Perhaps the nicest thing you can say about Los Angeles streets is that they may, in fact, not be the worst in the nation. However. Driving is such a fundamental part of most people's lives, it's easy to take every crack, pothole and bump as a personal affront, not to mention a financial burden.
According to the blog L.A. Potholes, a great chronicler of some of our city's worst patches of road, Los Angeles drivers spend an average of $693 a year to repair vehicle damage caused by our messed-up roadways. Some drivers file claims against the city — but according to a 2013 report by KPCC, the city pays out on only 10 percent of claims.
What's a driver to do? We'd recommend a few defensive driving tips: Avoid the far right lane, which gets torn up by buses. Slow down when the ground below you seems to crunch. And avoid these 11 hazards:
Behold, the great Sepulveda sinkhole. The City of Culver City has been refilling a sinkhole in a busy lane of Sepulveda Boulevard just south of Venice Boulevard for years, only to see it repeatedly reappear, leaving thousands of cars slamming their right tires into the sinkhole as their drivers approach the freeway entrance to the 405 north. Soil engineers say this immortal sinkhole can mean only two things: Either a city sewer or water pipe is leaking beneath Sepulveda, or a hidden spring is burbling away, the water from which would suck away soils and endless supplies of asphalt. To claim damages, you can use this City of Culver City, City Clerk (seriously) Damages Form. But you'll likely need more than just your word that it was the Sepulveda Sinkhole that ate your front end — photos or witnesses may help. — Jill Stewart
The Reverse Pothole (or Mysterious Hill in the Road)
At the corner of Sepulveda and National boulevards in West L.A., there's a “reverse pothole.” You spot these all over the place — little mounds of asphalt that poke up out of the roadway. But this one is huge. It's several inches high, three feet wide and the length of a compact car. It sits in the middle of the far right lane, bulging from the ground like Uluru. It's not clear how this happened. Most likely, it was a smaller hump originally and the street pavers tried to smooth it over by pouring more asphalt on it. All that did was make it bigger. Most people drive around it, but if you don't it can do some damage. It has a black stripe down the middle from scraping the bottoms of cars. — Gene Maddaus
These are worse for bicylists than they are for cars – as any road damage is – but they can't be doing your car's tires any good, either.
Evil Tree Roots
Trees provide shade, and oxygen, and sometimes fruit, and they're pretty (most of them). Everyone loves trees. Except for streets. To streets, trees are merciless, evil creatures obsessed with growth, which devour anything in their path, especially sidewalks and streets. After water, tree roots are the biggest threat to smooth streets. Watch out for trees like this one in Eagle Rock.
The False Curb
This false curb story comes to us via L.A. Potholes, from 2011:
On 12/24/11, as I exited this driveway, the front end of my Audi sank in the pothole that was filled with water, causing $1,000 in damages, snapping my drive belt pulley. I also needed a new skid plate and motor mount. I filed a claim with South Pasadena, which they denied because they said the street belongs to Los Angeles. I filed a claim with L.A., but they denied it.
The Speed Bump
There are any number of dips, cracks and potholes on the namesake of the hippest neighborhood in America, Silver Lake, but this speed bump stands out because it's so obvious that its creation was unintentional. This often happens when the city paves over one section of the street and leaves another as is; there's a bump when the newer road meets the older one. This one's pretty bad, effectively functioning as a frustratingly out-of-place speed bump.
The Metal Plates
These are supposed to be temporary, when city workers need to get underground to repair a gas line or a water pipe or whatever. Sometimes it seems they stay there for weeks. They're loud when you drive over them.
These probably aren't that bad on your car, but they give the street a nice post-post-apocalyptic feel, as if a nuclear bomb went off a few years ago but everyone just keeps on trucking. Some of these can get pretty deep and scrape the bottom of your car.
The Pulverized Road
Here's a photo of a back alleyway somewhere that was last paved in 1912 … just kidding, that's Highland, a major arterial road that feeds into the 101. Think about it, someone actually looked at this street and thought, “That's cool, I'll just leave it like this.”
The Baby Pothole
Cute little guy. Fun fact: You can report a pothole online and the city will — supposedly — come fill it within three days. Of course, it will take about 3,000 phone calls to get Vermont looking presentable, but hey, we've all got to do our part.
Cracks and Gashes
No, that's not a shot of downtown Beirut in 2006, that's Temple, just west of downtown L.A., which has to be on any short list of the worst streets in the city. There's so much wrong with this street, they should just tear it up and start over. Which is actually what the city does with so-called “failed streets” such as this one. Or, rather, that's what they would do, if they had an extra $3 billion or $4 billion lying around.
About a third of our streets are so badly damaged that they'd need to be torn apart and reconstructed, starting with their base. But the city only has enough money to maintain what we've got, repaving the surface of streets and filling potholes. So streets like Temple just sit there, rotting away.