Cyclist sues council for £100,000 after pothole crash

Herts County Council denies responsibility for pothole that hospitalised rider

A cyclist who was seriously injured when he hit a pothole in Rickmansworth is suing Hertfordshire County Council because he claims the council’s failure to maintain the road caused his injuries.

According to Ross Lydall in the Evening Standard, 56-year-old Alan Curtis is seeking between £50,000 and £100,000 after being left with hearing and nerve problems, short-term memory loss and a broken arm after the crash.

Mr Curtis was training with two friends for a charity bike ride across India in October 2009 when he hit the pothole in The Drive, Rickmansworth.

He was thrown from his bike, hitting his head on the road and smashing his helmet on one side.

He told the Standard: “From that point until the Tuesday or Wednesday, I have no memory of anything. I thought I was unconscious, but the doctors and my wife tell me I was conscious. The neurologist says it’s pre- and post-traumatic stress memory loss.”

His lawyer Kevin O’Sullivan, of Levenes solicitors, said: “This highlights how devastating a pothole can be to a cyclist, and how important it is that a local authority does what the 1980 Highways Act obliges it to do, and look after the road properly.”

After his crash, Mr Curtis was treated at Watford General Hospital and then at The Wellington Hospital in St John’s Wood.

He had to take seven weeks off work. “I landed on the left side of my head,” he said. “That affected the right side of my body.

“I’ve had life-changing injuries. The hearing in my right ear is poor. I don’t feel pain or temper-ature the same way. I have pins and needles. If [the council] is not doing what it should in terms of looking after the road, it needs to have attention drawn to it.”

The council denies responsibility and declined to comment ahead of the case.

The Daily Telegraph recently found that payouts to drivers for damage caused by potholes had declined over the last three years as councils try to cut bills.

Despite an increase in the number of claims, the average compensation payout to drivers has fallen dramatically. According to the Telegraph’s figures, in 2011 the average award was £2,264, a figure that dropped to £1,565 in 2012. In 2013 motorists received £375 each on average.

While that’s not directly relevant to cyclists’ issues with potholes, it implies that the spate of court cases we’re seeing is partially caused by cash-strapped councils trying to minimise the cost of pothole damage payouts.

Acknowledged by the Telegraph as a leading cycling journalist, John Stevenson has been writing about bikes and cycling for over 30 years since discovering that people were mug enough to pay him for it rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work.

He was heavily involved in the mountain bike boom of the late 1980s as a racer, team manager and race promoter, and that led to writing for Mountain Biking UK magazine shortly after its inception. He got the gig by phoning up the editor and telling him the magazine was rubbish and he could do better. Rather than telling him to get lost, MBUK editor Tym Manley called John’s bluff and the rest is history.

Since then he has worked on MTB Pro magazine and was editor of Maximum Mountain Bike and Australian Mountain Bike magazines, before switching to the web in 2000 to work for CyclingNews.com. Along with road.cc editor Tony Farelly, John was on the launch team for BikeRadar.com and subsequently became editor in chief of Future Publishing’s group of cycling magazines and websites, including Cycling Plus, MBUK, What Mountain Bike and Procycling.

John has also written for Cyclist magazine, edited the BikeMagic website and was founding editor of TotalWomensCycling.com before handing over to someone far more representative of the site's main audience.

He joined road.cc in 2013 and these days he lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.

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