SFBC Starts “Turn ‘Em In” Pothole Campaign

Hero1_fullstrip_x_small.jpgClick image to enlarge: The first of four panels on the new "Turn ‘Em In" pothole campaign. Image: Jonas Madden-Connor and Francois Vigneault. New Panels will be unveiled each Tuesday in April.

As any bicycle rider in San Francisco knows, the potholes on the streets can be vicious. Most of us probably get to know a few quite well and just ride around them. The pothole that I learned to hate was in the bike lane on Valencia at the intersection of McCoppin. Every time I rode by, I swerved and badmouthed the city and thought about that street repair bond that never got past the Board of Supervisors.

As it turns out, I could have been a lot more proactive in fixing what for me was a nuisance, but what for a less-experienced rider might have been a real hazard. Neal Patel of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition (SFBC), which runs a Good Roads Campaign for improving the conditions of the streets, said his organization is trying to raise awareness among cyclists that fixing the potholes they take for granted is as simple as a call to 311.

Throughout April, the SFBC is asking its members to say something when they see bad pavement, to stop for a few moments and call 311. They have dubbed the month-long initiative the "Turn ‘Em In" campaign and they are tracking the results in coordination with the San Francisco Department of Public Works (DPW). Patel said DPW has committed to fixing potholes within a few days of the call, and no more than one week.

"You the cyclist have the power to get our streets fixed," said Patel. Cyclists should simply tell the 311 operator to tag their case with "SFBC." "It’s painless. We want
everyone to get trained and feel comfortable and feel that it’s easy,
because it is easy." 

SFBC member, Bike NOPA publisher, and all around pavement condition wonk Michael Helquist said cyclists can be the front line for identifying problems on the streets, which greatly improves DPW’s efficiency.

"We just have to break through the resistance of each of us thinking,
‘okay, I’ll put up with this, I’ll dodge it,’ when all you have to do is
take a look around, get a notion of where it is, stop and call
311; or when you get where you are going, just turn it in," said Helquist.

DPW spokesperson Christine Falvey reiterated the importance of the "Turn
‘Em In" campaign and other efforts to improve the conditions of the
streets. "SFBC and DPW are partners in keeping streets and especially bike
lanes free of potholes. We support this effort and other programs that
SFBC has launched to educate bicyclists and everyone, really, about the
importance of calling in potholes, so that we can respond," she said.

Though Helquist leads a regular monthly pothole ride with the SFBC, he said there is no way they can identify all the potholes that cyclists regularly encounter, nor can they go to routes that are less frequented by bicycle commuters, but that need significant attention.

"Think about having a smoother ride, but more importantly think about having a safer ride," he said. "You maybe know where it is every day on your way to work and don’t give it a second thought, but someone else doesn’t, they might hit it, it might throw them."

Whenever you see a pothole, stop your bike (!) and call 311. Ask the operator to tag your case with "SFBC."  If your request hasn’t been fixed within a week, or the issue is more significant than a simple pothole, get in touch with Neal Patel: neal (at) sfbike.org.

  • tea

    It’s not necessary to stop and call… that’s a time suck. Just glance at the house number next to the pothole, and when you are in front of a computer, tweet the info to @SF311. I have done this a couple of times, and even out in Ingleside, the SFDPW responded very fast. Usually the next day the white spray marks around the hole appear, and a few days after that, the crew comes by to fix it. It’s pretty impressive, given my other experiences with the DPW.

  • molly

    i turned in the pothole at folsom and 11th last week (via the web form) and they fixed it!!!

  • I wish I could find a way to get my fellow motorcycle riders involved with this as well. Potholes and rough roads dont just endanger our pedal-powered cousins, they pose a real hazard to all two-wheeled vehicles in SF. Ive been honked at many a time on 13th/Duboce as I have to either swerve to avoid, or downshift to make a more controlled cross of some of the worse potholes and random patches – some of which are actual, poorly-applied patches which have since come apart or eroded their own holes.

  • Can I use this service to contact someone about the horrible job the contractors are doing with the trench plates on 4th street? I’ve been doing my best to avoid them, but today they won and I got a flat. Not to mention the poor (nah, non-existent) traffic management. I’m forced out of the far left lane and into the lane that feeds the on-ramp to I-80 so cars are building up speed and are passing me at 45-50 mph.

    On a related note, is there a claim form I can fill out? I don’t really need the couple bucks to fix my tire but maybe if they are forced to shell out a payment, they might pay attention to the dangerous situation they have created.

  • peternatural

    Mike, sorry to hear that. What about avoiding 4th and using 5th to Townsend? Both google maps (bike mode) and the SF bike map indicate 5th is better for biking.

    (Oops, more free advice 😉

  • I’ve thought about it and think I’m actually going to go Montgomery to 2nd. But I come from Telegraph Hill so shooting straight down Stockton, thru the tunnel, and then down 4th is the fastest straightest route. But I find myself cursing the construction every day so probably best to try a new route.

    I’ll give it a shot and see if it significantly increases my ride time.

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