Poorly filled potholes present new risk to cyclists

Cycling campaigners and road safety groups highlight new menace

by Simon_MacMichael   April 22, 2010  

Essex Potholes 1

While much of the UK has been enjoying warm spring sunshine for the past week or so, one reminder of this year’s particularly harsh winter remains in the form of potholes, presenting a potentially fatal hazard to cyclists, highlighted by the recent death of army officer Jonathan Allen when he was struck by a lorry after apparently swerving to avoid one.

However, local councils’ rush to provide a quick fix to the problem by patching potholes up is being criticised by cyclists’ organisations and road safety bodies, who say that their remedial action often creates an even worse hazard for road users due to the holes being overfilled, creating a mound.

Earlier this month, we reported on Sir Chris Hoy’s backing of a campaign for increased funding to be provided for road maintenance. The initiative, set up by building materials giant Aggregate Industries, highlights a claimed £1 billion shortfall in road maintenance budgets in England and Wales, where 1.4 million potholes were reported last year.

Andrew Howard, head of road safety at the AA, told the Daily Mail: "We are seeing this problem all the time, in all parts of the country. It affects how you drive because there is a big hump in the road.”

He continued: “'Drivers will often swerve to avoid these humps and that can be very dangerous.”

Mr Howard added: “We are seeing more and more potholes and the councils are under pressure to do the repairs in a hurry. Once the pothole has been repaired, they should subject it to a more thorough rolling to flatten it out. The cure is for the councils to rebuild the roads, but they can't afford to do that.”

Charlie Lloyd, spokesman for the London Cycling Campaign, told the newspaper: “'Poor road surfaces are a big hazard for cyclists and badly mended potholes don't make it any easier.”

And national cyclists’ organisation CTC, which runs the Fill That Hole campaign allowing bike riders and other road users to report potholes to local authorities, says that it has been notified of nearly 11,000 potholes since the start of this year, but cautioned: “Badly repairing these potholes is just replacing one hazard with another one.”

Meanwhile, one London cyclist is employing ‘guerilla gardening’ tactics to help fill in potholes, using soil and flowers sourced from Columbia Market to draw attention to the hazard in a colourful and unusual way.

Steve Wheen, aged 33, was quoted by The Sun as saying: “I find potholes a constant menace and I've almost come off my bike several times. I'm also a mad-keen gardener and wanted to make a point."

The art student continued: "I choose smaller roads and pavements for safety. I use plants with colourful flowers in the hope motorists will see them and avoid them. My first effort lasted two hours but one lasted three weeks. If it draws a cyclist's attention to a pothole and puts a smile on their face it's good enough for me."

Examples of Steve’s work can be found on his website, www.thepotholegardener.com.