The Benefits of Potholes and Traffic Calming

Potholes calm traffic. The City must not miss the opportunity to replace them with other traffic calming tools as it repaves our streets. Photo by Marc-Olivier Jodoin on Unsplash

There’s a silver lining in potholes

By: Scott Bricker

While potholes can be an inconvenience to those driving cars, they can cause major injury to a bicyclist. But, if I were to find a silver lining in potholes it would be this – they cause drivers to slow down and drive with care. Besides serving as de facto vessels for puddles in a rain storm ready to be displaced by passing car tires, potholes are actually good for pedestrians.

Don’t get me wrong, I love it when a street gets repaved. I love the way the fresh pavement gleams black in the sun, and the glasslike surface it creates for my bike tires to roll effortlessly along it. But, to balance out my adoration of freshly paved streets, my observation is that freshly paved streets encourage drivers to speed thus making conditions much worse for walkers and people riding bikes.

This terrible winter, with its rapidly repeating freeze/thaw cycle that caused so many potholes that the City is allocating another million dollars to paving this year, presents a conundrum for bike/ped advocates. Better streets for bikes and fewer uneven surfaces for pedestrians, also means dangerous speeding for us all to contend with. Unless, of course, the City integrates a traffic calming solution into its repaving.

Photo from Wikimedia Commons

A Call for Speed Humps and Speed Cushions

We are advocating for a residential speed hump program to go live this year. Every residential street that needs to get repaved ought to get speed humps or speed cushions at the same time. This type of infrastructure only exists on Gold Way in Polish Hill, but needs to become a common tool in the Pittsburgh traffic calming toolkit. This could help curb speeding as our streets lose their naturally occurring traffic calming potholes. We won’t miss them as long as they get replaced with something better.


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