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Cyclist whose leg was shattered in pothole crash loses appeal

High Court judge upholds original decision and says photos failed to establish danger posed

A cyclist whose right leg was shattered when she hit a pothole has lost her High Court case in which she was suing a council in Yorkshire for negligence.

Miranda Walsh was riding with her partner in Huddersfield in 2013 when she crashed as she approached the New Hey Road roundabout.

The Huddersfield Examiner reports that last year, Judge Neil Davey QC ruled that Kirklees Council was not to blame for her injuries.

Her lawyers had said that the pothole was “the size of a dinner plate,” measuring 6 by 8 inches and more than an inch and a half deep.

The judge, however, said that photographs of the pothole taken by a council engineer were “worse than useless” and there was no way of establishing the dimensions.

Ms Walsh had claimed that the council had been negligent in failing in its duty to keep the highway safe and that the pothole was “a real source of danger to road users.”

She appealed the decision, with her barrister, Ian Pennock, saying that the original decision was “simply wrong,” pointing out that one photo included a tape measure which showed the size of the pothole.

Mr Justice Dingemans ruled that while the photograph appeared at first sight to show the dimensions, looking more closely he agreed with Judge Davey that there was "not enough reliable evidence" to establish that it posed a real danger, and dismissed the appeal.

The decision has been reported at a time when Cycling UK is running its inaugural Pothole Watch Week.

As we reported on Sunday, the charity says that pothole-related claims against local authorities by cyclists result in awards and legal fees 25 those of claims brought by motorists, due to the greater risk of injury.

Commenting on this case, Duncan Dollimore, Head of Campaigns at Cycling UK, said: "It’s impossible to know exactly what evidence was available to the court simply from the press reports, but this case demonstrates the importance of taking photographs of any pothole or road defect which include reference to some form of scale, including the depth of the hole.

"The press report mentions a depth of 1.6 inches, but it's unclear whether that was a relevant factor.

"New government guidance issued in 2016 set a depth of 40mm as the level at which potholes should be investigated, but not automatically repaired.

"Sadly, we all know that the location of the pothole can be as important as its size, something which highways authorities and the courts don't always seem to realise, so it's also vital to take photographs showing the road approaching the pothole to put the location in context."

Simon joined road.cc as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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