Return of the road spikes

The city puts these spikes in the street to hold down air hoses for traffic studies. The spikes are supposed to be pounded flush with the pavement after they aren't being used any more. But as I've found (over and over and over) they are often not pounded flat.

This spike is on N. 34th in Fremont. It's on the south side of the street, maybe two meters from the curb, near the Sunday Market marker for stall 47, about where the new steel towers carry the new high-tension line cross the street. The Burke building is on the south side of the street here.

This is a busy bike route, with several bikes a minute passing through this way during rush hour. On Sundays, this is a very busy walking route, with people packed along the street in good weather.

If these spikes are not pounded down, they can cause a bike flat tire or even loss of control. Eventually they work their way loose. The resulting spike is several inches of hardened steel that can cause a serious injury to a person, a flat tire on a car, and other damage. This is why it's Seattle policy that these spikes get pounded down. Yet it doesn't happen. Now somebody has to take time out of their day to come back out and pound the spike down. It would have been better to do it right the first time.


Weight, Wait!

Another lead wheel weight on my commute. This one is a biggie. Feels like at least half a pound of lead. Well weathered. Probably heavier when it fell off. I've been finding a lot of these on Seattle streets, even though putting them on cars is now illegal. Do we have to let them all fall off and get ground into dust?


Today's Debris Haul Weighs on Me

Today's haul of debris in or near the bike lane was substantial.

That big hunk of steel is a tire puncture waiting to happen, as are the screw and the masonry anchor. And the battery, while less toxic than the old days, is still not something that should be in the street.

But far more impressive: four lead wheel weights. These can get knocked off when the car wheel goes in a pothole, and Seattle has plenty of potholes, but Dexter was repaved only about a year ago, so it's not potholes. Mostly, I reckon, people knock one of these weights off when they hit the curbs a bit hard while parking.

Rain will wash glass into the storm sewer, but lead weights are too dense for that to be likely. Streetsweepers clean Seattle streets infrequently if at all, so the weights hang around, getting run over, bouncing around near the gutter. All that abuse wears off lead as dust, until eventually the weight breaks up and gets washed into the storm sewer, where I suppose it eventually ends up in the Sound.

This grieves me. Heavy metal pollution is one of the least-fixable pollution problems in the Sound. But moreover, where does that lead dust go? Into our yards, and homes, and into us. As a recent article makes clear, our current lead exposure, while much lower than in the past, is still far higher than is healthy. Moreover, lead persists in the environment for a very long time.

So why are lead wheel weights still legal? At the very least, weights on the outside of the rim, which probably fall off as often as not, should not be allowed.

But if we can't outlaw lead wheel weights just yet, maybe we at least ought to sweep them up before they pollute our city?

Update: My friend Geoff Hazel points out that installing new lead wheel weights is already illegal in Washington State, as well as California and a few other states. Of course, it will take a while for these lead weights to disappear, and it will take much, much longer for the lead dust in the environment to go where it's going to go. But this is progress.