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Pinehurst (Contra Costa Hills/Oakland) Now Covered in Chip Seal/Loose Gravel. WTH?

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Pinehurst (Contra Costa Hills/Oakland) Now Covered in Chip Seal/Loose Gravel. WTH?

Old 08-14-22, 01:42 PM
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Pavol Stromcek
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Pinehurst (Contra Costa Hills/Oakland) Now Covered in Chip Seal/Loose Gravel. WTH?

Prior to this morning, the last time I rode Pinehurst was two weeks ago, on July 31. At that time, road workers had been repaving numerous stretches of road all along Pinehurst, from near the top of the ascent down toward Canyon all the way to Skyline (i.e., the entire stretch of the road that lies in Contra Costa County). I was really looking forward to regularly gliding through these newly silky-smooth stretches of road. (As a cyclist, I really, truly appreciate a freshly paved road.)

So, imagine my surprise when this morning, just as I started making my way down the ascent on Pinehurst toward Canyon, I found that the entire road was suddenly covered in a rough chip seal texture with loose specks of gravel strewn everywhere. There was so much loose gravel (going "tink, tink, tink" against my frame all the way down) that I honestly didn't feel safe going down the hill at my usual speed, and took things down to a more casual 18-20 MPH. There were also steady streams of new gravel all along the edge of the road on both sides, often spilling onto the road itself.

And I was honestly surprised to see that this rough chip seal texture w/ loose bits of gravel continued uninterrupted for the entirety of the road, all the way up to Skyline.

I know, very first-world problem here, but from the perspective of a cyclist, covering downhill roads in loose specks of gravel is very unsafe and could result in a pretty bad accident (and nasty injury in case of a spill). But I don't even understand why they felt the need to do this: we don't live where it snows in the winter or rains all the time, making the roads wet and slippery. Maybe it was just a cost-cutting measure (chip seal is apparently a cheaper road surface treatment option)? This seems to me not only 100% unnecessary, but just plain dangerous for any serious cyclists who like to descend hills like these at least going the speed limit.

As I was making my way up the steep part of Pinehurst when you're getting close to Skyline, a woman was passing me on her bike and complimented my bike. I returned the compliment (we both had Bianchis), but then I couldn't help but add, "I can't believe what they've done to Pinehurst - this is terrible!" She responded something to the effect of "Huh?" And I explained, "They've covered the whole thing in this rough chip seal - it's super unpleasant to ride over. They've basically made the road worse than it was before." She said, "Well, parts of the road were pretty deadly before." I responded, "From the perspective of a cyclist who prefers smooth roads, I actually feel it was better before." She admitted that the new chip seal is not good for going downhill (I'd say it's downright unsafe). Then I wished her a good ride as she started dropping me as we got closer to Skyline.

At any rate, I totally understand the need to reinforce those parts of the road along the steep hill that were in danger of sliding away, but did that really warrant coating the whole damn road in chip seal??? I'm hoping/assuming the loose bits of gravel will eventually get whisked away or compressed into the surface by car traffic and eventually rain. And while they did get rid of all the cracks and divots in the road, the texture of the road is now noticeably much rougher overall than before, with a texture not unlike the roughness you get when they scrape away the top layer of a road to prepare it for a new surface. (Some sections even have these narrow lengthwise ruts that look like a heavy, iron rake-like thing was dragged over the road. No sign of those super smooth patches I saw two weeks ago anywhere!) So, it's just a bummer to see a road that I routinely ride made worse and objectively less safe!

OK, rant over!

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Old 08-14-22, 04:09 PM
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Could this be your first chip and seal experience? It's a standard practice road surface treatment, common on so many mountain roads in the Bay Area.

The loose gravel will disappear soon enough. Get used to the road buzz, that never goes away.
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Old 08-14-22, 04:25 PM
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Originally Posted by terrymorse View Post
It's a standard practice road surface treatment, common on so many mountain roads in the Bay Area.
Not on *any* of the roads I regularly ride in the East Bay hills in the past seven or so years. Seems like the Three Bears loop, which I've done occasionally (though not in about four years) has had chip seal applied in the past, as parts of it are pretty rough, but there was no loose gravel at that time.

I encountered chip seal once when living in Slovakia in 2011-2014, on a back road in neighboring Austria, but it was a relatively short and flat/level stretch of road.

It's deeply unpleasant, IMO; the difference between the rough chip seal texture and a smoothly paved road feels pretty dramatic to me. And that loose gravel, even if temporary, is definitely a hazard.

Maybe I'm the only one bothered by this?

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Old 08-14-22, 04:50 PM
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Here are the roads in San Mateo County currently scheduled for chip and seal treatment. These treatments occur each year, on different roads.

Yes, there are several cyclists complaining about the new surface treatment. The rest of us bear the changes in silence, proceeding with caution for a while. The biggest hazard is loose gravel, which only persists for a few weeks.



San Mateo County chip and seal projects 2022
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Old 08-14-22, 09:16 PM
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Originally Posted by terrymorse View Post
Yes, there are several cyclists complaining about the new surface treatment. The rest of us proceed with caution.
That's kind of strange and presumptuous to suggest, like you have here with these two sentences, that cyclists who complain about new chipseal treatment do not "proceed with caution." I mean, I proceeded with caution due to the new chipseal, and then complained about having to do so. And even if the loose gravel hazard does lessen with time, the roughness of the texture still adds noticeable rolling resistance to the ride, which is a drag.

At any rate, glad I don't live or ride in San Mateo County - looks like some good routes there have been chipsealed.
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Old 08-15-22, 08:14 AM
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Damn, looks like they chip sealed Wildcat Canyon too. Bummer!

https://www.contracosta.ca.gov/Civic...3083&ARC=10735

For those unfamiliar with the East Bay, Wildcat Canyon and Pinehurst are two extremely popular cycling routes, and pretty much the only cycling routes between Oakland/Berkeley on the Alameda County side and Orinda/Moraga on the Contra Costa side (except for the extremely circuitous, winding, and narrow residential streets of the El Toyonal neighborhood in Orinda).

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Old 08-15-22, 05:10 PM
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Originally Posted by Pavol Stromcek View Post
Not on *any* of the roads I regularly ride in the East Bay hills in the past seven or so years. Seems like the Three Bears loop, which I've done occasionally (though not in about four years) has had chip seal applied in the past, as parts of it are pretty rough, but there was no loose gravel at that time.

I encountered chip seal once when living in Slovakia in 2011-2014, on a back road in neighboring Austria, but it was a relatively short and flat/level stretch of road.

It's deeply unpleasant, IMO; the difference between the rough chip seal texture and a smoothly paved road feels pretty dramatic to me. And that loose gravel, even if temporary, is definitely a hazard.

Maybe I'm the only one bothered by this?
It's only been that long because these cities and counties have no money to keep up with maintenance lol. Chip seal is less common nowadays, usually it's a cape seal (chip then slurry) but chip only is not uncommon at all. The less traveled back roads usually are the ones that get chip only. The residential roads and more traveled roads will get a more robust treatment, but these back roads which riders seek out are the ones that usually get the chip seal. I hate it too, but it is what it is. The thing that is most annoying for me is that the roads are more "heavy" now, and my segment times are slower haha!
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Old 08-16-22, 12:17 PM
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Originally Posted by cthenn View Post
It's only been that long because these cities and counties have no money to keep up with maintenance lol. Chip seal is less common nowadays, usually it's a cape seal (chip then slurry) but chip only is not uncommon at all. The less traveled back roads usually are the ones that get chip only. The residential roads and more traveled roads will get a more robust treatment, but these back roads which riders seek out are the ones that usually get the chip seal. I hate it too, but it is what it is. The thing that is most annoying for me is that the roads are more "heavy" now, and my segment times are slower haha!
Yeah, I get that the kinds of back roads favored by us road cyclists are, sadly, the ones that are most susceptible to the chip seal treatment. Still, what I saw on Pinehurst seemed pretty darn rough, akin to the kinds of roads that typically leave cyclists shaking their heads and wondering, "Are they ever gonna repave this mess?" I mean, it really was vexing to see it a few weeks ago after they'd done all that smooth repaving with asphalt, and then to come back two weeks later and see the entire surface looking like it had been ground up by a fleet of asphalt milling machines!

When Pinehurst was repaved about a decade or so ago (IIRC), it was not done with chip seal. But I've read that chip seal is a lot cheaper than smoother road-surface treatments like asphalt, and supposedly stronger, so a lot more cities and counties could be turning to chip seal in the future as a cost-cutting measure. I truly hope Oakland doesn't get any ideas and decide to chip seal Redwood, Tunnel, or the non-residential stretches of Skyline and Grizzly Peak!

The ride on Pinehurst the other day definitely felt a bit slower; I could feel the added resistance. It felt more like trudging rather than gliding! I suppose it's just going to take some getting used to.
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Old 08-16-22, 02:14 PM
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Unfortunately, chip sealing back roads is not at all uncommon on Contra Costa back roads. Not all back roads, but there have always been some that got that treatment as far back as I can remember. The first few days after they put it down, it's awful and, yes, it can be downright unsafe, with both loose gravel and uncured tar (or whatever it is they spray on it). The tar can be especially nasty in hot, sunny weather. For a few weeks after that, it is still bad to ride on; most of the loose gravel is gone, but enough remains that you have to be extra careful. After a month or so, give or take, it settles down to be what it will be for the next however many years, meaning kind of buzzy but okay to ride on.

I am still very glad that CoCo County patched parts of Pinehurst and Wildcat, and yes, those patches were a joy compared to the fault lines in the roads that had developed. I, too, was disappointed to discover chip seal on top of the patches Wildcat (i haven't seen it on Pinehurst yet). But I will take what we have now - meaning pretty good road repair patches on spots that really needed it with an overlay of chipsseal - over the conditions those roads were in. I was convinced that significant portions of Pinehurst and Wildcat were going to slide out if and when we ever get another solid rainstorm. Perhaps we will not see that happen after all
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Old 08-19-22, 01:54 PM
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I rode Pinehurst again this morning, in the same direction as last time, from Redwood to Skyline. The surface on that first descent felt/looked a little more compacted, and I was hearing significantly less of that "tinging" sound made by loose bits of gravel hitting my frame, though I still heard some crunching under my tires. But I still did not feel safe taking those downhill corners at my usual speed, which I'm sure is to be expected only a couple weeks after the new surface was applied. And there are many stretches along the entire repaved stretch where if you get within about 12 inches of the very edge of the road, it's loose-gravel city.

The comparatively level section of Pinehurst starting at Canyon also seemed a bit more compacted and less rough than last weekend, at least up until the stretch from the school to the post office, which was noticeably rougher. But the roughest section by far is the hill between the hairpin curve by the trailhead (at the bottom) and Skyline (at the top). That is really the stretch that stood out in my memory last weekend as having sections that looked like the asphalt had just been scraped away rather than reapplied. For some reason there's still a lot of loose gravel all over the road at that second hairpin curve further up the hill (at least there are "Loose Gravel" signs, though). I would personally avoid descending Pinehurst from Skyline right now.

So, it'll be interesting to see how much conditions improve over time. Sounds like that'll take at least a month or so? Hopefully at some point we'll start to see some slightly smoother impressions on the surface from where the tires of cars and trucks meet the road.
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Old 08-19-22, 06:16 PM
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Beats the heck out of them just tarring the gaps.
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Old 08-25-22, 11:41 AM
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I rode it over the weekend, it's actually not too bad. The twisty section above the end of the canyon still has a decent amount of loose, but unfortunately I think that will be the case for a while, as power steering through those curves will continue to dislodge pieces of the chip. But overall, it's not bad, they used a nice fine chip, it's not as bad as some other roads where they used a much more coarse chip. That kind will rattle your fillings out. Wildcat looked the same, I drove it the other day, haven't ridden it yet, but it looks reasonably smooth as well.

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Old 08-25-22, 11:44 AM
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Originally Posted by curbtender View Post
Beats the heck out of them just tarring the gaps.
I don't want to toot my own horn, but my GF and I were the ones partially "responsible" for some of the recent patchwork on the upper section. There were some horrendous longitudinal cracks and we called (two separate calls to make it seem like multiple complaints) the County Maintenance division to complain about the road and how unsafe it was for bikes. Cyclists are finally getting a bit more respect as it comes to roadway design and safety, so if you complain about a safety hazard on the roads, I've found the agencies I've called to be relatively responsive. Even EBMUD will send a crew out to raise water valve covers if you complain about those.

Pays to be the squeaky wheel!
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Old 08-25-22, 08:33 PM
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Originally Posted by cthenn View Post
I rode it over the weekend, it's actually not too bad. The twisty section above the end of the canyon still has a decent amount of loose, but unfortunately I think that will be the case for a while, as power steering through those curves will continue to dislodge pieces of the chip. But overall, it's not bad, they used a nice fine chip, it's not as bad as some other roads where they used a much more coarse chip. That kind will rattle your fillings out. Wildcat looked the same, I drove it the other day, haven't ridden it yet, but it looks reasonably smooth as well.
Yeah, I mentioned that last weekend parts of it were already looking better/smoother than the week before. On my last ride, the stretch between Canyon and the school looked/felt almost quasi acceptable. It may be no coincidence that that's also the stretch of Pinehurst that probably gets the most car traffic.

But yeah, the winding, steeper section between the Lower Pinehurst trailhead and Skyline Blvd really is the roughest and most gravely stretch. Hopefully I will get time to make it over to Wildcat soon to see how that is looking.
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Old 08-27-22, 06:31 PM
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Originally Posted by cthenn View Post
I don't want to toot my own horn, but my GF and I were the ones partially "responsible" for some of the recent patchwork on the upper section. There were some horrendous longitudinal cracks and we called (two separate calls to make it seem like multiple complaints) the County Maintenance division to complain about the road and how unsafe it was for bikes. Cyclists are finally getting a bit more respect as it comes to roadway design and safety, so if you complain about a safety hazard on the roads, I've found the agencies I've called to be relatively responsive. Even EBMUD will send a crew out to raise water valve covers if you complain about those.

Pays to be the squeaky wheel!
Smart on the County Maintenance people. Since it's a public road, if you try to sue them for negligence in maintaining it, you come under a whole bunch of special statutes that give public entities all kinds of special defenses. IN particular, if they did not have reasonable notice of the "defect of public property," that is a defense to your claim. But you gave them notice, so the County's exposure is significantly greater. Hence the fiscally smart decision to fix it. They may have decided that safer infrastructure was reason enough for the fix, but $$$ certainly did not hurt in the analysis

Another special defense public entities get is called "design immunity." If the condition about which you are complaining is a result of one that was affirmatively (and "reasonably" chosen) from the available alternatives, that is pretty much an absolute defense. For example, if you crash and the chip seal tears you up a lot worse than smooth asphalt would have (assuming you could prove that), but the County considered chip seal vs. asphalt and chose chip seal for a "reasonable" reason, you are SOL for collecting damages for being turned into hamburger. What is or isn't "reasonable" is in the eye of the beholder, in this case the court or a jury.

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Old 09-06-22, 12:53 PM
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Just wanted to say that the last two times I rode Pinehurst (both times over the Labor Day weekend), I noticed the stretch between Canyon and the school has honestly become what I'd describe as acceptable. You can also see faint impressions in the road from car and truck tires, which look a tiny bit smoother. Even when descending the hill, going in the direction of Redwood to Skyline (where the CC County line starts down to Canyon), I was no longer hearing that gravel crunch sound beneath my tires.

The stretch between the school and the post office remains noticeably rougher/coarser, for whatever reason, as well as the aforementioned hill between Skyline and the Lower Pinehurst trailhead. On one ride, as I was rounding the upper hairpin curve heading up the hill to Skyline, one cyclist who was descending said as he passed me, "This is pretty sketchy!" about all the loose gravel that's still scattered around that one curve. But the rest of the road isn't bad now that the chip seal (which was a finer grade to begin with) has sort of settled or compressed.

I also descended Wildcat Canyon on Sunday for the first time since the chip seal appeared, and it seemed similarly OK, for the most part.

Apologies if my first post seemed a bit alarmist, but you have to understand, the contrast between the fresh layer of chip seal and the butter-smooth asphalt repaving they'd done just prior to that (as an under layer) was pretty dramatic.
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Old 09-06-22, 04:47 PM
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That first hairpin coming down from Grizzly has always been sketchy. Took my tread off the tire my first time down and was lucky not to have a car coming up. You gotta figure the shaded areas would have issues curing.
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