I read a while ago that Britain's roads now have a pothole every 120 yards. I can believe it, given the state that the roads seem to be in over there. Now that we're accustomed to Dutch roads, British roads which appear on the TV always look rather badly maintained.
It's clearly a big problem, but is it being addressed ? Rather, there seems to be a problem of people trying to talk themselves out of having to fix these problems. What actually counts as "a pothole" in British roads ? Gloucestershire says that a hole needs to be "the depth of a "golf ball" (1.6in, 40mm) and the width of a 'large dinner plate' (11.8in, 300mm)" before it is regarded as needing to be repaired, while Suffolk says "unless the defect is on a minor road, when it must be about the size of a "dustbin lid" (23.6in, 600mm) to warrant urgent action."
The terrible quality of surfaces is yet another problem for cyclists in the UK, who almost always have to "share such roads" with a lot of motor vehicles. There are documented examples of riding through potholes causing death to cyclists, and also of swerving to avoid them having the same effect. When not lethal, injuries can be extremely unpleasant and painful, and result in claims against councils. I was lucky enough never to fall due to a pothole in the UK, but nasty jarring bumps when riding on busy roads did nothing to enhance my cycling.
Here in Assen (and I think it's pretty much standard Dutch policy as I've seen it elsewhere), defects which occur on the roads due to winter conditions are patched up even before the ice has melted. That's what you see in this photo from our local newspaper (from last winter, that's how long ago I started this post.
However, the city also has a policy of renewing whole road surfaces before problems occur. There is a rolling programme where road (and cycle path) surfaces are resurfaced every few years - and this isn't only a skim over the top but involves digging down and replacing what's under the surface as well. When this is done, the work is synchronized with the gas, electric, telephone and other companies to prevent it being dug up again soon afterwards.
Cycle paths of course don't suffer from the same degree of damage because they don't have heavy vehicles on them. Most are exactly the same as before winter, and of course nice new smooth surfaces like this remain nice and smooth.
The photo at the top, of a large pothole on a British road, comes from the Guardian article. As it happens, someone who I used to work for also just blogged on potholes, from a totally different perspective.
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The less positive stuff What not to do if you want a cycling "revolution" - Long list of interventions and policies which are not helpful. Copy the best examples from the Netherlands - a short list summarising the above. Important to copy the best examples, not just anything "Dutch". Bear in mind that the Netherlands is not perfect. Shared Space - this much hyped idea simply does not work well. It disenfranchises the vulnerable and claims of safety are exaggerated. Don't confuse the concept with far more successful nearly car free streets. Shared Use Paths designed to be used by pedestrians and cyclists together. These rarely work well because the two user groups are too different and it leads to conflicts. They are not built in the Netherlands (but cycle access to pedestrianized zones is good). Strict (or presumed) liability - If you think this is an important part of why people cycle in the Netherlands then it is probably not what you think it is. Helmets - one of several ways of scaremongering about the supposed dangers of what is actually a very safe means of transport
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A cyclist in a cycling family living in the capital of the cycling province of the world's greatest cycling country.
I was born in the UK, lived for over 8 years in New Zealand and have lived in the Netherlands since 2007.
I organise cycling infrastructure study tours, run an online bicycle shop, arrange cycling holidays and write a popular blog about cycling.
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