Repetitive/Short-Term Maintenance:

Sight distance has been impaired due to poor landscape design and insufficient landscape maintenance.

Photo by Libby Thomas

Photo by Libby Thomas
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Repetitive and short-term maintenance includes activities such as sweeping, landscape maintenance, pavement markings maintenance, drain systems clearance and pothole repair that must be performed at some routine frequency, generally at least once per year, but some much more often. Such activities are crucial to maintaining safe riding surfaces, adequate sight distances and clearance, and clear and visible markings. Activities such as landscape maintenance, sweeping, graffiti removal, emergency telephone repair and general trash pick up also affect the aesthetic environment and promote bicycling through maintaining a more secure and pleasing environment. Regular inspections of structures and general surface conditions should also be performed to detect major maintenance needs.

Maintenance activities related to the safe operation of a facility should always receive top priority. The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials Maintenance Manual1 identifies seven maintenance activities that should be carried out on a routine basis:

Signs and Traffic Markings

Signs warning both the motorist and bicyclist should be inspected regularly and kept in good condition; and striping should be kept prominent.

Sight Distance and Clearance

Sight distances on parallel roadways and trails should not be impaired leading up to crossings and curves. Trees, shrubs and tall grass should be regularly inspected and either removed or trimmed if they can interfere. Adequate clearances on both sides and overhead should be checked regularly. Tree branches should be trimmed to allow enough room for seasonal growth without encroaching onto the street or trail.

Surface Repair

Streets and trails should be patched or graded on a regular basis. It is important that finished patches be flush with the existing surface. Skid resistance of the repaired area should be the same as the adjoining surface. Ruts should be removed by whatever measures are appropriate to give a satisfactory result and avoid recurrence.

Drainage

Seasonal washout, silt or gravel washes across a street, or trail, and sinking should be watched for, and appropriate measures should be taken to prevent them. Installing culverts or building small bridges could be considered a maintenance function to achieve an immediate result and avoid the expense of contracting. Drainage grates should not have parallel openings that could catch narrow bicycle tires. Maintenance personnel should be especially instructed to ensure that grates are positioned so that openings are at angles to the bicyclist’s direction.

Sweeping and Cleaning

The tires of a bicycle can be easily damaged by broken glass and other sharp objects. Bicycle wheels slip easily on leaves or ice. Sand or loose gravel on an asphalt surface can cause a serious fall. When mechanically sweeping roadways, there should also be concern that material is not thrown onto a bike lane, shoulder or trail.

Structural Deterioration

Structures should be inspected annually to ensure they are in good condition. Special attention should be given to wood foundations and posts to determine whether rot or termites are present.

Illumination

Lighting improvements should be made at busy arterials. Once installed, the lights should be maintained to not only ensure reliable operation, but that they are kept clean and replaced as required to keep the desired luminescence.

A thorough assessment of all bicycle facilities should be performed to generate a list of repetitive and short-term required maintenance activities. Preferably such processes would occur at the design phase so maintenance activities will be budgeted and planned for in advance. Some maintenance activities may be incorporated under regular roadway and public facilities maintenance, although care should be taken to consider the special needs of bicyclists and provide appropriate standards. For example, when repairing utility cuts, the City of Seattle requires an initial paving, then after allowing time for settling, the area is repaved to ensure that the cut area is made level with the surrounding pavement (see case study #1). Sweeping may also need to occur more frequently for bicyclists than would be necessary for motorists. Institutionalizing regular bicycle facility and shared roadway maintenance practices through scheduling, budgeting and inter-departmental cooperative agreements will ensure that the needs of bicyclists do not "slip through the cracks."

Purpose

  • Maintain surfaces and other riding conditions in a safe and inviting condition for bicyclists.
  • Identify, plan, and budget for routine maintenance activities that are critical to 1) maintaining the safety of a facility; 2) protecting the investment in a facility; and 3) protecting aesthetics and the environment.

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Considerations

  • Good maintenance practices preserve the investment in facilities and keep them in safe, useable condition.
  • If facilities are well-maintained for bicyclists, they are apt to be in suitable condition for all shared uses.
  • Annual maintenance needs and costs should be considered at the time facilities are constructed since it is more difficult to secure outside funding specifically for maintenance.
  • Institutionalizing good maintenance practices may increase bicycling and reduce government liability.
  • Develop an annual budget for repetitive maintenance that reflects current and new facilities to prevent unexpected increases.

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Estimated Cost

Historic costs provide the best roadmap for determining future costs. When estimating costs, there are four things to consider:

  • Frequency: Reports of hazards on bicycle facilities are going to come in at about the same rate each year with some increase as new bicycle facilities come on line and the number of bicyclists increases. They are also likely to increase in the spring and summer when more bicycling occurs. Getting a handle on the total number is the first step in developing a budget.
  • Types of hazards: Reported hazards should be put into basic categories such as potholes, longitudinal cracks in the pavement, debris that needs sweeping, etc.
  • Cost per incident: Once reported hazards have been put into categories, an average cost per incident can be determined. For example, it is relatively easy to come up with an average cost for fixing a pothole.
  • Budget: The final step is to develop a budget based on the frequency and cost per incident.
Existing maintenance budgets can often be used to cover the costs of fixing hazards. Once a budget has been determined, it may be possible to simply increase existing budgets proportionally. Some communities create separate budgets for addressing bicycle-related hazards.

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Case Studies

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