Eyes on the Street: Why Agencies Need to Warn Bike Riders of Construction

When street pavement gets torn up during construction, people on bicycles need fair warning, or else they’ll be in danger.

Daniel Erat sent in the above video he filmed on his bike commute on Golden Gate Avenue. At the Steiner Street intersection, he and another rider hit a patch of roadway where the asphalt had been removed for a construction project, busting his wheel and knocking the woman off her bike:

My front tube popped as soon as I hit the spot where the asphalt resumed, and while pulling over, I heard a noise behind me and saw that another cyclist had fallen in the road at the same spot (I think she was uninjured but pretty shaken up; she walked away)…

There’s a sudden 1″ lip where the asphalt begins at the east side of the intersection, and the spot is at the bottom of a hill where cyclists are likely to be moving quickly and to have most of their weight on their front wheels. I’m concerned that the spot has a high potential for damaging more bikes (my front hub is loose now and my handlebars got misaligned) and for injuring cyclists — it’s a popular commuting route to get downtown.

Had a driver been behind the woman when she fell, the situation could have led to serious injuries or worse.

It’s unclear who’s managing this construction — most commonly, it seems to be done by the Department of Public Works, the SF Public Utilities Commission, PG&E, or a contracting company. Erat said he phoned the problem in to 311, but the staff “apparently sees this as less urgent of an issue than I do.”

  • Daniel Erat

    A few more details: I recorded the video and called 311 Thursday morning. The intersection was still in the same condition Friday morning but had been repaved Friday night.

  • Tim Hickey

    I saw 2 cyclists off to the side around 7:00AM Thursday on GG. I felt the bump and got a flat, too. I sent in a complaint using the 311 app.

  • jd_x

    Thanks for the article, as this issue really needs way more coverage. Bicyclists are completely ignored during road construction. Often it as blatant as blocking bike lanes for construction equipment and forcing them into the road with auto traffic, usually without even so much as a sign warning drivers let alone designated space. But it’s also issues like in the video here, where clearly construction workers (and their managers) don’t ride bikes because they would never leave a road in such a condition if they did. They can at *least* put up a sign, cones, just something ….

    Western Cesar Chavez at the Hairball in the last year or so during all the construction (until just recently when they finally got the road repaved) is another great example. Bicyclists were completely ignored and it was insane. Well, It still is insane just by design, but it was way more scary during the construction. And it’s all amplified by drivers who have no idea what it’s like to try to ride your bike through a construction zone and so get pissed at you when your just trying to keep from wiping out and/or getting run over by cars. This is all just unacceptable.

  • Porphyrogenitas

    Am I missing something? Seems to me the construction site was clearly marked with an orange warning sign that the bicyclist went blowing by. Warnings do no good if no one heeds them.

  • mikesonn

    I got a pinch flat on some poorly configured trench plates on 4th back before the Central Subway put down their semi-permenant trench plate road surface they had now. I complained to the SFMTA about how poorly the plates were stacked (huge 1″+ pinch points, etc) and they asked me about my car tires. Clearly cyclists aren’t even on their radar most of the time.

  • Ted King

    They can at *least* put up a sign, …

    Unfortunately, they did put up a sign. About twelve seconds (12″) into the video look off to the right just behind the parked scooter. One of the advisory diamonds (an unreadable one – blank ? faded ?) is almost touching the ground and the other (construction zone ?) is just above it on one of those construction easels.

    I saw a similar set up on Alemany (it said “UNEVEN PAVEMENT”) near Pacific Super as I was walking tonight. It’s a pretty lame way to warn people about uneven pavement. A better rig would use one of those tripods with the sign up about four or five feet off the ground. A small yellow flasher on top would catch the eye and make the advisory diamond more visible.

    It’s the old pick two of cheap / fast / good. It’s not hard to guess which ones were picked.

  • SFnative74

    File a claim with the city. I also busted my wheel at this location, which is a DPW BSSR project.

  • iamjared

    Putting one sign, about 3 feet in front of the construction… What is that supposed to accomplish?

  • J.B.

    So glad there is more coverage on this. I hit that ledge going around 30 on Friday, and I am very lucky to be ok. My wheel set is completely ruined, and I have filed a claim. I am glad there is more evidence now, if they try to deny our claims we can rally around this at least. 311 was pretty helpful when I called (Friday AM) because they had already gotten an ear full!

  • Guest

    Building 2 new wheels after hitting this last week…

  • mikesonn

    Checking off a box on the “to-do” list for “safer streets”.

    World-class bicycling city getting things done for safety!

  • Greg

    If you can’t timely make the necessary adjustments to react to a huge bright orange construction sign marking the torn up road, you are either going too fast for your vehicle/ability or not looking appropriately forward (on phone, texting, adjusting iPod, etc.).

    The City’s roads are a disaster since they spend all the money on very vocal tiny special interest groups like bikers to the exclusion of the majority. I cant imagine trying to ride a road bike on our Baja Calif roads here.

  • coolbabybookworm

    If only that standard was applied to drivers who continually get charges dropped for “not seeing” people that they maim and kill

    A warning sign doesn’t necessarily convey the danger to the cyclist or the potential damage to the bike. I came across construction on 17th street and was going slow and didn’t get any damage to my bike, but my wrists sure took a hit when I went over the lip that looked like half an inch but was really more like 2-3 plus rough pavement.

    I’ve come across multiple construction sites with absolutely no accommodation for bikes, and even worse, none for pedestrians. That needs an immediate repercussion for the developer or department. I’ve yet to see motor traffic not be accommodated.

  • jd_x

    Oh come on. Cars are going even faster than cyclists and, if they weren’t entirely different vehicles capable of absorbing such damaged pavement, would be just as screwed as a cyclist. But the reality is, that sign is there for cars just to warn them so they don’t hit any construction workers, not so cyclists don’t wreck themselves. Ever see when there is a massive “dip” in the road and they put signs way in advance for cars? Yeah, because there they know it will cause damage and so give people plenty of time to react. It’s pretty clear here that cyclists were not on anybody’s mind when this sign was put up.

  • mikesonn

    “The City’s roads are a disaster since they spend all the money on very vocal tiny special interest groups like bikers to the exclusion of the majority.”

    *citation please because you are wrong so I’d love to see your source.

  • Ha ha. Because sharrows cost a million bucks a pop, amirite?

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