According to folklore, Albert Einstein once reportedly defined insanity as “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”.
Perhaps he had lost a tyre to the Dickson pothole.
Of course, there are worse out there. For instance, the lunar-sized crater on William Hovell Drive just off the Tuggeranong Parkway has claimed tens of rims and tyres over the past week alone.
Lyle Dunne recalls passing “a string of cars” pulled over along William Hovel Drive, with traffic-control officers directing cars around a massive pothole.
“I thought RBT or a multi-car shunt, but it seems like the mother of all potholes had claimed a dozen tyres (as many poor sods changing wheels in the rain),” she posted to the Canberra Notice Board Group on 1 November.
But for longevity, the one outside a block of townhouses on Majura Avenue in Dickson has few peers. It even appears on Google Maps, with a ‘Hazard Ahead’ sign in front of it.
A nearby resident (name omitted for privacy reasons) has lost count of the number of times it’s been patched.
“They’ve been filling it up so many times, but the next week, it’s back and worse,” she says.
“It’s unbelievable. This is not a little hole – it’s more than a metre long now.”
The resident recalls hearing the thumps of wheels being destroyed and the pumping of horns and screeching of brakes as motorists try to avoid it at the last minute.
“It’s horrific. They have to do better, proper work on it. We pay our taxes so they can fix the road. Do they expect someone to die before they fix it?”
Amelia O’Grady has been left with a $120 bill after popping a tyre in it on Tuesday. As she was installing her spare, another three cars also damaged their tyres, hitting the same pothole.
“This pothole is awful,” she says.
“Surely, if they get enough complaints, something will be done.”
Amelia has lodged a damage claim with Roads ACT in the hope she can get reimbursed for the damage. But the truth is, she is one of the lucky ones.
Scott Sparkman from Downer-based wheel repair company Rim Rescue had 13 wheels dropped off yesterday (3 November) for repair – “a record”. Up to 20 per cent are damaged so badly they can’t safely be repaired.
“The weekly load of wheel repairs has tripled in the past month, and we’re seeing a dramatic increase in the severity of the damage,” Scott says.
This translates to large dents and cracks in the wheel that leave the owner with only one option: forking out anywhere from $500 to $3000 for a replacement wheel. And if their car doesn’t happen to have a spare, a wait time spanning days to weeks.
Scott says it’s a hard conversation considering the current cost-of-living pressures.
But even he agrees the nine lives of the Dickson pothole are like few others.
“I travel all over Canberra to pick up and drop off wheels and I get to see the ones that are patched – few as often as Dickson. It’s got to be at least 30 times now.”
He says it was first born when the nearby two-storey units were built in 2018 when heavy trucks and concrete pumpers would park and drive on the same patch of road day in and day out.
“The road base now has no integrity. They could patch it until the cows come home, but until they excavate and raise the level of the road so the water drains off into the stormwater channel again, it’s never going to be fixed.”
In the 2021-22 financial year, Roads ACT repaired close to 7800 potholes at an average of around 650 potholes a month. So far, in the first four months of this financial year alone, crews have already repaired more than 5000 potholes.
“Our repair crews are working around the clock in what are very difficult and unpredictable conditions,” an ACT Government spokesperson said.
Two different mixes are used depending on the weather. A cold gravel mix is shovelled into a reported pothole as a temporary fix before crews revisit it during a break in the rain with a more durable hot mix.
“Where possible we are applying temporary patching, particularly on key arterial roads until we can return and undertake a more permanent fix,” the spokesperson said.
As for the Dickson pothole, a portion of the lane around it was closed today as crews filled it with a hot asphalt mix. Again.
In the meantime, Roads ACT asks Canberrans to slow down, maintain a safe distance from the car in front, particularly in the wet, and report hazards to Fix My Street.
As for what happens when it’s too late, an ACT Government spokesperson says, “responsibility for damages associated with any claim will depend on the circumstances of the incident”.
“Each claim is assessed on a case-by-case basis. Assessments of claims are carried out in accordance with current legislation.”
Typically, this means the government must have received a report of the pothole first to hold any liability.
Scott from Rim Rescue also has two pieces of advice to minimise damage from potholes.
“Keep your tyre pressures at the recommended amount and don’t ignore any warning signs. Ignoring a deflated tyre or low tyre pressure warning is when the really serious damage to wheels happens.”