IN PRAISE OF POTHOLES

The organisers of the 2012 Olympics may not be quite so keen on this pothole on the Box Hill section of the road race route


Potholes may be the scourge of the cycling and driving classes but on my regular commuting route to work, I've come to value them as familiar waypoints which mark my progress. To say I know my 20 mile (return) trip like the back of my hand is to do an injustice to the extremely intimate knowledge I have of every bump, contour, raised or sunken drain cover, hairline crack and fissured stretch of Tarmac, between my front door in Kingston and the office gates in Shepherds Bush.


Riding along the same streets every working day for the last 12 years or so, I have internalised the precise line I should take round every single bend. I'm not just talking everyday directions of the, 'turn left at the lights and straight on at the roundabout' variety; I mean I have memorised minute chicanes between micro-potholes; I adjust my speed to cope with the oncoming corner and the raised drain cover I know is lurking at its apex. I execute these rides to work with the sort of discipline and precision that regularly place David Millar and Bradley Wiggins in the top five in professional time trials.


And, I'm acutely aware of when I have to up my cadence to stay with the motorised traffic in the centre of the lane, rather than run the gauntlet of woefully shoddy road maintenance and cavernous gouge marks which line the kerbside (Shepherds Bush Road, northbound springs to mind).


The advantage of such a detailed insight into the topography of the roadway cannot be overstated. It means the hazards of pockmarked highways are much reduced because none of them take me by suprise.


Imagine my dismay then when I saw the council vans out in force as gangs of men in high 'viz' smocks started repairing all the holes in the road. I may have a smooth ride for the most part into work now but it all feels alien and unfamiliar to me. I swerve instinctively to avoid mini canyons in the asphalt which no longer exist. I weave erratically on billiard-table smooth surfaces going through the motions of steering a particular path which no longer needs to be followed. My routine and rhythm have been completely disrupted. My muscle memory is taking me on a route which has changed beyond all recognition.


It may be unfashionable to say this, with another cold winter having left our roads looking like the grand canyon (Scotland's highways have suffered up to two billion pounds' worth of pothole damage according to some newspaper reports) but I just want my potholes left as they are.

Comments

Baker & Co said…
I work for Baker & Co and we act for a client who was badly injured when she had an accident on Zig Zag Road. Our client was an experienced cyclist and her accident was in September 2008.

She was proceeding down Zig Zag Road towards the A24 London Road. She had exited the part of the road belonging to the National Trust and was on the stretch of Zig Zag Road belonging to Surrey County Council.

Our client describes the road, at the time of her accident as being “bumpy and full of potholes”. She saw a cluster of potholes in front of her and tried to avoid them but due to the number of potholes it was not possible. There were 3 potholes in close succession and she hit the third one with her front wheel.
Councils have a defence to an action if they are able to show that they had a reasonable system of inspection. Surrey County Council is defending the claim on the basis that when they inspected (the part of the road where our client had her accident) in June 2008 there were not any defects that required action.

Our client believes the council inspectors missed the potholes during their inspection because it appears unlikely that the potholes would have become so deep in such a short period of time, particularly as it was during the summer months.

We would like to speak to anyone who used that part of Zig Zag Road in or near June 2008 to advise us of their recollection of the condition at that time.

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