Assistant coroner for Greater Manchester North, Peter Sigee said in a report to the Transport Secretary that the government guidance on pothole repairs will “increase the risk of future deaths” for cyclists.
Last spring Roger Hamer, 83, was thrown from his bike while travelling on a road notorious for potholes in Ramsbottom, Greater Manchester. It is believed he hit one of a series of holes that were up to 5cm deep. He sustained fractures to his skull and a severe brain injury in the accident.
Mr Hamer died from his injuries in hospital a month later.
Though the council claim the pothole in question was only 2cm, Mr Sigee raised concerns over the actions of Bury Council and claimed a new inspection procedure adopted after the accident could still leave deep holes unfixed.
A national code of practice published by the Department for Transport says councils should take their own “risk-based” approach to repairs. Many councils only fix holes that are 4cm or deeper, despite a catalogue of accidents that occur as a result of shallower holes.
In Bury 4cm is deemed as the “investigation level”, meaning that the council only starts to examine holes at this depth, with no guarantee that they will be repaired.
It was recently reported that in the last five years 467 cyclists were involved in accidents at least partly caused by “poor or defective” roads.
Previously, it repaired any defect “found to be 40mm or deeper”. Under its new procedure, 40mm is redefined as the level at which potholes are merely investigated. The assistant coroner said: “Defects which measure less than 40mm may not be investigated and defects of 40mm or above may not be repaired . . . I consider that the new procedure will increase the risk of future deaths, in particular to cyclists.”
Transport Secretary, Chris Grayling responded that it was “for local authorities to decide and determine the dimension of a pothole as the basis for their decision making”.
The council said: “The change from ‘intervention’ levels to ‘investigatory’ is a reflection of the move towards a more risk-based approach for highway maintenance outlined in the code. It would be foolish to disregard the guidance.”