Whilst it is unfortunate that your bicycle wheel was caught in between the gaps in the drain pictured, it seems from the letter you sent as if the council has provided a reasonable justification for denying liability in this particular case.
The council states that the drain is designed in a way to allow cyclists and other oncoming traffic to travel safely over the feature whilst following thenormal direction of the road. This allows for effective drainage along the sloped road. If the council were to change this, its reply says, the road may become more liable to flooding and, as a result, this would increase the risk to road users, including cyclists.
The council is responsible for the maintenance and repair of public roads and it relies on the public to report any faults so they can be investigated. The council also has a duty to carry out regular checks/inspections, which are usually more frequent if the road is busy, such as those around town or city centres.
On this occasion, the council will no doubt allege that the drain cover was not defective and has been properly maintained. For an actionable claim, one would have to show that this design of drain is particularly dangerous and the cause of numerous accidents/injuries. Section 67 of the Highway Code also states that cyclists should look well ahead for obstructions such as drains and parked vehicles.
That being said: if you come across a drain that is damaged, a pothole, or other significant road defect, then you may indeed have a legitimate complaint. Cycling UK has a website dedicated to reporting road defects, so if you see something that you would like to bring to your local council’s attention, go to fillthathole.org.uk. Alternatively, most local councils offer their own forms to report these defects. Furthermore, if you sustain a significant injury as a result, then you should contact the Cycling UK Incident Line: 0844 736 8452.
Principal Lawyer, Slater + Gordon Lawyers
This Q&A was published in 'Cycle' the magazine for members of Cycling UK. To contact the experts, email your technical, health, legal or policy questions to email@example.com or write to Cycle Q&A, PO Box 313, Scarborough, YO12 6WZ