Roads may close if potholes get worse warn councils… and they're the sorts of roads used by cyclists

Floods or a bad winter could be fatal to the minor roads leaving many unusable

by John Stevenson   June 19, 2013  

A pothole yesterday Image by dasmart via Flickr

Swathes of Britain’s local road network could become unusable if this year brings more flooding or another severe winter, highways bosses are warning.

That’s bad news if you like to spend your time on the smallest and prettiest parts of our road network. As you’ve likely already noticed, many of our smallest back roads and byways are, to use a highways engineering technical term, knackered.

According to the Local Government Association, whose members are responsible for nine out of every ten miles of road in the UK, last year council highways teams fixed 2.2 million potholes, 500,000 more than the year before. However, despite these efforts the backlog of repairs is growing longer, now estimated at £10.5 billion with one-in-five roads classed as being in ‘poor condition’.

The LGA blames “decades of underinvestment from government” plus recent freezing weather and flooding which has caused an estimated £1 billion-worth of damage. Further severe weather could now lead to a tipping point in many areas where roads will become so damaged they will have to close, the organisation warns.

The LGA has written to Danny Alexander, Chief Secretary to the Treasury, asking him to provide greater capital funding for road maintenance to turn around the decline.

As well as boosting jobs and growth, the LGA points out that laying better road surfaces in the first place makes economic sense. Reactive repairs are 20 times more expensive than laying a good quality surface resistant to flood and ice damage, it says.

Cllr Peter Box, Chair of the LGA’s Economy and Transport Board, said: “The case for proper funding to resurface our roads is a no-brainer. The short-termist approach of successive governments of underfunding local road maintenance, coupled with severe weather over recent years, has taken its toll. Now we’re facing unprecedented budget cuts things are only getting worse.”

The LGA claims that local councils are nevertheless striving to repair and maintain the roads and to fix potholes and other damage before its reported.

The LGA cites the work of Kent County Council which fixed more than 2,000 potholes during February and now claims to fix a pothole once it’s been identified in an average of 14 days, down from 25 days in 2011.

At the end of January Croydon Council announced a new £100,000 winter pothole fund to support work to repair potholes caused by the snow and ice. Highways teams inspected the borough’s 2,500 roads to locate and fill in any new potholes.

Cyclists (and our bikes) are particularly vulnerable to the dangers posed by potholed roads. For the last few years the CTC has been running the Fill That Hole campaign asking cyclists to notify councils about potholes they spot while out riding, particularly those that could be dangerous. 

If you spot a hole while out on your bike cut along to www.fillthathole.org.uk and report it.

34 user comments

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Hi Gizmo. Your suggestion that major roads are maintained is optimistic. Some bits of the M1/M25 which I drove last week are as bad as the back roads - it's just that you go over them faster in a car and there's some suspension to cushion you.

posted by Bexleyhillbilly [37 posts]
19th June 2013 - 17:41

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Sheffield is lucky at the mo - through the joy of ASOS and Visit Yorkshire, we're having loads of roads resurfaced, including the ones just outside where I live. The difference between worn and fresh laid tarmac is remarkable - the new stuff is like being cushioned by angels.

But I was out near Buxton a few days ago, and loads of the little lanes were falling apart. It does seem to be worse than ever before. I don't particularly like cars, but surely investing in the road network is one of the fundamental duties of a government? Right?

... unless the 4x4 lobby have had an effect on Conservative policy recently ...

posted by Not KOM [79 posts]
19th June 2013 - 17:56

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Quote:
... unless the 4x4 lobby have had an effect on Conservative policy recently ...

have you seen what the average councillor drives and have you ever noticed that the areas they live in have money spent on the roads?

or is it just me who has noticed this?

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posted by mrmo [1023 posts]
19th June 2013 - 18:52

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I've often wondered why the Beeching methodology has never been applied to roads. Back lanes can't pay for themselves by any normal method of calculating it. If they were anything but roads they'd be left to wither and die, as branch lines were, regardless of the fact they form the only means of transport for their inhabitants and are a feeder to the main roads.
I can see such roads reverting to the sort of farmer-maintained by-ways they were 200 years ago. Trouble is the farmers have no money either!

posted by racyrich [113 posts]
19th June 2013 - 21:07

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The government and local councils spend millions of pounds each year paying consultants to advise them on ways of saving money. Surely one of these consultants would of told the; that by doing the job properly in the first place, would save them bucket loads of cash in the long term.
At Wits End

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posted by SounDaz_7 [48 posts]
19th June 2013 - 21:30

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I live in Sussex and work in Kent, the difference is noticable, although kent is by no means perfect and there are a few shocking ones still to be adressed.

100M from the kent border on my commute there's a patchwork of holes that cross the entire carriage way on an NSL piece of road, I have to signal right despite there being no turn available and go 6+ foot into the lane to avoid, this is on an incline where I am doing maybe 12-14 MPH and traffic is wanting to do 60, it's been there since February! Sussex CC you suck and you put me in danger every day I ride to work.
[/rant]

posted by mybrainthinksim... [24 posts]
19th June 2013 - 21:31

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how about the councils just fix the roads properly with tarmac not this loose chipping nonsense and stop wasting money on speed bumps that are not needed and poncy shirt and tie outings and lunches.

rant over

posted by Liamb93 [16 posts]
19th June 2013 - 22:08

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Or rip them up and turn them to gravel as they're doing in some places in the US: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB1000142405274870491330457537095036373774...

posted by brucec [3 posts]
19th June 2013 - 22:52

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Some Fella wrote:
I find the opposite of what you claim in the second paragraph.
In Manchester (where poor people live) the main roads are shocking but get out to the back lanes of Cheshire (where rich people live) and Cheshire East Council seem to be spending an awful lot of money on resurfacing and the roads, in general, are ok.
Any Mancs who have the misfortune to cycle down Wilmslow Road, Palatine Road and Styal Road out through Gatley will know what i mean.
Also in Cheshire, to their credit, they seem to doing a decent resurfacing job - completely stripping back and resurfacing from edge to edge. Not just bunging some tarmac into the hole and hoping for the best - as seems to be the way in Manchester/ Stockport.

I ride all these roads and agree er, 90% with you. It is true that country roads are generally in good condition and quiet with little traffic, as good as you can expect as a cyclist and Cheshire is worth exploring. However where there have been repairs the rural councils are using chip and seal gravel surfaces on the cheap and this ruins the road for cycling. Gatley is a perfect example, it was resurfaced last summer and is now in worse condition than before with ruts, potholes and drifts of gravel all over it. They should just give the money to me.

It is totally true that it is the inner city A-roads that are falling to pieces: Palatine road, Barlow Moor Road. They are a patchwork of potholes, drains and bad utilities repairs. It seems the councils are scared that they might have to actually close a road to resurface it, nevermind the cost of inaction. And it is never the middle of the road getting dug up. They must think, what is the point of repairing the road anyway, they will just run some buses or lorries over it and smash it up again. Tell everyone to buy white Audi 4x4s.

Between the S and the LOW

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posted by bikeboy76 [1182 posts]
20th June 2013 - 0:03

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Speed bumps are needed because people cannot be trusted.

posted by northstar [1083 posts]
20th June 2013 - 0:25

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I thought motorists paid road tax so this sort of thing cannot happen? Devil Or do they waste all the poor motorists money on cycle-paths Devil

posted by SideBurn [764 posts]
20th June 2013 - 6:39

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northstar wrote:
Speed bumps are needed because people cannot be trusted.

Exactly right. Without speed bumps in many places the numpties would fly along the roads causing no end of accidents. They are there for a reason.

The problem is the pot holes that are getting filled are a: being filled with poor quality materials to save money and b: the hole is not dry and any filler just gets lifted by the water underneath.

If you must break the law, do it to seize power: in all other cases observe it. Gaius Julius Caesar.

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posted by stumps [2664 posts]
20th June 2013 - 7:57

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This is a good oportunity to upgrade these parts of the network to the status of Cycle Tracks. Smile

Francois.L

posted by Francois [9 posts]
20th June 2013 - 8:37

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+1, albeit with a pipedreamer/devil's advocate hat on, for the suggestion that maybe this isn't a bad thing because it could hint at a two-tier system.

The inescapable fact appears to be that for whatever reason there are insufficient resources to maintain the full network to a standard capable of supporting high axle weights.

So why not push cars and lorries onto roads that are better designed for them, and which can be given the necessary level of investment? Then reclaim the other roads primarily or exclusively for two-wheelers and other light/unpowered vehicles. A one-off repair of the sort that's currently used would withstand many more years of lightweight use than it would with current vehicle speeds and axle weights, so they wouldn't need anything like the same level of maintenance investment beyond that point.

Swapping to my pragmatist's hat, I've yet to see a road closure barrier that is impenetrable to bicycles, so why not ride 'em anyway? Sure, you'd have to avoid some potholes, but we have to do that anyway - and it's arguably a price worth paying to eliminate the possibility of a car driving straight into the back of you.

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posted by Bez [364 posts]
20th June 2013 - 9:18

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I did a London-Paris ride a few weeks back and aside from Paris (which had potholes to almost match London's) the French roads were beyond dreamy. Now i get the fact that there is a lower population density, more road options and the climate is less harsh on the roads (although some Alpine roads are fairly shocking on the pothole front) but there was clear evidence of recent tarmac'ing which points to the fact that the French are keeping people employed by investing in infrastructure whereas we in the UK will build up a horriffic legacy under this government that will take a generation to rectify as the roads will become so universally poor and there will not be the resources available to sort all of them at once.

In our often traffic clogged country, the idea of closing any roads seems totally illogical.

posted by SimonT1971 [35 posts]
20th June 2013 - 9:19

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stumps wrote:
The problem is the pot holes that are getting filled are a: being filled with poor quality materials to save money and b: the hole is not dry and any filler just gets lifted by the water underneath.

And the road is returned to normal active use straight after the hole has been filled.

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posted by netclectic [116 posts]
20th June 2013 - 9:20

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SimonT1971 wrote:
I did a London-Paris ride a few weeks back and aside from Paris (which had potholes to almost match London's) the French roads were beyond dreamy. Now i get the fact that there is a lower population density, more road options and the climate is less harsh on the roads (although some Alpine roads are fairly shocking on the pothole front) but there was clear evidence of recent tarmac'ing which points to the fact that the French are keeping people employed by investing in infrastructure whereas we in the UK will build up a horriffic legacy under this government that will take a generation to rectify as the roads will become so universally poor and there will not be the resources available to sort all of them at once.

Under this government? And under any other in the last 20+ years, it's not political, simply will to do something permanent and short term expensive, for long term economy. But whilst people are more concerned about lower taxes and politicians see no further than the next election (keeping their jobs) the status quo will persist.

Doc

posted by doc [167 posts]
20th June 2013 - 10:39

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I do hope that you lot that moan about the pot holes take the time to report the worst ones Thinking

I've done a few but nowhere near enough!

posted by mrchrispy [281 posts]
20th June 2013 - 12:17

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Personally it's not the potholes that get me, it's the constantly uneven surface at the side of the road caused by underlying failure.
While it's common sense that proper repairs save money "in the long run", unfortunately Councils don't get given the money for the next ten years worth of repairs in one go but have an annual allowance. With a fixed budget, you have to decide whether to fix one pothole really well (by resurfacing an entire length) or patch 50 potholes.
Considering the current national debt, I can't see any government borrowing enough money to 'fix' all the roads properly, so it will always be a sticking plaster approach.

posted by JeevesBath [109 posts]
20th June 2013 - 12:42

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SideBurn wrote:
I thought motorists paid road tax so this sort of thing cannot happen? Devil Or do they waste all the poor motorists money on cycle-paths Devil

Dammit! You beat me to the Road Tax gag!

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posted by Ghedebrav [1019 posts]
20th June 2013 - 12:52

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brucec wrote:
Or rip them up and turn them to gravel as they're doing in some places in the US: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704913304575370950363737746.html

From that article: "I'd rather my kids drive on a gravel road than stick them with a big tax bill," said Bob Baumann, as he sipped a bottle of Coors Light at the Sportsman's Bar Café and Gas in Spiritwood."

Now I know the anti-tax stance is even more rabid in the US but isn't this a large part of the problem? We want good infrastructure and public services but aren't prepared to pay for them - or at least the government is continuously lobbied by vested interests to reduce the tax burden - on some quarters of the population anyway.

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posted by joemmo [774 posts]
20th June 2013 - 12:55

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Quote:
I do hope that you lot that moan about the pot holes take the time to report the worst ones

after reporting 40-50 and seeing none being fixed, after writing to the councillor and getting "didn't realise pot holes could be a problem for cyclists" as a response....

virtually given up!

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posted by mrmo [1023 posts]
20th June 2013 - 13:49

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SideBurn wrote:
I thought motorists paid road tax so this sort of thing cannot happen? Devil Or do they waste all the poor motorists money on cycle-paths Devil

Not sure if joking or genuinely ignorant... Confused

posted by alexholt3 [51 posts]
20th June 2013 - 13:55

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Thinking

posted by alexholt3 [51 posts]
20th June 2013 - 13:55

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Government should give incentives to push the heavy freight onto the railways - reducing costs of wear to roads whilst simultaneously with less lorrys/potholes creating safer cycling conditions... which just might persuade more people out of their cars and onto bikes?
Or am I just a naive dreamer?

posted by Puncheur-David [12 posts]
20th June 2013 - 14:03

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Yes! Absolutely, I for one would be a fan of gravel type roads as it may slow down bad drivers and offer a real 'on road' cycle network for the UK. Not only for cyclists but also walkers, horse riders, etc - would love there to be a reduction in rural 'rat runs'. Every cloud and all that!

posted by doubledex [17 posts]
20th June 2013 - 15:39

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"I for one would be a fan of gravel type roads as it may slow down bad drivers and offer a real 'on road' cycle network for the UK."

Then I suggest a holiday in Surrey and Hampshire, where our roads are regularly tar-and-chipped - a surface which when fresh basically gives you slightly less loose gravel. They're f***ing horrid for cycling on, and once the loose chippings have eventually been knocked off the road by the cars they stay horrid. Me, I prefer my holidays in France where the tarmac is beautifully smooth and people in cars leave room when passing people on bikes.

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posted by Bez [364 posts]
20th June 2013 - 16:48

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Some Fella wrote:
I find the opposite of what you claim in the second paragraph.
In Manchester (where poor people live) the main roads are shocking but get out to the back lanes of Cheshire (where rich people live) and Cheshire East Council seem to be spending an awful lot of money on resurfacing and the roads, in general, are ok.
Any Mancs who have the misfortune to cycle down Wilmslow Road, Palatine Road and Styal Road out through Gatley will know what i mean.
Also in Cheshire, to their credit, they seem to doing a decent resurfacing job - completely stripping back and resurfacing from edge to edge. Not just bunging some tarmac into the hole and hoping for the best - as seems to be the way in Manchester/ Stockport.

I'd be grateful if you'd tell me where these resurfaced roads in Cheshire are, I have seen the Cheshire East workforce busily patching the minor roads in the Knutsford area but have yet to find a smooth surface.

Thanks.

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posted by Crosshouses [169 posts]
20th June 2013 - 19:49

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@Crosshouses
Marthall Ln, Ollerton and Common Ln, Lach Denis used to be part of my favourite route, but now I totally avoid them. There used to be a nice slick line on all these roads, I used to just follow the outer tyre line, through miles and miles of beautiful rolling landscape. True there might have been a few crispy edges to the road but not really a problem. Now they might as well have dipped the road it glitter. Just a waste of money. Chipping just ruins the whole road and barely fixes any problems.

Between the S and the LOW

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posted by bikeboy76 [1182 posts]
20th June 2013 - 22:55

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I forsee a time when the only bike suitable for run out on the C roads in the lake district is my Orange 5 Crying

We have some shocking examples after last winter, I think I might take up potholing as a new hobby!

I agree about the cheap tar & chippings problem, all that does is make the holes harder to see until you're in them. Sad

Endorphines going up and adrenaline going down, who needs drugs?

posted by banzicyclist2 [186 posts]
21st June 2013 - 8:37

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