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Army officer killed on bike as he swerved to avoid pothole

Fatal accident highlights dangerous state of roads

An Army officer was last week killed while cycling home when he was hit by a lorry after apparently swerving to avoid a massive pothole, described afterwards as “more like a trench.”

The incident, which took place near Tidworth, Salisbury Plain, highlights the state of disrepair of Britain’s roads, not helped by the worst winter in decades, which has left councils struggling to keep up with repairs.

It is thought that 29-year-old Captain Jonathan Allen, who had served in Afghanistan, did not see the 15-foot long pothole until the last moment and as he tried to avoid it, he was struck by the passing lorry, leaving the Royal Fusiliers officer with fatal head injuries.

Andrew Connolly, who sits on Tidworth Town Council, told the Daily Telegraph: "This hole was more like a trench than a pothole.

"There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that this crater was a direct causal factor behind this young man's tragic death.

He continued: "The accident happened in the evening, when it was pitch black and will have been filled with water. He either ploughed into it without seeing it and then fell in front of the lorry or swerved at the last minute to avoid it. Either way, the pothole was undoubtedly to blame.

"It's a real problem around here and the state of some of the roads are shocking," Councillor Connolly added.

A statement from Captain Allen’s regiment said: "Jon was an energetic and utterly professional Officer with a bright future ahead of him. His death has come as a very great shock to us all and we mourn his early passing.

"We have lost a very dear colleague and friend and the thoughts and prayers of the Regiment go out to his family and girlfriend at this very difficult time."

The Telegraph reported PC David Cooper, from Wiltshire Police's serious collision investigation team, as saying: "We were alerted to an accident in which a cyclist was killed after being hit by a heavy goods vehicle.

"The collision occurred in a stretch of road where there is a pothole, although it is too soon to say whether this was to blame.”

PC Cooper continued: "We are not ruling it out as the cause and our investigation is continuing. The findings will be sent on to the coroner".

The newspaper added that a spokesman for Wiltshire County Council had said: "We are sorry to hear about this tragic accident and our thoughts are with family and friends at this difficult time.

"The police are investigating the recent fatal road traffic collision.

"Any recommendations made by the coroner at a subsequent inquest concerning the highway will of course be given serious consideration by Wiltshire Council.

"It would be inappropriate for us to comment further at this time," the statement concluded.

An inquest into his Captain Allen’s death opened last Friday and has been adjourned until to an unspecified date.

Simon joined as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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John_the_Monkey | 14 years ago

His friends are now mounting a campaign to get potholes fixed...(according to the Sun at least).

I've every sympathy for them, but can't help feeling that it's the driving that needs to change, not just our roads  2

TiNuts replied to John_the_Monkey | 14 years ago

Not only the driving, but the attitude of the Police towards such errant driving. I sometimes get the feeling that too many plods still believe we should be should all be cycling in the gutter!

cat1commuter | 14 years ago

Even if he was already on the floor, then the lorry was following too close. You're supposed to leave enough space to the next vehicle that you have time to come to a stop (like almost no drivers do).

STATO | 14 years ago

3 things...

1. Road is a full 2 lanes wide, so plenty of space for a passing vehicle to get into the other lane to overtake.

2. Double white lines so shouldnt have been overtaking at any speed anyway.

3. Pothole is only half the width of the lane, so if he did swerve he still would have been in his own lane.

So taking into account those points, if the lorry hit him when he was still riding (and not on the floor after hitting the hole) then its just plain bad driving. I see far to many drivers not leaving enough, if any!, room for cyclists, and i now take time to inform them whenever i get the chance, even if they dont like it!

cat1commuter | 14 years ago

That really is the nightmare scenario: monster pothole filled flush with water in the dark, then an HGV.

vorsprung | 14 years ago

The thing is we can go to "" and at the moment it does work to the extent that the holes are filled. But many of the roads with potholes need a proper resurfacing and the potholes will probably reoccur next winter.

However in 2011 public spending cuts mean that this approach will probably not be so widely available.

If I still have a job then I guess I will have to get a full sus to commute on.

Simon_MacMichael | 14 years ago

The Sun has a picture of the pothole, which has now been filled in - it really is huge (see link below). The road has no overtaking lines, and there's very little space.

The lorry was travelling in the same direction, sorry if that wasn't clear.

Phaedrus | 14 years ago

If the 6 foot rule was in place this wouldn't happen

G-bitch | 14 years ago

It's not clear whether the lorry was an oncoming vehicle or was overtaking - my first reaction was that the lorry probably didn't give enough room but that's a little unfair as it sounds like a pothole of epic proportions.

OldRidgeback | 14 years ago

I don't think there's any part of the UK that doesn't have badly potholed roads at present and whether I've been on my bicycle, on my motorbike or in my car, I've had to swerve numerous times in recent weeks to avoid them. I know I'm not alone in this and sadly, it seems likely more people will suffer as a result, like the family of this guy. If we built our roads properly in the first place we'd have half the number of potholes that we do now, maybe a lot less even. It isn't about how much you spend on road maintenance necessarily, but how you do the work and how it's planned and we're not very good at either of those in the UK.

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