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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

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.

John has been writing about bikes and cycling for over 30 years since discovering that people were mug enough to pay him for it rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work.

He was heavily involved in the mountain bike boom of the late 1980s as a racer, team manager and race promoter, and that led to writing for Mountain Biking UK magazine shortly after its inception. He got the gig by phoning up the editor and telling him the magazine was rubbish and he could do better. Rather than telling him to get lost, MBUK editor Tym Manley called John’s bluff and the rest is history.

Since then he has worked on MTB Pro magazine and was editor of Maximum Mountain Bike and Australian Mountain Bike magazines, before switching to the web in 2000 to work for CyclingNews.com. Along with road.cc founder Tony Farelly, John was on the launch team for BikeRadar.com and subsequently became editor in chief of Future Publishing’s group of cycling magazines and websites, including Cycling Plus, MBUK, What Mountain Bike and Procycling.

John has also written for Cyclist magazine, edited the BikeMagic website and was founding editor of TotalWomensCycling.com before handing over to someone far more representative of the site's main audience.

He joined road.cc in 2013. He lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.

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