The Menace of Potholes

Chislehurst High Street Pothole 2018-02-20A

You may not be aware of it, but today (8/3/2018) is National Pothole Day (twitter #natioonalpotholeday2018). This is an annual event dedicated to raising awareness of the problems caused by potholes.

Spending on maintaining roads across the whole country is being cut back by local councils to save money. As a result, potholes are increasing. This is creating dangerous roads. Cyclists are particularly at risk. There have been deaths reported of cyclists who ran into a pothole (pensioner Ron Hamer of Manchester is one such case). Roads Minister Jesse Norman reported to Parliament that 22 cyclists died and 368 were badly hurt between 2007 and 2016 where a factor in the accident was a “poor or defective road surface” and the numbers seem to be rising. Bicycles are vulnerable to damage and cars and other vehicles can also suffer very expensive damage.

Now it happens that I had cause to complain to the Leader of Bromley Council (my local borough) only a week ago. This was to Councillor Colin Smith who recently got the top job and I am confident he will do it well as he is more sensible than many Councillors. He was also previously responsible for the Environment portfolio which includes traffic issues so he should know about the subject.

I said in summary that Bromley’s roads seem to be getting much worse of late in terms of numbers of potholes – and that’s even before the recent bad weather. Bromley’s roads used to be better maintained than many other London boroughs but I do not think that is true any longer. But he did not exactly agree with me.

It is true that if one uses Bromley’s fix-my-street web site to report potholes, they are normally rectified relatively soon, particularly if they are dangerous ones more than a few inches deep. One I reported recently in Chislehurst High Street is shown in the photo above. But there are now so many potholes to report I could spend days doing so. In addition there are now so many repeated “patches” on some roads that the whole surface is poor quality and soon another pothole will develop. The general standard of the road surfaces is declining in my view.

Coincidentally Bromley Council recently published a report on their use of the “Pothole Action Fund”. This is grant funding via the Government Department for Transport to local councils. Bromley will receive £113,000 in 2017/18 and a similar amount in 2018/19. They do plan to use it to “supplement revenue budgets”. But they expect expenditure on general maintenance of roads will be reduced because the Mayor of London has cut it back – local boroughs won’t get money from him for that purpose (this is part of Sadiq Khan’s budget restrictions arising from his financial difficulties as a result of past poor decisions which I have covered elsewhere).

So we may see less major road resurfacing projects, but more patching in Bromley. Will £113,000 help a lot? It seems unlikely to me. Anyone who has any knowledge of the cost of road works would not expect that to cover more than a few rushed patches.

Drivers are advised to purchase a car sticker that I saw recently on an ABD Member’s vehicle which reads “I’m not drunk – I’m just avoiding potholes”. It’s available from Amazon.

Roger Lawson


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