156 local authorities spend total of £43.3 million on pothole claims | Cycling UK

156 local authorities spend total of £43.3 million on pothole claims

Cyclist by pothole just outside of Cheriton Bishop, Devon. Photo: Graham Brodie
Cyclist by a pothole in Devon
Cyclist by a pothole in Devon

156 local authorities spend total of £43.3 million on pothole claims

Cycling UK, which runs the pothole reporting webtool and app Fill That Hole, today (Sunday, 22 March) published its findings showing local authorities have spent at least £43.3 million dealing with compensation claims and legal costs due to potholes over the last five years.
  • FOI requests of all UK highway authorities show snapshot of how much potholes have cost Britain over last five years
  • Injuries sustained by cyclists merit compensation 13 times higher than motorists
  • Scale demonstrates long-term failure of Government to fund local roads properly

The cycling charity points out compensation claims and legal fees alone, not including staff time, from the 156 highways authorities is equivalent to 17 percent of the Government’s five-year Pothole Action Fund of £250m allocated announced in April 2015.

The findings are based on an investigation conducted by Cycling UK who submitted Freedom of Information (FOI) requests to 212 Highway Authorities in the UK, of which 156 responded. The FOIs included questions on the amount of compensation paid out to cyclists and motorists, the number of successful claims by both groups and the amount authorities spent on legal fees between 2013 and 2017.

Key findings for the five-year period show:

  • Authorities on average incurred costs of £277,707.44
  • 670 cyclists and 30893 drivers had their claims accepted
  • Motorists received on average £841.26 per successful claim
  • Cyclists received on average £10,963.15 per successful claim
  • £9,980,158.74 was spent on legal costs

The high level of compensation for cyclists – 13 times more than drivers – suggests cycling claims are much more likely to include personal injury rather than just property damage.

Department for Transport (DfT) figures estimate the true cost of “slight injuries” for road traffic incidents at £15,951. Given 670 cyclists had their claims accepted, Cycling UK estimates potholes have cost the economy a further £10.7 million over the last five years, once costs for the NHS, police time and lost working hours are considered.

It is likely council compensation records do not represent the full picture as a joint questionnaire of 5,000 cyclists conducted by Cycling UK, BBC 5 Live Investigates and Cycling Weekly found only 36 percent of injured cyclists alerted the council after the incident, with most people saying the process of complaining was difficult rather than easy.

The questionnaire also showed almost half had hit a pothole, with 54 percent slightly injured and 8 percent seriously injured. 600 (40 percent) of those had to take time off work due to their injuries, with 200 off work for more than a week. Of most concern is that 31 percent were put off cycling as a result of a pothole related incident.

Sam Jones, Cycling UK’s senior campaigns officer said:

“Cycling UK’s research reveals only a glimpse of pothole Britain’s human cost. It’s clear more people are being killed and seriously injured while out cycling each year due to years of persistent under investment in our rotting local road networks.

“The Government should concentrate on fixing the roads we have first before building new ones. Councils need provide enough funding to adopt long-term plans for roads maintenance, rather than pursuing a policy of patching up streets only as they become dangerous.

"With the Government looking to encourage more and safer cycling, then the UK’s road surfaces need to be safe enough for people to cycle on."

A full breakdown of the findings, photos and case studies of pothole victims is available on Dropbox.

Contact information 

For more information contact the national Cycling UK Press Office on 01483 238 315, 07786 320 713 or email publicity@cyclinguk.org

Notes to editors 
  1. Cycling UK, the national cycling charity, inspires and helps people to cycle and keep cycling, whatever kind of cycling they do or would like to do. Over a century’s experience tells us that cycling is more than useful transport; it makes you feel good, gives you a sense of freedom and creates a better environment for everyone. www.cyclinguk.org
  2. FOI responses not received yet from Northern Ireland’s Department for Infrastructure Roads, Transport Scotland or Transport Wales.
  3. For further information on Cycling UK’s Fill That Hole go to: www.fillthathole.org.uk
  4. In April 2016, the Department for Transport announced its £250m Pothole Action Fund to help 100 English local authorities https://www.gov.uk/government/news/cash-for-councils-to-fill-almost-1-million-potholes
  5. According to Government figures, since 2007 390 cyclists were killed or seriously injured due to poor or defective road surfaces. For further information on the number of people killed or seriously injured while cycling see the below table and https://www.cyclinguk.org/press-release/390-cyclists-killed-or-seriously-injured-2007-due-potholes

 

Year

Reported Cyclist Fatalities

Reported Cyclist Serious Injuries

Total KSI

2007

2

15

17

2008

0

18

18

2009

1

29

30

2010

6

25

31

2011

3

42

45

2012

3

41

44

2013

1

38

39

2014

1

55

56

2015

1

45

46

2016

4

60

64

Total

22

368

390

Case studies

Andrew Slorance, Edinburgh
Photo of Andrew Slorance after hitting a pot hole

Andrew, a 47-year-old father of five, has been regular cyclist since his teens. He had never had an accident until 2013, when he was commuting home in Edinburgh and hit a pothole, which had exposed the corner of a man hole cover.

He lost control and hit the ground with his right side, breaking his elbow and busting his top lip with his front teeth. He was lucky to avoid moving traffic around him, and some of the drivers helped him up and called an ambulance. Although he was discharged the same day, he returned to hospital to have pins put in his arm, and to this day he cannot extend his left arm 100%. He was off work for a few weeks, received physiotherapy and was unfit to ride his bicycle for six months. It took him another year or so after that to build up the confidence to begin commuting by bicycle again.

Although he tried to seek compensation for his injuries (and his ruined bicycle), he was unable to prove that the pothole in question had been there for a sufficient length of time, or had been reported to Edinburgh City Council, and his claim was unsuccessful.

 

Janet Smith, Winchester
Janet Smith showing her injuries after hitting a pothole

In July 2017, Janet Smith was cycling with her husband, Richard, when she was forced to the edge of the road by a close passing car and hit a pothole. She lost control and suffered a concussion, severe cuts and bruises to her knees, elbows and face, and knocked her two top teeth out through her top lip. She needed 15 stitches in total, to the inside and outside of her mouth, and was in hospital for two days. As well as the costing the NHS, the damage to her teeth has left her with £3000 in dental fees.

No claim was made against the council as Janet felt this would be too much effort and unlikely to succeed, as it would be impossible to prove how long the pothole had been present.

I don't remember having the accident at all, the first thing I remember is being told I was going to have a CT scan. I feel too nervous to ride my bike now, following the accident, I might not be so lucky next time! 

Janet Smith

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