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The Death of a Crater - Upper Chorlton Road, Manchester17th September 2020 Personal Injury
It was a regular commute home from work by bike when I met the crater. For many days I had thought it was a puddle. It was filled with water. When the water receded what was revealed was a significant defect on the road.
On 9 January 2020, the water had subsided sufficiently to enable me to at least attempt to capture the enormity of the defect.
9 January 2020
I first reported the pothole on 10 January 2020 on Cycling UK’s Fill That Hole app on my phone under reference 171430. This stretch of road sits within both Manchester City Council and Trafford Metropolitan Borough Council areas and the ‘pin drop’ on the first report strayed it seems on to TMBC’s highway.
29 January 2020
I continued to cycle that way every working day and on 29 January I stopped again.
I reported the pothole for the second time on 29 January 2020 and this time the pin dropped on to MCC’s area under reference 172545.
6 February 2020
On this day we were blessed with winter brightness and sunshine in Manchester. A few dry days had resulted in the water subsiding and I stopped once again.
My hallmark is to place my helmet into potholes to give a sense of perspective and I was able to do this on that date without getting all my chin straps and internal helmet padding wet.
I reported the pothole again on 6 February 2020 under reference 172981.
I also went on twitter and tagged MCC:
13 February 2020
I noticed that some road works had been set up on Upper Chorlton Road. I stopped on my way to work because I wanted to say goodbye to the pothole. I assumed that the road works were to fill various defects along that stretch of road. On that day I took an image of the pothole crater which was virtually filled with water.
I also went on twitter tagging MCC:
As the days rolled by I was disappointed to see that the roadworks weren’t extending to the point of the pothole. The roadworks were very near though...but clearly not close enough.
23 April 2020
A bright, sunny day in Manchester and at lunchtime I was on Upper Chorlton Road. I was delighted to see that the area around the pothole had been sort of spray-painted, which signified at least that the issue has been noted by a council (appointed) highways inspector. This was progress.
30 April 2020
A week later, I captured further images of the pothole. A bit of water in the bottom but still such a significant and visible issue and in the line of travel that a cyclist may take along that road.
2 May 2020
I reported the pothole again under reference 176821.
2 July 2020
Due to lockdown, there was a gap in capturing images as I rarely commuted into the office. On 2 July 2020, there was water in the pothole again but the extent of the defect was still visible...it was now a bigger crater with more of the kerb edge revealed.
26 August 2020
And again...but note here that the spray paint seems to have worn off.
My interest in potholes
I work as a cycling accident solicitor and I campaign for road safety. Cases involving cyclists hitting pothole defects are a staple part of my work. These defects impact vulnerable road users particularly when the potholes are filled with water and aren’t visible. Drivers of vehicles may suffer damage to their vehicle but it is much less likely that the occupants of the vehicle will suffer any sort of injury than if they were on two wheels. An annoyance for a motorist coupled with an administrative exercise to claim a refund from the council. …but for a 2 wheeled road user, these defects are potentially fatal.
Many of my claims are pursued against highways authorities for failure to maintain road surfaces. I am a frequent reporter of pothole defects to the councils across the country and that is by way of either a report on the relevant local council’s website or by use of one of a number of reporting apps such as Cycling UK’s Fill That Hole or Fix My Street.
Importantly, this is a main road in Manchester. It is a heavy traffic route. It is a major commuter route. It forms part of the planned £13m city centre to Chorlton cycle and walking route. For some of the time, I have been observing the road surface here the road was virtually free of motor vehicles because of lockdown restrictions due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Instances of people choosing to ride bikes over this time soared. More people were facing a danger here because of a lack of repair. Manchester City Council were on notice of this defect 3 times from me – surely others would also have reported this defect too? The council were not therefore unaware of the defect and they just failed to respond to it.
Fill That Hole shows the number of issues reported on this short stretch of road and I have circled my 4 reports.
Highways Authority have a category prioritisation system for timetabling a repair. The bigger the defect the speedier the repair. I try to help the council prioritise scarce resources and direct priorities by using words such as DEEP, LARGE and (VERY) DANGEROUS.
This was such a significant defect that under Manchester City Council’s Highways Policy this would be called a Category 1 defect:
So what had gone wrong? Why wasn’t this repaired? I don’t know the answer to that question; if I knew I would tell you.
As a concerned member of the public, as a campaigner for active travel, as an everyday commuter and as a cycling accident solicitor I was determined to keep trying to get this defect filled.
S 56 Highways Act 1980
And so, I used Section 56 of the Highways Act. What that says is:
So I made an application. It was free. My application was dated 26 August 2020. On 7 September 2020 I was sent a response from the Council.
7 September 2020
MCC wrote to me in response to my s56 application.
I went out to see the pothole on 9 September 2020. It had died. It was the end of its natural life. It was repaired. I celebrated.
This is one pothole on one road in one local authority area. This is just one story about a problem which took considerable effort to have resolved. Next time, I will use the S56 process much sooner.
I just hope that no one suffered any injuries because of this failure to repair on the part of Manchester City Council but please do call on me to give evidence if you have.
Repaired now, but you will never be forgotten.
17 September 2020