Sharp rise in number of potholes

1,400 such defects detected so far in January, double last year's monthly average of 700

Potholes were spotted in (from left) Jalan Bahagia , Hill Street and Jalan Bahar yesterday. After heavy rain in the past weeks, road defects like these have proliferated across Singapore, raising concern among motorists and cyclists. ST PHOTOS: JASON
Potholes were spotted in Jalan Bahagia (above), Hill Street and Jalan Bahar yesterday. After heavy rain in the past weeks, road defects like these have proliferated across Singapore, raising concern among motorists and cyclists. ST PHOTOS: JASON QUAH, MARK CHEONG, ALPHONSUS CHERN
Potholes were spotted in (from left) Jalan Bahagia , Hill Street and Jalan Bahar yesterday. After heavy rain in the past weeks, road defects like these have proliferated across Singapore, raising concern among motorists and cyclists. ST PHOTOS: JASON
Potholes were spotted in Jalan Bahagia , Hill Street (above) and Jalan Bahar yesterday. After heavy rain in the past weeks, road defects like these have proliferated across Singapore, raising concern among motorists and cyclists. ST PHOTOS: JASON QUAH, MARK CHEONG, ALPHONSUS CHERN
Potholes were spotted in (from left) Jalan Bahagia , Hill Street and Jalan Bahar yesterday. After heavy rain in the past weeks, road defects like these have proliferated across Singapore, raising concern among motorists and cyclists. ST PHOTOS: JASON
Potholes were spotted in Jalan Bahagia , Hill Street and Jalan Bahar (above) yesterday. After heavy rain in the past weeks, road defects like these have proliferated across Singapore, raising concern among motorists and cyclists. ST PHOTOS: JASON QUAH, MARK CHEONG, ALPHONSUS CHERN
Clockwise from above: Potholes in Kallang Bahru, Beach Road and Lavender Street. These photos were taken yesterday.
Potholes in Kallang Bahru (above), Beach Road and Lavender Street. These photos were taken yesterday.ST PHOTOS: ALPHONSUS CHERN
Clockwise from above: Potholes in Kallang Bahru, Beach Road and Lavender Street. These photos were taken yesterday.
Potholes in Kallang Bahru, Beach Road (above) and Lavender Street. These photos were taken yesterday.ST PHOTOS: ALPHONSUS CHERN
Clockwise from above: Potholes in Kallang Bahru, Beach Road and Lavender Street. These photos were taken yesterday.
Potholes in Kallang Bahru, Beach Road and Lavender Street (above). These photos were taken yesterday.ST PHOTOS: ALPHONSUS CHERN

Road potholes have proliferated across the island after heavy rain in the last several weeks, raising concern among motorists and cyclists alike.

In response to queries from The Straits Times, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) said the number of potholes detected so far this month is double the monthly average number of potholes detected last year - from 700 or so to 1,400.

Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Transport Baey Yam Keng told ST: "The rains this year have been heavier and more protracted. We're seeing more potholes than usual."

Because of prolonged rain, a larger amount of water is seeping into cracks on road pavements. Continuous movement of vehicles causes the water to seep deeper into the cracks, causing the cracks to widen and eventually form potholes.

Mr Baey said the LTA was "combing the roads and making repairs as soon as possible", but because of the pandemic, contractors' access to workers has been affected.

Given the size of the road network, he urged road users to be on the lookout and alert the authorities if they come across a pothole. They can do so on the OneService app or MyTransport.SG app.

Retiree Richard Toh, 53, an avid cyclist, said he has been alerting the authorities to road defects.

"I cycle on a daily basis, from Woodlands to Shenton Way, from Woodlands to Neo Tiew - there are potholes everywhere I turn," he said.

He added that while it is usual to see more potholes after a rainy spell, "the number and size of potholes have gone up this year".

Cyclist Imran Talib, 46, said he had an accident last week because of a pothole in Old Airport Road.

"It was covered by a puddle," the regional sales manager said. "I didn't see it till it was too late."

He went to a hospital, where an X-ray revealed a hairline fracture. "I'm okay. Still mobile," he said.

Mr Lee Teck Send was not so fortunate. Last August, he rode over a pothole, fell, had injuries to his brain, and died in hospital days later - according to Facebook posts by his family and fellow riders. While his case was not from the recent spate, Mr Toh said it highlighted the dangers of potholes.

Mr Bernard Tay, chairman of the Singapore Road Safety Council, said the LTA usually aims to repair potholes within 24 hours. But with the persistent rain, work could not be carried out as quickly.

Mr Tay pointed out that users of two-wheelers - like cyclists and motorcyclists - are more vulnerable, and riders should take precautions such as wearing proper gear and riding at lower speeds.

"For four-wheelers, they should avoid going over the potholes too," he said. "But if they cannot, they should slow down before going over them. They should not apply the brakes while going over them, or the vehicle might dive and sustain damage."

He also advised motorists to ensure their vehicles are in good condition, and pay more attention to the windscreen wipers, headlights, tyres and brakes.

Freelance motoring writer Wong Kai Yi, 31, who drives and cycles, said: "These potholes are no mere eyesores - they affect both traffic and safety. Several times, I had to avoid potholes large enough to swallow a bicycle wheel."

The communication manager said: "I notice some motorists, perhaps those who are familiar with the deteriorating road conditions, keeping to one side of the lane where they can then avoid all the potholes.

"That means they sometimes straddle lane markings, and some cars on the neighbouring lane end up having to swerve around them, creating a nuisance on the road.'

He noted that some areas which have been patched appear to have been mended in a haphazard manner, resulting in an uneven and uncomfortable road surface. The authorities should aim to prioritise patching potholes, and perhaps "take proactive action to shore up road conditions", he said.

Meanwhile, a Gojek community group started listing locations of potholes on Facebook yesterday. Within the first three hours, more than 20 sites were listed.

An LTA spokesman said: "We would like to seek commuters' and motorists' understanding as we work with our contractors to expedite the repair works."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 16, 2021, with the headline 'Sharp rise in number of potholes'. Subscribe