David Cameron’s recent promise to spend £15bn building new roads in marginal constituencies got plenty of publicity. But it didn’t tackle the problem most of us face: the roads we’ve already got are falling apart, making them increasingly dangerous on a motorcycle. And when the heavy frosts arrive, the potholes will only get worse.
The current situation is typified by the experience of MCN reader Nick Tull. He hit a 6in deep pothole in the dark and was thrown into the opposite lane. Luckily he was unhurt, but what happened when he tried to claim for his damaged Aprilia RSV1000 Factory demonstrates the mind-boggling incompetence of some councils.
“There were 17 claims for one pothole”
Nick told MCN: “It was last February, coming back from a Sunday ride in Surrey. It was dark and I was turning right, using a central filter lane when I hit three potholes, two of which were as big as dustbin lids and they were deep - you could put a Timberland boot in the middle and it wouldn’t stick over the top. And once you hit one, you were out of control and it was impossible to miss the other two. It was ridiculous. Because I was turning right I was going very slowly and didn’t fall off the bike completely, but I was knocked into the road holding the bike up with one knee on the ground. If there was anything coming I would have got run over. The impact of the first pothole blew both fork seals, but luckily the forged wheels survived unscathed - if they were cast ones, I guess they would have been damaged.
“I then did a bit of investigation on www.potholes.co.uk and found there were 17 successful claims for the same three potholes that I hit so Surrey County Council knew they were bad. I filled out the claim forms (getting the forks fixed cost £250) and also applied for a Freedom of Information request about their maintenance policy so I could prove it was inadequate. Every single deadline that the council set out in their manifesto, they missed.
“When I rang in April to find out why they hadn’t even acknowledged my claim, I also asked about the potholes and their system didn’t even have them registered yet. But I knew they’d already done a temporary repair, which was already breaking up. It was chaos.
“By September I still hadn’t been paid, and then got a letter from the council saying they were passing on the claim to the road contractor. I eventually got paid a few weeks later. And by October they still hadn’t fixed the potholes properly.”
What needs to happen
Nick’s story is not unusual, and after speaking to dozens of highways experts, MCN has come up with a charter that will change this situation. We need your support to make Government listen. If Britain is to have the roads we deserve - instead of ones that are ranked behind those of Namibia according to the World Economic Forum - this is what needs to happen:
- 2p from the 57.95p that Government takes from every litre of fuel should go to preventative road maintenance. This guaranteed income of around £1billion would allow highways authorities to plan maintenance properly.
- The Government’s Code of Practice for road maintenance should be rewritten for 21st century traffic conditions and budget constraints.
- All road authorities should have a competent Asset Management Plan, forcing them to think long term about road maintenance.
Don’t just assume that your voice has no weight – join it with thousands of other bikers’ by signing the MCN ‘Save our Roads’ petition now at www.motorcyclenews.com/saveourroads.