Back in June 2011 experienced cyclist Martyn Uzzell, 51, took part in the famous cycling challenge, Lands end to John O’Groats in aid of Macmillan Cancer.
His tragic death happened whilst he was travelling on the busy A65 Bypass through Giggleswick in North Yorkshire when he fell into a 10cm pothole around a drain and was thrown into an oncoming vehicle. He was killed instantly. Last week at the inquest the coroner, Rob Turnbull, said he had, “no doubt whatsoever that the condition of the road on that occasion was the cause of the accident”.
One twist to this catastrophic tale was that police had warned North Yorkshire County Council about the pothole one month earlier, but the Council failed to repair it!
Samantha Hirst, a paralegal specialising in cycling accidents at Ridley & Hall, said, “Leeds City Council have introduced a programme of road maintenance which includes road resurfacing at five sites in preparation for the Tour de France Grand Depart route. Although the council’s efforts are a positive step to reduce accidents on the Tour de France route why are they isolating one event to repair Yorkshire’s roads? Surely it should be an all year round project to secure cycling safety, and not just when the whole world is watching for the Tour de France?”
Mr Uzzell’s distraught widow, Kate Uzzell, criticised the council for failing to take action, telling the Yorkshire Post: “It is simply disgraceful that a pothole on such a busy road was allowed to go unrepaired. We lost a husband, a brother and a brother-in-law, a dear friend and a son. Martyn’s death was entirely avoidable.”
The CPS has decided not to criminally prosecute the council for their failings.
Samantha Hirst commented, “Councils and local authorities are required to take reasonable steps to protect users. They often use the section 58 defence whereby the council will say that they had a reasonable system of inspection in place. This defence can make bringing these types cases difficult. I would imagine Mrs Uzzell is now pursuing a claim under the civil procedure. I do hope the council steps up and takes responsibility for this tragedy that happened on their road that they had a responsibility to maintain.”
It is clear that Britain’s roads are not in an acceptable state. According to the Daily Mail, compensation claims to councils for injuries or damage to vehicles from potholes rose to 39,249 in 2013 from 25,977 in 2012. Only a fifth of claims were successful with the average payout falling to £375 from £1,565 in 2012. With one of the wettest winters on record, councils have a huge task to make Britain’s roads safe, especially for vulnerable road users like cyclists. Council’s should adopt effective road maintenance projects rather than sporadically repair a pothole when someone makes a complaint or is injured.
Samantha is a paralegal in Ridley & Hall’s specialist Litigation team with years of experience in personal injury cases. For further information please contact Samantha Hirst of Ridley & Hall, Queens House, 35 Market Street, Huddersfield, HD1 2HL on 01484 538421.