We missed this one from last week, but it’s a very valid point by Zurich and much the same can be said about so-called Smart motorways. Deaths will occur because of poor risk assessment and cost-cutting driving decision making across the public sector;
Local government insurer, Zurich Municipal is calling on the government to give greater focus to cycle paths and footways in its pothole fund to protect cyclists and keep the bike boom rolling. The call comes at the start of Bike Week, with Zurich voicing concerns over the way the government’s current road funding policies favour motorists.
In 2020/21, there was a 15% increase in highway maintenance budgets – partly due to the Government’s £2.5billion Pothole Fund. However, Zurich says councils have been hindered by the way the government distributes pothole funding with Whitehall using a formula to advise local authorities what share of pothole cash they can spend, based on their roads and other infrastructure. Within this formula, council funding has a 82.42% weighting on roads, 15.4% on bridges and 2% on lighting columns, but with no suggested allowance for cycleways and footways .
Poor road surfaces affect every road user, but cyclists and e-scooter riders face disproportionate risks. For motorists, potholes might result in an expensive trip to the garage, but for those on two wheels, they can end in a life changing injury or even death. The knock-on impacts are less visible but impact but further impact our communities, for example increased demand for social care. If this continues, it shall present threat to much-needed sustainable initiatives.
Analysis of Department for Transport figures by Cycling UK showed 368 cyclists were badly injured in crashes caused by poor road surfaces between 2007 and 2016. While in 2020, Zurich Municipal received more than 2,800 highway claims for injuries sustained on roads and pavements. Despite seeing claims drop off early in 2020, the insurer saw a worrying reversal through summer and into the end of the year, which it suggests could be down to changing road usage.
Sarah Rowan, Public Services Segment Manager at Zurich Municipal comments: “Cycling has exploded in popularity during the pandemic which, along with the introduction of e-scooters has changed the way our roads are used. The challenge now confronting government is how to avoid a rise in related injuries as an unintended consequence of green recovery.
“We are urging the government to reassess its allocation of transport spending to reflect the changing nature of our roads and enable local government to prioritise active travel routes. If Ministers are serious about a green recovery, and protecting lives, local councils must be given the resources to allocate repair cash where it is needed most.”