A fatal flaw in our roads: MCN Compare survey reveals true extent of pothole menace

Motorbike on road
Motorbike on road
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A recent poll conducted by our insurance partners at MCN Compare has revealed one in five motorcyclists claim to have had an accident or sustained damage to their bike as a result of hitting a pothole. 

Just over 1000 people were questioned, with 79% of those answering also agreeing there were a lot of potholes in their area. 

“Local authorities are under significant financial strain and central funding from Government is allocated on an annual basis,” Head of Roads Policy at the RAC, Nick Lyes, told MCN. “This, in effect, means councils struggle to schedule in routine maintenance and resurfacing works which then leads to a quicker and cheaper ‘patch and dash’ approach.” 

The most recent Annual Local Authority Road Maintenance (ALARM) report for 2022 conducted by the Asphalt Industry Alliance found the total paid in road user compensation claims came to £8.9 million across England and Wales, with 78% of that relating specifically to potholes.  

“Many roads, however, are long overdue for proper resurfacing and no amount of patching is going to truly address the underlying issues,” Lyes continued. “While potholes can cause expensive damage to vehicles with four wheels, they can cause serious injury or even a fatality to motorcyclists and cyclists.” 

The RAC revealed that 10,123 callouts in 2021 were down to pothole damage. Incidents were at their highest from July-September 2021 compared to any other Q3 period over the last 15 years. 

Neil Adair motorbike accident

One of the many riders affected by potholes is Neil Adair, 52, from Dumfries and Galloway, who came off his Honda Fireblade while on a ride out with friends in June 2019. 

Neil Adair profile

Neil hit a pothole on the A77 in Scotland. “I went to overtake a couple of cars. I had plenty of vision for about 500 or 600 yards, so I pulled out, did the overtake, then as I pulled back into my lane I heard this bang. And that was it,” he said.   

“They took me to Stranraer hospital and X-rayed and scanned me, and found that I had a cracked hip and a broken finger on my left hand, where the bars must’ve come right round and smashed my fingers against the tank.” The hole was filled in shortly after the incident.  

Neil Adair Helmet scratches

So what’s being done? 

ALARM data shows that a pothole is filled the equivalent of every 19 seconds across England and Wales. The report added: “Against a backdrop of increased costs… those responsible for maintaining our local roads are fast approaching the point where they are no longer waving but drowning.” 

Elsewhere, National Highways began trialling the use of graphene on some surfaces of the 4300 motorway and major A-road miles they control last year. This was to test whether it could prolong the lifespan of the road. 

“Safety is our primary concern and we set stringent standards for pothole repairs,” National Highways Executive Director for Operations Duncan Smith told MCN. “We regularly inspect our roads to help reduce the potential for potholes.” 

The organisation says almost £2bn is being spent on resurfacing between 2020 and 2025. 

Dan Sutherland

By Dan Sutherland

News Editor, sportsbike nut, and racing fan.