We visit the busy shopping street which is one of the worst roads for potholes in Bristol

We visited Cheltenham Road on Friday (March 24) afternoon to see how its many potholes affect drivers
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“I dread coming along here sometimes because of the potholes, you never know what to expect especially with a bit of rain and wind,” Thomas told me as he chained up his bike and dipped into a cafe for a catch-up he was already late to.

Cheltenham Road connects Gloucester Road with Stokes Croft and despite it not being a long stretch of road, it is always buzzing with life and traffic. Because of this, it might not be a surprise to find out that last year, in 2022, it was one of the roads most affected by potholes in Bristol - second only to Passage Road in Henbury. Bristol City Council’s highways team was called out 46 times to repair the road surface, according to a Freedom of Information request filed by BristolWorld. The largest crater measured 2m by 2m in size.

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I’ve come to visit the area to see the road surface is faring for motorists and cyclists. To no one’s surprise, the heavens opened the moment I step off the 76 bus - making conditions even more difficult.

“I like to think I’m doing my bit by cycling around. I had to rid of my car a few years back, shortly before the whole mess with Covid, and for the most get part I’m glad I have. The problem is, cyclists don’t get the same care when it comes to road safety - it’s often fair game.” Thomas explained to me before he had chained up his bike.

“I live in Bishopston and this is a great area with lots happening - if it was easier to get to then life would be grand but I’ve had a few close calls with potholes where I’ve had to swerve to avoid them and almost crashed. It’s enough to put someone off cycling.”

Bristol City Council had, controversially, removed a cycling lane from Cheltenham Road in 2021 which it deemed to be ‘sub-standard’. The decision drew criticism from Bristol’s cycling community as it resulted in more cars parking on the pavement near the junction of Cheltenham and Ashley Roads.

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After spending some time surveying the road, it was clear to see that cyclists were not the only ones affected by the potholes. Several cars, buses and lorries crept over the holes in the surface on a Friday lunchtime.

Deane drives a Vespa scooter and told BristolWorld how Cheltenham Road, and many others like it across Bristol, are ‘death traps’.

A cyclist tries to avoid craters on Cheltenham Road.A cyclist tries to avoid craters on Cheltenham Road.
A cyclist tries to avoid craters on Cheltenham Road.

“The roads [in Bristol] are terrible for them [potholes]. There was a time when I was riding my scooter on the Portway and missed a pothole. I went over it and it launched me into another lane of traffic, I could have easily lost control, crashed and injured myself and others. Some of the roads are death traps.

“There is no excuse for it. If the pavements were in a similar state the council repair them immediately to avoid any legal issues once someone become injured. Why do we have to put up with potholes on the roads then? It is always an accident waiting to happen.”

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Bristol City Council’s cabinet member for transport, Councillor Donald Alexander has acknowledged that “potholes are a pain for any for any road user” in a guest blog post for Marvin Rees, recently. He also insists work is being carried out around the clock to fix Bristol’s roads.

A junction littered with potholes on Cheltenham Road.A junction littered with potholes on Cheltenham Road.
A junction littered with potholes on Cheltenham Road.

He wrote: “Our teams work hard throughout the year to keep our road surfaces in good condition, making sure that Bristol’s streets and footways are safe for everyone to use. Between 2016/17 and 2021/22 the number of potholes on Bristol’s roads were reduced from 4649 to 1838, this is a 60% decrease. Over the last 12 months, the highways team has repaired over 2,500 potholes on our roads, footpaths, and bridges and we’ve averaged an impressive 691 total defect repairs each month.”

But for now, motorists and cyclists will have to keep dodging the potholes in Cheltenham Road until the issue is finally fixed.

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