There are vast differences in types of road – a hairpin bend on an alpine pass is (literally) a long way from a cobbled lane in an English country village. The materials and design vary widely, of course, depending on what is appropriate for the application.
Tarmac and asphalt
There’s an interesting look at the idea of the road itself on cycling blog the Inner Ring. From the earliest history of roads to today’s asphalt, there are several eye-catching points, including the comparison of $25,000 per mile “chip seal” or “tar and chip” method of construction with the $350,000 per mile cost of asphalt.
And the impact of the seasons is as keenly felt in Europe as it is in the UK:
Other parts of Europe see winter damage and subsidence. Some Alpine roads get smashed by coachloads of tourists and subzero temperatures, they are relaid every year. But away from the resorts the frost is left to crack and shatter the road.
Stelvio Pass by Damian Morys Foto, on Flickr
There are also some diverting thoughts out there on unpaved or unsealed surfaces. Where a road experiences low volumes of traffic, it has been found that maintenance costs for gravel roads often exceed the maintenance costs for paved or surface treated roads when traffic volumes exceed 200 vehicles per day.