Wednesday 6 June 2012

The End of Roadworks

Cycling into work earlier today I was struck with the queues of traffic that I passed. Unusually they weren't in my direction but were heading the other way (they were in my direction on the way home!). It turns out that an off ramp from the Clyde Tunnel is closed which is causing utter mayhem.

Being on my bike, I avoided the mayhem of course!

It got me thinking.

I often hear people complaining about roadworks and how much disruption it is causing. It's taking me ages to get to work in the morning! Generally though the driver will see light at the end of the tunnel....Och, it'll all be worth it in the end I suppose. In a couple of weeks it'll be finished and things will be better...

Does it ever finish though?  Is there ever, truly an end to the roadworks?

My memory for such things is a little hasy, as roadworks don't have a huge effect on my journey to and from work, but I'm sure I remember over the last year or so:

  • previous works to the tunnel on a number of occasions (each holding things up for weeks on an end)
  • road works on the approach roads again taking a long time 
  • road works in Bearsden causing chaos
  • road works on the M8, which although not on my commute has knock on effects everywhere in Glasgow
  • road resurfacing in Anniesland
....and so on.

Just today a new set of roadworks started on a road leading to a road I commute on that will last two weeks. That will cause further chaos.

It would appear that there is nothing as certain as death, taxes and roadworks. It will never end.

Is there anything that can be done to reduce the amount of repair work needed? I suppose we could move the whole of Scotland to a warmer climate, where rain and freezing temperatures wouldn't help to break the road up, but we'd miss the rain! What would we complain about....oh aye, cyclists!

There is something that we could do. Yes it would costs a little to do it, but it wouldn't just reduced the repair costs of our roads, it would improve the nations health, make us significantly greener, help local and national business and make our streets a more people friendly place.

What is this miraculous cure?!

Cycle infrastructure.

Build the infrastructure that is so badly needed and not only will it do all of the things above, it will also take a lot of weight off our roads. Being a physicist by trade I love equations (actually I'm no big fan of equations, I suspect I'm in the wrong job!) and it has been calculated that road damage is related to axle weight. To be a little more accurate:

Road damage \propto \!\, (axle weight)4


Put simply, if you double the weight of your car, you increase the damage on the road by 16 times! So even if you are carrying a little extra weight around your midrift, swapping a car for a bike significantly reduces the damage you inflict on the road. 

So whilst spending money on cycle infrastructure might seem expensive (not compared to a mile of motorway it isn't!) in the medium to long term it saves us money in so many ways. There are health benefits, environmental benefits and economic benefits. Add to that list the reduction in road repair bills and you'd be mad not to invest in cycle infrastructure.......

Wouldn't you?!?!


  1. The prevention (better than cure IMHO) is to do as the Dutch do. Renew/replace *all* the pipe and cable below the road before you lay a new carriageway. You can then leave the road undisturbed for about 25 years without the need to dig up constantly and leave poor patching which causes potholes. Simples and cost-effective in the long run.

  2. ...and put in cycle infrastructure at the same time. :-)

  3. Funny thing...due to broadening one of Hollands' busiest highways (the A12), the last year has been marked by continuous roadworks on the overpass and connecting roads I cross on my way to work. Impact on my journey, timewise: 0 seconds. Passing by all the traffic jams caused by the roadworks always conjures a smile upon my face ;).