A cyclist who sustained injuries to his back, side and shoulder after crashing due to a 9cm deep pothole filled with water, which had already been reported by a rider who had previously crashed there, has won a four-figure sum in compensation from Cheshire East Council.
The law firm that acted for him is now calling on the council to change its procedures to ensure such defects are identified and remedied quickly.
John Whittle came of his bike as he rode along Mottram Road in Alderley Edge, Cheshire, having failed to see the pothole due to the water. The council initially denied liability, but settled with him after court proceedings were issued.
JMW Solicitors, which acted for Mr Whittle, has called on the council to change its Highways Policy with regard to ‘Category 1’ potholes.
Currently, such defects need to be fixed the next working day following inspection, but there is no stipulation on how soon the pothole should be inspected after it is reported.
Mr Whittle said: “I’ve been a cyclist for many years, so I’m used to looking out for potholes given the atrocious state of the roads – this one was filled with water, so I didn’t see it and before I knew it I was on the ground, having injured my back, side and shoulder.
“The injuries caused me issues at work for several weeks and were obviously very painful, but it could have been much worse.
“It’s disappointing that the council took so long to investigate the pothole, putting more people in danger.”
Nadia Kerr, a partner at JMW Solicitors, said: “This accident has exposed serious failings in the way dangerous potholes are inspected – the clock should start ticking as soon as a pothole is reported, but in reality, it can take days for an inspector to assess it.
“A 9cm-deep pothole has the potential to cause serious injury – this accident was nasty but it could have been much worse – particularly if John was sharing the narrow road with vehicle.”
The law firm’s own investigation discovered that a cyclist previously injured after crashing at the same location had reported the pothole to the council.
A subsequent report mentioned a “deep” and “dangerous” pothole filled with water and referred to a cyclist having come off his bike.
According to JMW, had the council identified the pothole mentioned in that report as needing urgent inspection and repair, Mr Whittle’s own crash would not have happened.
Ms Kerr said: “The Highways Policy needs a careful re-think to make sure that dangerous potholes like this one are inspected much sooner – lack of resources is not a defence.
“Cyclists risk injury every day but councils must do more to prevent accidents like this – or worse.
“Until the Highways Policy is changed, the number of compensation claims will continue to rise, and cyclists will continue to be at risk and sustain injuries which are preventable,” she added.
Research from Cycling UK, published last year to coincide with the inaugural National Pothole Week, found that pothole claims from cyclists cost councils 25 times as much as those from drivers, primarily because of the greater likelihood of serious injury or even death.
According to official figures, since 2007, at least 431 cyclists were killed or seriously injured in Great Britain as a result of poor road surfaces, including potholes.
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.