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BBA Launches Extensive Pothole Campaign With 'Report a Pothole' Feature

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The British Bikers Association (BBA) has launched a 'pothole campaign' with a difference. With evidence compiled straight from the smartphones of its members, the UK's newest biking community aims to show local councils that evading their responsibilities is no longer an option.

Picture the scene. You're riding along enjoying yourself and engaging all your faculties in the safe observance of the laws of the land then - without warning - you hit a pothole. What happens? Well, if you're a motorcyclist you'll know the sickening feeling of losing control as you try and recover your balance and ride on. Frankly, that's the least offensive scenario - for many riders, hitting a yawning chasm in the road can spell serious injury and perhaps even death.

A casual glance at the statistics bolsters the case: motorcyclists may only account for a mere one percent of road users, but they account for 20 percent of all fatalities - a figure that's 61 times greater than the figure for car drivers. By anyone's measure that is a significant disparity in mortality rate. But, predictably, the very organisations that should be working to protect bikers from these kinds of numbers seem to be content to play the percentages. Take the recent news about the Highways Agency imposing speed limits on roads with surfaces more akin to the surface of the moon than a properly maintained public highway. The move - a result of introducing 'less prescriptive' maintenance contracts has seen vast sections of major routes such as the M11 become subject to speed restrictions - a genuine case of the tax payer stumping up cash to bankroll slower journey times and little in the way of improvements. At local council level the story is equally dispiriting. The coalition government's decision to let councils abandon their road improvement targets has led to miles of poor surfaces and a general trend of neglect. The Department for Transport's own figures tell a potent story: data compiled from polling 89 councils in 2010/11 shows that 38 per cent recorded deterioration in minor roads during this period. Major roads fared little better, with 40 per cent of councils recording a similar decline.

It would be funny if it wasn't so serious - and the crowning irony is that councils themselves are aware of the urgent need to deal with this in short order. Recent information released by the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) revealed that councillors' top priority was dealing with the desperate state of the roads and yet, despite the message filtering to where it should, we still seem to be in a situation where potential death traps lurk round every corner.

It's not something that can be allowed to continue; but sadly, with 20 years' experience of fighting for the rights of bikers everywhere, the BBA's staff have bitter experience of the biking community's voice getting lost in the static. Yes, recent campaigns such as the BBC's Watchdog expose have made a dent in the public consciousness, but where's the motorcycle angle in all of this? Well, the good news is that it's right here and it's ready to start fighting back.

The British Bikers Association's Pothole Reporter feature offers everyone in the biking fraternity the chance to get the inside track on the location of potholes. Easily accessed with a couple of swipes of the 'Bikers Voice' app, this information can travel anywhere, allowing bikers on the move to access a complete inventory of all the potholes that have been reported to the site - and all from the convenience of their smartphones. That in itself is an incredibly useful resource, but Bikers Voice does more than that. Registered members get to take the next step in 'naming and shaming' local authorities into taking their duty of care seriously. With the 'Report Pothole' feature, they can take a picture of the offending surface and add a further two for good measure if required. The app will then overlay this on to Google maps for location information and the whole 'package' can be beamed straight to BBA to inform members browsing the 'campaigns/report a pothole' section of the website.

Whilst this is the type of innovation that's geared to make our councils think twice about lax - or non-existent - maintenance schedules, gathering evidence is only part of the equation. As a committed campaigning organisation, the BBA is using this information to head off the first - and last - resort of the wily council - the Section 58 defence. To offer a brief explanation, Section 58 of the Highways Act is supposed to require a local authority to take reasonable care of the road. However, should a pothole be reported and a biker go down, the council has recourse to all kinds of ways of removing the burden of responsibility from its shoulders. Many bikers will be familiar with the white spray around a hole that the council has hastily decided is 'scheduled for maintenance'; but as motorcyclists everywhere know, Section 58 defence is no moral defence in the wake of serious, preventable injury or a fatality.

It's a situation that can't be allowed to prevail, so the BBA is tackling this issue head-on by placing councils on 14 days' notice of potholes that have been uploaded to our website. If nothing has been done to deal with the problem after this period has elapsed, then we will contact their insurers with the details. In effect this has two outcomes: firstly if a biker goes down after the pothole has been reported, then the Section 58 defence no longer applies; secondly insurance companies looking after councils' policies will want to advise their clients of potential problems before they hit - and that should provide the extra motivation to get that pothole filled.

Speaking about the campaign, BBA founder Colin Mahoney was in a defiant mood: "The current situation on our roads is absolutely inexcusable. In effect motorcyclists and other roads users are paying to subsidise a regimen that allows the cracks, gaping holes and uneven surfaces that make riding out a real lottery. It's absolutely amazing what we can find to spend public money on; but when it comes to something that we are forced to use on a daily basis that has the potential to cause serious injury and even death, the cash and the political will to sort it out just doesn't seem to be there. The BBA is putting this issue to the forefront of the campaigning agenda and with our 'report a pothole feature' on the 'Bikers Voice' app (android version with Apple version to follow) and our willingness to get our hands dirty with the people that matter in this, we're not going to stop until it's something that's placed squarely at the top of councils' priority lists."

The British Bikers Association is the UK's freshest non profit motorcycling organisation. Founded by bikers for bikers, it's the ultimate resource for news, views and comment from in and around the world of motorcycling. For more information, including how to join, the benefits of membership, and further details about the 'Bikers Voice' app, log on and join the debate.

British Bikers Association, One Community, One Voice

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