I love my city of San Francisco, except for one thing – the condition of the streets. I am a pedestrian at least 50% of the time, which gives me a bird’s eye view of our pavement. In general, it is shocking how bad our pavement is for such a world-class city. Rents are some of the highest in the country. The center of gravity for the tech sector has shifted here. And yet, our pavement is in deplorable condition.
I was embarrassed last year when we hosted the America’s Cup in San Francisco, and one of the main streets near all of the action – Sansome Street – was a mess of potholes. I thought surely they would repave this street as a matter of civic pride, but they did not.
This might seem like an odd thing for a green girl to write about. I walk as many places as I can and strive to log at least 2-3 miles on foot per day. For trips that require a car, I use my Plug-In Prius and can complete most of my errands on pure battery power. I didn’t really notice how bad our streets were until I developed some temporary lower back pain. Then all of a sudden, every pothole and bumpy strip of pavement I drove over caused me pain. It became a nightmare. I would be feeling great and then after 5-10 minutes of traveling by car in San Francisco, the pain would be back. Then I noticed that in most other cities, this would not happen. I could drive around and not end up in agony. Somehow they managed to have smooth pavement, while San Francisco did not.
To make matters worse, San Francisco is currently undertaking a sewer replacement project whereby they are tearing up our main streets. I understand that this is necessary work, but when they are finished, they are leaving behind a disaster zone of pavement that is extremely uneven and bumpy. Franklin Street, Pine Street, Polk Street, and now Gough Street. No main travel artery is safe.
This must be a dangerous situation for the bicyclists in San Francisco who have to navigate the existing potholes and now the post-construction debris. According to the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency’s Bicycle Count Report 2013, the number of people biking in San Francisco has increased 96% since 2006. The SF Bicycle Coalition has done great work encouraging the smooth repaving of popular biking streets such as 17th Street. Much more needs to be done.
Potholes can cause damage to your car’s tires, suspension system, and alignment over time. They can also lead to annoying rattles. Over a half a million insurance claims are filed every year for automobile damage from potholes nation-wide.
What do the official numbers say? The Pavement Condition Index assigns blocks a number from 0 for the worst to 100 for the best, i.e. a freshly-paved block. For 2013, the SF Department of Public Works reported an average Pavement Condition Index score of 66. This is up marginally from a score of 65 in 2012 and from our 10-year average of 64.
As I have walked around the last month, I have tried to take pictures of the potholes, bumps, big cracks, uneven asphalt, and suboptimal repaving that have crossed my path. A picture is worth a thousand words. Please see:
Here are a few of the highlights from the gallery:
The intersection of Divisadero and Sutter near the UCSF Medical Complex is a mess and hazardous for cars and pedestrians alike
A biker tries to navigate the construction at the corner of Franklin and California Streets. This has become a common sight in San Francisco
The Streets of San Francisco Flickr Gallery currently contains over 100 photos from the following streets: Broadway, Broderick, Divisadero, Laurel, Fillmore, Franklin, Golden Gate Avenue, Gough, Pacific, Polk, Sacramento, Vallejo, Van Ness and Webster.
I will strive to continue adding to this gallery over the next month. If you have any photos of atrocious pavement on a main street in San Francisco, you can send them to the email: streets of sf at yahoo dot com. Please send only small-to-medium resolution photos that are suitable for the web. Thank you.
If you see a pothole that needs filling, please report it to San Francisco 311 via their great mobile app and include a picture!
Let's work together to make San Francisco's pavement safe for pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorists.
Potholes make Mission Street dangerous in Bernal Heights, San Francisco Chronicle, March 6, 2014
SF sewer work leads to bumpy road, San Francisco Chronicle, January 30, 2014