Pot luck… pothole postcode lottery for Britain’s cyclists

Posted on 07/06/23 |
  • A hole lot of trouble…nearly 200,000 potholes have been reported by cyclists to local councils in the last 16 years, with only one-in-five reported as being fixed
  • Gone to pot… reports vary widely across the country, with cyclists in Surrey reporting the most issues, with 10,838 instances of road defects, while pothole reports in Hartlepool total only 51
  • Holes left in pockets… with local council spending budgets set to be squeezed and backlogs increasing by the value of £3.1 billion compared to last year, Britain’s pothole problem is only set to deepen
  • Fill that hole! IAM RoadSmart and Cycling UK have issued a pothole plea to central government to prioritise their local residents’ safety by providing the funding to local councils to repair defective roads, as a matter of urgency

The pothole plagued regions where cyclists are most likely to encounter cavities in the road have been outed by the UK’s leading road safety charity, IAM RoadSmart.

Research shared with the charity has shown that there have been a staggering 196,762 cases of hazardous holes in the road reported by cyclists on Cycling UK’s ‘Fill That Hole’ feature, a tool which allows cyclists to report incidents of potholes and road defects to local councils. This means there is, on average, a road defect every 110 metres of UK roads. Of this number, alarmingly, only one in five (22 per cent) have been reported as repaired by local highway authorities

With a staggering 10,624 reports of potholes, Surrey is the highway authority where people cycling are most likely to report road defects, while Hampshire follows behind with 6,692 reports. Respectively, only 14 per cent and 15 per cent of these holes have been reported as fixed, dangerously leaving thousands of unrepaired holes in the road for cyclists to avoid.
Cyclists in Essex and Lancashire have also fallen victim to Britain’s crumbling roads, with 4,961 and 4,741 holes in the road respectively being reported, and only 20 per cent of these being seen to by local councils in both regions. 

However, cyclists who have ridden in Hartlepool have had a comparatively smooth ride, with just 51 instances reported of holes in the road, all of which have been fixed by the local council. Similarly, in the London borough of Chelsea and Kensington, there have been just 178 reports of potholes, with 80 per cent of these being seen to by the local authority.

But with local council budgets being tightened as economic recession looms, Britain’s perilous pothole problem is sadly unlikely to just be a bump in the road for cyclists and drivers alike. Indeed, according to The Asphalt Industry Alliance (AIA), the reported backlog of carriageway repairs has increased by almost a quarter on last year’s figure of over £12.6 billion - equivalent to almost £76 million for every local authority in England and Wales. 

Neil Greig, Director of Policy and Research at IAM RoadSmart, commented:

“The inconvenience and risks potholes pose to motorists is a well-documented issue, but the threat to cyclists is often overlooked. Even when travelling at a relatively slow pace, a pothole can seriously unbalance a cyclist, leading them to veer out into oncoming traffic, or suffer a nasty fall.

“These figures show a useful snapshot of this issue, demonstrating just how prevalent the pothole problem is around the country. There is clearly something of a postcode lottery, as the differences in repair rates highlights the need for some local councils to do better, or ultimately risk the safety, and even lives, of cyclists. With our own surveys showing that over 90% of drivers have been affected in some way by potholes, it’s great to be working with Cycling UK to highlight the issue and press together for urgent action.”

Keir Gallagher, Campaigns Manager at Cycling UK, added:

“However you travel on UK roads, your journey is likely to be blighted by potholes. When we’re cycling the danger is much more real than when we drive, with there being a real risk of serious injury, or worse.

“With our Fill That Hole feature, Cycling UK has tried to help councils locate the problem areas that they can then fix. However, the real problem is the continued lack of serious, long-term investment in local road maintenance by government. We’ve seen a £13 billion pothole problem affecting all road users – that’s not going to be fixed with occasional small fry announcements like we saw in the last budget.”

To find out more about IAM RoadSmart, visit www.iamroadsmart.com, and to view Cycling UK’s Fill That Hole league table, visit https://www.fillthathole.org.uk/league-table?sort=desc&order=Total+Reports.

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