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"Gone to Potholes": a review of the law

On 25 January 2018, an article in The Times reminded readers that potholes are not just a nuisance and risk to tyres and car suspensions, but they can also be a deadly hazard to cyclists.

Little appears to have improved for road users since our article on potholes in April 2015, https://www.ashfords.co.uk/article/will-government-investment-fix-pothole-problem written in response to a government announcement that the Department for Transport would invest £275 million into the improvement of local roads in the UK.

According to the Asphalt Industry Alliance, not enough funds are being channelled to local roads. A disproportionate amount of money is focussed on major roads, leaving a legacy of neglect for local roads which now require a forecasted spend of £12 billion to get them back up to a reasonable condition.

The majority of cyclists stick to the local roads. Whether cycling on a residential street or a country road, the danger from potholes is increasing. Can cyclists successfully claim compensation if they are injured as a result of catching a wheel in a pothole?

The legal position is relatively straightforward. A local authority has a duty of care to all road users to ensure that highways are free from danger. However, as long as they can show that they have a reasonable system of monitoring, inspection and repair of highways (and stick to it within reasonable parameters) they can raise a statutory defence.

Local parish councils and members of the public should always report dangerous potholes to their local councils. This will raise the bar in terms of the council's responsibility to remedy the defect, possibly sooner that the council's schedule of repair might dictate.  

If you see a bad pothole (in terms of size or location) report it. Remember rain and frost can soon turn a small pothole into a real danger. Imagine cycling in the rain or in the dark and it is easy to see how hazardous they can be and how your intervention might save a cyclist from severe injury.

 

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