Well, all right; bicyclists have multiple nemeses. But a recent front page article in the Seattle PI has brought attention to a problem many cyclists have been battling for years: unsafe street drains. Drains covered with grates that have slots parallel to the roadway are dangerous to cyclists as bicycle wheels can get caught – and stuck – in the slots.
In 2004 one biker was biking through the Washington Park Arboretum when his bike tire got stuck in a grate. He was flung off the front of his bike, damaging his four front teeth and causing him to suffer from amnesia.
The bicyclist brought a claim against the city which was settled in 2006 for $26,000, though the city never admitted fault.
Seattle Public Utilities officials estimate that there are between 70,000 and 80,000 grates in Seattle. Most of the vertical slot grates, the kind that bike tire’s get stuck in, have been phased out. Over the past 20 years the city has put in grates that bike tires won’t easily get stuck in.
However, there are still a significant number of the vertical slot grates throughout the city and the city has no immediate plans to replace them. SPU points to cost as a major reason why there is no timetable in place for replacing the grates.
It’s hard to say whether the City would be held legally liable for not replacing these grates. However, the fact that the City paid $26,000 for one such case suggests that it sees risk in these claims and (hopefully) that it wants to, in some way, do the right thing by bicyclists on the city streets.
For more information on this subject, please refer to the section on Car and Bicycle Accidents.