Fluctuating weather presents Chicagoans with a whole slew of problems: Do we dress for 70-degree weather or do we break out the down coat?  Do we order our coffees hot or iced? Do we post happy Facebook statuses about how wonderful it is to be alive and wearing shorts in December?  Or do we use social media to bemoan the start of our fair city’s most wretched weather?

But there’s another wrench that gets thrown into the mix when temperatures climb high and fall fast: All this inconsistency forms potholes, the streets’ physical reaction to Mother Nature’s indecision.

Moisture seeps into pavements – cold weather causes it to freeze, warm weather causes it to thaw.  This deteriorates the pavement; along with the stress from vehicular traffic, it causes potholes to form over time. 

The flip-flopping weather we’ve been seeing (almost 70 degrees on Monday and projected temperature in the 30s on Wednesday – seriously, it’s not normal) can't be helping. As of Nov. 29 there were 130 pothole repair requests filed, according to the City of Chicago’s web site. 

It’s no secret that potholes are annoying, but according to Jason Jenkins, education specialist at Active Transportation, they can be dangerous as well.  They can break the heels of pedestrians’ shoes or cause wear and tear to vehicles, but cyclists run the risk of serious crashes or injuries. 

Jenkins wouldn’t necessarily recommend that bikers stay off the roads, but he suggests taking some additional precautions.  It’s always important to be aware of what’s happening in front of you when biking, but when potholes form, cyclists should alternate their attention between the traffic up ahead and the road itself.  “Definitely be on the lookout,” he said.

Jenkins also suggests avoiding parts of the road that are covered with snow, water or leaves, as there’s no way to determine if potholes are hiding below.     “Never ride over what you can’t see,” he said. 

“The good thing about Chicago is it’s a big grid,” Jenkins said.  “If you’re on a road with potholes, you can probably alternate your route.”

Jenkins said the streets are repaved often and all potholes should be reported to the City of Chicago (call 311 locally.)  According to their records, most pothole repairs are completed the day the request is created.

 

 

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