Tag Archives: London’s roads

Mounting concern over humps

[A] report has recently been posted on line by honest john who seems to prove what many of London’s cabbies have been saying for years.

Speed Humps Analysing hundreds of complaints from drivers who say ‘sleeping policemen’ are wreaking havoc on their cars, the report suggests what many have suspected that these aids to road safety are, in fact, having the opposite effect.

Their perceived effectiveness at improving road safety have seen London’s councils place them in every corner of their domains. The report asserts that repeatedly traversing speed humps in the same vehicle causes long-term damage to key components, especially tyres and suspension.

As the vehicle transverses the hump the weight of the vehicle is distributed to the inside of a tyre rather than spread evenly, and the sloping design of humps effectively ‘drags’ the edge of the tyre along them, putting a large amount of pressure on the tyre and body of the wheel.

As a result greater tyre wear results and the side walls are in danger of collapsing at high speed. Another effect speed humps have on vehicles, so often realised by cabbies, is the increase in wear on suspension and shock absorbers which reduces the effectiveness of braking.

What hasn’t been acknowledged by councils is the damage done to roads with the constant thump-thump of vehicles mounting these ‘traffic calming measures’. Many of London’s potholes are to be found in the vicinity of speed humps, caused by the vibration as vehicles amount these obstructions.

When a vehicle mounts a speed hump shockwaves are sent through the ground damaging the substructure of the road, and even nearby buildings, it is for this reason that building regulations require speed humps are not built within 25 metres from bridges, subways or tunnels.

In a recent post CabbieBlog highlighted a trial of automatic traffic speed monitoring, and if it means an end to this practice by councils which endanger everybody’s lives, then maybe total surveillance by Speed Spike might be the lesser of the two evils.

We could of course drive with more consideration for other road users, but I fear I’m in the land of fantasy now.

Smooth Operators


[I]n a recent consultation document it would appear that our Mayor ‘Bicycle Clips’ Boris has all but given up on trying improving the average speed to transverse London, with an average of 10 mph it has hardly changed since the days of horse drawn transport in Victorian London.

His traffic boffins have come up with an idea called ‘Smoothing Traffic Flow’ which it is claimed can make journey times more predictable but not any quicker. With London’s streets now gridlocked for most of the working day due to roadworks your journey times are pretty predictable now albeit at walking pace.

The scheme has some good initiatives, such as Pedestrian Countdown which is a timer telling pedestrians crossing the road how much green time remains, it is a pity those same lights are ignored by pedestrians already.

Another is lane charging where it is hoped to charge utilities a fee every time they dig up the road, unfortunately legislation brought in when London was given its own mayor 10 years ago, the then (unelected) minister for London, John Gummer, capitulated to the privatised utility companies in their outrageous demand for unrestricted access to the ground beneath London’s streets. That dreadful decision, leading to Oxford Street being dug up 176 times in a single year and the Strand 154 times and has remained to this day. With this situation Boris almost thrown in the towel on his promise to charge utilities per hole in the road.

The Mayor has also ordered a review to identify which, if any, traffic lights may be unnecessary and could safely be removed, which sounds great until you realise that in the last 10 years over a 1,000 additional sets have been installed and that newly planned signals will be exempt from the review, so just to stand still they are going to have to get very busy removing some old ones.

With London’s population predicted by some to reach over 12 million in the next 15 years and with increasing wealth giving many the opportunity own a car, London is set to become as bad as Mumbai.

The majority of roads are not controlled by Transport for London and local boroughs are continually harassing motorists with the zeal of a religious convert. Not content with having a small army of traffic wardens, The People Republic of Camden (a nuclear free zone, in case you asked) is building kerbs out into the road to reduce lane capacity. While the Guardianista’s of Islington are working flat out (sorry for the pun) to ensure they have the tallest road humps in town, and with a mandatory 20 mph speed limit on all its roads, chance would be a fine thing to be able to travel beyond walking pace.

The previous Mayor’s initiatives to improve air quality have, it would seem, come to nothing. Scientists are baffled why despite vehicles being cleaner due to legislation forcing owners to install systems that reduce PM10 particulates. If they had cared to ask me I could point them in the right direction, one monitoring site is opposite Madame Tussaud’s where traffic moves at a snail’s pace along the Marylebone Road, another is located at Tower Hill near where by selling a 3-lane road to private developers they have created a daily 12-hours gridlock.

Boys from the Blackstuff

I think that I’m in the wrong game, for according to the trade body for road menders, the average cost of filling in a pothole in London is £71, those guys that you see out in all weathers drive Porches when not behind the wheel of a tarmac truck; No I don’t believe it either.

The Asphalt Industry Alliance, who publish the racy magazine title, yes you’ve guessed it Asphalt Now claim that’s the cost for each pothole which has to be filled, with an estimated 1.6 million of them in England and Wales they extrapolate a total cost will be equal to the Gross Domestic Product of a small African state to get our roads back into the 21st Century and has written to the Department of Transport seeking £100 million of emergency funding.

Unless you drive a very robust off-road vehicle, negotiating the speed humps and potholes in London compares with a skiing slalom, worthy of the winter Olympics.

The worst icy conditions for 30 years have increased the condition known as ‘freeze thaw’. As soon as water gets inside a road surface and then freezes, it expands, thus widening the crack. When the ice melts, even more water seeps inside the crack and the problem worsens during the next freeze. When the crack is wide enough, the surface collapses and you have a pothole. Record lows in temperature mean record numbers of potholes.

And why does water get beneath the surface? Aside from old age, the most frequent cause is road works, usually caused by the utility companies, who it is estimated perform two million ‘utility openings’ on our roads each year For however well a road is mended, its old and new surfaces will have inconsistencies. Experts say that by opening up a road just once, you can reduce the life of a road by up to 60 per cent.

But here is an interest thing, have you noticed that speed humps are never affected by this phenomenon?

If the councils had spent as much money and loving care on the road surface these past 25 years as they have on ‘traffic calming measures’ we may now not have a pothole every 120 yards that is estimated to be the case on London’s roads. The best solution is to resurface all roads on a regular basis, unfortunately for London a fresh topping is applied on average every 37 years.

Unfortunately having roads akin to Zimbabwe is not just an inconvenience to CabbieBlog, these holes are deadly, indeed a friend’s father died when his motor bike’s front wheel hit a pothole catapulting him headfirst into a lamppost. The local council belatedly rectified that particular hole within hours.

The cyclist’s organisation CTC logs reported potholes on its website, and unbelievably the number in one year has rocketed from 699 to 3,508.

London depends on its visitors, so we don’t want them to go the same way as Dr Foster in the children’s rhyme:

‘Dr Foster went to Gloucester in a shower of rain,
He stepped in a puddle right up to his middle and never went there again.’