The assistant coroner for Greater Manchester North says that the pothole guidance issued by the Department for Transport (DfT) in October 2016 increases the likelihood that cyclists will be killed.
Peter Sigee reported on the death of Roger Hamer, a cyclist who was killed after crashing on Bury New Road in March 2016 after he had struck a pothole.
The subsequent police investigation identified several road defects in the area, the largest of which was a pothole 0.6m wide, 1.5m long and 50mm deep.
BikeBiz reports that previous practice had been to repair any pothole “found to be 40mm or deeper,” but that the Well-Managed Highway Infrastructure: a Code of Practice, issued in October, now states only that potholes of 40mm or deeper should be "investigated".
Writing to the chief executive of Bury council and transport secretary Chris Grayling, Sigee expressed his belief that the new procedure would “increase the risk of future deaths, in particular to cyclists.”
Grayling expressed sadness at Hamer’s death, but said, "it is for local authorities to decide and determine the dimension of a pothole as a basis for their decision-making."
Cycling UK’s position is that better guidance is needed. Its view is that there is little to be gained from defining a minimum size of pothole, pointing out that the position of a defect can render it hazardous even when it is below a certain size.
Bury New Road, where Hamer was killed, is steep in places, and what might have been seen as a minor pothole on a flat stretch of road could have been greatly more dangerous when descending.
Cycling UK says that there needs to be greater understanding of the difficulties potholes can present for vulnerable road users and it has also called for greater investment into repairing local roads, suggesting that the Government reallocate funding from its £15bn Road Investment Strategy to deliver this.
AA president Edmund King also expressed concern at Sigee’s comments.
"When the road is pot-holed it means that cyclists are more likely to swerve and this increases the likelihood of collisions. Hence we believe that more should be done to make good road maintenance a priority. It is worrying that the coroner in this case has suggested that the ‘New Procedure' will increase the risk of future deaths, in particular to cyclists."