A coroner’s inquest has heard how a cyclist was killed when a pothole caused her to veer into the path of a car. However, the council responsible for the road where the fatal crash happened says it had no record of such a defect, despite receiving four complaints in the previous year.
The cyclist, 47-year-old Alison Doyle of Maghull, Merseyside, was on a club run with fellow members of Sefton Velo on 19 August last year when the incident happened on Bold Lane, Aughton, Lancashire, reports Mail Online.
Diane Whorton, who had been riding behind her, told the inquest at Preston Coroner’s Court: “All I heard was the rattle of a bike and hiss of a wheel, like someone had a puncture. I saw Alison losing control and swerving into the other side of the road where there was a car.
“There was nothing she could do. The only thing in the road was a massive pothole, the sort you can’t see from a distance. It was the only thing she could have hit.”
Another rider, Rob Smith, said: “I remember seeing Alison lose control of the bike, it was quite violent the way it occurred. Normally, when you hit a pothole you carry on but she hit [it] and went diagonally. She went off at a 45 degree angle into the other carriageway.”
Police collision investigators said there were no defects on Mrs Doyle’s bike nor on the Ford Ka car involved in the fatal collision, and concluded that she lost control and veered towards the vehicle, which was being driven in the opposite direction, as a result of the pothole.
The inquest was told that the pothole was at least 15 inches in length and 2.5 inches deep. It was filled later that day by Lancashire County Council. There had been four complaints about the state of the road in the year preceding Mrs Doyle’s death.
The council told the inquest that it inspected the road every three months, and that the previous inspection in June had not identified any potholes deeper than 1.5 inches and therefore needing repair. However, the next inspection, in September, identified 17 defects in need of repair.
Richard Borrett, on behalf of Mrs Doyle’s family, asked if it was “surprising” for a pothole that size to have appeared in such a short period, to which highways inspector David Vincent replied that while unusual, potholes are “not an exact science” and one may have developed.
East Lancashire Coroner Richard Taylor recorded the cause of death as a road traffic collision, but added: “The question remains about what sort of pothole there was in June.
“The records say there was no defect. There could have been rough surface not deep enough or deemed to be a safety hazard. I accept that.”
Mrs Doyle, who had two adult sons, had survived breast cancer in 2016 and worked as a nurse specialising in palliative care and educational reform.
The family’s solicitor, Rachel Botterill, said: “The coroner found that Alison had hit a pothole which had not been identified as a hazard when the highway was last inspected, two months before her death.
“It is important to now investigate with the council whether its inspection procedure was thorough and had taken account of dangers to all road users, including vulnerable road users such as cyclists,” she added.
Commenting on the case, Sam Jones, Cycling UK's senior campaigns officer, told road.cc: "Yet again the poorly maintained state of the UK's local roads has claimed another victim and ruined the lives of two families.
"A systematic decline in funding for our local roads from national government has seen their state steadily deteriorating, with at least 431 cyclists killed or seriously injured on Britain’s roads since 2007.
"It beggars belief that a 15in long by 2.5in deep pothole just appeared with no warning two months after inspection, and one wonders whether the inspection took into account the impact of the road defects they found on vulnerable road users.
"The lack of clear guidance on pothole intervention for local authorities is of real concern, particularly relating to what can affect a cyclist - as location of the defect can be just as important as it's size and depth.
"Cycling UK would urge everyone to report the potholes they find via Fill That Hole, chiefly to alert local authorities to their presence so they can be fixed but also to make sure there is a record of these defects."
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.