A motorcycle parked in front of a tent on a pleasant green campsite

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Are We Safe?

Post Received 23 February 2021

By Ian Douglas

Happy days are here at last, I can get out on my beloved motorbike again. The sun is out, the weather mild, what joy. No longer am I constrained. I'm fed up with being holed up in the built environment, the time has come to get out for a bit of travel, fresh air, peace, beauty and 'escape'. I'm aiming for an open landscape, a change of scene and less populated zones.

Having reached the countryside there was a 'bang', a violent jolt. I realised that I'd hit a deep gap in the highway surface, it was so severe that my wrists felt weak and woozy. 'Why don't the authorities do something about these dangerous traps' I inwardly rail but, of course, there's absolutely no point, we know, through experience and hearsay that they are no longer vigilant.

People used to complain the country was going to the dogs. It was often said in jest but it may be the case. It isn't the absence of police enforcing rules on parking, speeding and fly tipping. Our country no longer has funds to build roads or care for them properly. Savings have been initiated i.e.: taking away motorway hard shoulders and reduced budgets for existing roads.

A cartoon showing how each road user clings to ideas that make them feel safe

Together with ever increased traffic this makes the lot of the motorcyclist more dangerous than before. Vehicles move faster, it is expected that you should travel up to the speed limit if you don't want to be tail-gated. This gives us bikers less time to react. Fine, if you have a vehicle that is up to date but older machines don't always have the necessary braking performance.

We now have busier motorways with limited provision to pull over should you have a problem. Sadly, a growing number of deaths have been directly attributed to the change, four narrower lanes instead of three normal ones plus a run off area that could be used in emergencies. The safety lane was also the previous route for emergency vehicles should there be an accident.

Refuges can be a mile and a half apart. 'Stopped Vehicle Detection Radar' was promised to detect stranded vehicles in 20 seconds but, at the time of writing, only 24 miles, or 5 % of the total, has this system. For the rest, your welfare depends on a CCTV operative watching multiple screens sending out a gantry alert. It takes, on average, about 17 minutes for this to work.

Going back to potholes, I guess it is my fault being euphoric, not scanning for road defects. I had noticed the surface wasn't the best but not been worried to the point where I thought that a great chunk of material would be missing. We get lulled into a false sense of security, surely nobody would leave a hole like that without warning but that's road conditions in the UK today.

I'm spoilt for choice as to where to motorcycle. As the years go by though I've narrowed this down to a single direction because it is the easiest and pleasantest way to arrive at an area some forty miles away that I like. Using the same roads has the advantage that you get to know the pitfalls but, on this occasion, I was caught out. The horn mount broke but I escaped injury.

Not everybody is so fortunate, a number of motorcyclists have been seriously injured through hitting cavities in the road. A biker was recently killed when a car braked hard to avoid a pothole and another car piled in from behind, sandwiching the motorbike rider. Despite Parliament stipulating a legal duty to keep roads in a safe condition this doesn't seem to happen.

Tarmac deteriorates through loads and the imposition of lateral forces, cracks form, the weather gets in, frost action occurs, the voids collapse with the weight of traffic. Inadequate drainage and digging up for services doesn't help. however, these faults don't develop overnight and it seems a dereliction of official responsibility in failing to carry out regular inspections and maintenance.

So, you can't afford to relax, we have to duck and dive to stay, if not ahead, but at least to keep up. I try to avoid smart motorways designed to take more traffic as I find them distinctly scary and as for potholes, all you can do is to be vigilant. Maintain distances, look well ahead and if things look dodgy, find another route. Slow for those puddles as you can't tell how deep they are.

A water filled pothole in the road and we don't know how deep it is

If you have your motorcycling thoughts to share - click here.

Reader's Comments

Upt'North said :-
Ian, glad you lived to tell the tale, but are roads really any worse now than they've ever been.
Pot holes and debris are nothing new, not to me anyway.
I does annoy me that I can't just look ahead, plan my lines, overtakes, braking spots, etc and constantly have to look down but I can't remember a time I didn't.
I do think the roads generally speaking are a little better in Scotland than England, but there's not much in it.
Stay safe y'all but enjoy your ridin, although the perma frost is keeping us in just yet.
24/02/2021 11:03:04 UTC
Jim said :-
Up’t - I agree there’s not much difference between English and Scottish roads these days - there’s been a deliberate neglect of the roads here, money all goes into flagship policies like tuition fees etc. The roads here in Fife are nothing short of shocking. Over on the west coast north of Glasgow things are a little better, due to the European Development Fund money that used to go that way. That’s knackered now of course, so the pothole count will be sky high there too before long.
24/02/2021 13:16:37 UTC
Ian Soady¹ said :-
All part of riding's rich tapestry....

Upt' is correct and they've always been bad in parts - but you need to keep your eues open regardless as some prat may have left the cap off their diesel tank or there may be a lump of wood on your line just round that nice sweeping bend....

I was in France on the mighty Tiger a few years ago and came across the dreaded gravillons. Not a mere sprinkling like we have here but inches deep across the whole road. I was tentatively progressing at a snail's pace when a teenaged girl came sweeping past me on a ratty old scooter - Gauloise dangling from her lower lip*, unfastened helmet on the back of her head, unbuttoned cardigan flaying out behind. I watched in admiration as she slalomed off down the road.

*I may have made that bit up.
24/02/2021 15:23:13 UTC
Ian Soady¹ said :-
And to be slightly political for a moment: you say "Our country no longer has funds to build roads or care for them properly." Well it has but its's all in the wrong hands. You may (or may not) be surprised that UK billionaires increased their wealth during the pandemic by £25bn during the pandemic. You could fix a lot of roads with that - not to mention lifting hundreds of thousands of children out of poverty.
24/02/2021 15:27:15 UTC
Bogger said :-
The Coates family paid over 1/2 Billion in tax last year and employ thousands. So although I get what you're saying, it's not all black and white.

24/02/2021 17:17:18 UTC
Upt'North said :-
Not forgetting the Edinburgh Tram Project Jim, have they finished that debacle yet?
There's certainly no shortage of taxes raised its just the blummin idiots we elect to spend it.
Don't worry Jim you'll be all independentalised soon.
24/02/2021 17:41:19 UTC
CrazyFrog said :-
It's all exacerbated by road maintenance now being put out to tender, and very often the lowest bid wins. Add in the fact that the repairs / re surfacing are then very often sub contracted out and its no wonder the roads are rubbish. A resurfaced road is supposed to have a lifespan of 15 years I believe, yet I could take you to several roads in Birmingham that have been resurfaced by the wonderful(!) Amey Roadstone within the last two or three years where the surface is already completely worn out. If you complain to the council you get referred to Amey who don't give a damn so long as they get the next contract...
24/02/2021 19:25:36 UTC
Jim said :-
The tram debacle is an interesting one - the Council Tax payers of Edinburgh will be stumping up for that for years. (Or their share of the cost, at least) But from a Fifer’s perspective it’s brilliant - just scoot over the bridge to the park and ride, jump on the tram and ride to Murrayfield for the rugby for £1.30. They’re on about extending the line to Leith, and after that another branch to the south.

Upt’, I fear you may be right re independence. I’m not for it, but the prospect of living in Brexit Britain under the management of Bozo had driven a lot of otherwise sensible people over the edge. We’ll just have to hope that the current Sturgeon / Salmond spat puts a dent in their plans.
24/02/2021 20:00:32 UTC
Bob said :-
I'm not sure that the roads are worse than they've ever been, I seem to recall some pretty ropy surfaces back in the 80s and 90s. It very much depends on the local council for the local roads, so it is by definition politcal issue.
I had a couple of hardtail chops back in the day and they were certainly a lot nicer to ride in Wales than round Sheffield!
I wonder if the public perception has changed because a lot of cars these days have those stupid low profile tyres which are very suscepitble to potholes.
My answer is to ride a lightweight trail bike - just float over the holes.
27/02/2021 19:00:07 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
Hardtail chop Bob? Ouch. I rode one up and down a back street once, I still don't think my spine has recovered.

It's a balance thing. I believe "the authorities" be they councils or governments should maintain our roads. Equally we as individuals need to be responsible for our own safety.

As for roads getting worse? I'm racking my brain. I recall being in my dad's car as a boy and him always bemoaning the state of the roads in Yorkshire when we visited my grandparents in Leeds. Mind you my dad did work for a Lancashire council so he was somewhat biased. Potholes and bad surfaces have been "a thing" all my riding career, I don't feel as though things are worse.

As a straw poll, who's noticed more and more street lights are being turned off - or not fixed? Swathes of motorways around here (North West England) have lights that are no longer used at any time, or turned off say after midnight. Broken lights are quite often left broken. Is this because the council can't afford to fix them or a deliberate ploy to save electricity?`
01/03/2021 07:59:12 UTC
Ian Soady¹ said :-
What we used to call a rigid frame. Perfectly OK with a proper sprung saddle. Electra and I covered thousands of miles on bikes like that. By gum, we were tough then.

With respect to street lights, I wish they'd turn some off round here. Redditch must have more lights per mile of road than anywhere else I've lived. And they leave them on all night.....

ps the edit works. I'm a happy chappie now. But even better if ctrl Enter pressed the "update" button (like it presses the submit one on first posting) while I'm here.......
02/03/2021 14:10:01 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
...nag nag nag nag nag... never bloomin happy. Back to the grind.

Your lights are on because it'll be posh where you live and they can afford to leave 'em on.

02/03/2021 16:13:49 UTC
Ian Soady¹ said :-
Just think how it's enhancing your skill set......
02/03/2021 16:13:45 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
Right that's working - ctrl enter on the edit.

I'm frustrated because I want to expand on using the GMail login thingy but it requires an SSL certificate. This site has one, it's the lock thing in the address bar. But they ain't cheap and I'm loathe to splash out on another for development purposes for another site.
02/03/2021 16:16:01 UTC
Stuart said :-
We have a number of stretches of local roads where lights are switched off after midnight. What I find astounding as well is the number of cars with only one headlight working. I used to do a 10 mile trip taking my son to his gym class and counted the number I spotted. I think my best was about 10.
06/03/2021 09:22:28 UTC
Bogger said :-
That's because headlamp bulbs can a nightmare to fit. Some cars need to have the bumper fully or partially removed to be able to either release or remove the headlamp for access. Not a cheap job.

06/03/2021 11:37:46 UTC
Upt'North ¹ said :-
I remember seeing a report about different models of the same cars some year ago, I think it was VW Polo's. One model cost about 10 quid for bulb replacement and the other was about £1000.00. Yes that's one thousand sterling pounds, for a headlight bulb.
06/03/2021 11:59:04 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
My previous car, the early shape Ford KA, required the removal of the bumper to access the light cluster. This required a fresh set of bumper trim clips. In of itself in the hands of an experienced DIY home mechanic and with a pack of very cheap clips the job was not a nightmare. But! It was still a half hour to hour task when you knew what you had to do, the first time took the whole morning and that's with the help of YouTube videos.

Bogger's right in the sense such tasks and/or costs put people off. However it is no excuse for driving around with a light out, not by a long shot.
08/03/2021 09:21:17 UTC
SilverCyclist said :-
There's a phone app for reporting potholes in the UK - see link. It's even worse on a pushbike, at least it is on one without springs. Here in West Sussex the CC like leaving deep lengthwise grooves along the middle of the road, right where my motorcycle wants to go. Horrible to get trapped in those...round a blind bend (Tillington, I'm talkin' 'bout you).
17/03/2021 19:55:05 UTC
ian said :-
thanks for link silver cyclist - i reported the hazard.
17/03/2021 21:42:02 UTC

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