Friday, 10 August 2012

Maintenance costs

I was reading one of David Hembrow's older posts recently all about how separation is achieved without bike paths on many roads. A comment came "with an agenda" from someone who didn't like the idea of being "forced" to use bike paths. It was gently explained to him that nobody is forced to but that given the choice between a direct and safe bicycle route and trying your chances on a busy four lane highway, most rational people choose the former.

A further comment suggested that the surface on the bike paths was of poorer quality. Again, it was explained slowly that that is simply wrong. He says:

It's sometimes of lower quality, but also sometimes of far higher quality. There are no potholes in the city which I live. Not one, either on the roads or on the cycle-paths. More than half the surfaces have been replaced in the five years that we've lived here, which is in line with the local policy of replacing everything every seven years. Are the roads that you cycle on all less than ten years old? Do you have potholes in Maryland? 

We certainly have potholes in Adelaide. I don't know if it's the recent rain but they are everywhere. Here is one intersection near me:

Here's a close up of one pothole:

and another:

Here's one in the process of formation:

and here's the bog up job to fix it:

Here you can see how a passer-by has dutifully piled up the broken tarmac into the gutter:

They are everywhere. Not just on the local side streets but you can see them beginning to form on some of the main roads too. The main roads are the responsibility of State Governments. If you are living in a marginal seat, chances are your roads will be fixed first. In safe seats, it can take longer.

Smaller, residential streets are the responsibility of local councils. They have to pay for all of that maintenance through collecting rates from residents. They also get grants from the State and Federal Governments such as the "Roads to Recovery" scheme.

I can't help thinking that the maintenance costs would not be quite so high if local councils didn't allow all of their roads to be used by all and sundry without any financial contribution from them.

Bearing in mind that I do not know the first thing about constructing roads, it seems to me that two things would make a difference. The first is reducing the heavy traffic in the first place. How that is done is obvious. The second is choosing a road surface that is not so susceptible to potholes. The layers of tarmac that we use appear prone to cracking after some time. The cracks get bigger over time and sink. Eventually, the surface of the road just seems to collapse into a pothole. Repairing it is expensive and so you see the uneven patches like the one in the photo.

My own humble opinion is that residential streets should be arranged in such a way that fast driving is physically impossible. Parking for residents and visitors should be arranged in clear bays that are indented from the road itself. Rather than tarmac, in some cases, pavers or bricks might do the job - only because if there is a problem, relaying bricks is so much easier and better than bogging over broken tarmac (it can be done smoothly so that it is bicycle friendly). You could use one of these fantastic machines:

Allowing through traffic to use council run and maintained side streets amounts to a subsidy paid for by local ratepayers. It is also unnecessary. Changing that stae of affairs is one of a number of easy policy changes that could be a world of difference.

As a quick postscript: it should be said that David Hembrow addressed each of the poster's comments with evidence. He did not respond again.

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