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Cyclist died after pothole crash; council says it had no record of defect despite receiving four complaints

Alison Doyle died when she veered into path of car during club run

A coroner’s inquest has heard how a cyclist was killed when a pothole caused her to veer into the path of a car. However, the council responsible for the road where the fatal crash happened says it had no record of such a defect, despite receiving four complaints in the previous year.

The cyclist, 47-year-old Alison Doyle of Maghull, Merseyside, was on a club run with fellow members of Sefton Velo on 19 August last year when the incident happened on Bold Lane, Aughton, Lancashire, reports Mail Online.

Diane Whorton, who had been riding behind her, told the inquest at Preston Coroner’s Court: “All I heard was the rattle of a bike and hiss of a wheel, like someone had a puncture. I saw Alison losing control and swerving into the other side of the road where there was a car.

“There was nothing she could do. The only thing in the road was a massive pothole, the sort you can’t see from a distance. It was the only thing she could have hit.”

Another rider, Rob Smith, said: “I remember seeing Alison lose control of the bike, it was quite violent the way it occurred. Normally, when you hit a pothole you carry on but she hit [it] and went diagonally. She went off at a 45 degree angle into the other carriageway.”

Police collision investigators said there were no defects on Mrs Doyle’s bike nor on the Ford Ka car involved in the fatal collision, and concluded that she lost control and veered towards the vehicle, which was being driven in the opposite direction, as a result of the pothole.

The inquest was told that the pothole was at least 15 inches in length and 2.5 inches deep. It was filled later that day by Lancashire County Council. There had been four complaints about the state of the road in the year preceding Mrs Doyle’s death.

The council told the inquest that it inspected the road every three months, and that the previous inspection in June had not identified any potholes deeper than 1.5 inches and therefore needing repair. However, the next inspection, in September, identified 17 defects in need of repair.

Richard Borrett, on behalf of Mrs Doyle’s family, asked if it was “surprising” for a pothole that size to have appeared in such a short period, to which highways inspector David Vincent replied that while unusual, potholes are “not an exact science” and one may have developed.

East Lancashire Coroner Richard Taylor recorded the cause of death as a road traffic collision, but added: “The question remains about what sort of pothole there was in June.

“The records say there was no defect. There could have been rough surface not deep enough or deemed to be a safety hazard. I accept that.”

Mrs Doyle, who had two adult sons, had survived breast cancer in 2016 and worked as a nurse specialising in palliative care and educational reform.

The family’s solicitor, Rachel Botterill, said: “The coroner found that Alison had hit a pothole which had not been identified as a hazard when the highway was last inspected, two months before her death.

“It is important to now investigate with the council whether its inspection procedure was thorough and had taken account of dangers to all road users, including vulnerable road users such as cyclists,” she added.

Commenting on the case, Sam Jones, Cycling UK's senior campaigns officer, told "Yet again the poorly maintained state of the UK's local roads has claimed another victim and ruined the lives of two families.

"A systematic decline in funding for our local roads from national government has seen their state steadily deteriorating, with at least 431 cyclists killed or seriously injured on Britain’s roads since 2007. 

"It beggars belief that a 15in long by 2.5in deep pothole just appeared with no warning two months after inspection, and one wonders whether the inspection took into account the impact of the road defects they found on vulnerable road users.

"The lack of clear guidance on pothole intervention for local authorities is of real concern, particularly relating to what can affect a cyclist - as location of the defect can be just as important as it's size and depth. 

"Cycling UK would urge everyone to report the potholes they find via Fill That Hole, chiefly to alert local authorities to their presence so they can be fixed but also to make sure there is a record of these defects."

Simon joined 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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Philh68 | 4 years ago
1 like

Sickening that someone had to die for them to fill in a hole. Unfortunately the laws are drafted to protect councils from liability. It is not enough to have evidence of prior complaints, you have to establish the inspection process was inadequate as well as the response time and that the road was unsafe. No doubt the fact that the hole was filled the day of the fatality was to hinder any attempts to prove the road was in unsafe condition after the fact.

Does anyone remember the name of the London cyclist who went around planting flowers in potholes?

Vlad the Impailer | 4 years ago

Its shocking that the cost of a bit of asphalt is not worth the cost of a Human Life.

Pot holes 1.5 inch deep are alright for a car with wheels which are normally 195 - 230 wide - but we have 25 - 28 mm wide tyres - we dont go over the pot hole - we go through it.

Once again cyclists are a burden and car drivers (myself included, as is most of us) take priority.

gcommie | 4 years ago
1 like

Use to regularly report potholes to Oxfordshire County Council via the Fill That Hole app, but gave up when I'd find myself spending more time reporting potholes than riding and OCC rejecting them as not being big enough. Know from my experience from OCC the criteria for action to be taken on a pothole has meant that they have to larger and deeper than in the past. Basically it is a waste of time, and I'm pretty sure OCCs policy is that it can live with the ocasional cyclist death due to a pothole.

burtthebike | 4 years ago

Condolences to the family and friends on this needless, so utterly avoidable death.

This case reinforces the need to use fill that hole, so that there is a paper trail so that the council cannot deny knowledge.

There's even an ap so you can report it then and there on your phone.  What you mustn't do is ignore it, thinking that it's someone else's problem, not unless you want this kind of thing on your conscience.  I wonder how many cyclists/drivers saw this pothole and did nothing?

brooksby | 4 years ago

Sorry, I couldn't hear what the council were saying over the sound of their shredder... 

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