Cyclist killed due to pothole, says coroner

Hazardous road surface around a drain - similar to that hit by Martyn Uzzell
The cyclist, Martyn Uzzell, hit the pothole in North Yorkshire, and was thrown into the path of an oncoming car. His widow called on the local authority to repair the roads properly in advance of the arrival of le Tour de France in 2014.

Martyn Uzzell was taking part in a Land's End to John O'Groats ride for charity when he was killed in June 2011. 

The defect - next to a drainage gully - had been reported by a policeman a month before, and inspected twice by North Yorkshire County Council.

However, the local authority failed to take action to rectify the hazard, claiming that it wasn't deep enough to warrant fixing at that time. 

At the conclusion of the inquest, the coroner for North Yorkshire, Rob Turnbull, said he had, “no doubt whatsoever that the condition of the road on that occasion was the cause of the accident”.

CTC believes that local authority maintenance regimes must take into account cyclists' needs, including the considerable risk that narrow trenches next to drains pose. Such hazards aren't deemed a problem because they don't affect drivers, but still are a risk for cyclists because they are close to the kerb, where cyclists sometimes have to ride. 

Kate Uzzell, Mr Uzzell's widow, 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.”

She appealed for the council to maintain the roads properly in the run up to the arrival of le Tour de France, which starts in Leeds in July. 

The tragic death of Martyn Uzzell need not have occurred if North Yorkshire had maintained its roads properly. Cyclists are particularly susceptible to poor road surfaces and with le Tour de France coming to Yorkshire's roads this year, we must make sure the hundreds of thousands of people coming to cycle on our roads will be safe. 

Chris Peck
CTC Policy Co-ordinator

Pothole deaths are not uncommon - there have been a handful of these in recent years, including the case of Captain Jon Allen, who was hit by a lorry after encountering a pothole near Wiltshire in 2010.

Severe winters and decades of under-investment in road repair have left roads susceptible to pothole formation.

CTC wants to see government and local authorities investing in longer term maintenance, spending more on resurfacing roads (and, at the same time, redesigning them with cyclists in mind) to prevent potholes emerging in the future.

If you see hazardous conditions, you can report them on our Fill that Hole reporting site, or use our iPhone or Android apps - the latter developed thanks to funding from the Department for Transport.

UPDATE 8th APRIL 2015:

Martyn Uzzell's widow Kate has reached an out-of-court settlement with North Yorkshire County Council, reportedly for a 6-figure sum. A spokesperson from North Yorkshire said: ‘Whilst North Yorkshire County Council accepts no liability for the tragic death of Mr Uzzell, the authority has appreciated that this is a sensitive matter and has therefore reached a settlement with Mr Uzzell’s widow, to avoid prolonged involvement in further litigation.'