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Bike Commute Report – Day 1

Friday’s record breaking temperatures and last weekend’s ride on the bikepath had me pretty psyched to get an early start (for me) to the bike-commuting season. As you might expect, the roads are in tough shape. The potholes and sand made for a pretty tricky ride. At minimum, half the width of all the bike lanes along my route were full of sand and debris, and, in some places, craters left from utility repairs.

Even so, it was great to be out there again. I took it at a very leisurely pace. I tell myself it was so that I’d be prepared to stop or swerve from the obstacles ahead, but after a lazy off-season, I’m not sure my body would have propelled me much faster anyway.

As I made my way down Allens Ave (yes, still going that way…), I felt as though I was being teased by the strip clubs smells of home fries wafting from the Seaplane and OV’s diners. Though, my appetite was soon lost as I biked past a dead bird in the road.

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Video: New York’s “Road Patcher”

New York’s MTA has this crazy machine that fills small to medium sized potholes on the MTA’s bridges, tunnels, and connecting roadways.

MTA Bridges & Tunnels spokesman Charles Passarella stands near what looks to be an entrance to the Whitestone Bridge in either the Bronx or Queens and explains how the truck fills small-to-medium-sized potholes by spraying crushed rock and liquid tar through a nozzle. The material is different from the hot asphalt that human crews use to patch larger holes.

Since the MTA’s roadways are generally high-speed expressways and such, the operator controls the whole pothole filling procedure with a joystick from inside the truck’s cab.

Via: Transportation Nation

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Patching Patches


Photo by Jef Nickerson

So this is silly, but it doesn’t really bother me all that much and I’ll tell you why.

This is my street, taken from out my window. You can see years and years of various patches and a current patch that doesn’t actually fill a new hole. Further up the street there is a deep lake. Every year the city comes out and patches these holes. At some point, you can’t patch anymore, the street needs rebuilding. This street is clearly at that point.

But. I don’t really care. My street is very minor, one block long and one lane wide (though it has two-way traffic somehow). It is a pretty minor street, but gets a good deal of traffic. And the city has been using it as a detour occasionally during work taking place on Dean Street. The street should be rebuilt, but so should a lot of streets in the city, a lot of streets that are more important and get much more traffic than this one. So with the city and state’s budgets the way they are, I don’t really think my street is a priority.

And as I said before, I kinda like potholes. My street gets traffic, but in the grand scheme of city streets, not that much really. The traffic it does get, tends to move way too fast though. People annoyed by traffic on Atwells speed down my street when they get out of the traffic. And the valets from the Atwells restaurants fly down the street (do you know what valets do with your cars, it is not pretty). So the potholes are working as a traffic calming device, which I like.

What I would really like to see, is the street rebuilt as a woonerf. A woonerf is a Dutch invention whereby a street is built for pedestrians and bikes, and the auto is a guest on the road and has to give way to the other users. Everyone commingles and has to watch for each other. My street as I said, is only one lane wide, and the sidewalks are maybe 3 feet wide. With such sidewalks, no one walks on the sidewalks, everyone walks in the street, so it is in effect, functioning as a woonerf already, though drivers still think that they are in charge of the space.

I’d love the street rebuilt without sidewalks and have visual cues added to show drivers that they must share. The street also has drainage issues. The potholes are so persistent because there is no drainage on the entire block and when it rains, the whole street floods and water stands on it (until it drains into the ground through the potholes). Some small bioswales would help address the drainage issues.

The street needs rebuilding, but I don’t want the city to just come and lay a layer of blacktop over it, that won’t address the speed or drainage issues. If that’s what the city would do, then I say don’t bother, just keep patching the patches and focus on the main arteries that need rebuilding more than my little alley.

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I kinda like potholes


Photo by Jef Nickerson

Sure, I don’t own a car, so my opinion might not mean much. But with every road in the city looking much like the surface of the Moon, traffic is moving a lot slower. The potholes are a kind of traffic calming device. I can step off the curb onto Dean Street and not get run down by someone doing 70mph to (not) make it through the yellow light.

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Pothole Nation

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Photo of this pothole downtown by justincase1021 at flickr.com

Traffic calming is achieved! I think it is now impossible, by the laws of physics, to speed on Providence roads without completely shredding one’s automobile… In fact, I’m almost positive a pot hole on Frost Street last year helped end the life of my previous car…

Yes, that time of the year has arrived, and it’s not at all too early for us to start sharing pot hole stories and listing our “worst of” pot holes of Providence.

My early candidates:

  • Most of Gano Street between Medway Street and Waterman Ave.
  • Morris Avenue near Cypress Street
  • Most of Branch Avenue between West River Street and North Main Street (there may be more pot hole than street here at the moment)

Please list your own candidates in the comments section! I’ll compile the list and forward it to the city…

Update: The Mayor issued a Press Release concerning potholes:

PROVIDENCE – Mayor David N. Cicilline today announced an aggressive program to systematically repair potholes in the capital city. The City has intensified its efforts by adding Parks Department vehicles to the fleet of Department of Public Works (DPW) trucks so that there will be, effective today, eight fulltime crews filling potholes throughout the city. The trucks are equipped with a new high performance patch material that has proven effective in repairing potholes, even in wet conditions.

“Of course, the most effective, long-term solution to improve road conditions is through our citywide repaving program,” said Mayor Cicilline. “However, given the impact of severe weather on our roads, we will act quickly to improve safety and reduce the wear and tear on people’s cars.”

“A combination of extremely cold weather followed by intermittent thawing has made combating potholes this winter especially challenging for our staff,” said John Nickelson, DPW Director. “Patching is not a cure-all for repairing potholes, however, it’s the most immediate response to a pressing problem.”

DPW staff conducted a citywide review of Providence’s 370 miles of roadway to determine the extent of the problem and will continue filling potholes on main arteries before working their way to secondary roads. Crews are using a proprietary high performance cold mix patch to repair the roads, a material that includes a special blend of anti-stripping additives and adhesion agents that are known to last 3.5 times longer than the conventional pothole patching material.

Anyone with concerns about specific potholes on city streets should contact the Office of Neighborhood Services at 421-2489 and the City will dispatch a crew to repair the pothole within two business days.

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