We all know that 2020 was a bit of a bumpy year (OK, it was a lot of a bumpy year), but one thing that those of us at SocietyWorks had been expecting to be a bit less bumpy was the impact of pothole reports on UK councils.
With people traveling less frequently due to lockdown putting roads under less pressure (which, incidentally, would also create the perfect conditions for pre-existing potholes to be fixed by councils), we had thought that pothole reporting rates on our FixMyStreet service, which sends reports directly to the council that can deal with them, would have been lower than usual.
But we were wrong.
While we did see a considerable drop in reports when the first lockdown hit, and again towards the end of the year when renewed restrictions saw winter pothole reports rise less sharply than in previous years, 2020 still had the highest ever number of potholes reported through FixMyStreet and our council versions of FixMyStreet Pro (not including TFL’s installation), with over 111,000 reports about potholes made throughout the year.
As the above graph shows, the year started off with a clear trend towards many more potholes being reported through FixMyStreet than usual. When the first lockdown began in March, reporting rates dramatically reduced, but they quickly started to pick back up again as restrictions were loosened and cold weather re-emerged.
Towards the very end of year, when we would usually expect to see a sharp hike in report numbers like in previous years, Tier 4 restrictions and lockdown saw pothole reporting rates increase much slower.
Taking these reporting trends into consideration, it looks as though, had there been no lockdown, pothole report numbers would have been even higher in 2020.
As we know, the pandemic has put an added strain onto councils recently, meaning that potholes are just one of many, many things needing to be dealt with.
For councils already using FixMyStreet Pro to manage their streets and highways reports, any increase in pothole reports is much easier to handle when the cost per report has been made up to 98.69% cheaper.
Looking ahead, given that budgets are tight and key workers are currently making up the majority of the people using our roads, should 2021 prove to be another pothole-heavy year, it’s never been more important to make the process of reporting such problems as easy for citizens and as cost-effective for councils as possible.
If you’re a council and you’d like to discover how FixMyStreet Pro can help you smooth out the process of dealing with streets and highways reports like potholes, you can find out more here.
Whether you’re a council or a citizen, potholes are an all-round pain in the bum(per), aren’t they?
When it comes to citizen reports made on our FixMyStreet service, potholes are always up there among the most frequently reported problems. In fact, in 2020, despite lockdowns and less frequent travel, more potholes were reported through FixMyStreet than ever before.
For councils, dealing with pothole reports has never been a bigger challenge. Aside from being expensive to fix (and no sooner have you fixed one than another appears), staff shortages caused by COVID-19 as workers are required to isolate have made coordinating pothole fixes a much longer, more complicated process.
Be that as it may, at a time when most road travel is being carried out by key workers, it’s more important than ever to make the process of reporting potholes and responding to such reports as easy and as fast as possible.
This being the case, we thought we’d highlight all the ways in which FixMyStreet Pro can and does make dealing with pothole reports easier, cheaper and much less bumpy for councils and their residents.
Now more than ever, councils need to save money wherever they can. Investing in a channel shift to FixMyStreet Pro for the management of your streets and highways reports could help you save up to 98.69% per report, just like it did for Buckinghamshire Council.
As well as needing to save money, councils and their customer service teams also need to save time – especially time wasted on dealing with duplicate reports. FixMyStreet’s transparent approach to reporting helps to dissuade duplicate reports by allowing citizens to view reports that have already been made nearby and subscribe to updates from the council as the issue is resolved.
We know how annoying, nevermind expensive, it can be when your backend IT systems aren’t quite getting along the way you’d like them to. With FixMyStreet Pro, we promise to integrate into whichever systems you’re using to facilitate a smooth user workflow for everyone. See how this worked for Oxfordshire County Council, who, by switching to FixMyStreet Pro, were able to make immediate workflow improvements and savings by removing layers of legacy software.
No one council is the same as another; you have different needs, different priorities and different ways of doing things. We take all of this into account when we’re setting up your version of FixMyStreet Pro, building it around yours and your residents’ needs. As an example, when it came to potentially hazardous reports (such as dangerous potholes), Island Roads, the company that handles highway maintenance on the Isle of Wight, requested to implement emergency categories to their version of FixMyStreet Pro to help safeguard against accidents and allow them to deal with problems faster.
Want to get started making your pothole reports easier to navigate? Get in touch with us.
When it comes to drawing up plans for future features to add to the FixMyStreet Pro roadmap, it’s really important to us that we consult with the people who will actually be using them before we commit to anything.
That’s why we like to run user groups – events to which we invite clients to join us for a couple of hours to learn about what we’ve been working on and get involved in exploring any features which would be of benefit to them if we were to design them next.
Our most recent user group ran earlier this month as a perfect way to round off the year and influence our 2021 plans.
As part of the session, we broke off into small groups in order to answer this question: What’s the one thing you wished FixMyStreet Pro did that it doesn’t currently do?
Using Miro, each group was given 15 minutes to bounce ideas around for new features they would like to see on the FixMyStreet Pro service by pinning a digital post-it note to a board. Each idea was then discussed to determine what the feature is, what problem it solves and who would benefit from it.
Before reconvening, the groups selected their favourite idea to be presented to everyone. The top ideas from each group were then voted upon to determine which was best, using a very snazzy feature of Miro’s platform.
On this occasion, the winning new feature suggestion was to introduce the functionality to quickly create a report on a mobile device from a photo. Alex Brown from Island Roads, whose idea this was, explained more:
“If you’re familiar with iPhones and Android, you’ll know that there’s a share function which gives you a shortlist of things you can do with your photos.
“For example, you can open up a photo, press the share button, select your messages app and it takes you straight into the app where you can send the photo to one of your contacts.
“We’d like something similar to that [for FixMyStreetPro], where you can take a photo with your camera, open it, share it, hit FixMyStreet and it takes you straight into the app so you can log your report.”
As our Designer Martin said at the time: “Brilliant!”
A simple, yet smart idea that would make it even easier for citizens to act when they spot a problem within their local area. Plus, as we uncovered recently, reports with photos are around 15% more likely to be recorded as fixed than reports without a photo, so anything we can do to encourage the use of photos within reports can only be a good thing.
And here lies the beauty of running these user groups: not only is it the perfect opportunity for local authorities to discuss and share solutions to problems they’re facing, but it’s also the ideal environment to nurture brilliant ideas that we hadn’t thought of before.
Going forward, we’re taking Alex’s idea, along with a few other suggestions from the day, into some discovery sessions in order to determine whether and when we can add them to our roadmap.
So, watch this space!
If you would like to come along to one of our future user groups, or you’d like to discuss any ideas of your own, do drop us a message.
Image: Dstudio Bcn on Unsplash
Well, it’s been quite a year, hasn’t it?
2020 certainly won’t be one SocietyWorks will ever forget, not least because we didn’t exist as you know us until April!
At the start of 2020, it was all about FixMyStreet Pro. And while our beloved FixMyStreet Pro is very much still the jewel in our crown, we’ve been busy this year exploring how else we can improve local government services for everyone, under the new brand, SocietyWorks.
New authorities to integrate with FixMyStreet Pro this year are Hackney, Highways England, Transport Focus, Cheshire East and — just this minute — Central Bedfordshire, bringing the total number of Pro bodies to 22.
As well as welcoming new authorities into the SocietyWorks fold, we have also appreciated longtime friends after working together to scope out new services, such as doing some consequence scanning with Hackney Council and helping to create a simple and intuitive mapping interface with Transport Focus.
By the end of 2020, more than 500,000 reports will have been made through FixMyStreet this year.
And in a year where we’ve all gained a new appreciation for and desire to protect our local areas, that figure just reminds us of how proud we are to be the home of a service like FixMyStreet.
With any luck, 2021 will be a little less…turbulent, shall we say, than 2020 has been. Whatever happens though, we at SocietyWorks are looking forward to continuing to help bring about improvements through our services for local authorities and citizens alike.
If you would like to, you can read mySociety’s complete annual report here.
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Image: Joshua Earle