Window on my world — 19 March 2010

I think that I’m in the wrong game, for according to the trade body for road menders, the average cost of filling in a pothole in London is £71, those guys that you see out in all weathers drive Porches when not behind the wheel of a tarmac truck; No I don’t believe it either.

The Asphalt Industry Alliance, who publish the racy magazine title, yes you’ve guessed it Asphalt Now claim that’s the cost for each pothole which has to be filled, with an estimated 1.6 million of them in England and Wales they extrapolate a total cost will be equal to the Gross Domestic Product of a small African state to get our roads back into the 21st Century and has written to the Department of Transport seeking £100 million of emergency funding.

Unless you drive a very robust off-road vehicle, negotiating the speed humps and potholes in London compares with a skiing slalom, worthy of the winter Olympics.

The worst icy conditions for 30 years have increased the condition known as ‘freeze thaw’. As soon as water gets inside a road surface and then freezes, it expands, thus widening the crack. When the ice melts, even more water seeps inside the crack and the problem worsens during the next freeze. When the crack is wide enough, the surface collapses and you have a pothole. Record lows in temperature mean record numbers of potholes.

And why does water get beneath the surface? Aside from old age, the most frequent cause is road works, usually caused by the utility companies, who it is estimated perform two million ‘utility openings’ on our roads each year For however well a road is mended, its old and new surfaces will have inconsistencies. Experts say that by opening up a road just once, you can reduce the life of a road by up to 60 per cent.

But here is an interest thing, have you noticed that speed humps are never affected by this phenomenon?

If the councils had spent as much money and loving care on the road surface these past 25 years as they have on ‘traffic calming measures’ we may now not have a pothole every 120 yards that is estimated to be the case on London’s roads. The best solution is to resurface all roads on a regular basis, unfortunately for London a fresh topping is applied on average every 37 years.

Unfortunately having roads akin to Zimbabwe is not just an inconvenience to CabbieBlog, these holes are deadly, indeed a friend’s father died when his motor bike’s front wheel hit a pothole catapulting him headfirst into a lamppost. The local council belatedly rectified that particular hole within hours.

The cyclist’s organisation CTC logs reported potholes on its website, and unbelievably the number in one year has rocketed from 699 to 3,508.

London depends on its visitors, so we don’t want them to go the same way as Dr Foster in the children’s rhyme:

‘Dr Foster went to Gloucester in a shower of rain,
He stepped in a puddle right up to his middle and never went there again.’

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Gibson

(4) Readers Comments

  1. Hello!

    I’m doing research for a book (that features a london cab driver) and happened upon your blog. I love it! Great writing and wonderful information.

    cheers and be lucky,
    Melissa

  2. Asphalt is arguably the wrong material to use on roads. It is weak and easily broken. It is also malleable: in many places you can see where the road surface has been “rolled out” like pastry by heavy vehicles so that it presses up against the kerb and makes a huge wrinkle like a a slipped carpet.

    On the other hand, some cities still have cobbled streets which seem to last for ever. Motorists don’t like the noise and the jolting but that’s fine: these roads have “traffic calming” built in.

    Potholes are in the news so everyone is talking about them but they are not a new problem. Back in the 1980s when I cycled to work, I remember a particularly vicious one at Golders Green that I had to try to avoid despite the traffic pushing me into it. The situation is possibly worse today and the endless series of works digging up the roads means that in some places you never get a complete and finished surface.

    It may be true the ice prises up the surface but that isn’t the point. Water enters only because the surface is already broken. It is broken because asphalt is weak to start with and quickly disintegrates under the wheels of heavy vehicles. We need either to resurface the roads more regularly (at huge expense to the tax payer) or find better materials to use.

    • I think you could be right, back to cobble stones for me in residential streets.
      Durable, easily repaired, and above all traffic calming

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