Following my recent post on the failure of a multitude of news outlets to join the dots between various “good” and “bad” news stories about cars (https://bangingonaboutbikes.wordpress.com/2017/01/05/on-a-new-year-and-the-same-old-disconnected-thinking-about-cars/), it will come as little surprise that nothing has changed only a couple of days later.
Today’s big news story is about potholes, specifically the huge sums required to fix the holes in the nation’s roads, estimated to be as much as £14bn over the next four years (http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/potholes-repair-bill-14-billion-tipping-point-2017-a7513586.html). Potholes of course are a big problem for drivers as they can break your car. For cyclists they can break not only your bike, but your body too. So it is a big deal.
But of course, absolutely no link is made between this pothole epidemic and any other stories that have been reported on this year (remember for instance the proud reports of the record 2.7 million new cars registered last year). Is it not basic physics that the more force you exert on a surface, the more likely that surface is to fail? In other words, if we keep driving as much as we do, is it any wonder that the roads are coming apart at the seams? And given that it is taxpayers’ money that is used to fix potholes, should the responsible course of action not instead be to find ways of preventing current levels of wear on the road, i.e. getting people to drive less, rather than patching up the damage once it’s been done? Logically, yes, of course. But realistically all we see is a spat over funding between councils and central government, with no analysis whatsoever of ways of avoiding what appears to be a very expensive issue in the first place. Added to this is a point-blank refusal by the government to raise fuel duty to fund these repairs, meaning that once again we are all subsidising vehicle use out of our taxes, whether we drive or not. And once again the status quo of motorised misery is maintained, because what alternative means of efficiently moving people around an urban space without wrecking the road could there possibly be? Can you think of any?