The road ahead is… perilous

As I plunged down a familiar hill at the weekend, it became pretty clear, pretty quickly, that things weren’t running as smoothly as normal.

This had nothing to do with bike mechanics, either, as the culprit was a rapidly deteriorating road surface. After my fillings had been thoroughly rattled, I then had to dodge several trench-like potholes that would have catapulted me over the bars had I not seen them.

This is becoming an all-too familiar experience for cyclists. Highways maintenance, particularly on the local road network, has never featured too highly on the list of priorities and council road budgets are the first to be hit when the belt is tightened.

But I can’t help thinking that, in these austere times for local highway authorities, we will are going to reap what we have sewn.

And this should not be seen as a dig at the engineering community (if you’ll pardon the expression). The performance management framework of local government is at odds with sound engineering decision-making. Hence, the argument for road reconstruction that delivers savings over a ‘design life’ pales in comparison with surface dressing or patching to satisfy some arbitrary performance indicator.

As cyclists we have an acute awareness of road condition and smartphone users can even report shoddy highways on the fly via the CTC’s iPhone app Fill That Hole.

An honourable initiative, no doubt, but plugging potholes is just a short-term fix and destined to become increasingly ineffective if the road is reaching the end of its effective life.

Afterall, it’s no good spraying over a rusted bike frame, is it?


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