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Council being sued by three cyclists injured as they rode through ford

All three women suffered fractures due to "more slippery than ice" road surface in Leicestershire...

Three cyclists are suing Leicestershire County Council after they were injured as they rode through a ford in a village on the outskirts of Leicester, and are also calling on it to make the location safer for people on bikes.

All three sustained fractures in August this year after coming off their bikes due to a surface beneath the water described as being “more slippery than ice” since it was covered in algae.

The first incident happened on 6 August as Janet Fox, 58, and Kirsty North, 50, were on a bike ride from Leicester.

Neither was familiar with the road the ford lies on, but due to the shallowness of the water and the absence of any other way of crossing, they decided to ride through, with both crashing.

Ms Fox sustained a fractured pelvis, bruising and open wounds to her elbow and hip, while Ms North also sustained a fractured pelvis.

The following day another woman from Leicester was injured as she rode through the ford, having assumed it was a puddle.

The woman, who wished to remain anonymous, sustained three fractures to her shoulder plus soft tissue injuries to her left knee, right thigh, right elbow and both hands.

They all maintain that a sign warning of the ford was hidden by an overgrown hedge, which also concealed a footbridge for pedestrians.

Bringing an action against the council through law firm Leigh Day, they allege that the council was negligent for failing to maintain, for cyclists, safe passage of the highway, failing to prevent the algae build up, as well as not providing adequate signage warning them of the dangers from the ford.

In a statement the two women injured in the first incident said: “We urge the council to make this section of road safer for everyone. We feel it is impossible for anyone to cross the ford on a bicycle without falling off.

Not only that, the danger it poses is not clear at all, most people would consider a ford safe to cycle over if the water levels are low. There is no way of knowing just how slippery the surface underneath has been allowed to become. We don’t want anyone else to get hurt.”

Ross Whalley, specialist cycling solicitor at law firm Leigh Day, commented: “This ford posed an apparently unavoidable danger to cyclists, motorcyclists and all road users at the time of these incidents.

“The signage was also inadequate and I understand that it has not been changed – but signage itself will not prevent further injury to vulnerable road users if the surface here remains as slippery as ice throughout the year.

“I would urge the council to reconsider the layout of the ford. My clients have heard from a local resident that there have been other incidents at this ford involving cyclists and even a horse rider, such is the danger. I hope that the council listens to their plea and takes action swiftly to prevent other road users coming to harm.”

Simon joined road.cc 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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50 comments

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Team E Mong | 4 years ago
1 like

Shock horror! Women aren’t just bad at driving. 

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vonhelmet replied to Team E Mong | 4 years ago
7 likes
Team E Mong wrote:

Shock horror! Women aren’t just bad at driving. 

Someone let the dickhead out again.

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zero_trooper | 4 years ago
1 like

To me (and obvs some others) the pertinent fact is that there were warning signs displayed not fit for purpose. Whilst we all have a responsibility to drive(!), cycle and walk safely, the local council (I'm presuming that it's a minor road and not one maintained by the County Council or Highways Authority) have identified a hazard and attempted to warn users (and for pedestrians provided an alternative route). So the council are at fault.

Don't forget there are two separate incidents here, so not just a one off.

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iandusud | 4 years ago
1 like

This is a ford on a highway therefore by implication it is deemed suitable for road traffic. If for any reason it is unsafe for any form of road traffic there should be clear signage to that effect. If this is not the case then I consider the council negligent. I regularly ride through water when for example roads are flooded or, as in this case there is a ford. Of course I exercise caution but there is nothing you can do about an unseen hazard such as in this case. The same would be true if for example there was a deep pot hole on the ford - I would consider the council negligent if I came off or damaged my bike if upon hitting it.

 

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ktache | 4 years ago
0 likes

MikeFromLFE, what is the warning sign like from the other end please?

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Chris Hayes | 4 years ago
5 likes

I cycled through a ford in Suffolk once and slid along its mossy bottom on my arse.  Next time I came across one in the New Forest and got off my bike to walk though it.  My brand new Zipp 404s got caught between cobbles and I put a deep scratch the front and rear rims: they'd done 4km.  I don't do fords anymore.

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MikeFromLFE | 4 years ago
3 likes

I've been riding through that ford for many years - and to be honest I've never noticed a footbridge, I'm not saying there isn't one, but I've never seen it.

During most of the year the stream is little more than a trickle across the road,and there's absolutley no issue with cycing through it - but once this year I nearly came off when there was just a bit more water in the ford.

As another poster on here says - the ford is in a severe dip, and the temptation is to go down one side, power through the ford in order to maintain momentum to get up the other side - which is what I've always done.

The surface of the ford is (as far as I recall) ribbed concrete, and it's possible that this contributes to the build up of algae.

As regards the negligence of Leicestershire County Council? Dunno! I've never seen the signs obscured by hedges, and I've always been aware of the warning to dismount. There may well have been a window when the hedges weren't cut.

This photo of the sign heading north towards the ford was taken on 8th July this year.

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duzza | 4 years ago
3 likes

I've ridden through that ford many times over the years and have yet to fall off, however, If you've never ridden through a ford you probably wouldn't realise how slippery they can be. During the summer there isn't usually much water in it so even if you didn't know the road, I doubt you would dismount and use the bridge. The main problem isn't the ford itself, but the speed you can be doing approaching it as it's in quite a dip. From the opposite direction to the photo the gradient is about 6% and the ford is well signposted. I always slow down and stand up before riding through it  but I would imagine that plenty of people speed through it to keep momentum for the climb out of the dip. The council should possibly put some more signs up but don't need to alter the road itself.

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AlsoSomniloquism replied to duzza | 4 years ago
0 likes
duzza wrote:

I've ridden through that ford many times over the years and have yet to fall off, however, If you've never ridden through a ford you probably wouldn't realise how slippery they can be. During the summer there isn't usually much water in it so even if you didn't know the road, I doubt you would dismount and use the bridge. The main problem isn't the ford itself, but the speed you can be doing approaching it as it's in quite a dip. From the opposite direction to the photo the gradient is about 6% and the ford is well signposted. I always slow down and stand up before riding through it  but I would imagine that plenty of people speed through it to keep momentum for the climb out of the dip. The council should possibly put some more signs up but don't need to alter the road itself.

If you have been through there this year, can you confirm the bridge is now covered by the bush as this was one of the claims. As I posted earlier in the thread, from one side at 2012 which was the last street view, the Ford warning sign is pretty much covered and it doesn't take much imagination that the footbridge could be as well by now. (Although I doubt a bike could be wheeled across it anyway even if it wasn't). 

 

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zero_trooper replied to duzza | 4 years ago
1 like
duzza wrote:

I've ridden through that ford many times over the years and have yet to fall off, however, If you've never ridden through a ford you probably wouldn't realise how slippery they can be. During the summer there isn't usually much water in it so even if you didn't know the road, I doubt you would dismount and use the bridge. The main problem isn't the ford itself, but the speed you can be doing approaching it as it's in quite a dip. From the opposite direction to the photo the gradient is about 6% and the ford is well signposted. I always slow down and stand up before riding through it  but I would imagine that plenty of people speed through it to keep momentum for the climb out of the dip. The council should possibly put some more signs up but don't need to alter the road itself.

Good insight thanks.

However, the council don't need to put up more signs, just maintain properly the ones already in place.

Ironically round where I live some of the road signs are damaged or knocked out of angle by the very hedge cutting that is supposed to make them more visible.

Bloody err… hedge cutters!

 

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vonhelmet | 4 years ago
7 likes

It's funny how everyone is confident that the river was a raging torrent but 5 minutes ago wouldn't believe the sign might have been obscured.

Without seeing how everything actually looked on the day, surely it's a bit hard to judge?

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Gary's bike channel | 4 years ago
3 likes

theres a cycle lane the council painted on a pavement near me. It has a line that goes straight into and around several large trees. If i ride into one of them at full pelt then say i didnt see them, and that the cycle lane is dangerous, would i win at sueing them? 

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Sriracha replied to Gary's bike channel | 4 years ago
2 likes
david rides wrote:

theres a cycle lane the council painted on a pavement near me. It has a line that goes straight into and around several large trees. If i ride into one of them at full pelt then say i didnt see them, and that the cycle lane is dangerous, would i win at sueing them? 

Depends. Was there a sign, possibly even attached to the tree itself, warning of the tree's presence, and moreover that it was likely to be made of wood? Remember, exercise caution when attempting to cycle through wood. Or water.

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kevvjj | 4 years ago
7 likes

The council is negligent here. No argument. There should have been adequate and clearly visible signage warning cyclists of the dangerous surface under the water - even to the point of recommending that cyclists dismount. If it was at all dangerous for cars then I have no doubt it would have suitable signage.

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Sriracha replied to kevvjj | 4 years ago
5 likes
kevvjj wrote:

The council is negligent here. No argument. There should have been adequate and clearly visible signage warning cyclists of the dangerous surface under the water - even to the point of recommending that cyclists dismount. If it was at all dangerous for cars then I have no doubt it would have suitable signage.

Can't agree. The writing is in the river. If they can't read that then they should not be on the road. Enough of signs stating the bleeding obvious.

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Rik Mayals unde... replied to Sriracha | 4 years ago
1 like
Sriracha wrote:
kevvjj wrote:

The council is negligent here. No argument. There should have been adequate and clearly visible signage warning cyclists of the dangerous surface under the water - even to the point of recommending that cyclists dismount. If it was at all dangerous for cars then I have no doubt it would have suitable signage.

Can't agree. The writing is in the river. If they can't read that then they should not be on the road. Enough of signs stating the bleeding obvious.

I agree Sriracha. If someone decides to cycle through a small river flowing across the road, they shouldn't be on the road. If I come across standing or moving water on the road in front of me, whether or not I know the road, I will always excercise caution, and common sense. 

There is a small lane on one of my training routes, just outside Scorton. There is a ford on this lane, which is very small, but I would never, ever consider cycling through it, I always go over the small bridge. Sorry ladies, take a little more care. 

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CyclingInBeastMode replied to Sriracha | 4 years ago
6 likes
Sriracha wrote:
kevvjj wrote:

The council is negligent here. No argument. There should have been adequate and clearly visible signage warning cyclists of the dangerous surface under the water - even to the point of recommending that cyclists dismount. If it was at all dangerous for cars then I have no doubt it would have suitable signage.

Can't agree. The writing is in the river. If they can't read that then they should not be on the road. Enough of signs stating the bleeding obvious.

What is so obvious about a couple of centimetres at most that the surface underneath would have zero traction, how can you know this simply by seeing some water? When you cycle on any road with some standing water after it's rained or water from a burst main, do you expect to wipe out due to no traction whatsoever, no you bloody well don't,!

You take care of course and ride slower but you should expect with such shallow water not to have to dismount and walk/find alternate route and most certainly not expect it to be an ice rink.

 

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kevvjj replied to Sriracha | 4 years ago
3 likes
Sriracha wrote:
kevvjj wrote:

The council is negligent here. No argument. There should have been adequate and clearly visible signage warning cyclists of the dangerous surface under the water - even to the point of recommending that cyclists dismount. If it was at all dangerous for cars then I have no doubt it would have suitable signage.

Can't agree. The writing is in the river. If they can't read that then they should not be on the road. Enough of signs stating the bleeding obvious.

Can't agree. The council are fully aware that one of their roads is dangerous to a form of travel other than a car. They have a moral, ethical and LEGAL obligation to maintain it in a state that is safe for ALL users - this is why we pay Council Tax. Are you saying that cyclist injured by potholes should have seen the writing in the road? 

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oceandweller | 4 years ago
6 likes

Hmmm, I get the impression a lot of people on here maybe don't ride through fords all that much. We have quite a few around here (east Berkshire) & they're *very* variable. Some are easy, many are fun (on a suitable bike) & a few are near lethal & there's no easy way I can see - apart from riding through a few times - to tell which is which. The women who've been injured may not be all that experienced & can't be expected to have Danny Macaskill's bike handling skills. The council should take that into account when they post signage. IMHO...

Incidentally, there's a road bridge just north of Bracknell that occasionally becomes a ford. It has a higher level footbridge next to it for such eventualities. The last time I was through there the footbridge was completely hidden inside a dense bramble thicket. When there's another flood that road will become impassable on foot & a gamble on a bike. Leicester isn't the only Local Authority skimping on its responsibilities.

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mattsccm | 4 years ago
4 likes

FFS . It's water. You never ever ride through it if you have any doubts and if you have you get off and look or walk.  If there is any justice the case will be thrown out and the council will be awarded costs. All road users should be responsible for their own driving. 

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CyclingInBeastMode replied to mattsccm | 4 years ago
5 likes
mattsccm wrote:

FFS . It's water. You never ever ride through it if you have any doubts and if you have you get off and look or walk.  If there is any justice the case will be thrown out and the council will be awarded costs. All road users should be responsible for their own driving. 

This is complete bollocks, riding through water on roads generally you may well be riding slower but you don't imagine even if there's standing water/puddles that the surface underneath is going to be like an ice rink with zero tyraction!

They DID NOT KNOW IT WAS A FORD, christ alight, so many people who can't sodding read, I would have ridden through a few centimtres of water without any thoughts to algae/slippery underneath, I'd be cautious but not expect to wipe out riding in a straight line!

Road users can be responsible but stuff that is totally unexpected cannot be accounted for and you should not be responsible for the outcomes, that's not how it works, otherwise why have the warning signs and an alternate route in the first instance if it isn't a hazard to the unwary user! OR simply make sure that the danger - that is known about by the responsible persons, that being the local authority, is removed or an alternate route offered, none of that occured so the local authority are at fault!

 

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Master Bean | 4 years ago
2 likes

Caution - Slippery when wet.

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Natrix | 4 years ago
3 likes

The tricycle club used to have an annual ride which took in many fords, just because they could ride  through them but accompanying cyclists couldn't (or tried and fell off).

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hampsoc | 4 years ago
2 likes

#savetheoccupents

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vonhelmet | 4 years ago
8 likes

Fucks sake people. The sign was obscured so they might not have known until it was too late.

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brooksby replied to vonhelmet | 4 years ago
3 likes
vonhelmet wrote:

Fucks sake people. The sign was obscured so they might not have known until it was too late.

Exactly.

"They all maintain that a sign warning of the ford was hidden by an overgrown hedge, which also concealed a footbridge for pedestrians."

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Sriracha replied to vonhelmet | 4 years ago
3 likes
vonhelmet wrote:

Fucks sake people. The sign was obscured so they might not have known until it was too late.

Known what? That there was a river flowing across their road? If they couldn't see a river I doubt they'd have seen a sign.

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growingvegtables replied to vonhelmet | 4 years ago
4 likes
vonhelmet wrote:

Fucks sake people. The sign was obscured so they might not have known until it was too late.

 

OK - signage appears to be a problem, and fair enough.

 But it appears to be

  • a pretty straight road, with clear sight lines ... and a pretty damned obvious beck at the bottom?  Bit of primary school geography"?
  • with a pedestrian bridge  pretty clear at its side?

 

 For anybody with the slightest notion of reading the countryside they're riding through, it's not "rocket science", surely?

 

And as for wanting the council to keep a ford algae-clear?  Even "reconsider the layout" ... FFS.  Sorry - but seriously, I fervently do NOT want my countryside and all its features converted to some sort of homogenous, characterless, "(incompetent)-cyclist-friendly" environment.

If the signage is a problem ... fair enough, sort it.

But DON'T mess with anything else.  Just one voice.  I'd be happy to ride out that road, and take the challenges of navigating the ford ... with rather more care, calculation and consideration than these riders did.

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nniff | 4 years ago
2 likes

Who would have thought that riding through a river might be difficult?  Authors of their own misfortune IMHO

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ktache | 4 years ago
2 likes

Ther might be some magical medical imaging technique to help prove their unfounded injury claims.

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