Victoria Pendleton’s Olympic and World Championship success may have been forged on the smooth boards of velodromes around the world, but Britain’s potholed roads have left the track star less than impressed, and now she’s backing a campaign to highlight the issue and reward those local authorities that take prompt action to remedy damaged roads.
The 30-year-old, who recently gave her backing to a Hovis Stop Snacking campaign presumably designed to stop people filling the hole in their stomachs, has now given her endorsement to one aimed at filling the holes in the road from road materials supplier Aggregate Industries and national cyclists' organisation CTC.
Pendleton, who plans to ride in the new women’s team sprint and keirin events at the London Olympics, as well as defending the individual sprint title she won at Beijing, says: “Following more bad weather this winter, potholes are still a serious problem for road users, particularly people cycling to work or school, cycling for fun, keeping fit or even cycling professionally.
“We have to make our roads safer and more accessible for cyclists who often lack confidence to ride their bikes in and around urban areas because of poor road surfaces.”
CTC and Aggregate Industries have now launched a new initiative which sees the creation of a league table of councils ranked on how quickly they take action to repair potholes notified on the Fill That Hole website, set up by CTC in 2007, which has so far seen 43,000 reports of roads needing repair notified to local authorities and the Highways Agency, with 13,000 repaired.
Winning councils, which will assessed on the basis of ratings given by users of the Fill That Hole website, will get the chance to meet Pendleton at an awards ceremony hosted by CTC in May, and the cyclist adds: “I’m getting involved because anything that showcases pothole repairs and encourages councils to improve their roads has to be a good thing for both cyclists and motorists.”
Trade body the Asphalt Industry Alliance (AIA) claims that each mile of local authority-owned road in England and Wales is home to ten potholes on average, and that by this spring, there could be as many as 2 million potholes nationwide.
According to AIA spokeswoman Helen Melhuish, "This is a very serious issue. Cyclists and motorcyclists are the road users most vulnerable to accidents caused by potholes. If government provided more funding to help get local roads back into reasonable condition, local authorities would be better able to implement their planned preventative maintenance programmes.”
A new version of the Fill That Hole iPhone app, launched by CTC last Autumn with support from Aggregate Industries, has also been developed which now makes it easier than ever before for users of the Apple smartphone to lodge details of potholes needing attention, enabling them to upload a photo of the defect and tag it with GPS data.
CTC is also offering £500 to spend at the CTC shop, operated by Wiggle, for the best reporter of holes to the Fill That Hole website between mid-January and mid-April this year.
Roger Geffen, Campaigns and Policy Director at CTC, comments: “The public is very keen to see improved road maintenance standards, and this is particularly true for cyclists, as good surfaces are hugely important for their safety. With FillThatHole making it easy for road users to report road defects, people are discovering that most councils are pretty good at fixing these defects quickly once they know about them.“
The campaign, and Pendleton’s involvement in it, hasn’t met with universal approval, however, with one blogger describing it as providing his “Monday morning Jesus Wept.”
The blogger, who apparently fails to appreciate that potholes put cyclists at an increased risk compared to other road users, has been put right on that point in the comments to his entry, as well as receiving clarification over his misuse of the outdated term “road tax” (and his urging of cyclists to “pay some” of it).
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.