Pothole season can mean not only damaged cars but injured cyclists, experts warn

As temperatures soar into the double digits this weekend, experts are warning motorists and cyclists to beware of a not-so-hidden danger: the annual arrival of pothole season.

City of Toronto expects to fill 175,000 potholes this year alone

Hitting a pothole can crack a rim and shred a tire, which is what happened to a vehicle that mechanic Mark Sachs-Anderson was working on this week. (Grant Linton/CBC)

As temperatures soar into the double digits this weekend, experts are warning motorists and cyclists to beware of a not-so-hidden danger: the annual advent of pothole season in Toronto.

It's too early to say whether this season will be worse than springs past. But mechanic Mark Sachs-Anderson says he's already seeing plenty of damage.

"I figure we've got another couple of weeks and then I'm going to see a lot more coming in," Sachs-Anderson told CBC News. He's says a pothole can wreak havoc not only on tires and wheels but other parts of your vehicle. 

"We'll see where the tire has actually bent the rim. It can take out shocks quite easily, but number one is that it's going to take out the alignment."

Mark Mills, Toronto's superintendent of road operations, says the city will fill about 175,000 potholes by the end of this year. (CBC)

City crews have already fixed 15,000 potholes so far this year, according to roads manager Mark Mills. He says by the end of the year, his crews will have fixed 175,000 potholes on a budget of $4.4 million. 

This weekend's weather is just right for pothole creation, according to MIlls. 

"This type of situation happens every year in every major city across our country. We're seeing a lot of freeze-thaw events this year and that is the perfect recipe to create a pothole."

Motorists should should slow down and be extra alert during pothole season, says Teresa Di Felice, vice president of the CAA's south central region. (Canadian Automobile Association, South Central Ontario)

He says the city plans several pothole blitzes every spring. But he also stresses that his crews are tracking and fixing potholes routinely.

"We send crews out to our main artery roadways and expressways, patrolling those roads and fixing potholes as they see them," Mills said.

"We also have crews that are out there answering any requests that have come in through our 311 line." 

The City of Toronto says it has fixed 15,000 potholes this year so far. (Submitted by The Biking Lawyer)

Potholes also present a danger to cyclists, according to David Shellnutt, who calls himself The Biking Lawyer.

"We do have people calling and saying that they're hitting these things and either damaging their bikes or injuring themselves, sometimes quite severely," said Shellnutt, who represents cyclists who've been injured in collisions and other run-ins on the road.

"We can't just think of these potholes as how they would affect a huge tire on a car," he said. "We got to think about how they would affect someone on a bicycle who's not surrounded by two tons of steel as well."

Drivers can also help lessen the impact of potholes, according to Teresa Di Felice, vice president of the Canadian Automobile Association (CAA) south central Ontario branch.

Lawyer David Shellnutt says cyclists should stay alert and report any potholes they see to 311. (Kirthana Sasitharan/CBC)

She says a CAA survey showed 65 per cent of motorists slow down when they notice problems with road pavement. And 64 per cent will attempt to swerve to avoid potholes.

But "swerving is not always a possibility. So think about speeds and slowing down your vehicle to lessen the impact," she said. "Keep your car in good working order. If you've got low inflated tires, if you haven't done your regular brake repairs, it could have a bigger impact."

Sachs-Anderson says there's not much you can do to prepare your vehicle in advance for pothole season, other than make sure it's had a spring check-up and is in as good condition mechanically as possible.

For cyclists, potholes can mean serious injuries, not just bent rims, according to Shellnutt. (Submitted by The Biking Lawyer)

"Just make sure that your tire pressures are inflated [to] where they should be. Look inside the door. It will give you the correct inflation value for that particular vehicle."

In the meantime, Mills has this advice for motorists:

"When we are out on our blitz,  when we are doing our daily pothole repairs, please be aware of our staff, give us the time and space necessary to do our job; we are there to help," he said.

"We will get these roads in a state of good repair. And please be patient."

With files from Kirthana Sasitharan and Grant Linton


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