Friday, 1 April 2011

A Holy Rant

Time for another rant I feel, my bile levels are up but, to be honest, I don’t think they could ever be high enough to deal with this topic. Being of sound and reasonable mind and as I may have mentioned before  “Oh best beloved” (look at me coming over all Rudyard Kipling) I am rather good at buying the right things. So when I bought my bike I went for Carbon Forks – these had Specialized FACT carbon legs a system to dampen bumps in the road, so sorted!

No matter how early I get up in the morning I seemed to be programmed never to leave the house until 08:30. This is fine in the sense that I can cycle to work in 38 minutes, but then comes the hassle of waiting for the dopy doorman to open the electric gate to the underground parking where I leave my bike, pulling off the various detachable bits on my bike that can be stolen with ease, next I have to lock my bike, get the lift up to the ground floor, walk to the office and then struggle to find my door pass that has moved to some hidden recess in my rucksack. All in all it is usually about 09:20 by the time I am at my desk - I also have to get changed into my suit, but I have always remembered the wise words a senior manager told me when I was a callow youth “never take a dump at home, always make sure you do it on company time”. So therefore I am not overly concerned about the time I take to get changed into my suit.

Nevertheless, I would dearly love to leave the house at 08:15 or earlier, so I could just take a casual ride into work sometimes and arrive fresh and not covered in sweat. Also it would give me a chance to avoid the topic of my rant. So there you are, you have struggled up a hill and are now bombing down the other side, the wind is in your face, you have selected the highest gear and you are breaking the speed limit – result! Then it happens, thunk, front wheel wobble no padding in your pants, let alone your fancy carbon forks, is going to deal with the Potholes that you have just hit.

Potholes, are the biggest pain ever and I assume that they are responsible for more cyclist deaths every year than all the buses in the world. Now I should clarify some points here. I like the vast majority of cyclists pay road tax, in fact I have to pay Road Tax on two large cars which are in a higher band – now apparently wiser minds than mine have calculated that a minor percentage of this vehicle tax money is actually spent on the roads – of course that goes to central Government I hear you cry – but can I point out that a large percentage of Local Authority money comes from Central Government grants. Local Authorities are responsible for a majority of the roads we use, the money they spend on roads must be pitiful comparatively speaking to the whole budget they deal with. I haven’t even dealt with the 70% of the price I pay at the fuel pumps is going to Central Government, of the 20% VAT I paid on my cars – my bike, my cycle clothes etc. Yet with the undoubted deaths caused by potholes they would rather waste their costly money on some programme with lofty and unachievable results that, even if they did work, would only save one life every other decade.

So just how dangerous are these potholes? OK there are the obvious ones, with the deep and especially large ones that Southwark and Lambeth I know specialise in, the best you can hope for is a juddering up your arms that lasts for the rest of the day and a chipped tooth, worse still can be the ruined wheel or even worse can be the life threatening earth kiss followed by cars and lorries swerving around you or even worse not swerving around you. So why do we face this daily danger – to be honest words fail me. I cannot possibly understand how in a modern society where so much tax is paid into it by a single form of transport that anyone with any modicum of shame could honestly say let’s leave that death trap where it is. As mentioned in a previous post, I have a large dog, if that dog was to foul the pavement I could expect a hefty fine if I did not pick it up – yes it is unpleasant and if I didn’t worm the dog regularly it could also be mildly dangerous , but compared to a large hole in the road where people are travelling at speed it is nothing! Yet somehow they can provide people to follow me around when I walk the dog to fine me if they catch me forgetting to pick up his mess (BTW I always do) but they can’t provide someone to drive around with some asphalt and quickly fill in these killer holes. I am not asking for a total road resurface just deal with the death traps. Such is the poor quality of the roads now that on my 11 miles cycle into work there is only one 600 meter stretch of newly and reasonably surfaced road – it is a total joy to ride on and if I had managed to get out of the House at 08:15 I would just double back and ride on it again.

Why are even minor potholes so dangerous, well this is simple, I have mentioned the obvious holes where man and bike part company, but this is probably minor compared to the myriad of minor holes, I find myself having to make a choice cycling now, go around these holes to the left (preferably) or right or face a future where my arm joints will be too damaged to use a walking stick to make it to the corner shop. As I swerve around these holes (maybe 200 times every time I ride to or from work) all it is going to take is one car being too pushy in the overtake and wiping me out. Because of the sheer number of them and the proximity to one and other it is just not possible to look back all the time and check a car is not right behind you, any form of progress would be impossible due to the sheer number and regularity of these holes.

Great the PM has announced an extra £100m to tackle the problem, but by the time this has been split across the country, wasted by the various health and safety panels reviewing which holes should be filled in – they might have enough left to fill the hole in a polo. Really this is another blatant case of them saying one thing – get on your bike, save the environment, get fit..... – and doing another, leaving death traps all over the place for us.

I have maybe one solution an app called “Fill that Hole” which I shall review soon.

Edit – I see Channel 5 stole my thunder and had a segment on potholes – some facts and figures on that – a pothole apparently costs £54 to fill and to make all the roads in the UK good £10 BN. Total bull – the £54 figure is based on them identifying holes allocating a team and then sending them out. What the fools need to do is identify a poor road – not hard – then send the team down the road with a van full of filler – then move on to the next – the cost of doing that way will probably bring the bill down by two thirds.

An important thing to note is; you cannot sue the council unless the pothole has been reported beforehand – I need to get a review of “Fill that hole” done ASAP and get you buys using it!

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