Street Conditions

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Anonymous's picture

Is it just me or does it seem like the streets in Manhattan have/are getting worse?

I've stopped riding up Madison to CP, but I am finding that 3rd Avenue is following the familiar path of disrepair. Although I think the worst I have seen in Manhattan is E60th Street.

I have been cycling in a lot of places outside of NYC, and I am starting to wonder why our streets are pock-ridden and filthy.

IMHO, this is the sort of stuff CM should be focusing on - think of how many wheels, spokes, and bones are broken by these urban pits...

Anonymous's picture
Anthony Poole (not verified)
NYC has the road surfaces of a Third World Country

New York City has awful road surfaces that suffer from a combination of poor maintenance, extremes of temperatures between summer and winter and heavy traffic. The streets of Moscow before the collapse of the Soviet Union were in better condition than New York's streets are now.

Last summer, the 86th Street crossover through Central Park was completely resurfaced. A month ago, a huge crater that could easily have swallowed a car suddenly appeared just a couple of hundred yards from Fifth Avenue. I'm sure that if this resurfacing had been engineered properly, it would have been good for several years.

Two years ago, a newly resurfaced stretch of 3rd Avenue in the 40s collapsed underneath my back wheel, completely destroying the rim.

The periods between repaving in NYC is far too long, and the repaving is carried out inefficiently. One contractor comes along to strip off the old surface; another contractor paints temporary lines on the unstripped road (waste of time and money); about three to four weeks later, another contractor puts the new surface on; then somebody paints temporary lines (also a complete waste of time and money); then a couple of weeks after that, another contractor comes along and paints permanent lines. Then, as luck would have it, ConEd comes and digs up the newly surfaced road the next day.

It seems the city doesn't talk to ConEd, cable companies etc, to plan street maintenance.

In Britain, in my experience, most cities usually strip, resurface and paint lines on a stretch of road in one night, using one contractor - very efficient. And London has almost as many people as New York and definitely as much traffic. They resurface roads long before they get into the chronic state that some of NYC's get into. But Britain's cities haven't got around the problem that the utilities will then dig the road up the next day. That seems to be a problem throughout the developed world.

Madison Ave is particularly bad and I avoid it, especially in the winter when there is melting snow on it, and at night time when you stand less chance of seeing the crater-strewn surface.

Don't get me wrong. I love New York and am very happy to live here and support it in whatever way I can, but the standard of street maintenance is an absolute disgrace, and doubtless contributes to personal injuries among cyclists, pedestrians and accidents involving motor vehicles, leading to avoidable lawsuits against the city.

When you add that to the average standard of driving among New York's taxi drivers, coupled with their worn tyres, especially in bad weather, it is not hard to appreciate how potentially lethal to a cyclist a road like Madison Avenue can be.

It's ironic that the city expects buildings to keep their sidewalks in immaculate condition and is happy to issue violations for the slightest reason, but cannot maintain their roads to anything approaching an acceptable standard.

Anonymous's picture
Robert Rakowitz (not verified)
NY roads

Anthony -

Thanks for the confirmation of what I have been noticing.

I've lived in the UK and Spain, and have done cycling in remote areas. I just can never understand why the US - and why NYC in particular - has such a issue with investing in the municipality.

Every other night streets and city centers would be literally hosed down in Madrid. New broadband cables were installed flawlessly and repaved in the matter of days.

As a native NYer and a cyclist I am annoyed that I have to worry about flats and rims breaking due to grates and gaping holes (not just potholes). Do we give up and just call it NY pave?

Hey - did you try getting the City to pay for your damaged rim? I am sure that you would have gotten press for the effort.

- Rob

Anonymous's picture
Anthony Poole (not verified)
I didn't bother

It seemed more hassle than it was worth to try and get the city to pay for a new rim, and I was advised by several cyclists that I stood no chance of success. They did manage to do a temporary bodged repair on the road, which kept collapsing evey few days. I don't have much call to use that part of 3rd Ave these days, so I've no idea what that stretch is like.

Anonymous's picture
Robert Rakowitz (not verified)
3rd & 40's

"If I am correct, that sinkhole is there - 2nd lane in left side.

It has a nice orange box spraypainted around it with 8.14.04 (if memory serves me correct).

I also love some of the holes that have traffic cones stuffed upside down in them. For some reason I find it amusing how these end up getting used.

And to anticipate anyone else's questions - ""Yes, I do call 311""

- Rob"

Anonymous's picture
Anthony Poole (not verified)
That's the one

So it's been there for two years.

Yes, I call 311 too. I once reported the whole of West End Avenue as a gigantic pothole. They have since resurfaced most of it, other than a section that ConEd has been trying to fix a pinhole of a gas leak for the last four months. That was the description given to me by one of the people working on it.

Anonymous's picture
Isaac Brumer (not verified)

"The city is exempt from liability caused by potholes unless they have been given ""prior notice"" of the pothole. (I believe that this law was passed during the Koch administration.) For a while, a group of plaintiffs' lawyers hired pros to document street problems en-masse. The city (Bloomberg) tried to tighten up the reporting process and make it more difficult. Don't recall what the end result was.

""TA"" has information on reporting potholes on their website -"

Anonymous's picture
<a href="">Peter O'Reilly</a> (not verified)

FWIW, in the latest issue of Time magazine the Mayor mentioned in its interview he has called 311 recently to report a pothole on 79th St.

Anonymous's picture
NYCTri (not verified)
there is a reason

There is a reason that the road repairs are disorganized. Maybe 2 reasons. I may be wrong but if it is anything else like the rest of NYC the UNIONS probably dictate that different crews must do each thing. There is also probably corruption involved in how the contracts areawarded, so performance of repairs is not important. Also the involvement of UNIONs means that it is very expensive to do road repairs due to the outrageous salaries of the UNION workers and officials. I could eb wrong but other places I have lived don't seem to have a big a UNION influence or as many crappy roads.

Anonymous's picture
Robert Rakowitz (not verified)

I take it you are anti-union and organized labor?

I'm not so sure that unions are a fair barrier here in the US; I would argue that centralization in Europe is a driver.

That's my sense from having lived there for so long...but let's get back to the point...

I want smooth roads in the city so I can go fast.

Anonymous's picture
Frank (not verified)
Potholes, cuts in $

"FWIW--I recall reading a bit in the NY Times a couple of years ago that discussed budget cuts in services after 9/11--one of which was the standard by which road crews could leave a site and consider it ""repaired"": apparently divits and such had to be filled in after any excavating such that the depth did not exceed 1 inch--it was changed in Rudy's time to 3 inches. If this is still true, you're likely to see an increase in the perpetual roughness of street surfaces, post-repair."

Anonymous's picture
Anthony Poole (not verified)
Not sure if it's true or not

I'm not sure if that's true or not. But I wasn't talking about the temporary bodges, I was talking about the standard of permanent repairs when streets are completely resurfaced. It is poor and the general frequency between resurfacings is too long, allowing the roads to become hazardous, with the consequent adverse impact on overall road traffic safety for all road users, including cyclists and pedestrians.

I can't say I've noticed a real deterioration since 9/11, although two fairly hard winters since then have certainly taken their toll.

Parts of West End Avenue were in such a state that they definitely needed resurfacing at least four years ago, but they only got around to it last year and this year. The part they have left untouched includes the bit that ConEd has taken up residence in. The worst part of that are these huge wooden sleepers they put down to cover up a massive hole ever ynight, which are treacherours for all concerned.

All big cities throughout the world have streets and heavy traffic. and many manage to deal with maintaining the roads pretty well, but not New York. Grante, New York's budget deficit is certainly larger than most other cities, which is a fair point. And it's not just streets that cyclists use either. The West Side Highway has real problems in the 125th Street area, as does the interchange between Cross Bronx and Major Diegan, probably down to their poor design and construction in the first place, which means the constant need to carry out bad temporary repairs, which is a real waste of money in the long-run. Better to bite the bullet and rebuild the roads in the long-term, and would probably provide greater value for the tax payer.

As for the big steel plates that get put down, that was a real surprise to me when I moved to New York. In London, such plates are banned from use by law. It means, instead that a stretch of street will be closed to traffic until a permanent repair is made, or if it is a wide enough street, two way traffic will operate permanently on the opposide side until permanent repairs are undertaken. And the police will close a stretch of road if a repair is deemed to be dangerous. If the same rules were applied in New York from tomorrow, a lot of streets would be closed to traffic.

Utilities, etc, who dig up streets in London are fined heavily if their permanent repairs are not completed within 48 hours of work being completed, or the repairs are not up to standard. Some local authorities will carry out permanent repairs themselves, fine the utility that dug up the road and also recover the cost of resurfacing, plus a handling charge.

It strikes me that the problem of the state of the roads is not one that does not bother most New Yorkers - politicans and the public alike - except for cyclists and those that have lived elsehwere for any length of time where things are done differently.

Maybe I should call 311 and report the whole of NYC as a pothole

Anonymous's picture
Banana Guy (not verified)
Just think of NYC as training for Paris Roubaix! (eom) (nm)
Anonymous's picture
Robert Rakowitz (not verified)
More tales of pitfalls

Interesting thing - I was at a wedding last night, and it turns out that I ran into someone who had a really bad experience with a pothole in the 70's.

1) She was in her car
2) Her car's damage was upwards of $8k
3) She went uncompensated by the City

Insane...unregistered pothole ripped the undercarriage of this woman's car to shreds.

I just don't get it.

Skid plates, utility covers, potholes.

The Paris-Roubaix comment rouses a smile, but this really starts to get annoying when you come back to the fact that we're all amateurs who aren't sponsored by a bike manufacturer.

Maybe we can find someone looking to test out bomb-proof bikes to sponsor the lot of us!

I've managed to get a slick scratch on my rim from gravel left over from a dirty pothole fill on Lex...

What about a letter writing campaign instead of callling 311?

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