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Coroner orders council to mend road defects after cyclist’s death

Assistant coroner’s Prevention of Future Deaths report says Jennifer Dyer’s death following pothole crash “was avoidable”

A coroner has ordered a council has been ordered to review its procedures for mending road defects after a cyclist was killed when she crashed after hitting a pothole.

Jennifer Dyer, aged 36, was killed when she was thrown into the path of a van on the B2188 near Groombridge after she hit the pothole on 29 March 2021, reports The Argus.

In a Prevention of Future Deaths report – compiled by coroners and sent to the relevant authorities so they can take steps to improve safety following a fatality, whether in the workplace, on the public highway or in some other scenario, that they believe need not have happened – assistant coroner James Healy-Pratt said that Ms Dyer’s death “was avoidable.”

According to the assistant coroner’s report, the pothole measured 45cm by 80cm at its widest and broadest points, and had a maximum depth of 5.8cm.

He said that research into the defect had “evidenced a history of failed repairs since late 2019, with numerous concerns being raised about the continuing danger that it posed to road users, especially motorbikes and bicycles.”

In his report, he wrote that East Sussex County Council, which had categorised the pothole as a low priority in terms of needing repair, needed to review its policy regarding fixing road defects.

“This young lady and mother lost her life due to a collision between her bicycle and a van,” he said.

“That collision was solely and proximately caused by a defective pothole, 58mm deep, in the road surface of the B2188, Cherry, Gardens Hill, Groombridge. Her death was avoidable.”

“Clearly, this pothole was the proximate cause of the death of a young woman, and the categorisation of potholes in East Sussex requires significant review, to prevent future avoidable deaths within the county,” he added.

A separate report by Sussex Police found that it was “highly likely” that the pothole had been the cause of the fatal crash.

A spokesperson for the county council said that the pothole was repaired on the same day as the crash that claimed Ms Dyer’s life, and that the council had revised its road safety inspection procedures to allow for “a more flexible approach to determining risk for all road users and defect response times.”

A spokesperson for the council said: “Whilst this process was not in place at the time the pothole in this incident was identified and categorised, by introducing this new process, the council believes that a specific review of the pothole categories is not required.”

The spokesperson added: “The council is committed to improving communication with road users and improving the safety of the roads.

“The death of Jennifer Dyer is a tragic loss and the council offer its sincere condolences to Ms Dyer’s family.”

Cycling UK runs the Fill That Hole app and website which allows cyclists and other road users to easily report road defects to the relevant authorities.#

The national cyclists’ charity periodically publishes league tables of which councils and other agencies are quickest at responding and fixing them, and those that are less proactive in doing so.

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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