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Poor road surface may have played part in Bexhill cyclist’s death

Group of cyclists were descending near centre line due to ‘defects’ in the surface

A cyclist who lost his life in a collision with an oncoming car had been riding near the middle of the road due to the quality of the road surface and had crossed onto the wrong side when rounding a sharp bend. 55-year-old Konrad Pieterse from Bexhill was on a sponsored ride near Fairlight when the incident took place.

An inquest heard that on June 15 Pieterse was one of a group of riders descending Battery Hill when he crossed into the oncoming lane of traffic.

The GPS device attached to his bike indicated a speed of between 31 and 39mph in the moments leading up to the crash.

The Hastings Observer reports that the quality of the road surface may have played a part. Several of the other riders said the road was in poor condition with a large number of potholes and uneven tarmac at the outside edge and they said that this, combined with the curve of the road, had forced them to ride near to its centre.

Gary Smith, who had been behind Pieterse in the group, added: “I don’t really know if he hit something like a pothole or a stone. It happened so quickly.”

Forensic collision investigator PC Paul Banks found that road conditions were poor with several large ‘defects’ but said the surface was not below the standard that would have required intervention by East Sussex Highways.

Earlier this month we reported how a Manchester coroner has written to transport secretary Chris Grayling to say that the pothole guidance issued by the Department for Transport in October 2016 increases the likelihood that cyclists will be killed.

Peter Sigee reported on the death of Roger Hamer, a cyclist who was killed after crashing when he struck a pothole near Bury. Grayling expressed sadness at Hamer’s death, but responded, "it is for local authorities to decide and determine the dimension of a pothole as a basis for their decision-making."

Cycling UK’s position is also that better guidance is needed. While the charity’s view is that there is little to be gained from defining a minimum size of pothole, it points out that the position of a defect can render it hazardous even when it is below a certain size.

Alex has written for more cricket publications than the rest of the road.cc team combined. Despite the apparent evidence of this picture, he doesn't especially like cake.

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8 comments

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Saintlymark | 6 years ago
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Having recently fractured a vertebra having hit a pothole because I moved from the centre line, coming up to a blind bend at the bottom of a descent, to avoid an oncoming car, it strikes me that the real danger in potholes is where they are located. The result of hitting a pothole at speed can be far more disastrous, and could have been much worse in my case. That should be built into the thinking on road quality. 

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ashliejay | 6 years ago
1 like

road surfaces are fricking terrible all over the UK, my crash a couple weeks back was down to do the council not looking after the road markings, luckily i was only going around 10mph, so walked it off with a concussion and a lot of blood being spilt, councils need to bother looking after the roads, as every commute is like a CX race, and it's fricking dangerous having to hop and swerve over/around pot holes and cracks.

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brogs | 6 years ago
10 likes

I rode with Konrad over many years and he was an experienced rider who did not take risks. He was a decent rider and I had no qualms riding at close quarters in a bunch with him. He was strong, a good climber and he knew his way around a bike.

I ride this section of road regularly, it is the descent of a legendary local climb called Battery Hill. It is around 14% in places. It's part of a popular coastal route from Hastings through to Rye and into Kent. Konrad was very familiar with this road, he was local and rode it regularly.

At the top, the road suffers from tree drop erosion (water dripping from the overhanging trees which erodes the road surface) and the surface is broken in a number of places. It is hard to find a line where you do not end up having to lift your weight over poor surface at high speed.

Further down, where Konrad came off, the surface is better but there are potholes. The road is now in the worst condition I have seen it. Speeds of over 40mph are easily attained and it's actually quite an open corner, certainly not technical, through which you can take a nice line from outside for good sight lines, to the apex and out again. But you have to look ahead for the potholes to avoid adjusting your line mid-corner. There is plenty of width at this point, as you can probably see from the photo. It's a lot steeper than it looks in the photo above. Once through the corner the road is straight and freewheeling gives you 45mph+.

One has to draw the conclusion that Konrad made a mistake of some sort, but I don't think we will ever know what that was. It's a quiet road for traffic and certainly bad luck to collect with a car coming up. I rode out the day after he came down, to pay my respects and I tried to work out what could have happened. But I have no idea.

He was a very fine fellow, a classy club rider and sadly missed.

Ride safe.

 

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Yorkshire wallet | 6 years ago
1 like

Sad event but the conclusions already drawn seem reasonable. Everyone will screw up at some point, sometimes there's no luck to go with it. 

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BehindTheBikesheds | 6 years ago
0 likes

But they moved to the offside of the lane they were travelling in, this would have been the best position to get around the bend safely so any uneven road surface on the inside which is what was described should/would have had no effect if you were in that position in any case.

IMHO it's clear that 31mph (which isn't mentioned at what point that lower speed was so could have being at the top of the hill) is excessive for the conditions/layout and the primary cause, you would not be able to stop in time if there was something hidden around the bend, a queue of stationary vehicles, a wheelchair user or an inform/elderly person halfway across the road, a fallen tree, animal, roadworks, big pothole etc.

I think trying to point the finger at the uneven surface on the inside line is a bit of a stretch tbh because it's very obvious that he was going too fast for the conditions/road layout and his ability. 

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BehindTheBikesheds | 6 years ago
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Travelling at excessive speed into a blind bend is what was the primary cause of the rider going on to the wrong side of the road and causing the incident.

You wouldn't want to be approaching that bend on the inside part of the lane in any case as it's even harder to get around it and you would see even less around the bend from that position than being right of centre of the lane.

I'm also puzzled by the statement by the friend, he says the uneven surface is at the "outside edge", surely that should be the inside/nearside edge given they moved to the right of centre of the lane?

Unfortunately there are too many people on bikes who ride beyond their and their machines limitations and fail to understand hazards/conditions until it's too late, this is apparent at all levels including the pros who make similar mistakes. 

Sadly for this guy it cost him his life.

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psling replied to BehindTheBikesheds | 6 years ago
1 like
BehindTheBikesheds wrote:

I'm also puzzled by the statement by the friend, he says the uneven surface is at the "outside edge", surely that should be the inside/nearside edge given they moved to the right of centre of the lane?

 

 

I imagine they would be referring to the outside edge of the road rather than the outer side of the lane (lane being the one side of a two lane road!!).

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alansmurphy replied to BehindTheBikesheds | 6 years ago
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BehindTheBikesheds wrote:

Travelling at excessive speed into a blind bend is what was the primary cause of the rider going on to the wrong side of the road and causing the incident.

 

 

I want to cry "victim blaming" but I also thought the same and then I arrived somewhere in the middle ground.

 

Speed will have been a contributor and if a cycle is on the wrong side of the road there is part responsibility there. On the other hand if he arrived at a reasonable speed say 31mph and the road surface was previously good and then had to adjust position 6ft to the right (due to the surface) eventually crossing the line by 2 ft you could argue that he'd have had wriggle room if it wasn't for the surface.

 

You can always advocate applying the brake but we all make split decisions that aren't always 100% correct, you'd hope the next time you did so that it wouldn't cost your life...

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