Coroner: "No doubt" that pothole caused crash that killed cyclist

Inquest hears police reported pothole to N Yorks council 5 weeks before fatal incident but nothing done despite 2 inspections

A coroner has said he has no doubt that a pothole that went unrepaired for five weeks after police alerted North Yorkshire County Council to it was to blame for the death of a cyclist who was thrown from his bike into the path of a car.

Martyn Uzzell from Somerset, aged 51, was taking part in a Land’s End to John O’Groats ride for charity when he was killed in the incident on the A65 Settle Bypass at Giggleswick in June 2011, reports the Yorkshire Post.

His two riding companions, one of whom was his brother-in-law, avoided the pothole, which was 10cm deep and surrounded a drain cover. But it is thought that Mr Uzzell hit it, causing him to lose control of his bike.

The cyclist was killed instantly when he was hit by a Volkswagen Golf travelling in the opposite direction.

North Yorkshire coroner Rob Turnbull said in a narrative verdict at Skipton Coroner's Court that he had “no doubt whatsoever that the condition of the road on that occasion was the cause of the accident”.

He went on: “It is my opinion based on the balance of probability that this defect had existed for some time prior to the accident.

“It is not my opinion that it was a defect that had occurred very recently and it must have been some days since the defect was apparent.”

The inquest heard that the pothole had been spotted by a police officer on 11 May, who alerted his control room, who in turn told the council’s customer service team about the defect.

However, the operator failed to pass the message on to the council’s highways team.

The council did inspect the pothole on 13 May, apparently unconnected to that phone call from the police, but decided it did not need immediate attention.

There was one further inspection prior to the day of the fatal incident, but again no action was taken.

North Yorkshire County Council’s head of highway operations, Michael Roberts, told the inquest he would have been “astonished” if the defect had been in the same state of disrepair “for any length of time” prior to the incident that claimed Mr Uzzell’s life.

The coroner said that there was no way of knowing whether the pothole was on the same condition on May 11 as it had been on the day of the fatal incident.

Mr Uzzell’s wife of more than 20 years, Kate, said after the inquest: “It is simply disgraceful that a pothole on such a busy road was allowed to go unrepaired.

“The coroner clearly stated, in his opinion, that the pothole around the gulley is what caused Martyn to be thrown into the path of a car.

“The events of June 17, 2011, were deeply traumatic for our family. We lost a husband, a brother and a brother-in-law, a dear friend and a son. Martyn’s death was entirely avoidable.

“Yorkshire is hosting the Tour de France and hundreds of thousands of cyclists will be visiting the county.

“We hope the road network is maintained so there is no repeat,” Mrs Uzzell added [the road itself is not on the route of either of the two Yorkshire stages – ed].

A Crown Prosecution Service review of the case decided that there were no grounds for criminal prosecution against the council in relation to its alleged failure to repair the pothole.

Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.

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