My child’s daycare has a narrow strip of parking on a steep hill. Over time it had developed 3 very large potholes that were unavoidable. Just over a week ago an email was sent out to parents from the daycare saying that the city was responsible and to call 503-823-1700 or email pdxroads@portlandoregon.gov to complain and have them fix it.
    I was amazed at the beginning of this week all 3 holes had been patched!

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    Allan Rudwick May 22, 2019 at 4:19 pm

    This is problem is so huge. I don’t think reporting problems is useful because of the scale of the problem. The city has relatively good data on pavement quality, they could send patch crews out and just drive around and find things to patch there are so many. It is not like we can count on citizens to report 10k potholes per month or more. And yes there are that many. The city doesn’t care but we need them to care. We should definitely stop paying engineers to design new streets when we can’t even pay the maintenance workers to take care of our existing ones. This is an outrage.

    I have a lot of sympathy for the Cornell Road stories- I had memorized the potholes so that I could ride fast downhill in the dark at one point. Luckily my commute doesn’t take me that way any more.

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      Carlin May 25, 2019 at 1:27 pm

      There are over 4,000,000 living in Portland metro, and they somehow can’t be bothered to spend a minute twice a year to report a pothole? That’s all it would take to get one report per pothole if your 10,000 potholes per month figure is accurate. In reality, only like .001% citizens bother because they expect someone else to do it

      I actually have a friend who removed a fallen tree from the road without ever reporting it to the city. I asked him why he didn’t report it, and his response was that he thought someone else would have after it being there for three days. Everything I’ve reported to the city has been fixed promptly. Don’t assume someone else will do it, or that it’s hopeless, because then it won’t get done.

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    Carmen Tomas May 22, 2019 at 4:32 pm

    I rode the Portland Ronde with some coworkers and a coworker’s teen daughter earlier this month. The teen daughter crashed descending Cornell at a conservative speed (we agreed to take it easy together). I was close enough in front that i heard her go down. It was a pot hole. Poor kid’s face took most of the crash, broke a tooth, road rash, major swelling all over.

    Luckily I have first responder training, and auto drivers stopped to help us. The crash truly shook me. I have a lot of guilt: i should have let her go in front of me maybe? i should have gone slower! etc etc etc. It could have been much worse, but I feel uneasy on big descents and riding in groups now/again. It will wear off eventually (i’ve been shook before!) but GOD I WISH THOSE POTHOLES WERE FILLED IN. i wish that day would have been a sufferfest of hill climbing instead of the shitty ass day it ended up being. The rider is already itching to get back on the bike, thankfully!

    p.s. luckily when the ride rolled out, a race organizer mentioned that nasty sinkhole on burnside. jesus christ! can someone fix that thing already?

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      SERider May 24, 2019 at 9:26 am

      The worse part about the Rhonde is some of the descents.
      The East side La Doyenne in Happy Valley is much better for road surfaces (given it’s mostly in newer developments).

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    T May 22, 2019 at 4:35 pm

    I thought the gas tax surcharge was to address the road problems as “they didn’t have enough money” ??
    Roads in far SE have not seen many (if any) repairs. Where is that money going ?

    I ride SE 139th between division and Stark. When they repaved, it was done in 2 passes to meet together. That’s now a running pot hole mess the length of the joints.

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    Scooter May 22, 2019 at 4:59 pm

    Spoiled riders who care more about potholes than you do about the city budget for the homeless. You can ride around the holes. They can’t ride around being homeless. I hope none of you claim to be woke.

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      q May 22, 2019 at 5:45 pm

      Why do you believe that if people care about potholes, they don’t care about the homeless? And seriously, of all things to pick about… You could fix every pothole in the city for a miniscule percentage of money spent on just freeway or highway projects, with no impact on social service funding, and not even a noticeable impact on freeway or highway projects.

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      Ken S May 22, 2019 at 5:51 pm

      Yeah, making that false dichotomy is in pretty bad form.

      That line of reasoning essentially mutes any valid complaint or criticism;
      “Oh, you had to skip breakfast today because you were in a hurry and now you’re hungry? Well some people don’t have any food at all, so you should just never complain about anything, ever!”

      This is not helping. We don’t have to choose between one area that needs improvement vs another. We can say it all needs to be improved and then improve it.

      Let’s make society better. Period.

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      Middle of the Road Guy May 23, 2019 at 7:54 am

      Potholes gave a pretty easy solution. Homelessness not so much.

      Should we fix nothing else until homelessness is solved? Got a solution for that?

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      soren May 23, 2019 at 11:01 am

      Thanks for you comment, Scooter. IMO, classism is an enormous barrier to effective cycling advocacy in Portland. The defensive response to your comment following multiple hundred post threads full of complaints about how houseless folk are interfering with people’s bike commutes is a case in point.

      Despite the fact that city budgets are severely constrained and politicians have repeatedly stated that they move money from one area to address loud public concern in another, comments about priority are painted as a “false dichotomoy”. It’s funny how it’s always a “false dichotomy” when the choice is between something well-off folk want and something that poor people need.

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        q May 23, 2019 at 12:38 pm

        My comment was that potholes could be fixed without taking money from the poor. That’s true. I didn’t say if it came down to a choice between fixing potholes, and providing services for the poor, I’d put potholes first–no more than I would say advocates for spending money to benefit poor people must not care about children with cancer.

        I think money should be spent for fixing potholes, but that doesn’t make me, in Scooter’s words, a “spoiled riders who care more about potholes than you do about the city budget for the homeless”.

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          soren May 24, 2019 at 9:49 am

          I was coasting–coasting–at about 40 mph.

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            q May 24, 2019 at 9:54 am

            What’s the relevance of that quote from somebody else?

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              El Biciclero May 24, 2019 at 12:03 pm

              My guess is it’s a subtle “too fast for conditions” commentary.

              One can never imagine every condition, therefore, everyone—especially if one is a bicyclist—is always going too fast for the unimagined condition that causes one to crash. Stopped is the only safe speed.

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                Dan A May 24, 2019 at 1:03 pm

                Are there any hidden obstacles in the road that might cause a car to come to a complete stop and eject the driver down the road? If such obstacles existed and had been reported, would PBOT delay fixing them?

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                El Biciclero May 24, 2019 at 1:42 pm

                I think this is the closest we can get, and looks like ODOT tells drivers, “too fast for conditions”. But I think repairs were undertaken nonetheless.

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        q May 24, 2019 at 3:50 pm

        Steve Scarich
        If you are aware that roads are pot-holed, and still crash, that is rider error. You are going too fast for road conditions. In 60+ years and 500,000 miles on the road, I have never crashed due to a pothole. I admit, I am pretty cautious when I descend….OK, I am chicken. But, I prioritize my safety. All that said, municipalities should fill potholes. Come on over to Bend, if you want to see poorly maintained roads.Recommended 1

        If we accept that you’re right–that crashing from hitting potholes is rider error, and going too fast for conditions, then isn’t the logical next step in that thinking that everyone who crashes (or swerves to avoid a pothole) should get an automatic citation for riding too fast for conditions?

        And shouldn’t all the other cyclists that ride that same speed in a area where there’s been a crash also be cited for riding too fast for conditions, if they ride as fast as the cyclist who crashed? If a cyclist has crashed going say, 20 in a 30 mph zone, shouldn’t all cyclists using that road area be cited for going 20 mph while cars go past them at 30 mph, since the pothole has only been established to have caused a bicycle rider to crash?

        But we also know there’ve been several cyclist crashes due to potholes, meaning lots of people are riding too fast and becoming hazards themselves when they crash–especially the ones who fall and skid. Enforcement clearly isn’t working. But fixing the potholes would. So if we’re not going to fix potholes to prevent people who hit them from getting hurt, shouldn’t we fix potholes to keep other people who drive and bike safe from the people who ride too fast for conditions and crash?

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      PS May 23, 2019 at 11:55 am

      Woke? Like talking about wokeness on a device made by poor laborers in a polluted environment by companies with incredibly ruthless business practices (not to mention the largest cash hoard by private enterprise in history) via an infrastructure of glass tubes and wireless capabilities constructed by other giant corporate behemoths with very questionable business practices? Yeah, I am pretty sure you won’t pass the woke test either, much less when you’re trying to critique some folks not wanting to die riding their bikes around the city.

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        Q May 29, 2019 at 8:56 am

        I don’t agree with the pro-bum sentiment but trying to claim that someone doesn’t have a point because they’re using a device to access the internet is completely baseless. Try again.

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    Mark smith May 22, 2019 at 8:56 pm

    The homeless problem is a bottomless pit. Maintaining the road is a quantified issue. Safe transit first, homeless second.

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    q May 22, 2019 at 9:58 pm

    PBOT’s not always smart with its maintenance budget. The street near me was in poor shape. PBOT decided to repave it. They made about 500′ of sawcuts in preparation for removing the old asphalt, since it was in such poor shape. Then they suddenly stopped and just disappeared. People tracked down PBOT, and got told hey had decided after the sawcutting that it would be better to resurface instead of repave. That was maybe a year ago. Since then water is getting into all the sawcuts and the street is rapidly failing. Last week I was told by a PBOT worker that PBOT never intended to resurface it, and did abandon the project. The street would have been better if PBOT had done nothing.

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    K'Tesh May 23, 2019 at 3:46 am

    PBOT KNOWS, ODOT KNOWS, or even a painted Phallus *MIGHT* get some attention.

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      Middle of The Road Guy May 23, 2019 at 9:31 am

      I tried posting something similar earlier but got moderated. There is a gent in England who does that and it gets immediate attention.

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    Ben Milstein May 23, 2019 at 7:05 am

    there is a pothole on n willamette near my house that got ‘fixed’ and then opened right back up again within just a few weeks…. great job, PBOT.

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      Ted G May 23, 2019 at 9:51 am

      Hmmmmm. Interesting. Some say “It’s just a pothole! A shovel full of asphalt is all you need so just get out there and fix the dam things.” Others say “look at this one…they fixed it but PBOT did a crappy job!”

      Some say “It’s just a pothole! It doesn’t cost $$ to fix”. Others say “If the underlying roadbed is compromised…that is really expensive.”

      Some say “PBOT sucks because they have not fixed the pothole that I have reported”. Others say “PBOT did a great job fixing the pothole I reported”

      Could it be that the world is not quite as black-and-white as some would have you believe? Could even the “simplest” of things be more complex than we know and prevent an “obvious” solution from happening quickly. Maybe even the simplest of issues are not suited for this kind of dialogue, because it provides for the spread of misinformation that further jades people’s opinions of things they know nothing about.

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    Eric May 23, 2019 at 7:35 am

    Try a quick Google search for NPR Oakland pothole vigilanties. Interesting story.

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    rick May 23, 2019 at 8:20 am

    Ban metal-studded car tires. Preserving Oregon’s Roads calls for that.

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      Middle of The Road Guy May 23, 2019 at 9:32 am

      That would help, but it’s not like potholes are directly related to studded tire use.

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        rick May 23, 2019 at 11:36 am

        They make ruts and chew-up asphalt and concrete.

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          Middle of the Road Guy May 24, 2019 at 5:24 pm

          And I’ve never seen ruts or potholes in states without studded tires…so you win.

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    Joe-Mack McCarthy May 23, 2019 at 8:55 am

    As is the case in so many examples where taking action is required.. (maintaining our personal health, buying a plane ticket, addressing household repairs, etc.) the tendency to procrastinate and “put it off until later” results in a magnification of costs. Putting off pot-hole repairs until a later date sometimes leads to destruction of the underlying road bed. An enormous cost is then required to properly address what could have been an inexpensive repair job. Toss in the added negatives encountered by putting off pot-hole repair: untold millions in damage to our vehicles, hospital bills or worse, our city’s reputation as a bike friendly community (okay, I realize that is down the food chain..help me out) and the added man hours, machinery costs, crew size, and the effects/costs of street closures ultimately required to rebuild ….. fixing pot holes early on seems to be a win-win bargain for all. ????? Is this complicated? (yes, unfortunately). Thank you for your article. It helps to hear like minded experiences and the thoughts of our neighbors on such topics. Keep Portland bike-friendly.

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    Steve Scarich May 23, 2019 at 9:04 am

    If you are aware that roads are pot-holed, and still crash, that is rider error. You are going too fast for road conditions. In 60+ years and 500,000 miles on the road, I have never crashed due to a pothole. I admit, I am pretty cautious when I descend….OK, I am chicken. But, I prioritize my safety. All that said, municipalities should fill potholes. Come on over to Bend, if you want to see poorly maintained roads.

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      GlowBoy May 23, 2019 at 2:39 pm

      Ha! Come on over to St. Paul if you really want to see potholes. Although Minnesota is a wealth state, its capital is not: most of the commercial property in the city belongs to the state, and is therefore off the tax rolls. A recent court ruling also decided that churches (who own a lot of prime real estate there) are also exempt from street assessments.

      Combine poor funding with a brutal climate and you have absolutely horrific roads. In 2 years of regularly driving to St. Paul I’ve already lost 2 car tires and 1 wheel due to the potholes; no bike crashes or flats so far (I ride on 2″ tires), but I have had my chain drop (single chainring, no derailer) several times. I can name a whole bunch of streets in this city that are getting pretty difficult to drive in a passenger car.

      Back to Portland: although not as bad as St. Paul, things have deteriorated quite a bit. I remember being warned about this about 15 years ago when I took the Portland Traffic & Transportation class. At the time the city was cutting short term costs by dropping its slurry-seal program (not to be confused with chip seal), which pays for itself by a factor of 10 to 1. The bill for that is now coming due.

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    mark smith May 23, 2019 at 10:48 am

    Steve Scarich
    If you are aware that roads are pot-holed, and still crash, that is rider error. You are going too fast for road conditions. In 60+ years and 500,000 miles on the road, I have never crashed due to a pothole. I admit, I am pretty cautious when I descend….OK, I am chicken. But, I prioritize my safety. All that said, municipalities should fill potholes. Come on over to Bend, if you want to see poorly maintained roads.Recommended 1

    Uhh……yeah. Ok, we get it, you are lucky. So, everyone else is a moron who expects when billion (yes, with a b) dollar overpasses and interchanges are built to supercede already built billion dollar interchange and overpasses and highways…that were built, one would assume (I know…crazy!) that the basics such as potholes for people to pass safely…was already completed and the already obsolete overpasses was just extra money rolling around in the change drawer.

    How about this…as someone who drive a truck and a car (as in semi truck) potholes will cause such vehicles to pull out of their lane if big enough. So…that will kill a rider. Are they dumb too?

    If the city decides to put down a road, as they seem so fond to do, they are required to maintain it and keep it safe. If they can’t, they need to start making the road ped and bike only. Period.

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      GlowBoy May 23, 2019 at 2:41 pm

      For the record, I don’t, however, believe that pothole-induced bike crashes are operator error. There should be some expectation of reasonably clear pavement, particularly on facilities with heavy bike traffic. Failing to fix potholes in these areas amounts to externalizing a cost of driving onto other users, and cities should prioritize this work.

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    Richard May 23, 2019 at 11:06 am

    Thanks, Scott, for writing this. That’s me laying in ER in the picture. What a day! I find it interesting that people want to blame the riders that crash, or for having the audacity to ask the City to fill potholes. I have been riding hundreds of miles per week for about 20 years. I race Cat 3, cyclocross, and a little MTB. I am not a great racer, but I am a competent, confident, and attentive bike-handler. I crashed on Cornell when I was coasting–coasting–at about 40 mph. I hit a pothole that had a sharp edge that was about 2-3 inches tall. The pothole was invisible to me because that stretch of road is shaded from the trees–and it turns out that shade on the road and potholes are virtually indistinguishable. It broke both of my wheels. It bent the steel fork on my bike–which I still have hanging in my office. I actually crashed not when I hit the pothole–but a fraction of a second later when my broken front wheel caught in the fork. I think I lost more skin than I had left. I paid my own medical bills, covered my lost income and eventually rebuilt my bike (amazingly, the steel frame only had a dent in the top tube–everything else was ruined). I didn’t sue the City. I didn’t feel like the City owed me anything. I fell. When you throw a leg over a bike it is going to happen eventually. But–and here is the real point–if the City could make prudent and cost-effective maintenance decisions to address known safety hazards in a timely manner–then maybe someone else doesn’t have to suffer the same way that I did. I didn’t ask the City to compensate me. But I do ask the City to maintain our streets in a reasonably safe condition. Is that too much to ask?

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    Dave May 23, 2019 at 12:57 pm

    Painting a symbol that can’t be ignored can sometimes help–I’m Jewish but found that painting a big swastika over a sinkhole on my street some years ago voted the repair crew out there pronto!

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      Dan A May 24, 2019 at 1:04 pm

      Wow. I guess that’s…..creative?

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      Dan A May 24, 2019 at 1:06 pm

      Platinum!

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        Dan A May 24, 2019 at 1:07 pm

        Oops, I didn’t mean this as a reply.

        And, oops, I should have posted this earlier. It’s good to note all of the amazing features of Portland that make it a Platinum bike city.

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    PBOT May 23, 2019 at 1:06 pm

    Sorry, we here at PBOT are out of money and the mayor said we can’t have anymore until the homeless junkie issue is fixed. So never.

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    Abe A. May 25, 2019 at 12:07 pm

    Speedy recovery Scott, I still think about that pothole and other ones that spread across the city.

    Back in 2017 around late October, I was biking home from PSU down Harrison Headed towards the waterfront; out of nowhere I found myself being dragged off the street by two people, they brought me up to the streetcar stop. I had no idea what was going on and they were flashing lights into my eyes and asking me a set of questions. appearntly I hit a pothole and that caused my front wheel to get stuck and flipped me head over into the pavement, and my helmet did not help as it slid over my head and I ended up taking the hit. I was bleeding and confused, after getting checked, I was told that I have a mild concussion; that hit caused more than pain, with weeks of headaches and vision issues I was out of it and seriously scared to ride my bike anything faster than ~7 mph.

    The potholes are still there, almost 2 years after the incident. they are located on the east bound Harrison st by the Harrison Towers, just past the 4th Ave building and right in front of the streetcar stop. the funny thing is that on the other side (west bound) as you’re heading to PSU, there was a good size hole that suddenly appeared over night sometime last year, the hole wasn’t fixed either, all that was done was that it was covered by a steel slab that is still there.

    thankfully though my commute route has changed and even though I ride on busy streets, its still much better than riding up and down Harrison.

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    Johnny Bye Carter May 28, 2019 at 11:30 am

    I never expect the city to fix anything I report. It seems that even if somebody gets hurt they still don’t fix it.

    And really, the roads being in poor shape show down drivers so I don’t complain much.

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    jered May 28, 2019 at 1:20 pm

    I like the paint idea. I can’t help but think if the pothole paint was cuss words or genitalia around said pothole the city would respond quickly to fix the offending graphics or language…

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