Photo Credit: I Bike TO
With the start of spring and my return to commuting by bike to work, the potholes that rattled my car are now more than a mere inconvenience. Aside from falling after hitting a pothole, the more concerning risk is swerving to avoid a pothole and not checking for approaching cars. The possibility of a car swerving into a cyclist is an equally realistic concern. Although a sharp lookout is the best defence, the city has a duty to repair potholes, and typically will fix them if they are over a specific size within 4 days.
Potholes can be reported to the city through 311 (www.toronto.ca/311/) or via several mobile applications including SeeClickFix. The application makes it easy to report road damage on your commute and allows you to track the city’s work ticket and progress in making repairs.
Cities have a statutory duty under the Municipal Act R.S.O. 1990, c.M. 45, which requires them to maintain their roadways in a state of repair that is reasonable in light of the character and location of the sidewalk and roadway. The city is not liable, however, for failing to maintain a reasonable state of repair, if it did not know of, or could not reasonably be expected to know about the area of non-repair. The city is also entitled to raise a defence that they took reasonable steps to prevent the state of non-repair from happening.
Cities have various mechanisms for inspecting their streets and sidewalks, including regular and documented patrols. Despite having these mechanisms in place, the system is not perfect. If citizens report areas of non-repair, it will ensure that the city is aware of the areas that need to be repaired. In addition to making the roads safer, reporting potholes, cracks, or dangerous street car tracks assists in holding the city accountable in the event that they fail to maintain their roads to the requisite standards.