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  1. #1
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    Damaged my wheel on a drainage grate

    I was commuting to work a week ago on Sepulveda Blvd near Los Angeles Airport heading North. It was the first time I'd travelled this route since I was late. I normally take the beach bicycle path. What a mistake.

    Anyway, there are 3 metal drainage grids/grates in the right lanes closest to the kerb. The first two were OK to ride over, since they have metal running straight (parallel to the road) and cross pieces (perpendicular to the road). The third had no cross pieces and although my front wheel went over it without a mishap my backwheel dropped down between the "rails" which had gaps about 2 inches wide and smashed on the front edge of the grate. The impact cracked my rim, smashed some spokes and ruined the inner tube. Fortunately, I stayed mounted and pulled over. The bike was unridable and I walked home to get a lift from my wife. I later took photos of the bike damage and the good and bad drainage fixtures on the road.

    So my question is, can I do anything to either get my wheel replaced and/or get whoever owns the road to fix these hazardous drainage grates. Who is responsible for roads in LA, anyway?

    thanks for any advice or suggestions.

    PS: my bike is a Greg LeMond road bike (made by Trek I think) with Rolf Vector Comp wheels.

  2. #2
    Philly bike nerd nocoins's Avatar
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    i would say you are SOL! but who knows.... report what happens when you talk to the people at the Streets Dept.... if you get a few bucks back from it, maybe I will try the same over all the tubes I have lost on the sh1tty Philadelphia streets.
    bike bike bike bike bike bike bike bike bike

  3. #3
    Every lane is a bike lane Chris L's Avatar
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    Report it if you want, but don't hold your breath for anything to be done about it. Personally I'd be making sure I stayed wide enough in the lane to avoid hitting it in future.
    "I am never going to flirt with idleness again" - Roy Keane
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  4. #4
    Jazz from Hell glomarduck's Avatar
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    Get the info of the company who made the grate and have your laywer talk to them
    I carried it around with me for days and days.. playing little games like not looking at it for a whole day and then.. looking at it. to see if I still liked it. I DID!

  5. #5
    You need a new bike supcom's Avatar
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    I doubt you will be able to be compensated. Sorry about the bad luck. I fear all grates and avoid them all, regardless of how they are oriented.

  6. #6
    Old dude on old bikes Seeker's Avatar
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    Chalk it up to experiance. Always avoid metal grates. Not only is it possible to grab your tire and mess you up, but they can be wet from condensation and slippery too.

  7. #7
    Senior Member Seanholio's Avatar
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    Yeah, I generally avoid all Foreign Surface Objects, such as grates, manhole covers, steel hole-covers, anything that isn't asphalt, concrete, and flat. There are several mahole covers on my route to work which have large asphalt lips around them, which cause a great deal of discomfort and fear if I accidentally roll over them at 20mph.

  8. #8
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    thanks for the advice. I'm going to pursue this as much as I can, although I doubt I'll get compensation for my wheel (a $300 cost) but I'd like it to be repaired.

    So, I'm going to try and find out who has jurisdiction for the road because if it's in CalTrans' area then there's clearly an infraction of their own codes, as stated in the link below.

    http://www.trainweb.org/mts/bi/drainage-bars.html

    Here's some photos of the wheel and the 3 drainage grids in a row:

    my wheel
    http://mfoster.smugmug.com/gallery/226492/1/8774420

    this one was OK. More or less.
    http://mfoster.smugmug.com/gallery/226492/1/8774427

    this one looks nasty in the middle but I got over it.
    http://mfoster.smugmug.com/gallery/226492/1/8774425

    the one I dropped into. Note there's no cross pieces as prescribed by Caltrans.
    http://mfoster.smugmug.com/gallery/226492/1/8774426

  9. #9
    Senior Member Trek Rider's Avatar
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    Why were you riding so close to the curb? It looks to me that for you to have run over the grate, you were less than 12 inches from the curb. I won't ride over any drainage grate, and if that means I take the lane, then so be it. After seeing this grate, it just reinforces my inclination to avoid sewer grates.

  10. #10
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    You should report it to the city, and document it. You are probably not entitled to anything, but once they have been officially notified of a hazardous situation (be sure to say in the letter that it's potentially seriously hazardous, someone could get killed), they're going to have to either fix it or risk being sued for negligence.

    If someone else has already reported it, they might cover your damages also.

    An anecdote: there was some storm damage in my lakeside hometown in Michigan; a few trees had been blown over, and their roots had heaved up some of the sidewalk. My mom was walking on the sidewalk, and one foot happened to come down with the toe just a fraction of an inch from an upheaved section, and when the other toe swung forward, she had both feet caught on concrete, no chance to catch herself. She was in her late 60's at the time.

    The city had been informed of the hazard several times in the past 4 days, but had not even put a temporary hazard sign there. The city paid for her damages; new glasses and reconstructive surgery to her face.

  11. #11
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    You should pressure you city to change their standards for street drainage so the holes are moved off the street and placed under the edge of the sidewalk

  12. #12
    Senior Member larue's Avatar
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    woah man, there is no way I would ride over one of those things, they look harsh. unfortunately I doubt you will get compensation but press on. get a petition started and perhaps you can get the city to make a bike path or at least cover those things completely.
    Leave your treadmill power trip behind.

  13. #13
    No Longer A Balti-moron
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    learn to bunny hop...a valuable tool

  14. #14
    Senior Member larue's Avatar
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    heh, road bikes were not made for bunny hopping.
    Leave your treadmill power trip behind.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by Balto Biker
    learn to bunny hop...a valuable tool
    I can, and do, bunny hop on my mountain bike, but I'm not sure if my lightweight roadie would take it.

    Also, I was going fast, maybe 20-25mph and having gone over the first 2 grates successfully, I wrongly assumed they were all safe.

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by Trek Rider
    Why were you riding so close to the curb? It looks to me that for you to have run over the grate, you were less than 12 inches from the curb. I won't ride over any drainage grate, and if that means I take the lane, then so be it. After seeing this grate, it just reinforces my inclination to avoid sewer grates.
    I realise now that I should have photographed the grates with a tape measure next to them or a wheel for reference because they are close to 2 or 3 feet wide. Also, they traffic is moving at 40-50mph and the lanes are minimal narrow lanes. This is a tunnel, remember.

    So I guess I'm not brave enough to get in the direct way of 50mph traffic yet

    Furthermore, I guess having ridden without problems (or plain luck) over the other 2 grates, I wrongly assumed the 3rd would be rideable too. But it plainly violates Caltrans own codes.

  17. #17
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    If you get in the way of the traffic it wont be doing 50 mph.

    I have seen roadies bunny hop over 3 sets of railway lines.

  18. #18
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    just as a follow up, I reported the incident to "CalTrans" (the California state agency for highways) after finding out that the highway is in their jurisdiction. The person responsible at CalTrans seemed very cool and seeing my photos is doing an investigation and suggested that I file a claim form for the damages too. This was very refreshing since I had not even mentioned trying to make a claim because I thought it would be futile. When I get the bill from my LBS, I will submit the claim. I am also going to keep inspecting the grates and make sure they get attended to, per CalTrans own "bicycle proof" grates code.

  19. #19
    Senior Member CPcyclist's Avatar
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    the grates look nasty but what do you expect from a car-centric society. Also if I were you with roads like that I would get a set of strong 3x wheels for comuting and training leaving the Rolfs at home for special rides/racing.
    My 3x take bunny hops fine at 15-20.

  20. #20
    Senior Member Trek Rider's Avatar
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    I hope that Cal-Trans comes thru with the money to replace your rim.

  21. #21
    Bike Commuter
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    Quote Originally Posted by CPcyclist
    the grates look nasty but what do you expect from a car-centric society. Also if I were you with roads like that I would get a set of strong 3x wheels for comuting and training leaving the Rolfs at home for special rides/racing.
    My 3x take bunny hops fine at 15-20.
    some of these grates violate Caltrans own codes, so at the very least I expect them to fix them. Hopefully, before somebody's front wheels drops into one instead of their back. Not too much to expect is it?

    I like your suggestion about 3x wheels and I will look into it. I have been riding my mountain bike for 2 weeks now and that seems to be able to handle a lot of abuse. The wheels are at least 2" wide. How wide is a 3x? I'm not familiar with wheel sizing codes.

  22. #22
    Senior Member Seanholio's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MartinFoster
    I like your suggestion about 3x wheels and I will look into it. I have been riding my mountain bike for 2 weeks now and that seems to be able to handle a lot of abuse. The wheels are at least 2" wide. How wide is a 3x? I'm not familiar with wheel sizing codes.
    Martin, he's not talking about size, but about the spokes.

    Spokes can cross each other a number of times between the hub and the rim. A HUGE generalization: more crossings means more-durable. (Wheelbuilders feel free to flame/correct me on this).
    Last edited by Seanholio; 09-23-04 at 01:51 PM. Reason: typos

  23. #23
    H23
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    Quote Originally Posted by MartinFoster
    I can, and do, bunny hop on my mountain bike, but I'm not sure if my lightweight roadie would take it.

    Also, I was going fast, maybe 20-25mph and having gone over the first 2 grates successfully, I wrongly assumed they were all safe.

    Even the second one in your pics looked very dangerous. I think the most important lesson here is.....

    DON'T RIDE OVER GRATES

    That said, I think its a good idea to try to influence city planners to only allow certain types of grates on general use streets.

  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by H23
    Even the second one in your pics looked very dangerous. I think the most important lesson here is.....

    DON'T RIDE OVER GRATES

    That said, I think its a good idea to try to influence city planners to only allow certain types of grates on general use streets.
    certainly, that's a good idea, in general.

    I just don't think that's particularly feasible on this stretch of road, in a tunnel with minimal lane widths and fast moving, heavy traffic. I'm not going to experiment and see if I can take up the whole lane. Maybe I'll try it when my kids have grown up.

    Instead, I'm going to avoid that road completely in the future. There are other safer routes that would work for my commute. Even if the routes are a bit further.

  25. #25
    Senior Member Seanholio's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MartinFoster
    certainly, that's a good idea, in general.

    I just don't think that's particularly feasible on this stretch of road, in a tunnel with minimal lane widths and fast moving, heavy traffic. I'm not going to experiment and see if I can take up the whole lane. Maybe I'll try it when my kids have grown up.

    Instead, I'm going to avoid that road completely in the future. There are other safer routes that would work for my commute. Even if the routes are a bit further.
    I'm a huge proponent of taking the lane to avoid obstacles in the road to ensure my own safety. I'm a bigger proponent of making wise route choices in order to ensure my own safety.

    I think you are making the right decision. As a bonus, think of all the extra miles you'll be putting on your legs, making you a stronger rider.

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