Local authorities are urged to get a grip on road safety

Posted: Monday 28th February 2011

Local authorities and parish and town councils are being asked to support a new campaign, ‘Get a Grip’, designed to reduce casualties to motorcyclists by adopting a positive solution to the road surface grip problems faced by two-wheelers.

As key drivers of the ‘Get a Grip’ campaign, composite access cover manufacturer Structural Science Composites (SSC) and lobbying organisation Motorcycle Action Group (MAG), aim to promote the use of composite access covers to provide a consistent road surface which saves lives and money. According to MAG, of all the varying potential risks presented to riders of motorcycles, the worn, cracked, displaced or stolen metal access or manhole cover poses one of the greatest dangers in terms of stability and traction – frightening at best and catastrophic at worst - especially when the road is wet.

Across the UK there are in excess of 10 million access covers which tend to be placed at points where utility companies need to change the direction of pipes and drainage – usually on corners and often on the crown of the road. The appearance of a worn or damaged cover in the path of a motorcyclist will often lead to an instinctive swerve which could be potentially hazardous. Even greater danger results from loss of control through variations of traction experienced by two-wheelers riding across metal covers which are worn and wet, also there are the potentially lethal consequences resulting from riders hitting gaping holes left in roads where metal covers have been stolen.

Andrew Burton of SSC explains: “Of the many significant benefits offered to motorcyclists by composite covers, a consistent grip level, no matter how much a cover wears, is perhaps the greatest. Composites have the advantage of being ‘fit and forget’ insomuch as the anti-slip properties remain at consistently high levels throughout the cover’s life. Also, because of the way the aggregate is impregnated in the mix, a composite cover has the added advantage of having a tread pattern which is omni-directional, so it cannot be approached from an angle that diminishes the grip level.”

Paddy Tyson, Campaigns Manager of MAG UK, comments: “Worn or damaged metal access covers are motor cycling’s equivalent of playing a game of Russian Roulette and, through ‘Get a Grip’, we are determined to raise awareness with officialdom of these dangers. We believe the exciting and welcome composite innovation developed by SSC will play a vital role in the ultimate success of the campaign.”

Andrew Burton: “Despite all of the obvious safety advantages, cost is perhaps the most frequent argument put forward in favour of metal covers against their composite alternatives. Unfortunately, we still operate in an industry where many operatives uphold a philosophy of making purchasing decisions purely on the short-term basis of lowest price. Yet, a much more reliable ‘value for money’ indicator – and one which places the composite option way out in front - can be achieved by adopting a long-term economic appraisal based on whole-life costs, as opposed to making purchasing decisions on up-front capital costs.

“The life expectancy of SSC access covers is over 20 years and each carries a minimum 15 year product guarantee. A recent study carried out by Lancaster University revealed that - in terms of whole-life costs - SSC covers, when compared with traditional metal covers for a typical company with a 15,000 access cover estate, can save in excess of £12.5 million over a period of 15 years. This represents a huge cost saving to cash-strapped local authorities and town councils and would also provide significant operational and financial benefits to utility companies. An additional advantage is, unlike their metal counterparts, composites have no value on the scrap market so will not be stolen – a hot topic at the moment with scrap metal selling currently at £100 a ton!”

‘Get a Grip’ was launched in the Houses of Parliament to a number of MPs and Lords in November, when the campaign team outlined the positive aspects of a ‘social responsibility’ initiative that aims to reduce casualties and save public money by ensuring a safe and consistent road surface for all road users.

The campaign message is gathering momentum and many local authorities and city councils are currently assessing SSC composite covers. An early convert is The London Borough of Hackney which, to date, has 10 covers installed on several roads as part of a programme which, according to the Borough’s Principle Engineer Melvyn Tagg, will see 10 to 20 roads resurfaced annually, equating to a total of around 60 new composite covers each year.

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