Winter 2004, p.4

Cycling News
Heavy Metal Menace: 66% of Street Plates Not Skid Resistant

Construction plates that are not skid resistant, anchored or signed are dangerous for pedestrians and bicyclists.
Construction plates that are not skid resistant, anchored or signed are dangerous for pedestrians and bicyclists.

In November and December 2003, T.A. surveyed 1,006 metal construction plates in Manhattan. These are the ubiquitous "skid" plates contractors use to cover street cuts when they are not doing work. City regulations require all metal construction plates to be large enough to cover street cuts and to be firmly anchored, countersunk or ramped to prevent movement and rocking as well as provide a smooth transitioned with the street; plates must also have skid resistant equal to or greater than the adjacent road surface (DOT Highway Rules Section 2-11, e 10). In addition, contractors must stamp their name on the plates and post signs with their contact information at construction sites. During winter months, contractors must also post signs stating, "Steel Plates Ahead Raise Plow."

But T.A. found that only 1.9% of contractors’ plates met all of the City’s requirements for skid resistance, anchoring and signage. Of the 1,006 plates T.A. inspected, 42.2% were properly anchored, countersunk or ramped, 33.9% had a skid-resistant surface and 14.1% of plates had proper signage indicating contractor name, contact information and construction dates.

When installed properly, plates protect the traveling public from falling in to street cuts. When installed improperly, metal plates can cause pedestrians to slip, cyclist to crash and motorists to skid. Crossing a steel construction plate during or after a rain shower or snowfall can be highly risky; a quick change of direction or stop can result in a crash.

The City DOT’s 107 Highway Inspection and Quality Assurance street inspectors need to pay particular attention to these requirements and crackdown on
contractors who do not follow them. The inspectors check construction sites to ensure compliance with the Highway Rules. The inspectors issue fines of
$400 for failing to cover a street cut, $400 for displaced plates, $1,000 for non-skid resistant surface and $250 for failing to post signage. The summonses are adjudicated by the City’s Environmental  Control Board.

The City DOT could also restart its bicycling street inspector program, which was very successful in the early 1990s. Giving inspectors a bicyclist’s perspective would help improve safety. The bottom line is that the agency needs to get more street inspectors out to experience the shattered streets and issue summonses.

T.A.'s "Heavy Metal" report surveyed 1,006 metal construction plates in Manhattan.

T.A.'s "Heavy Metal" report surveyed 1,006 metal construction plates in Manhattan.

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