A quick rant about potholes or to be more accurate – highway surface defects.  This is a big issue which I have my own views on generally but a specific issue locally on a street near my home which is a principal route I use when cycling in the area.  There are loads of other examples that I may schedule out at some stage but for the moment it is Chalkwell Avenue in Westcliff that gets my attention.

The specific problem refers to the condition of the bottom end of Chalkwell Avenue between the traffic lights at the junction with The Ridgeway and the seafront – see map below.  The road is a main route down to the seafront for cars and cyclists.  As such it can be quite busy.

The highway surfacing – particularly at the edges where cyclists ride is atrocious.  It has come about not because of poor surfacing per-se but mainly because of poor making good of the surface when work has been carried out to or under the highway eg installation / modification of drains, utilities, kerbs etc. Some is as a result of underlying foundation issues which is a different issue and I accept is more difficult to remedy without full reconstruction of the full depth of the highway.

Typical failed repair joints in Chalkwell Avenue

Any joint in surfacing on a highway will be subject to very rapid deterioration unless carried out to a very high stand.  Poor joints let in water which expands when it freezes which breaks up the joint which gets progressively worse.  The problem is very difficult to remedy with local patch repairs for the very same reasons.

It is my very firm belief that if organisations need to dig through the surfacing of a highway to do such work they should be made to plane out a full lane width of surfacing and machine lay a replacement surface / wearing course with properly prepared joints.  I accept this still results in joints in the surfacing but these are much reduced in numbers and it minimises the longitudinal joints and puts them away from wheel tracks of vehicles and cyclists.

I’m not aware of a standard or code of practice that exists for highway repairs and making good surfacing.  If one does exist I’m guessing that no-one follows it.  I also accept that ultimately this would result in the works costing more which would inevitably come back to the good-old taxpayer.  I do believe we are entitled to decent repairs of the highway which should be carried out with warranties from those who do them and that should be put right by those that do them if they subsequently fail.

The section of Chalkwell Avenue I’m talking about is particularly bad and downright dangerous, especially in the dark.  The potholes and cracks are bad enough to make a cyclist fall off and the traffic using that section is often such that swerving to avoid them is equally dangerous.  The whole section of highway should have its surface course replaced from The Ridgeway traffic lights to the seafront.

I have recently tweeted @SouthendBC about this issue and to be fair they have DM’d me to say they will pass on my concerns to the highways department.  It remains to be seen if anything gets done about it but it is a general issue that needs addressing.  We should not have poor road surfaces costing the council money to repair as a result of poor repair work by others.

I would welcome comments on this issue both generally and specifically. Am I wrong to expect decent highways surfaces for cyclists or should we accept that money is tight and better spent of other more important matters?

A whole album of photos of defects along this section of road can be found online here and a selection of these are included below which all open to bigger versions in new windows if you click on them.

Typical surface defects
Typical failure of joints on poor surface making good
Failed joints around what was probably a gas main highway excavation
Potholes that could de-mount a cyclist (Accept these are marked for repair - but should not be a bucket of cold lay)
Nothing needs saying
A crack I have crashed through a number of times on my narrow tyred road bike




2 Replies to “Potholes”

  1. Andrew – I’m always on to the LHA’s about their infrastructure – I am not sure if being ‘in the know’ helps you understand their plight more, or demand more knowing what ould and should be done! It’s an age old debate about how much the utilities really damage (and thus should contribute towards the upkeep of) the intergity of the pavement structure. LHA’s own works used to often be equally to blame, and often still are.

    The legislation you want is the New Roads and Street Works Act 1991, and then the ‘Specification for the Reinstatement of Openings in Highways: A Code of Practice’ – fascinating bedtime read – keep up the great work btw 🙂

    1. Thanks Stewart. I know the councils have a lot on their plate with regard to potholes but the problem would be much reduced if only reinstatement was done properly. I will keep badgering them about this particular stretch of road as it is particuylarly dangerous for cyclists.

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