/ Motoring

Has your car or bike been damaged by a pothole?

We want to hear from cyclists and motorists: have you suffered due to a pothole? Is the condition our roads are in getting worse?

From reporting potholes to potential solutions, we have of course discussed the topic many times here on Which? Conversation.

For now, though, it seems our pothole problem is getting worse rather than better. With our roads seemingly deteriorating, we want to hear directly from the cyclists and motorists they’e affecting.

According to the latest Asphalt UK survey, the number of potholes filled in the last year jumped by 24%, from 1.5 million in 2017 to 1.86 million in 2018. 

It sounds like the situation is improving, but in England alone the number of potholes reported on roads controlled by Highways England increased by 46.6% from 2017 to 2018. 

The cost to drivers

Despite the announcement of extra funding, and new innovations designed to speed up the process of fixing potholes, there are still plenty of bumps in the road – causing significant cost and potentially physical harm to the UK’s road users.

The AA estimates that there were over 4,200 claims for pothole damage in the five months to May 2018.

With an estimated average repair bill of around £1,000, that comes to an eye-watering £4.2 million, or more than £1m per month. Two thirds of drivers said that roads have ‘considerably deteriorated’ over the last decade, too. 

But the numbers don’t capture the true cost of hitting a pothole – in some cases they aren’t just an inconvenience or a trip to the garage or call to your insurance company, they can cause serious injury.

Two-wheel terror

If you’ve ever passed a group of cyclists on the UK’s roads, then you may well have heard the cry of ‘hole!’ go up as they speed past, alerting the cyclists behind to a potentially damaging pothole.

It’s a warning that’s taken seriously – potholes can be damaging to bikes, and often the cyclists that are riding them. 

How do I report a pothole and claim compensation?

According to a Freedom of Information request submitted by Cycling UK in March 2019, the average pay out for cyclists after an incident involving a pothole was £8,825.93 over a five year period, compared to £338.88 per motorist. 

The charity suggested that the vast difference could be due to the serious physical damage that can be incurred by cyclists.

According to Department for Transport figures, more than 360 cyclists reported serious injuries, caused by poor or defective road surfaces, between 2007 and 2016, and there were at least 22 fatalities.

Is funding falling short?

Chancellor Philip Hammond announced during the 2018 Budget that local councils will be allocated £420 million during this financial year so that they can attempt to fix potholes in their constituency – this is on top of an existing fund that is made up of close to £300 million.

But according to the Annual Local Authority Road Maintenance Survey 2018 (ALARM), £9.79 billion is the estimated one-time cost to get roads back into reasonable condition in England and Wales.

Even then, it would take 10 years to clear the maintenance backlog, so the current funding is falling short.

Cyclists and drivers: get in touch

We want to hear your experiences; have you reported a pothole in your area, and how quickly (if at all) has it been fixed? Has your car been damaged by a pothole incident, and what was the cost to repair it?

Do you think the condition of the roads is improving, or is it worse than in the past?

We also want to hear from cyclists and motorcyclists – have you had an accident or injury as a result of a pothole? Do potholes put you off cycling or riding a motorbike? 

Comments

Councils can’t be expected to inspect every road frequently – and they can’t fix potholes they don’t know about: so report them. I have Birmingham’s report a road defect page bookmarked. As a cyclist it is easy to stop and note the location and nature of potholes. They have a grading system, size and depth, to rate their severity. They aim to repair very serious ones within hours; but lesser ones, that are often a problem for cyclists, are usually marked with paint within a few days and then take weeks to fix: after deteriorating further.
There is a national website http://www.fillthathole.org.uk who forward reports to the relevant authority.

Graham Cresswell says:
1 July 2019

I have suffered three losses owing to what I called potholes. In each case I have had to replace a tyre £95) and either repair (£75) or replace (£145) an alloy wheel. On the third occasion, I had to have the front wheel tracking adjusted (£45). For the first incident I made a claim against Hampshire County Council and they refused to pay so I took the case to the Small Claims Court, but offered to take part in mediation. They refused to mediate and engaged the services of a barrister. The judge reserved judgement and I have yet to be informed of his decision but they argued that my potholes were “edge defects”, which the guidelines do not require them to repair and apparently it’s my fault for driving too close to the edge of the road. I feel sorry for cyclists because some of these edge defects have near vertical faces and are 150mm deep so that, if as is probably frequently the case, you were forced by an overtaking car or truck into the edge of the carriageway, you could suffer serious injury.

Richard says:
1 July 2019

Hit a pothole on the way home from work – blew out both drivers side tyres instantly, damaged a wheel and threw out wheel alignment. Despite being only 3 miles from home at that point, I had to call out a flatbed to recover the car and call out a mobile tyre fitter the next day. Good bye £850! I complained to the council with supporting photographs and evidence, they would not provide any assistance with costs and my only resort to to take them to court. In the end I decided it was not worth anyone’s time and effort. The only positive is they made a repair (temporary) within a couple of days.

Have had occasion to claim from our local council for damage to my bicycle. The first time (about 20 years ago), when I hit a large hole (about 8″ deep) next to a drain cover and bent both wheels on my brand new bike. I took some photos and advised the council, who repaired the hole very quickly and then asked for proof! They paid for straightening my wheels. More recently, I hit a pothole that broke the clamp holding my topbox and, again supplied photos (with tape measure for scale) and received the cost of a replacement. I consider myself fortunate not to have been injured, but if damage occurs then photographic evidence, preferably giving scale, does help obtain compensation. We also have a motor scooter and have found our roads (Hampshire) to have greatly deteriorated, causing considerable jarring to our backs and heads when travelling on them.

It is years since I felt the need to report a pothole, but I contacted our council recently and received the following response within 48 hours:

“Pothole in road
Reference: ******* Postcode: ********

Dear ********
Thank you for your recent contact.
We have inspected the pothole and decided it does not meet the required conditions for repair at this time.

The area will continue to be monitored through our routine condition surveys which means it may be scheduled into a future programme of repair works.
If the issue gets worse, please submit your request again and we will reassess the situation:”

I will ask what the required condition for repair are, and also take careful measurements and some photos.