It’s that time of year again when the sun, when it appears, is low in the sky. After months of darkness we can look out on the brightness and the light and feel some warmth.
The brightness, the light, the sun and the arrival of spring are all incentives to get out on your bike ride …..but there is a hazard that lurks.
When the sun is so low in the sky it can be a hazard which obscures the view of all road users. We are all affected. But the consequences are so very different depending on the circumstances.
I was recently cycling in the Lake District when I suddenly hit a pothole. The defect in the road was filled with water. I didn’t know about the hazard until I hit it. The sun was low in the sky and I was heading directly into the brightness. All I saw on the road ahead was a darker patch. It had rained earlier and there were patches of water on the road. As far as I was concerned it was nothing more than a bit of wet road. So I kept going. After I hit the pothole I stopped and turned round and I couldn’t believe the size of the pothole I had hit. How could I have missed that?!! I went back and I retraced my route along the road and I filmed my approach.
My view of the road – no reason here not to continue riding.
When I stopped and turned round…….wow, how did I miss that?!
My report of the pothole
Luckily for me, I was not unseated. I did not fall and I was not injured. The defect on the road had already been sprayed ready for repair (but looked as if it had deteriorated more since it had been sprayed) and so I expect that the defect appears somewhere on the records of the relevant Highway Authority and that all things being equal, that defect will be repaired soon. Just for completeness though, I have reported the defect to ‘Fill That Hole’, ‘Fix My Street’ and also to Cumbria County Council under reference EI/133457.
This is common cycling territory and I know there is an event taking riders along this road in a few months’, so it needs to be fixed.
I am dealing with cases where clients have been hit by motor vehicles whose drivers have been affected by the sun. In fact on Monday 1 March 2023, I had two enquiries from clients who had both been injured in completely separate collisions with cars where the drivers say that the low sun affected their vision. Just for the record this is no defence just like ‘Sorry mate I didn’t see you’ is no defence. These protestations are often used as a justification for why the collision happened. Of course, they are not justifications.
I recently negotiated a settlement of £135k for a client who was cycling and was struck from behind by a car whose driver said that she did not see my client because of the position of the sun. My client was knocked off and fell on to the road and he was then run over by a second car. Neither driver was prosecuted. My client challenged the decision of the police officer not to prosecute but to no avail. The level of compensation we achieved reflects the severity of the injuries my client suffered. I’m sure that the drivers of both vehicles would much prefer that this crash and these injuries had not happened but it is clear that reducing speed to 40 miles an hour because of the bright sun and the lack of visibility was simply not enough.
As the driver of a motor vehicle, you cannot simply assume that things will be ok if you keep going when you can’t see well enough in front of you. Drivers have a higher burden of responsibility on the road because they can and often do cause more harm to more vulnerable road users.
As can be seen from my photo above, I couldn’t see the pothole at all from the direction I was riding in – but I could see the road. I would have seen a rider, a horse, a car etc on the road ahead of me. For me, it was the pothole that was obscured. And that pothole needs to be repaired. The budget on 15 March 2023 announced £200m for pothole repairs and let’s hope that we start to see some improvements on our roads as a consequence of that injection of money.