Potholes policy risk to cyclists
Government alters advice on repairs
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 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.”
“The government should adopt a ‘fix it first’ policy”