My Arch Nemesis
Have you ever had a rival? An adversary? An archnemesis?
As cyclists, it often feels like we have many potential foes lingering in the shadows: that same delivery truck unloading in the bike lane every morning, the oversized pickup that overtakes you a little too closely, or the rush hour box-blocker obstructing everyone else’s ability to safely cross the street.
But often even worse than the aforementioned thorns in our sides is one omnipresent, nonhuman enemy: the dreaded pothole. Everyone who regularly rides a bike has at least one that can ruin an otherwise pleasant excursion.
Do you have one in mind?
Mine lurks under the rail bridge at Queen West and Dufferin. When headed westward, as I am almost every evening, this bicycle-hungry monstrosity is unavoidable. Once you’ve entered the underpass, there’s no avoiding the sunken, crumbling, waterlogged beast. Cars speed by you on the left; pedestrians jostle for limited real estate on the right. A sewer grate just ahead complicates things even further. There’s no escape - you just have to take on the chasm and hope to make it out unscathed.
(A giant, unavoidable pothole at Queen and Dufferin.)
We asked Cycle Toronto members for tales of their own archnemeses. Here are a couple of their responses:
My Archnemesis: A Sinkhole on Cranfield Road
This pothole might be more in the category of "sinkhole" but it really took me by surprise as it was basically large enough to climb fully inside. This picture actually doesn't do it justice as it looked even larger in person. I think the scariest part of this pothole is the fact that it is right along the curb- where many people think cyclists are supposed to stay, and this giant hole is a great example of why it can be dangerous to hug the curb while riding!
Owen, Little Italy
(A sinkhole on Cranfield Road.)
My Archnemesis: A pothole outside the Annette Street Library
Before the orange pylon moved in, this pothole would sneak up on unsuspecting cyclists, bending rims and ending commutes. While mostly contained more, it still poses a threat at night, and to those who aren't looking. Watch out!
Rudy, High Park
Editor’s note: Rudy’s archnemesis has been defeated. Here it is in its current form. More on that in a second.
(A repaired pothole on Annette Street.)
What are potholes, anyway?
Potholes plague many of the world’s cities. In regions with cold winters, they can be especially exasperating.
Potholes begin as tiny cracks in the road. After water seeps through the top layer of asphalt through these cracks, it can freeze and expand, forming a bulge in the road. When the ice thaws, heavy vehicles break these segments of the road and a pothole is formed. New potholes appear most often in the spring due to rising seasonal temperatures. Contrary to popular belief, a milder winter, with a higher number of freeze-thaw cycles, will produce a higher number of potholes.
The City of Toronto keeps a dataset updated on their website detailing monthly pothole repairs.
(A City of Toronto chart detailing pothole repairs.)
What can I do about my pothole nemeses?
Pothole repair requests can be made by contacting 311 and describing the pothole and its location. Pothole repairs are unsurprisingly the number one request for 311 Toronto, followed by damaged garbage bins and trees that have fallen after storms.
So, to close this edition of Just for Fun, you might be happy to read that I’ve finally faced my fears. I’ve recruited some backup in my struggle with my archnemesis.
(A City of Toronto pothole claim webpage screenshot.)
So, you made it to the end, and you’ve now spent 5 minutes reading an entire article about potholes. You seem like the type of person that might be interested in subscribing to the monthly Cycle Toronto newsletter, The Ring & Post. Subscribing means you’ll be the first to know when a new edition of Just for Fun comes out, in addition to all kinds of updates on Toronto City Council, new cycling infrastructure, and community events.