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Potholes, not air pollution, are the real problem with our roads

Air quality might be a pressing issue – but where is the ground-level approach to dealing with the state of the roads?

This is my latest Scotsman column on this subject, which was published today 20th February 2024.

Having lived in the east of Scotland for most of my life, I am sure that our air quality in these parts has never been better in my lifetime. How can it be otherwise? Gone are the factories and the paper mills, the coal fires and the dirty old lorries of my youth. Even the background stench of tobacco smoke in our pubs is a thing of the past. Our cars are infinitely cleaner too, fitted as they are with catalytic converters, and our vehicle testing for emissions has never been stricter.

If there are pollution hot spots, they are usually in pinch points created by road narrowing or other engineered obstruction. Overall however, our air quality has greatly improved over the last 50 years and that’s good news . Except that we are told that it’s not.

We are told that our air is so dangerously polluted that many of our towns and city centres require further re-design to more or less eliminate motor vehicles from our cities and towns altogether. I am no climate change denier but I find my common sense offended. Is this reasoning designed to further promote the dogma of car free urban areas?

Such is the state of some of our roads that I doubt patch ups are now possible. In many areas our road surfaces are so bad as to be dangerous and damaging to those on four wheels – and downright lethal to those on two wheels. Having gone to great lengths to encourage cycling, our road surfaces have never been more dangerous for bikes . I fear it is only a matter of time before a cyclist or motorcyclist turns a front wheel in a pothole with serious or fatal results.

Consequently it is only a matter of time before our roads authorities face legal action and are called to account for the dangerous neglect of their responsibility. We have recently been treated to the rare spectacle of our politicians being held to account for their decisions at the Covid Inquiry. I wonder how those responsible for the decision to neglect our road maintenance will explain why they chose road dogma over road safety.

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