It was a glorious national bike/walk to school day last week, the weather dry and fresh and warm. Tour de Ladd went off without a hitch. The third year was certainly the charm for our stellar little bikeathon, in terms of both ease and efficiency. Thanks to super organized mom of the month JJ Heldmann.
Later in the day, I was pedaling to the liquor store to fulfill my promise to serve ‘Thank You’ margaritas to our volunteers when a screw punctured my tire, causing a nasty whining shriek and a definitive deflation.
It’s a sign, I surmised, that liquor was unnecessary for the occasion and that I had, as usual, tried to pack too much into the day. So I retreated to my garage to patch the tube, enjoying the forced half hour of greasy peace. This was the first flat I had had in many years.
In Joyride Chapter 14, Broken Glass, I talk about institutionalizing maintenance of bikeways into transportation department thinking, tweaking sweeping truck settings to ensure fine glass was properly collected, then tweaking truck sweeping schedules to prioritize bike lanes. All our drainage grates have been upgraded to avoid catching bike tires, and the vast majority of our signal detectors improved so as to detect bicycles. Potholes are filled within days, even hours of a citizen complaint. As with so much of what we enjoy about bicycling in Portland, the overall solid state of maintenance speaks to two decades of progress.
What is the level of maintenance in your town? Can you be reasonably assured of a flat-free bike commute? How does your maintenance bureau handle requests for markings, signing, sweeping, patching, signal tuning, and tree branch trimming?
What about plowing bike lanes and paths in snowy climates? Or is the snow – along with the grit and gravel – piled onto the sidewalk, path, or bike lane?
Do maintenance workers see bikeway upkeep as part of their job? Do managers incorporate bikeway statistics into their daily reporting and scheduling? How do they handle construction zones?
Every good bike plan includes policies related to maintenance, along with a detailed schedule. The Alta Planning website has several. I will look through them and add some appropriate ones here in the next few days.
And every town truly committed to bicycle transportation should recognize that the provision of bikeways is just the start. With biking, the devil’s in the details, whereas when we drive, a pothole is but a nuisance.