A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Seen up close, those sewer grates are safe

Written January 9th, 2021 by Hasso Hering

All the storm sewer grates I saw on Santiam and Pacific look like this.

Friday’s short video tour of bike lanes along Highways 20 and 99E (Albany’s Santiam Highway and Pacific Boulevard) caused a least a couple of viewers to worry about the sewer grates as they flashed by.

Weren’t the grates oriented the wrong way, with the bars running in the direction of travel? So that they would trap the tires of passing bikes and pitch the riders across the handle bars?

It looked that way, a little. But the moving pictures were deceiving. I took a closer look on Saturday afternoon when an errand at Bi-Mart put me on the Santiam Highway for the second day in a row.

As you see in the photo, taken from the sidewalk — while standing still, that is — the bars on this grate at Santiam and Clay Street run both ways. And while the lengthwise gaps are longer than those that run crosswise, they aren’t big enough to become a tire trap.

Too much on this little item? Probably, but I didn’t want to leave anyone with the wrong idea.  Whatever hazards we face on Albany highways, the sewer grates aren’t it. (hh)

5 responses to “Seen up close, those sewer grates are safe”

  1. Bill Kapaun says:

    At 3:40 in the video, it gives a much better idea than those that are orientated straight. Those appeared a lot worse than they are.

    I’d still prefer the were rotated 90 degrees. It shouldn’t be that hard to do with a bit of planning.

    Way too cold for me to ride today! I have to hand it to you! With my medical issues, I need the temp to be above 50 and minimal wind. It’s a shame we couldn’t set the clocks 6 months ahead at the last time change.

  2. hj.anony1 says:

    So good you are back on your bike solving street problems HH.

    Good spirits in the age of Sedition and Treason. Perfect! Thumbs Up!

  3. HowlingCicada says:

    Studying the high-resolution photo hiding on your main page (but not on this page), it looks like the lengthwise “bars” are indeed bars, maybe an inch deep, to strengthen the grate; the crosswise pieces look like round(?) rods.

    Another type I’ve seen has inch-wide crosswise bars lying horizontally on top of the lengthwise bars, with roughly the same spacing as in these grates.

    This leads me to guess that the intent is to optimize water intake, and minimize turbulence, with water flowing parallel to the street.

    • HowlingCicada says:

      (continued) The point is that there may be a compelling reason to not rotate the grates by 90 degrees.

      Update: I just saw a grate like the one in the photo on the newly-reconstructed NW Ponderosa Ave in Corvallis. The lengthwise bars were about 2.5 inches deep and the cross pieces looked like about 3/8 inch rebar (I’m not really familiar with construction materials). I didn’t think to check if it was square.

      So, a massive structure to support multi-ton trucks and a flimsy add-on to sort-of keep bicyclists safe — at least those with large-enough wheels.

  4. Bill Kapaun says:

    If you non cyclists had noticed in Hasso’s video, that he was riding in the left portion of the bike lane.

    That’s necessary because of the concrete/asphalt seam that messes with bike handling. You can’t ride on the inside of it because of pedal strike on many curbs.

    In actuality, most of us simply swerve a very few inches to the left and miss the damn thing.


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