Where are the best and worst road surfaces in England?

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A few months ago, I expressed an unpopular opinion about the state of the road surfaces here in the UK. I said that although there are a few roads that could use a bit of TLC, overall the vast majority are well built, well maintained and generally in good nick. And of course, that compared to the roads some of our foreign friends have to contend with, we don’t do bad at all.

Whilst a few people agreed with me, there were plenty who, rightly, said that it’s a bit frustrating when the Department for Transport spend billions of pounds on smart motorways, rather than giving the council a few extra quid to repair the potholes on their broken roads. Potholes that I’m happy to admit do exist.

One thing I hadn’t really considered though, was that (obviously) roads in different areas of the country tend to be in different states of repair. And whilst I ride all over the country, I’ll admit that the majority of my riding (and driving) is done in the north. So it was also probably unfair of me to pass judgement on the general state of the roads in the UK. And for that I apologise.

Because it turns out that, according to new research by Go Compare Motorbike Insurance, there are plenty of roads that are in immediate need for repair. And a lot of them are in the south.

Bad news

In 2020, 285 motorcyclists were killed on the roads in Great Britain, and 4,429 were seriously injured. That’s way too many. And whilst there is a long list of potential hazards on the road, 424 of the reported accidents on British roads were cited as having a ‘poor or defective road surface’ as a factor.

And, unfortunately for us motorcyclists, a lot of those roads are in some of the places we love to ride. A study done into the state of England’s B and C roads has uncovered which regions in England need to work on their roads. And it’s the roads in some of the country’s beauty spots that have come out with egg on their chins.

Percentage of road network in bad condition according to SCANNER technology

Local AuthorityPercentage of road network in poor condition
North Lincolnshire8

The study suggests that 15% of Devon’s B and C roads need immediate attention, whilst 8% of both its neighbours, Cornwall and Somerset do.

Percentage of road network in good condition according to SCANNER technology

Local AuthorityPercentage of road network in good condition
Milton Keynes85

But it’s not just southern roads that need work. The research also says 10% of the roads in Cumbria and 8% of the roads in North Lincolnshire are desperate for maintenance, too.

Interestingly, all of these regions are home to either National Parks or Areas of Outstanding natural Beauty. Or both. And that’s one of the reasons why we motorcyclists love to ride in these areas; because they’re beautiful.

Look out

The problem is, when you’re not sure when and where the next pothole is going to appear, it pays to keep a close eye on the road, rather than taking in the breath-taking views.

The study also identified the best areas for road surfaces in England, the majority of them being in the north. The Wirral and Leeds both had 89% of their roads deemed to be in good condition, with Middlesborough having 86% and Walsall, Milton Keynes, Hull and Newcastle all having 85%.

But it doesn’t really matter where you ride, you never know what’s round the corner or over that crest. If you have a crash because of a poor road surfaces, there is every chance you’ll be able to put a claim in against the council, or whoever is responsible for the road. You might even get the cash to repair your bike. But no amount of cash is going to magically fix a broken leg, or worse.

So whether your riding through Somerset, Devon and Cornwall, or Hull, Leeds and The Wirral, expect the unexpected, and be prepared for it. Because it might save your life.


One Response

  1. I’ve only visited England twice, but I thought the roads were generally in “OK” condition. Maybe not Spain- or Germany-nice, but overall, not bad. Some B-roads in Cambridgeshire were pretty lumpy, but that was about it as I remember. The problem I saw isn’t so much condition as quantity–there just isn’t enough asphalt for the amount of traffic.

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