Potholes place cycle-commuters in the firing line

Road defects pose real danger even to experienced riders

by Mark Appleton   January 31, 2011  

pot hole.jpg

Two similar stories from different parts of the UK bear graphic witness to the dangers posed to cyclists by the unprecedented number of potholes currently pock-marking the nation’s roads.

The Lincolnshire Echo reports on cyclist Marc Parris, 31, who was riding in Lincoln when he hit a pothole and was catapulted over the bars, landing on the road and breaking his collarbone in three places.

His crash helmet also split in two when he hit the tarmac after his encounter with a  road defect that was several feet long and about 5 inches deep.

Mr Parris underwent emergency surgery to place a metal plate and six pins in the badly damaged collarbone. He told the Echo: "It was dark and there was nothing I could do to avoid it.

"I didn't really feel pain at first because I think I was in shock, but I could feel this thing sticking out of my shoulder and knew something wasn't right. It must have been bad as the impact crushed my collarbone and smashed my helmet into two bits.

"I do cavity wall and loft installation for a living and take performance-related pay, so this will ruin me."

The incident happened last Tuesday evening at about 5.30pm and the pothole was fixed the following morning. The council said this was coincidental to Mr Parris’ crash and Jeanne Gibson, Principal Highways Officer of Lincolnshire County Council, told road.cc:

"Although this pothole on Brayford Wharf East hadn't been reported to us, we became aware of it through our own inspections and scheduled it for repair, along with the great number of others across Lincolnshire. This repair duly took place on Wednesday morning.

"We're getting around our huge county as quickly as we can and are sorry to hear that an accident took place at this spot in the hours before it was fixed. We wish the gentleman a speedy recovery. A dedicated pothole repairs team has been out every day over the last few weeks, tackling potholes on a priority and route-by-route basis."

Meanwhile at Taunton in Somerset, it was a similar story for commuting cyclist Martin Salter who was on his regular route to work last Thursday when he too was caught out by a pothole which sent him crashing onto the road surface.

“I found myself crawling around in the middle of the road unable to breath. It was so bad I thought I had punctured my lung. I was also scared of getting run over because none of the cars were stopping but I managed to get to the side to the road where I collapsed in a lot of pain.

“I’m really grateful to the staff from the Royal Ashton and Ralph Colman cycles who looked after me until the ambulance came.”

Martin explained to the Somerset County Gazette that he has fractured two ribs, a finger on his right hand and a bone in his left wrist. He will be off work from his job at Musgrove Park Hospital where he works as a theatre assistant for the next six weeks.

Needless to say, there are likely to be plenty more cyclists out there who have been hurt in pothole-related crashes but whose stories have not been reported in the local press.

Given the huge backlog of repairs to potentially lethal potholes in most parts of the country, good lights and a high degree of vigilance have rarely been so important for Britain’s cyclists. And if Mr Parris’ experience is anything to go by, a crash helmet sounds like a pretty good idea too.
 

8 user comments

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Yeah, I'm cycling at reduced speed after dark because I can't avoid all the potholes. At least I don't have far to go, but I expect it's making some people's rides too long and they're switching to a less fun but safer mode of transport.

posted by a.jumper [683 posts]
31st January 2011 - 19:30

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My other half hit one the other week which wrote off a wheel... in the car! Dread to think how bad that was to have knackered a car wheel. Vigilance is the best way; with two awful winters in a row and limited funds, you can't expect councils to magic instant repairs for every defect out there.

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posted by G-bitch [302 posts]
31st January 2011 - 21:18

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It's not the potholes that I'm scared of, it's the insane amount of weaving around them I have to do.

I've memorised all the ones on the way to work and back and try to move out into the road in anticipation.

I'm astounded my wheels are still true...

posted by pnoodles [14 posts]
31st January 2011 - 21:33

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Maybe, once they've sold off the forests, they will have enough money to maintain the roads to a First World standard. </sarcasm>

posted by handlebarcam [527 posts]
31st January 2011 - 21:53

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My route home takes me along a road that was in bad shape almost as soon as it was (cheaply) resurfaced. After 18 months and two harsh winters, it's pothole paradise. Riding along it requires close attention and that isn't helped by the fact that many car drivers blast along it at high speed, which means you have to be doubly sure to claim the road. I also ride my motorbike and drive my car along that road and it's just as alarming using those. Much of urban London is in a similar state. This will cause serious accidents for all road users.

OldRidgeback

posted by OldRidgeback [2132 posts]
31st January 2011 - 23:14

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Potholes are a perennial problem on my way home from the station - as soon as they fill one in, (really badly- this is Surrey County Council after all), it starts to reopen and some real chasms have opened up since the bad weather. As I ride a Brompton (16 inch wheel) I am especially susceptible. I find my Exposure Joystick light helps - mounted on my helmet so I can move my head to sweep it around, and fairly bright - and it is lucky the road is fairly traffic-free as I lurch from side to side like a drunk to avoid the holes.

posted by Paul M [306 posts]
1st February 2011 - 10:49

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I commute in Somerset to Taunton, same place as Mr Salter

I report potholes on the http://www.fillthathole.org.uk/ CTC website and so far have had a pretty good level of success at getting them filled quickly

They even did a small bit of resurfacing on some cycle route in the park

So don't get mad, get reporting. And learn to bunny hop

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posted by vorsprung [290 posts]
1st February 2011 - 13:21

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The Sheffield Slarlem is more like a down hill run of moddles than smooth carraigeway. I had to bunny hop my road bike the other day rather than drop into huge hole. It's not much but it's keeping me on my toes... Defo need new wheels for the summer. I'm getting fed up of straightening them.

Over the Hills and far away!!

posted by highwaymunky [38 posts]
1st February 2011 - 13:49

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