Omnimoan: Road Conditions

by bikeboy76   April 14, 2013  

So the temperatures have finally hit double figures and I am keen to get out and cover some miles at speed to build up for some summer events, but as I push my speed is constantly drained away by the bumps and rattles of the road. There are crizzles, crackles, cracks, crumbles, potholes and cobbles everywhere! The state of the road is getting ridiculous now and I haven't seen a good repair in a couple of years. I have discovered a few places where the road has been resurfaced with notorious 'chip and seal'. Since last summer some of these same roads are now in a worse condition than before, there are drifts of gravel on the side of the road across the whole of the cycle lane making traction dangerous and punctures likely. This also means no road sweepers are out either. I have watched patches of road just spoil away where regular heavy lorries and buses pass through.

Utilities companies are digging up patches of road and only repaving the smallest possible area, leaving the outside of the road a crazy paving patchwork of overlapping cracks. Some bits of road I find I just can't cycle as close to the edge of the road as I should. I would be quite happy sticking to cycle lanes if there were more and they were actually paved well and not just given a spray of green paint, but I can't. I have to ride well to the middle of the lane, often having to be two metres into the lane (or brake quickly to avoid hitting large holes) blocking off irate motorists who are only intent on overtaking me even if they have to brake for a junction almost immediately. They have no idea why I am not just going up the double yellow lines and probably wouldn't care if they knew. The outside of the road is taking all the damage and this is effecting cyclists the most. I am being forced into a more dangerous position on the road; though I am not given a choice about paying my Council Tax for this pleasure.

If I fell off and sued the council would that be helping, obviously not, however the cyclist injury cases they must be getting must not be enough to out weight the cost of repairing our crumbling infrastructure. Some broken bones or dead cyclists thrown under buses isn't enough. I haven't seen a single road that has been repaved properly, from side to side in years, just the minimum hole filling by the council, and we are almost reaching a lowest common denominator; a gravelization of our roads.

Despite living in Manchester, England's second city, there is not a drop of blue paint within 200 miles of here. Fixing the roads of London for the Olympics and to make Boris look good is all very well, but the vast majority of people don't live in the capital.

I am seriously concerned that if nothing changes in the next couple of years that it will become impossible to use a road bike on UK roads. I might have to go back to bumping along on a mountain bike as my current bike slowly rattles apart, at a cost to my time, money and health. I know that libraries and swimming pools are getting hit too, but I feel like there is very little I can do to protest this problem. Road cyclists just have to get to work on time and hope they don't get a puncture on the way.

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everywhere is that bad. including London (barring the road race route?). certainly around Cambridge you need to be very vigilant for wheel destroyingly horrible pot holes.
They're actually in the midst of resurfacing a major street here (full weekendclosure of half a mile of very busy inner ring road) but they're just planing and surfacing, not digging deep down to sort the fundamental structure of a road that wasn't built to take the pounding it takes, so whilst the tarmac will be nice and smooth for a bit, it will quickly statt to get undulatioms, especially where the buses turn across the road.

posted by Al__S [743 posts]
14th April 2013 - 18:24


Same here in North East Wales!! Just been up to my home village for a ride and Tai-Nant Road above Rhos and into the top of Penycae is really bad. I only mention as this is on the Etape Cymru route in September, but in general there pot holes and ridges that could ruin you bike and your day everywhere around here not just on the small single tracks but on the main A roads too, We also have to put up with some misguided attempt to traffic calm by the use of rumble strips that can upset the the bike and threaten if you are not aware to put you in the hedge (B5102 the descent to the Ffrwd pub is one example!)

posted by 60kg lean keen ... [67 posts]
15th April 2013 - 10:28


60kg lean keen climbing machine wrote:
Same here in North East Wales!! Just been up to my home village for a ride and Tai-Nant Road above Rhos and into the top of Penycae is really bad. I only mention as this is on the Etape Cymru route in September,

Manchester is basically flat, bar a few railway embankments, but what are you to do on a nice downhill in the country? I have entered the Etape and have no way of learning the roads and pot holes before the event. I don't want to come across one of these holes at the bottom of a steep hill at 50kph. Should I go around with my brakes on all the time?

Roads should be 'safe by design' if there is room put a cycle lane in, and there is is room most of the time. Ban drains that are parallel to the road! I can't believe we do not have a better (temporary] pot hole filling technology than gravel or tarmac. Pink spray fill plastic-cement; that would get people noticing the condition of the roads. 21st nano-materials technologists get on it!

I am stronger than Mensa, Miller and Mailer, I spat out Plath and Pinter.

bikeboy76's picture

posted by bikeboy76 [1570 posts]
15th April 2013 - 18:17


Ever been to Sheffield? The pot holes are occasionally interspersed by poorly made up sections of what may once have been a paved road.

Have you ever used the CTC's Fill That Hole website? You use it to report pot holes and the local authority is obliged to take a look and repair them if they are above a certain size. My local council responds very well to it.

Ah! Condor

posted by Bedfordshire Clanger [337 posts]
15th April 2013 - 22:38



She deregulated digging up the roads, so that in the UK any one of about a million companies can just turn up and do it, install their fibre optic / water / gas / custard piping whatever, then run away.

In Europe digging up roads is much more tightly controlled, and if one company wants to do it, all the others get in and lay any pipes etc at the same time.

PJ McNally's picture

posted by PJ McNally [591 posts]
16th April 2013 - 7:04

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The state of the roads is definitely getting worse, especially with poor maintenance/repairs, the recent pretty harsh winters and general increase in traffic.

The worst thing I find is trying to avoid massive potholes near the side of the road when a motorist is trying to overtake as they either haven't seen or don't care about the pothole, meaning I have to move out when they are not expecting it.

posted by Sadly Biggins [267 posts]
16th April 2013 - 9:53


Yep, there's nothing that can't be blamed on Thatcher.

In fact the roads really improved under 13 years of Labour, now the Tories are back in,.they've gone bad again

Seriously though, and politics aside, id recommend going to 25 or even 28 tyres if you can fit them on your frame

Potholes are not my main gripe - but poor, broken surfaces are, and wider tyres really help with this.

Also where possible I plan my routes according to surfaces I know are good. Yes it is a bit limiting and you shouldn't have to etc but it's worth it to hear the hum of tyre on smooth tarmac...

Short of that, move to France.

posted by 700c [616 posts]
16th April 2013 - 10:09

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Roads in the NE have really suffered after the winter. Loads of holes, gravel etc.

posted by paulfg42 [384 posts]
16th April 2013 - 21:18

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We are also a slave to a rather ridiculous historical hangover whereby utilities are laid underneath the roadway and not, as in many countries, under the pavement or parallel to the road.
The cost of properly paving our roads doesnt compare to how much it would cost to shift all the utilities from under the roadway.

posted by Some Fella [863 posts]
16th April 2013 - 22:04

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If Thatcher and Major kickstarted the decline, the New Labour government certainly helped it along, and late Labour/early current government slashing council budgets means less rescources to even patch things.

Problem is that "Fundamental rebuilding of the entire road network moving and upgrading the utilities underneath" would be a highly expensive and cucially deeply unsexy national infrastructure project.

In an ideal world, we'd not just carry out such a project, but we'd use it as an opportunity to have the roads redone to modern dutch standards whilst we were going about it... perhaps install better integrated public transport facilities (more trams, better bus facilities) and rid us of level crossings at the same time. Anyone got a few spare £10billions we could use? Maybe mug the likes of Bill Gates?

posted by Al__S [743 posts]
17th April 2013 - 8:05


You wont be doing 50k there so you should be fine. Most of the damage is on the climb out side and it is very narrow there which should limit your speed ect. The road there has a ford were the over flow from the river goes over the road not underneath in times of high water, so our bad winter has cased lots or damage to the road. The organisers of the Etape have been very skilled in there choice of rout for this event it is bonkers mega epic, taking all the best road that we have in one day and most of them are on the the good or better road surfaces around North east Wales, plus the roads are closed so you can go around the bad! You should have a very good safe day and one that you will not forget, so don't worry

posted by 60kg lean keen ... [67 posts]
17th April 2013 - 9:14

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Thanks for the encouragement 60kg (will be giving away 30kg to you so going uphill is not my speciality, I need to keep pushing on the flat and downhill) I will just stick to the middle. Wish I could do that on the way to work.

Without getting too political as to who exactly didn't keep up with the required road surfacing, it is apparent that the current government and therefore councils are doing little because roads receive little protest. Sacking dinner ladies impacts people directly so they make a fuss. Worsening road conditions just creep up on people and that is what they are relying on.

Picking up on the comments about utilities companies I think we should have a national design policy for rebuilding local roads determining where works can happen, what needs to be relayed etc., but even if we had this there still needs to be money to get the job done. When the government asked us to 'tighten our belts' one of the things they didn't mention was accepting an Albanian level road network through neglect. It seems like an easy target that they cut and just hoped no-one would notice for a few years.

I am stronger than Mensa, Miller and Mailer, I spat out Plath and Pinter.

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posted by bikeboy76 [1570 posts]
17th April 2013 - 17:56

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