Has anyone else noticed the new style of rough, hard, concrete patching that is being done and apparently accepted by the City of Chicago, often obliterating existing bike routes.

Clark St. between Howard and Devon used to be a prime commuting route for me.  In spite of many lights, they were well synchronized and you could make really good time on that part of the commute.  Not so good in the evening but a great morning route.

That was until last year when some utilty tore up the street right in the bike lane and replaced it not with asphalt, but with this hard concrete.  The crew that did the patch made not the slightest attempt to smooth their work out and now Clark is basically unrideable.

Now another bike lane that was part of my commute, Pratt Blvd., has gotten the same treatment.

So while the city, to great fanfare, introduces new protected bike lanes in some part of the city, they fail to enforce basic street-paving standards and lose bike lanes that have served us well for years.

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You're a road construction foreman AND a cyclist?? Did I get that right?

That's exactly what this discussion needs! Someone who knows whereof he speaks!

So the problem seems to be this: these bad patches are meant to be temporary - normally for 3 weeks you say - and yet some of them stay in that condition for a year or more. So what would you recommend when a bad patch job lasts beyond its supposed shelf life?




Michael M said:

The concrete patches that are poured-to-grade on asphalt streets by utility contractors are meant to temporary.  After curing, they are supposed to be ground down 1-1/2 to 2 inches deep and at least three feet wider than the concrete patch to make room for a smooth hot asphalt patch.  This is normally to be done in 21 working days, but in Loop it often takes much longer because there are very limited times that City grants permits to the contractors to work there.  The best way to speed the process up is a 311 complaint.  These are passed on to the utilities who try to get their contractors to them before being cited by the City.

One problem is that many of the sloppiest patches are ones left not by utility contractors but by City crews.  They don't have the same kind of accountability because the city inspectors can't issue fines to city crews.

The reason that the concrete is often not finished smooth is that a smooth surface is hard on the grinding machines, so unless the crew has a cyclist for a foreman (like me), they leave a "toothy" broom finish even in the bike lanes.

The best way to speed up the process seems to be making a 311 complaint.  If you report something as dangerous, the city finds out whose patch it is.  If it is a city patch, you may be out of luck for a long time, but if it is done by a utility contractor, the city makes threatening phone calls to the utility and crews like mine get our permits faster and stuff gets done.

I'm not sure how much, but I think multiple complaints do help especially if they come from separate sources.  Occasionally I'll get a work order with a note that says something like "ASAP--multiple complaints."

h' 1.0 said:

Michael- thanks for chiming in.

Question-- do multiple 311 complaints on the same issue add any weight, to your knowledge?

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