Potholes are a danger and a nuisance to drivers across the UK, causing damage to tyres, wheels and suspension for those motorists unfortunate enough to hit one at speed. But for cyclists, potholes are more than just an inconvenience – they could cause serious injury, or even death.
Cycling UK CEO Paul Tuohy said: “Cyclists are running the gauntlet when riding on British roads following a decade of underinvestment leading to the poor state they’re currently in. Potholes aren’t just an expensive nuisance, they are ruining lives.”
According to reports, the average amount of compensation paid by councils to motorists who hit potholes in the UK is around £340 per driver, whereas councils paid an average of £8,800 for every cyclist involved in an accident caused by a pothole. Since 2007, in fact, at least 431 cyclists have been killed or seriously injured on roads throughout the UK.
The difference between the amount paid to motorists compared to cyclists shows that damaged roads in the UK are a much greater threat to those travelling by bike than those in a vehicle.
Stephen Greenham from High Wycombe hit a pothole in Wooburn Green, Buckinghamshire in August 2018 – he ended up in A&E with a wrist fracture, bruising and road rash.
“I was just cycling along the road and just starting to go downhill and beginning to pick up speed, when suddenly there was this instant when the whole bike jumped up,” said Mr Greenham. “I was thrown up into the air and off the bike – the whole thing was a bit of a blur.
“When I hit the pothole I was travelling about 20mph. In total, it took about 10-11 weeks before I was fully able to ride a bike again.”
In another case, Andrew Slorance hit the corner of a manhole cover exposed by a pothole while cycling home in Edinburgh back in 2013, causing him to lose control and hit the ground – he bit straight through his lip and broke his elbow as a result of the accident.
In spite of weeks off work and plenty of physiotherapy, Mr Slorance has never been able to fully extend his injured arm again. He could not cycle for six months and claims it took a year for him to build upenough confidence to ride his bike to work again.
A YouGov poll conducted with 2,024 people revealed that Mr Slorance isn’t the only cyclist whose ability to commute via bike was badly impacted. According to the study, potholes and drivers overtaking too closely were joint second in a list of reasons to avoid cycling, with large lorries being the primary concern for bike riders.
From 2007 to 2016, potholes and similar types of road damage were factors in the deaths of 22 cyclists (according to the Department for Transport), with over 350 other individuals picking up serious injuries.
According to the YouGov poll, “57% of people were put off cycling by having to share the road with lorries and other large vehicles, while 56% of people would cycle more if roads had fewer potholes and other faults.”
One fifth of all local roads in England and Wales are reportedly in sub-standard condition because councils do not have enough funding to repair them – the Asphalt Industry Alliance believes it would cost as much as £9.3billion to repair damages.
“The Government is going to spend £25billion on maintaining and building new motorways, while effectively each year it finds some loose change for the problem of potholes on local roads,” Mr Tuohy added.
“Cycling UK wants Government to adopt a ‘fix it first’ policy. Let's repair the local roads first - the ones we all use in our cars and on our bikes everyday - before building new motorways.”
Cycling UK's head of campaigns Duncan Dollimore said: "Cycling is still a minority activity in the UK with only 2% of all journeys made by bike.
"Those who do cycle put up with the potholes and dangerous traffic conditions daily and still continue.
"However, it's not always pleasant and it's no surprise most people do not consider cycling for their short everyday journeys.
"The government wants more and safer cycling, but as Cycling UK's research shows, people who don't currently cycle need change if they're going to choose to cycle short distances rather than drive."