If you drive or bike in Oakland, you probably swerve around multiple potholes and cracks. No wonder. According to a 2018 infrastructure report, Oakland and San Francisco have the worst roads of any large urban areas.
All that rough riding comes with a cost: Oakland and SF residents pay on average $1,049 per year in additional maintenance and repairs as a result of our deteriorating streets.
If you hit a pothole when driving, your car can suffer steering problems, a flat tire, bent rims or cosmetic damage. Hit a pothole when riding a bike, and you can easily flip over the handlebars and suffer serious injury. Your bike may also get damaged.
The City of Oakland is doing its best with limited resources to repair our city streets. Here's what you can do to help the city keep our streets safer, and how to take action if you experience pothole-related damage.
Report what you see.
The City of Oakland's previous pothole-reporting system, SeeClickFix, still works and connects with 311. Whichever option you choose, the report goes into the same database. Pick whatever is easiest for you. Reporting potholes alerts the city to the problem so they can fix it.
File a claim.
If a pothole or other road hazard damages your vehicle, it's possible to file a claim against the city. Download a claim form from the City of Oakland's website and follow the directions. Make sure to include repair estimates and photos.
File a lawsuit.
If you or another driver caused an accident, and a pothole played a role in that accident, and you suffered serious injuries, you may be able to file a claim against the driver and the government entity responsible for road maintenance. It is highly likely you will need a personal injury lawyer to help you navigate through the process.
Because a public entity is involved, it is necessary to show the pothole was a dangerous condition of public property. It is necessary to show the pothole was dangerous, that public entity had notice of the pothole, and had notice for a long enough period of time to have repaired or warned of the pothole.
Without that notice, you likely don't have a claim against the government, even if you got hurt. That is why reporting as outlined above is so important.
The same parameters apply if you hit a pothole on your bike. To determine if you have a claim, consult with a personal injury lawyer.
Don't fill it yourself.
Oakland Public Works officials say it's illegal to fill potholes yourself. You could make the problem worse if fragments fly out and hit cars, bikes and pedestrians. You could also hurt yourself trying to fill a pothole around passing traffic.
Adopt a drain.
If you want to get involved in improving our city streets, volunteer to maintain a storm drain. Sign up for Oakland's Adopt a Drain program and pledge to keep one of your neighborhood drains clear of debris. When a big storm hits, city staff can't get to all of them.
The City of Oakland has a backlog of street repairs that cost hundreds of millions of dollars. Help it stay aware of the most dangerous potholes so it can do a better job of keeping our streets safe.
Photo courtesy of Eugene Peretz, Flickr