Chicago bicyclists should report roadway hazards to the city, especially when the hazard, e.g. a pothole or sinkhole, is present in a bike lane. I recently inquired via email with the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) as to how residents may report hazards in the city's bike lanes. There are two ways to do so, by calling Chicago's help line at 311 or online at www.servicerequest.cityofchicago.org. Here is the email thread:
1) To whom should I report hazards or dangerous conditions, i.e. sink holes, debris, etc., in bike lanes, paths and bike ways in the City of Chicago?
2) How should I make such a report?
Dear Mr. Kevenides ,
Thank you for your letter. We appreciate your dedication to bicycling and your enthusiasm for improved bicycling facilities in the City of Chicago.
It would seem that the online reporting option creates a clear record of a complaint about a hazard. After submitting a report you will receive a message that states:
Service Request Entry Complete!
Thank you for reporting your city service needs. You will receive a confirmation e-mail with your service request tracking number and a link to the status query page once your service request has been added to the primary service request tracking system. . .
There is a "tracking system"! This is significant because it means that the injured cyclist's attorney can make a request to CDOT for any and all electronic "service requests" within the "primary service request tracking system" to obtain proof the city knew of a particular hazard. Perhaps CDOT creates written documentation of service requests that are made via telephone. But it is clear that there is typewritten documentation of such requests that are made online. Having typed complaints about a particular hazard that the city failed to respond to would be a tremendous help to the injured bicyclist and his or her attorney. When making an online service request please be as specific as possible. For example, if you are reporting a pothole in a bike lane, when the online form asks, "What size and shape is the pothole?" you should respond with something like, "Pothole is in the bike lane in front of ABC store, is quite large and presents a hazard to bicyclists." With this kind of description who could argue credibly that the city was not on notice of the hazard and the danger it posed to cyclists?
One thing was not made clear to me from my inquiry with CDOT: For how long service requests are kept in the "system". Does CDOT keep such requests for 30 days, 6 months, 7 years? One would hope that requests are kept until such time as the hazard is repaired or corrected, but who knows. In any big organization data, information, documents can just disappear by accident or not. In light of that reality I propose that if you submit an online service request to CDOT regarding a bicycling hazard that you send a copy of the confirmation email you will receive following your request to The Chicago Bicycle Advocate at email@example.com. In that way we will have a data source to look to when clients come to us with a case arising out of a roadway hazard. Working together we can make Chicago safer for bicyclists.