New research from Cycling UK, published as it launches its inaugural Pothole Watch Week, shows that pothole claims from cyclists cost councils 25 times more to settle in terms of compensation and legal costs than ones from motorists do.
The charity said that on average, claims from cyclists each cost £88,000 to settle, with £45 million in total paid out during the past five years.
The figures have been compiled following a Freedom of Information request and have been published to coincide with the inaugural Pothole Watch Week which aims to raise awareness of the problem.
Some 156 highways authorities responded out of the 211 contacted, with the average amount paid to motorists being £338 while for cyclists it was £8,825.
As Cycling UK points out, the reason for the huge discrepancy in payouts to cyclists compared to drivers is because while motorists are likely to be claiming for damage to vehicles, for bike riders compensation is much more likely to be sought for bodily injury – and even death.
Official figures show that since 2007, at least 431 cyclists have been killed or seriously injured in Great Britain as a result of poor road surfaces, including potholes.
With the trade association the Asphalt Industry Alliance estimating that it would cost £9.3 billion just to repair existing potholes on British roads, Cycling UK is calling on the government to invest some of the £25 billion committed to building and maintaining motorways and trunk roads in making good road defects.
“Cyclists are running the gauntlet when riding on British roads following a decade of underinvestment leading to the poor state they’re currently in,” said the charity’s CEO, Paul Tuohy.
“Potholes aren’t just an expensive nuisance, they are ruining lives.
“The government is going to spend £25 billion on maintaining and building new motorways, while effectively each year it finds some loose change for the problem of potholes on local roads,” he continued.
“Cycling UK wants government to adopt a ‘fix it first’ policy. Let's repair the local roads first – the ones we all use in our cars and on our bikes everyday – before building new motorways.
“Through Pothole Watch, I want to encourage the wider public to help councils by reporting potholes and helping them identify where the problems are – then they can start fixing them,” he added.
Cycling UK is urging road users to report defects to the relevant authorities using its Fill That Hole app and website, pointing out that flagging them up in this way can highlight potholes that need repairing that they may not yet be aware of.
It has also produced a video to coincide with the launch of Pothole Watch Week that features cyclist Stephen Greenham, who was injured when he hit a pothole while riding downhill in Buckinghamshire last year.
He said: “I was just cycling along the road and just starting to go downhill and beginning to pick up speed, when suddenly there was this instant when the whole bike jumped up.
“I was thrown up into the air and off the bike – the whole thing was a bit of a blur. When I hit the pothole I was travelling about 20 mph.
“In total, it took about 10-11 weeks before I was fully able to ride a bike again.”
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.