Pot­holes pol­icy risk to cy­clists

Govern­men­tal­ter­sad­viceon­re­pairs

The Press and Journal (Inverness, Highlands, and Islands) - - NEWS - BY PAT HURST

Cy­clists could die be­cause of new UK Gov­ern­ment rules re­lax­ing re­pairs to deep pot­holes, a coroner has warned.

Peter Sigee, as­sis­tant coroner for Greater Manch­ester North, said an ap­par­ent change in pro­ce­dures on when pot­holes are deemed deep enough to need re­pair will “in­crease the risk of fu­ture deaths”.

His re­port, has been sent to Trans­port Sec­re­tary Chris Grayling, fol­low­ing the death of Roger Hamer, 83, af­ter he hit a pot­hole in Rams­bot­tom, Greater Manch­ester, in 2016.

Dur­ing Mr Hamer’s in­quest, the jury found he prob­a­bly died af­ter his bi­cy­cle hit a pot­hole, gen­er­ally in ex­cess of 50mm (2in) deep , on Bury New Road. Bury Coun­cil cur­rently has an “in­ter­ven­tion level” of 40mm, so any pot­holes at that level or deeper are re­paired.

But the in­quest heard the coun­cil is now adopt­ing a

“The­gov­ern­ment shoul­dadopta ‘fix­it­first’pol­icy”

new pro­ce­dure af­ter the Depart­ment of Trans­port (DfT) is­sued new guid­ance in Oc­to­ber 2016.

Mr Sigee noted that un­der the new pro­ce­dure 40mm will be re­de­fined as the “in­ves­ti­ga­tion level”, so that once a pot­hole is greater than 40mm a high­way in­spec­tor will in­ves­ti­gate it and con­sider whether a re­pair is needed. The coroner said while in­spec­tors have the dis­cre­tion to re­pair pot­holes which do not meet the cri­te­ria, he con­sid­ers the new rules will in­crease the risk of fa­tal­i­ties, es­pe­cially for cy­clists.

The DfT said it is for lo­cal au­thor­i­ties to de­cide and de­ter­mine the di­men­sion of a pot­hole as a ba­sis for their de­ci­sion- mak­ing and the new pro­ce­dures are clearer and in­volve a “risk-based ap­proach” with road in­spec­tors mak­ing a judg­ment on which re­pairs are done.

A num­ber of deaths in the UK have al­ready been at­trib­uted to cy­clists hit­ting pot­holes. A to­tal of 467 cy­clists have been in­volved in ac­ci­dents at least partly caused by “poor or de­fec­tive” roads in the past five years.

A DfT spokes­woman said: “The UK has some of the safest roads in the world but we are al­ways look­ing to im­prove safety.”

Sam Jones, of Cy­cling UK, said: “The in­ter­ven­tion level of 40mm sug­gests the lo­cal au­thor­ity is in the un­ac­cept­able po­si­tion of hav­ing to pri­ori­tise be­tween the cost of main­tain­ing the road over the safety of vul­ner­a­ble road users.

“Rather than build­ing new roads, the gov­ern­ment should adopt a ‘fix it first’ pol­icy.”

Cather­ine James, a se­ri­ous in­jury lawyer at solic­i­tors Ir­win Mitchell, rep­re­sent­ing Mr Hamer’s fam­ily in a claim for com­pen­sa­tion from Bury Coun­cil, said: “We shared those con­cerns raised by Mr Sigee, as­sis­tant coroner, in his re­port.”

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