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Potholes in New Town Row, Birmingham, Britain - 15 Jan 2010

Potholes are an eyesore, and it is rather shocking that there are many potholes within Britain. Central London in particular, Oxford Circus seems to be overrun with tourists and potholes alike. Councils across Britain are not spending enough on fixing the potholes formed in the roads. Large sums of the taxpayer’s money seem to be spent on the compensation payments that would not need to be paid out if they fixed the potholes in the first place!

Most people think they know what potholes are, but little do they know how they’re formed. Potholes are created when rain water seeps into the cracks on the top layer of the road, and then freezes. Once the ice is formed it expands, which then breaks the top layer. Experts predict that the cost of fixing all the potholes within Britain will cost roughly £13 billion! The £13 billion is largely spent paying out compensation and on emergency repairs, which costs more than if there was regular maintenance in the first place.

Britain’s roads have been described as dreadful at the best of times. BMW had to create a potholed test track for their new models, as German roads couldn’t mimic the driving conditions within Britain! It is clear that our roads have reached a critical point, and drastic action needs to be taken. Some potholes are so big that they can be seen on Google Earth! The largest pothole in Britain is in King’s Barton Street in Gloucester which is measured at 4ft wide, 200 ft long and 4 inches deep.

Road surfacing is not a complex process, as is briefly explained by Leo Benedictus. On to a tough stone substrate you pour layers of asphalt, which is a mixture of bits of gravel, slag etc. and bitumen. The last substance is the heaviest element of crude oil, not tar. Potholes are classified as road failures. Why is the government allowing road failures?

Are potholes a minor problem?

If you use public transport, then you may not see the effects of potholes within the roads. However, cyclists appear to receive the brunt of the injuries, alongside the motorists out there.

It does propose the question that should cycling be promoted within Britain if the conditions could cause severe casualties?  Cyclists are clearly the most vulnerable road users when it comes to potholes. Yet, it is baffling as to why Boris has invested £25 million into cycle superhighways when this money could’ve been well spent on a sensible road maintenance scheme!

Numerous cyclists have died on the roads, as a result of the potholes, for instance, Christian Brown, Captain Jon Allen – 29 who swerved into a lorry to avoid a pothole, Martyn Uzzell – 51 who was launched in front of a car after hitting a pothole during a charity bike ride, Margaret Nicholl – 67 was thrown off her bike after hitting a pothole. Michael Terry – 44 was thrown off his bike after hitting a pothole. All these deaths occurred across Britain from the likes of Tidworth, Giggleswick, Shepton to Birmingham.

The most saddening death is that of Christian Brown. He tweeted “Nice day at Mablethorpe, today only thing is we’re gonna bike there, hope I get to have an ice cream and some candyfloss,” At 8.02am on 12 February last year. The tweet is still online, but two hours after writing it Christian hit a pothole outside the entrance to a farm in North Willingham, Lincolnshire. The front wheel of his bike, already loose, came off, and he was catapulted head-first on to the road surface. His injuries were so severe that, despite the fact he was wearing his helmet, he later died at Hull Royal Infirmary. He was 40 years old. The pothole was 40mm deep, which is bigger than a golf ball.

The extent of Britain’s pothole problem is hard to measure. As a wet country our maintenance bill is high, yet as a rich country we should be able to cover it. A new study by the World Economic Forum suggests that other nations cope much better.

The last straw of the winter

The shocking state of the roads is worsened by the fact that the government introduced a permit scheme. This controls the free for all that allowed utility companies to dig up the streets whenever it was convenient.

Despite George Osbourne announcing that £100 million of Central Government’s budget will go to emergency repairs, it seems that it may be go into a black hole. If the government actually can make a long – term plan to have regular resurfacing and maintenance then the potholes will not be so problematic. Potholes are not fixed until they reach a certain size which varies amongst the councils within the UK. Lambeth Council have redefined their pothole size from 25mm to 40mm, as said earlier 40mm may not sound that big, but its big enough to cause the deaths of cyclists, and affect motorcyclists too. Gloucester have stated that a pothole must be the size of a dinner plate, before they will consider work.

The local councils and governments are in charge of potholes and the budgets for the maintenance of the roads, so why have they not fixed the problem at hand? The problem is the fact that the British highway authorities will not work on a road until it is potholed, which incidentally costs the taxpayer more money!

For more information on highways, and how they are exactly amended please follow: http://www.highwaysmaintenance.com/SDtext.htm