Cars, Lorries, Buses, Oh, and Potholes!
The image one conjures up when thinking about cycling is a very romantic one. It’s a summer’s day, you have the open road, a journey planned and all day to spend winding down country lanes, stopping to catch the views and maybe drinking a cheeky pint when you pass that quaint pub you always seem to make a detour past, funny that.
This picturesque and highly romanticised image of cycling is brought drastically into reality when it is looked at with actual human eyes. This is because as you all know cycling is a high octane, life risking, Indiana Jones style adventure and I’m only talking about a trip to the shops for some milk. It’s not just the cars, lorries, hills, wind and weather a cyclist has to worry about its also the chasms in the road that a cyclist now has to add to the list of things out to get him/her.
What a Pain in the Pothole
Potholes are becoming the most common cause for injury amongst cyclists. They are not a new thing by a long shot but with the harsh winters and the cuts to council budgets potholes are only getting worse. Fatalities and serious injury whilst cycling on Britain’s roads have risen by 8% in the past year. This sharp rise cannot be viewed simply as a statistical aberration and surely those accidents cannot be solely due to our increasingly crowded roads. Whilst the rise in serious accidents has grown sharply, the quality of our road surfaces has degraded, leaving increasingly large and formidable potholes for road users to avoid.
It is no surprise therefore that in UK courts injuries sustained from altercations with potholes are now one of the most common claims made. Those neck braking obstacles are on the increase and with cuts to local council budgets are likely to continue expanding. Both numerically and physically.
Sites like seemesaveme.com campaign for greater safety measures to be incorporated into HGV’s and other vehicles to help reduce accidents with cyclists. But little advice is given about the dangers of potholes despite them being one of the biggest culprits for injuries amongst cyclists – people seem to treat the dangers of potholes with less gravity.
Potholes should not be taken lightly though as a number of injuries including death can arise from collisions with these holes in the road. Potholes have been known to throw cyclists off the bike and into the path of incoming traffic. Some cause serious injury such as broken legs and collar bones, often leaving the cyclist unable to work and thus their means to earn money. The most significant aspect of this is that ALL accidents with potholes are avoidable as the local authority could have fixed the road defect before someone hurt themselves. If an accident like this was avoidable then a party or person can be deemed as being negligent.
We might get justice for avoidable injuries but we also get justice in Britain for the state of our roads. The saying ‘the grass is always greener’ applies so much because we always think everyone else has got it better. Yet when I was searching for images showing the worst and most amusing potholes caught on camera then the best of the bunch were primarily found in America and the developing world. Our potholes are like mere blemishes on the road in comparison.
Worst Potholes in the World
Here are some facts and some examples of the worst potholes that man has encountered and yet to get fixed. Because cycling is already very dangerous it would be nice to not have to worry about them.
This has to be the weirdest pothole going because it’s hard to figure out how it even got there. It looks just like a giant’s footprint or like there is a vast cavern below which may collapse when the next cyclist arrives (although I would expect them to cycle round it).
This one began life as a tiny, tiny crack, look at what happens when maintenance is ignored. It costs £50 million for local authorities to pay out each year for claims against potholes. The repair cost of this one may make it cheaper to pay out for accidents rather than fixing the roads.
A particularly deep pothole which could cause a painful fall indeed. But which came first the orange and white warning cones or the sign on a stick made by residents? Given the state of the scene I would say that the pothole has been there a while. I couldn’t see it getting this extreme in the UK or could it?
This pothole must have been patched and re patched for so long that is has developed its own T-Junction. I can see a bike wheel becoming stuck in that narrow trench on the right .. OUCH! In all seriousness road maintenance is underfunded by up to 50% in England and Wales, a deficit of £1 billion per year. Given that traveling on our roads is already a bumpy ride it might be better to go back to old fashioned cobbles.
Above: Before .. Below: After
Speaking of cobbles I thought I would leave you all with this image from Steve Wheen at potholegardener.com. He has found the most novel way to deal with potholes when they are left to deteriorate by filling them with soil and plonking some nature into them. A little bit of urban pleasantry and an effective warning sign to an impending collision.
I have left you below with a YouTube clip from Steve Wheen showing a montage of pothole gardens. Every street needs its own Steve Wheen could you be the one on yours?
Have your say, leave a comment below.
This was a guest article by Keir McCarton an author and researcher working on behalf of personal injury specialists Pannone.