“Britain’s pothole crisis costs lives” says Cycling UK

A man wearing a helmet rides a bicycle up a steep hill in a barren landscape
Harry Colledge (pictured cycling up Mont Ventoux) sadly died as a result of injuries sustained after a crash due to pothole
Since 2017 close to one person per week has been killed or seriously injured while cycling due to potholes and road defects on Britain’s roads
  • Charity welcomes funding boost for potholes but calls for UK road maintenance guidance update to make sure potholes which kill or seriously injure cyclists are fixed
  • Call follows death of Harry Colledge caused by pothole ignored by road maintenance crew in Lancashire
  • 255 people cycling have been killed or seriously injured due to road defects since 2017

More must be done to ensure funding to fix potholes does not ignore people cycling says Cycling UK, following the government’s announcement of an £8.3bn fund to repair England’s roads.

In the past seven years, at least 255 people have been killed or seriously injured while cycling due to the UK’s crumbling roads. Cycling UK therefore welcomes the newly announced funding but is calling for the guidance for highway engineers to be updated to reduce the risk of death and serious injury for cyclists, like Cycling UK member Harry Colledge.

As reported on BBC Breakfast this morning (17 November), 84-year-old Harry Colledge died after his bicycle hit a pothole. Harry was cycling on Island Lane near the village of Winmarleigh, Lancashire, in January this year, when his bicycle wheel was trapped in a reported 87m-long crack. This crack had been visible on Google Street View for 14 years and was known to Lancashire County Council.

This pothole caused him to crash, resulting in Harry suffering fatal head injuries and passing away later the same day. The coroner concluded that Harry probably would not have died had the council acted on warnings to fix the crack.

Cycling UK wants the UK Roads Leadership Group, which is responsible for creating the guidance given for road traffic engineers across the UK, to make sure its guidance no longer ignores road defects that impact people cycling.

This guidance was last updated in 2016, and the group ignored evidence submitted by Cycling UK calling for these changes. The charity says many of the deaths and serious injuries since then could have been avoided if the group had listened.

Cycling UK argues the current procedures for inspecting roads and paths, and then deciding which repairs are necessary, overlook the safety needs for people cycling. This means cracks and other defects which specially affect the narrower tyres of bicycles are not always considered suitable for fixing, despite their increased risk of causing death or serious injury. 

Harry’s widow, Val Colledge, said:

“We all accept that there is an element of risk in most aspects of life, but the odds have been stacked against people who cycle for too long. More and more people are being encouraged to cycle and it is promoted as being a healthy, environmentally friendly form of transport and leisure activity.

“However, the state of our roads is unacceptable and especially the country lanes preferred by cyclists.”

Sarah Mitchell, Cycling UK’s chief executive, said:

“Britain’s pothole crisis costs lives. Let’s put right past mistakes and make sure no family ever has to receive a phone call to say that the failure to fill a pothole has ended a loved one’s life.

“We applaud the government for providing long-term funding for councils in England to fix our crumbling roads but are urging ministers to ensure that money is well spent. It’s not expensive or difficult to update the guidance for our traffic engineers to save lives and prevent tragedies like that which Val and her family have had to go through.

“Seven years ago, Cycling UK called on the UK Roads Leadership Group to update guidance for traffic engineers. Unfortunately our warnings went unheeded and since then nearly one person a week has been killed or seriously injured because they chose to ride a bike on Britain’s roads.”

Harry’s family was supported through the inquest by Fletchers Cycle SOS, the law firm which provides Cycling UK members with free cycling-related legal advice.

Notes to editors

  1. Cycling UK, the UK’s cycling charity, imagines a world where the streets are free of congestion and the air is clean to breathe, where parents encourage their children to cycle to school and everyone shares the exhilaration of being in the saddle. For more than 140 years, we’ve been making our streets safer, opening up new traffic free routes and inspiring more people to cycle more often.
  2. The summary of the inquest into Harry Colledge’s death is available at: https://www.lancashire.gov.uk/births-marriages-and-deaths/deaths/coroners/inquest-conclusions/
  3. Government casualty figures show 255 people were killed or seriously injured while cycling due to “poor or defective road surface” between 2017 and 2022: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/media/65143a8bb1bad400144fd8fc/ras0701.ods

Press contact information

For more information, please contact the national Cycling UK press office www.cyclinguk.org/contact/press-and-media.