Friday, October 9, 2009

Musings: Pot holes, mud and the ultimate obstacle - the trash heap

Guangzhou's roads are constantly covered with dirt, gravel and other debris because of a construction frenzy ahead of the Asia Games, which the city will host next year.

Water trucks cruise the streets before rush hour each morning, spraying the roads to control the dust. However, the trucks don't have a sweeping mechanism, so they don't remove the debris from the roads.

They just create a slippery thin layer of gritty, sticky, cake battery mud that's perfect for downing bikes and coating expensive bike components with sandy grime.

New potholes seem to appear almost daily, and it's essential to mark them on your mental map. I discovered a new one recently after a hard rain. The muddy water filled up the hole, making it look like a harmless puddle. I hit it at a high speed, cracking my custom-made bike frame and breaking a front wheel. It turned out to be the most expensive ride of my life.

The most hazardous road obstacles are created by the midnight mystery dumpers. They load up their trucks with construction waste _ chunks of cement, broken bricks, dry wall scraps, splintered plywood _ and routinely dump it on major roads in the middle of the night. This helps them shave their costs by avoiding landfill fees. It's the same corner-cutting attitude that puts lead paint on toys and melamine in milk powder for babies. On a couple of occasions, I've almost run into the mounds of trash during groggy-headed and dark early morning rides.

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