Found it? Ask them to fix it.

On a balmy Tuesday evening in July, I pedaled along the Elliott Bay Trail en route from a meeting in Seattle’s Pioneer Square to my home in White Center. In a number of places along the heavily traveled multi-use path, the pavement has heaved up and cracked, creating hazards whether you're riding or walking. And I now have the broken elbow, scrapes and bruises to prove it.

I tried to avoid the upheaved pavement but since it runs almost the entire width of the trail with oncoming bike traffic I couldn’t, really, and the edge of my tire caught. The defect that body-slammed me has existed long enough that Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) had marked it with a stripe of white paint. Paint, however, is not repair.

A recent Washington State Court of Appeals ruling in O’Neill v. City of Port Orchard, reinforced the legal requirement that cities are responsible for maintaining roadways and paths to make them safe for people on bikes as ordinary everyday travel, not just for motorists. The Court wrote, “Bicycles are an integral part of Washington’s ‘statewide multimodal transportation plan.'”

In the ruling the court noted that a city may have either of two types of notice that a hazardous condition exists. Constructive notice means a condition has existed long enough that the city should have been aware of the problem in the normal course of maintenance and inspection. That stripe of white paint is more than enough proof of prior knowledge. The other form of notice, actual notice, is just what you might expect: Someone reported it.

Report it

The Port Orchard public works director stated in his deposition that the city fixes roadways on a “complaint-based system” and the city had not received complaints about the stretch of road that led to Pamela O'Neill's crash and injuries. Let's make the record perfectly clear so there is no question as to whether they had notice. Let's notify cities, counties, and other jurisdictions when they have a hazardous condition on a street, path, sidewalk or trail. When you do, you’re creating the record needed to push for repairs and reparations.

As part of the statewide resource hub we’re creating, Cascade will compile a list of the web pages, email contacts, forms, apps, phone numbers and other ways you can notify your town that a hazard exists that they need to repair.

What to do

  • Take multiple photos of the defect ir hazard, both close-up and in context. Share it on Twitter and/or Instagram. Tag us and use #FoundItFixIt with city and location. We’ll compile and use to boost advocacy efforts. (Take photos right away; it can be hard to identify the spot later if there are multiple similar faults.)
  • Note the location (geocode photo if possible) and the hazard created for bicyclists. Examples: could cause flat tire; big enough to wrench handlebars, cause crash; overhanging bushes create blind spot.
  • If you have witnesses, get their contact information. Tip: Text them on the spot with a brief description of what just happened. Then you have their contact and they have yours.
  • If the defect led to a crash include date, name of victim, contact information, injuries to person and bike, and photos of those as well. Take close-up photos as well as ones from farther away to show context of the injury and fault
  • Visit our Report a Hazard resource page. If your jurisdiction isn’t listed, search their site and email us with what you find so we can add to the list.
  • Report the hazard to the appropriate jurisdiction with the photo(s) and keep a copy of your email or letter. Request confirmation of receipt.

I’ve been in a cast for the past month and will be off my bike for knows how much longer, thanks to a hazard that has been on that path a long time. And it’s not the only one. Let’s go on record.