What do the below three photographs have in common? First, if you ride, these may make your blood run cold. These have caused death, disfigurement, scarring, nerve loss, traumatic brain injury, broken bones and dislocations. These things can be are potholes, excessively wide grating over drainage channels, gaps between the pavement and the adjoining curb, cracked curbs or sidewalk slabs, sunken spots covered by grass, etc.
All of them are “wheel traps.” You know wheeltraps already. Wheeltraps abound.
Those of a sanguine outlook on life may find it hard to believe but there is an oblivious attitude among certain employees of County and City road departments to wit: Cyclist don’t essentially exist. Some of these folks who maintain or build our roads sidewalks and curbs build “wheel-traps” or let the ones needing repair stay. This lack of perspective on cycling is prevalent among those who don’t cycle.They don’t understand the peril posed to a cyclist by a 700c sized gap in a road, curb, sidewalk, green space. They assume they’ll be no problem for vehicle (car or truck) forgetting that bicycles are vehicles too. So when a wheeltrap gets left or (even worse) installed, the governmental worker looks at it and assumes it’s going to be safe… for the car tire which will be traversing.
Florida’s counties and cities counties and states are required to follow this standard: “Roadway conditions should be favorable for bicycling. This requires special care in preparing the roadway surface to accommodate 1¼ inch tires. Attention needs to be given to include safe drainage grates and railroad crossings, smooth pavements, and signals responsive to bicycles.” This is in Chapter 9 of Manual of Uniform Minimum Standards for Design, Construction and Maintenance for Streets and Highways published by the Florida Department of Transportation. This book, called “The Green Book” is the standard for all road construction and even establishes the same safety standard for sidewalks and bicycles in the pedestrian section in Chapter 3, section C.10.a.3.
In the state of Florida you can sue a landowner when there’s a dangerous or defective condition of which the landowner should our have known. So, if the government has notice, a lawsuit can proceed. Every town, city or county has someone responsible for making sure they don’t get sued, usually called the risk manager. That person knows the rule about “notice.” Conveniently, The head of every government listens to those folks. And the risk person doesn’t like for the government to be sued over anything, even wheeltraps.
How to put to put the government on notice? Simple as a cell phone. Take a picture of the wheel trap, note the location (pinpoint on GoogleMaps). Print off the picture then send it with your letter or the top head dude. In a town or city it’s the mayor or city manager. With county, send to the Board of County commissioners and. For both, at the same time, send it to the public works or road department. With the state, send it to the Department of Transportation for your area of the state and the Chief Financial Officer Tallahassee. Emails are fine, but if you send it like a lawyer, (certified mail), with the certified mail number on the actual letter they know you know they have notice. The important thing is you have to have proof of your contact with them. So, if you use email. Print it out. When you do that alarms go off and a phone call gets made to the road department to “go fix that damn thing before we get sued.”
Now, if you are injured already, you may not be able to sue (excepting a few circumstances to involved to explain here- call me) but you can certainly have the satisfaction of getting that damned wheeltrap fixed. And possibly, if we all do this for every wheel trap, someone may have done it for your, and you may have a right to get your wheel or yourself fixed.