Your weekly guide to all that’s rotten in the auto industry, plus some good bits
A few unkind words on the state of Edinburgh’s roads…
Why is it our capital city has a policy of deferred road maintenance, and yet we line up to vote for political parties who believe in keeping Scotland’s taxes for roads not in Scotland?
How deep is a pothole to be a pothole?
Not so long ago I smashed a headlight by hitting a pothole at all of 10 mph. I can guarantee that speed is not exaggerated because I turned in off Princes Street in Edinburgh to the next set of traffic lights at the corner of Charlotte Square, a short dog-leg that can only be negotiated at low-speed.
It was late at night, dark, raining, and gloomy. The pothole looked like any puddle reflecting street light, only the sodding thing was cavernous, over half-a-metre deep and the same in circumference. In fact, the pothole might well have had its own pothole.
The headlight popped out instantly. I cursed the council before remembering that our overlords in London have us paying billions for Trident, and wars in poor regions of the world against impoverished people, potholes being of little importance. Our Road Tax increases year by year with no sign of any part of it spent on roads.
I couldn’t face suing the council but I should have. The headlight was an American upgrade, no replacement available here. Too lengthy and too costly to import, I was forced to replace it with a single headlight, and junk the good twin headlight for a matching single. Result, a cost of £180, and steam coming out my ears at our inability to teach our councillors to get a grip on life.
It seems to me the council has adopted the attitude it’s cheaper to pay up on court claims than give citizens smooth road surfaces, in the same way, US car giants won’t make their cars safer but instead allow claims for death and injury paid as a cheaper cost.
Cyclists take tumbles, skint elbows and knees, and broken bones too, their woes added to by slippery tram lines. At least one cyclist was killed somersaulting over a pothole. It happened in Giggleswick, North Yorkshire. Died? How can that happen? Not wearing a helmet? No. He got thrown into the path of an oncoming car. His widow is suing.
What bliss. Such moments of pure unalloyed joy come as a relief to the daily stresses of driving in a car-hating city. Sometimes I will double back to take a flat stretch a second time – but those moments are few and fleeting, discovering dead flat tarmac the equivalent of drinking from clean glasses in a low-end pub.
The other ninety per cent of roads and side streets are a misery of washboard ripples, cracks and fissures, packing-absent, teeth rattling set stones, jagged multi-surface layered junctions, cable runs badly resurfaced, dug up again and badly resurfaced again, loose gravel, bottomless potholes, tacks, nails and screws strewn about by inconsiderate roofers and joiners, and the ubiquitous stray cone.
The destruction of symmetry
Add to that the council’s grossly inept late-seventies attempt at traffic control by altering pavement lines that don’t follow the line of the buildings, and their propensity to block off entire streets that force detours. We know drivers we are being comprehensively screwed by the authorities. 20 mph limits will soon get stamped on inner district streets, but not as a way of giving drivers enough time to take evasive action!
The other casualty is our car’s suspension, ball joints, gas struts, wishbone elements, and crown fixings. Tyres must get a hammering too – hence the popularity for driving massive SUV and 4×4 with tyres the size and weight of a miller’s grinding stone, vehicles that never see mud or track in their working existence. Still, if you are willing to pay a third more than a station wagon, (shooting brake) for an SUV with less interior space, but a horse rider’s view of the road, you deserve to get cheated out of your savings.
Edinburgh, twinned with Aleppo
Edinburgh has roads that remind one of bombed areas of the Middle-East, and its bill to pay for accident damage and personal injury must be massive, but I can only see things are getting worse, not better.
Thatcher’s regime stopped councils from blocking road works by private contractors. In the advent of laying Internet cables Westminster bowed to the profit margins of cable companies by giving them free access to dig. All they had to do was advise the council, purchase a permit, and get digging. If their atrociously resurfaced tracks are ever inspected by council officials for minimum acceptable standards of repair, and told to do it again, I’ll eat my greens. (The political kind.)
Perseverance pays off
A motorist who faced a hefty repairs bill after his car was damaged by a pothole won his fight for compensation. Ian Smith, of Craigleith, got the £240 pay-out only days before he was set to challenge the council’s refusal to pay for the damages in court. He says it should provide a lesson for motorists to fight council decisions if they feel they have been treated unfairly. But what a marathon – a genuine claim resisted right up-and-to the day in court.
The condition of our roads are so bad there is a tourist guide to ‘The Potholes of Edinburgh,’ a pointer to the most interesting ones, and the historic buildings nearby. Don’t forget your camera-phone. And there’s another site advising how to sue your council for damage or injury. Is there one for suing a council to take proactive action?
Who needs cobble layers?
Edinburgh council laid off skilled set stone, cobble layers and took to covering our heritage with tarmac, an important, valuable skill thrown aside, a trade wiped out. Three years ago the council paid millions, million of pounds, to a private company to relay a few yards of experimental cobble. How clever is that?
The company worked day and night under a large concave, spotlight lit marquee, complete with barbecue table and portaloos. There might have been satellite television too. I have not seen the experiment repeated. The cost was prohibitive. Now our whin sett-stone old highways are pitted and loose. Catch your foot in between them and you risk a broken ankle or getting run down by a bus, ergo, the council hates pedestrians as well as drivers and cyclists.
Do I think Edinburgh’s Roads Department is staffed by a bunch of careless, dimwitted, couldn’t give a damn jobs worth? You tell me.
If I was a dictator I would … oh, forget it.