The shocking state of UK roads

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Lots of people get really upset about the state of the roads in the UK. For the amount of road tax we all pay, they should be pristine, shouldn’t they? But they’re not. Potholes continue to grow and multiply, drains remain blocked causing vast swathes of highway to disappear under lakes of muddy rain water, and all the while us motorists are paying through the nose for the privilege of being able to bounce along them, whilst they shake our vehicles to bits. I’ve got to be honest though, I don’t actually think we do too bad for roads, here in the UK. And before you complain too much about them, it’s worth spending a bit of time in Africa, South America, or the Far East. Because some of the folk there really do struggle for good roads.

You see, my experience of roads in the UK today (and I do a lot of miles, so I’ve got quite a bit), isn’t that bad. I will admit that certain roads, in certain areas need some work. I’m not saying UK roads are perfect. But the vast majority are well made and well looked after.

There are millions of miles of blacktop in the UK, 99% of which is in really good nick. Probably more than 99%, actually. It’s easy to focus on that 1% that’s got a few potholes, or a few trees growing through it, but for most of us, most of the time, we don’t have to worry about bending wheels or smashing sumps on our daily commute. Unless we’re farmers, or live right out in the sticks.

Land Rover

But if you live at the back of beyond, I think you’ve probably got to accept that it’s par for the course. There probably will be some dodgy roads you’ve got to negotiate, before you get to the decent ones. If you ask me, that’s a small price to pay to live in the countryside. Let’s face it, that’s where a lot of the best roads are, too (as well as the worst ones).

And not only are most of the roads in very serviceable nick here in blighty, we’ve got some downright beautiful ones to ride (or drive) on too. Beautiful smooth roads, with flowing bends and breath-taking views to go with it.

Now don’t get me wrong, there are beautiful views all over the world, and great roads dotted about most countries. But there are also some horrendous roads in them, too. Roads that wouldn’t even pass for roads, in the UK. I’ve ridden on roads that are more pothole than they are tarmac, in Africa, and I’ve seen potholes that you could lose your elephant in. But I’ve also seen locals getting on with their daily lives, not complaining about the state of the roads at all, and if anything, grateful that they’ve got a road in the first place.

Tuk Tuk

Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. If you think we’re entitled to better roads because we’re paying handsomely for them, I understand your point; I’ve just paid £275 road tax for my van, so it’s not as though it’s cheap. And there definitely are roads that could do with a bit of TLC, I won’t argue with you there.

But this is my opinion. Generally speaking, UK roads are actually damn decent compared to a lot of countries, and we should count ourselves lucky. And even the very worst, aren’t exactly dangerous, for most road users. In fact it’s probably only us motorcyclists who are truly at risk; but we know we’re at risk so we ride accordingly (or try to anyway).

So next time you feel like complaining about the shocking state of the roads in the UK, stop to think about the millions of people who’ve never even seen a stretch of tarmac more than a mile long, never mind a motorway. And I’m not just talking poverty stricken, third world countries, either. No, our roads are alright, in the grand scheme of things.

Would you agree?


4 Responses

  1. Would I agree?
    You can’t compare the UK with Africa, South America & the Far East.
    As a country we’re one of the top 10 richest in the world so we should have the roads in a similar league. Having travelled most of Europe I would say we’re on a par with Italy for road repair & nowhere near the Netherlands, Germany or most of France.
    The best way of telling if we’re in the correct spot is to see what percentage of GDP we spend versus all the other countries. Now there’s a challenge for you.

  2. Disagree on this one, As said in the post below you can’t compare the UK to a third world country for quality of road.

    Maybe a better question would be is our road network value for money? Does the vehicle excise duty and tax on fuel warrant such wanky roads in places.

    Good reads though as always boothy!

  3. contrary to popular belief, road tax doesn’t actually pay to repair the roads. it’s general tax and council tax that pays to repair roads etc. i know it’s strange but it’s true. i don’t actually think our roads are that bad, but it’s annoying when they don’t fix potholes but then spend millions/billions on crap like smart motorways. Very much enjoying your articles Boothy. 1 line that will keep me giggling like a child for a bit is “potholes so big, you could lose your elephant in” haha quality.

  4. Most of our roads are decent. But there are some councils that take the piss.

    My local council in particular covers some of the worst roads I have ever driven and ridden on… If you search “langdon hills pothole birthday” in your search engine of choice, you’ll see what I mean.

    The road my parents live on is sinking into the ground at the top of a small hill, there is a 2.5 inch height difference between 2 slabs of the underlying concrete, blacktop has all but gone.

    There is a drain that they have finally properly fixed that was sinking into the ground on a busy crossroad, they would just come out every 5-7 months (for at least the 23 years I’ve been living in this town) and put some tarmac on top of it so that it was level with the rest of the road… Maybe they fixed it or the tarmac finally hit the bottom of the drain.

    Even turning into my road on the bike I need to be on the wrong side of the road as the potholes are 2 inches deep and a few across. I’m just thankful that visibility is good.

    Our lanes are the only roads that I would say are nice to drive on. And our speedbumps are the only things that seem to be maintained properly everywhere else.

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