Welcome to British Summer Time (or, indeed, Yorkshire Summer Time…)
I never tire of watching this video:
I made it as I cycled along this main road in the Dutch town of Vaals:
I was close to the German border at the time, just a few kilometres from Aachen, en route from Tarifa to Nordkapp in the summer of 2015. The Dutch probably pay more in tax than we do here in Britain and as a result, they have very high quality roads. You can clearly see that in the video. You can even see it from a satellite on Google Earth for goodness sake!
Fast forward three years to March 2018 and an email arrives from the BBC Press Office. Have they decided to serialise one of the Reggie books? No… Not yet anyway. It’s all about potholes:
Half of all cyclists have suffered accidents due to potholes according to a BBC questionnaire that reveals the human cost of failing to deal with the state of the nation’s roads.
And new figures obtained by BBC 5 Live Investigates (Sunday, 11am) via Freedom of Information requests reveal that spending on road repairs has fallen in real terms across the United Kingdom during the past five years.
Between 2013 and 2017, local authority budgets for road repairs fell by -10% across the UK as a whole. This breaks down as repairs falling by 42% in Northern Ireland, 28% in Wales, 19% in Scotland and 6.5% across England when adjusted to account for inflation.
- 5,000 cyclists responded to 5 live Investigate’s survey this month. It found that:
- 49.5% (2417 cyclists) have had an accident due to a pothole in the road
- 1516 cyclists said they were injured as a result, with 207 saying they were ‘seriously injured’
- 608 cyclists said they had missed work as a result of a pothole related accident
- 31% of cyclists (1518) said they had been put off cycling due to potholes
- Dani Rowe, Olympic Gold medallist and three-time world champion cyclist, told the BBC she was shocked by these results.
“That’s quite frightening actually,” said Ms Rowe, who broke eight ribs and punctured a lung after a collision with a pothole during a training ride in 2014. “A lot more needs to be invested into making our roads better for sure,” she said.
Kate Uzzell, whose husband Martyn, died after being thrown into the path of a car by a pothole in 2011, told BBC 5 Live Investigates that “sadly, people are still going through the trauma I did. People’s lives are being destroyed.”
The driver of the car, Talvinder Panesar, who was in no way to blame for the accident, said “all this could have been avoided, the pain that everybody is going through, if the right policy had been followed [by those responsible for the maintaining the road where the accident took place]”.
A coroner subsequently found North Yorkshire County Council had missed opportunities to repair the A65 in Giggleswick.
Mrs Uzzell, who received a six-figure settlement after launching a civil action against the council, told BBC 5 Live Investigates she did not blame Mr Panesar for what happened.
Following her husband’s death, she successfully campaigned for changes to the road inspection regime with the charity Roadpeace.
“There are so many potholes. There’s a lot more work to do,” she said.
North Yorkshire County Council said: “We continue to maintain and review our risk-based safety inspection regime to ensure the safety of routes for the travelling public, including cyclists, at a time when the council faces increasing pressure due to funding and the deterioration of road surfaces as a result of prolonged winter weather conditions.”
The Department for Transport said “Any death on our roads is deeply regrettable, no matter what the cause.
“While it is for councils to identify where repairs should be undertaken, we are also looking at how innovative technology can help them keep their roads in the best condition and save money.”
Cycling UK senior campaigner Sam Jones said “More people out cycling are being killed and seriously injured each year due to years of persistent under investment in our rotting local road networks.
“Cycling UK echoes the calls of local councils to reverse this decline. This isn’t just about broken axels, but also about saving lives,” he said.
The report can be heard in full on BBC 5 live Investigates this Sunday 11am.
I’ve cycled in 22 countries across Europe and, with the exception of Albania, every one of those countries has roads that put those in Britain to shame. A sufficient number of us will happily keep voting for political parties which prioritise minimising tax over quality public services. We get what we pay for and, frankly, as a country, we are not prepared to stump up the cash. We only have ourselves to blame… Next time you are at the ballot box, remember that.