The Grates Must Go

Brent Finnegan -- November 24th, 2009

grateCity council could vote tonight to make Harrisonburg a little more bike friendly. Council will consider a recommendation from the Dept. Of Public Works to replace storm grates that pose a hazard to cyclists. Some city grates run parallel to the direction of a bicycle’s tires, creating the same sort of safety hazard as a diagonal railroad crossing. A city memo (PDF) focuses on five grates downtown — where riding on the sidewalks is prohibited — “that deserve immediate attention.”

The estimated cost to replace each grate is $350 to $500 per grate, for a total of $2,200. The memo also lists 20 additional grates, categorized as level 2 or level 3 priorities, that should be replaced when possible.

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18 Responses to “The Grates Must Go”

  1. zen says:

    Must they be replaced? Would a retro-fitted solution be possible—for cheaper? Is there a description of how the cost estimates were reached?

  2. Justin says:

    I’d rather see a steel mesh bolted on to cover it for a fraction of the cost. Waste of money.

  3. That might work, Justin. Hopefully that will be considered.

    My guess is that replacing (or retro-fitting) the grates is cheaper than a lawsuit.

  4. BANDIT says:

    You could weld pieces cross-ways…. that way bicycle tires would not fall through. Simple and inexpensive.

  5. Lowell Fulk says:

    That would be true Bandit, if the grates are steel and not cast iron.

    The steel mesh idea has merit, but the drawback there is that debris, which now would be washed through, would then instead simply clog the mesh and create another problem of ponding which would require city maintenance personnel labor to keep them cleaned.

    Honestly, $350.00 to $500.00 per for a total of $2,200.00 for a cure, which would have a serviceable lifespan of generations, seems a serious bargain for the taxpayer to make those streets more conducive to bike traffic.

    Were I on city council I would vote yea and move to the next issue.

  6. Renee says:

    Didn’t seem that expensive to me.

  7. Emmy says:

    I don’t find that too expensive either. Making it easier for people to bike saves money in the long run, and not just to the individual, so I think they should give this the go ahead.

  8. JGFitzgerald says:

    Bicyclists must be grateful for the council’s action. (If not they’d be ingrates, which is pushing a grating pun a little too far.)

  9. Emo Boy says:

    I used to ride my bike all over Harrisonburg when I was a child, and not once was going over a railroad track or storm drains a problem. How is this a problem. I have a feeling that the “adult” rider don’t have a much common sense as I did years ago.
    Just another waste of money.

  10. Emmy says:

    Emo Boy if you saw the report on TV3 then you’d see that someone was hurt when her tire went into the grate and she flipped over the handlebars. The problem (I believe) is that a lot of these are very near intersections which require the rider to be watching the traffic light and they may not see the grate until their tire is already in it. I can think of two of these downtown that are in locations where you would be in them before you saw them. It’s not safe for the rider or the cars who might hit a rider because they go flying off their bike.

  11. seth says:

    i always wonder why they don’t just tell the bikes to stay off the streets and sidewalks, like they do with the skateboards.

  12. Josh says:

    What legal rights do non-motorists (pedestrians, cyclists, skateboarders, etc.) have when it comes to city streets?

    Does the city have a legal obligation to provide safety grates or is riding a “bike at your your own risk” kind of thing?

  13. Jamie Smith says:

    The minority rules!!
    You have to admit, the subject is an upgrade from chickens!

  14. Scott says:

    Really, these cyclists are always complaining about something. Always trying to exaggerate problems like pollution and traffic congestion just to propagate their liberal agenda. The best solution is probably to make this city as un-bike friendly as possible. In fact, I say that we work out a way to expand the grates so that they fall through and land in some hippy-dippy town like Portland or Austin.

  15. Ah, yes. Utilize the famous Harrisonburg-Portland-Austin tunnels built by Bugs Bunny.

  16. Thanh says:

    Here are some resources on City streets and state roads. I hope this information is helpful to answering some of your questions.

    – Virginia Bicycle Riding Laws,

    – Virginia Laws Pertaining to Pedestrians,

    (both links above include laws about motor vehicle behavior around bicyclists and pedestrians.)

    – VDOT Bicycle Laws & Safety Tips, (lists, pictures, and references to state code)

    – Harrisonburg City Code on Bicycles, (see City Code 13-2)

    – VDOT’s Policy for Integrating Bicycle & Pedestrian Accommodations,

    – VDOT Bicycle Facility Design Guidelines from the VDOT Road Design Manual, (See Section A-5)

    – FHWA Design Guidance, Accommodating Bicycle and Pedestrian Travel: A Recommended Approach. A US DOT Policy Statement Integrating Bicycling and Walking into Transportation Infrastructure,

    VDOT – Bicycle & Walking in Virginia (webpage of resources)

  17. BANDIT says:

    …aha, Happy Thanksgiving everyone! What are you most thankful for?

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