To Grit or Not to Grit? Injured cyclist receives compensation from council

6th April 2021 Personal Injury

Background

The Claimant was cycling to work along the Hulme horseshoe bridge in November 2017. 

The bridge, built in 2002, crosses the busy Mancunian Way (A57) and provides vital access to Manchester city centre for pedestrians and cyclists from Hulme and neighboring Moss Side.

The Claimant’s bike lost traction on the icy wooden surface of the bridge, causing him to fall from his bike and sustain injury. The Claimant suffered a broken finger and severe bruising to his legs in the fall.

The Claimant then took to twitter to report his accident.

cycling 1.png

This prompted a pedestrian to come forward and report a similar issue.

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A councilor from Manchester City Council (MCC) then tweeted to (incorrectly) assert that the bridge had been gritted the previous evening.

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The Claimant contacted JMW, who thereafter submitted the claim to the council. The claim was handled by Nadia Kerr, head of JMW’s expert cycling claims team.

Arguments

Liability was disputed fiercely by the council.

MCC made the following submissions over the course of the claim:

  • That the horseshoe bridge was actually the (separate) Hulme arch bridge;
  • The surface of the bridge was not adopted land and therefore not maintainable at the public expense;
  • The bridge was not a priority route and so would not be gritted;
  • The bridge was a footbridge only and bikes are prohibited from riding on it;
  • No other complaints or reports of incidents were made in relation to the bridge.

The location of the accident was subsequently clarified by JMW and the council were presented with photographs of nearby signs showing that the bridge is clearly a walking and cycling route.

cycling 4.png

The council were then presented with Land Registry documents confirming that MCC owned the land.

The council also confirmed that the tweet by Councilor Stogia was not correct and the bridge had not been gritted the night before the Claimant’s accident. Councilor Stogia’s tweet was in fact referring to the (separate) linear Hulme Arch Bridge.

Still though, liability remained in dispute. The council reiterated that the bridge is not maintainable at the public expense. Court proceedings were then issued in October 2020.

In December 2020, JMW presented the council with an image taken from ‘FindMyStreet’, a database of information collected by the National Street Gazetteer (NSG). The image confirmed that the Hulme horseshoe bridge is indeed a highway maintainable at the public expense. A link to the ‘FindMyStreet’ database is available on the Manchester City Council website.

In January 2021, a part 36 offer in the sum of £2,500.00 was made by the council and was subsequently accepted by the Claimant.

Discussion

This case highlights the familiar trend across the country of the creation of impressive cycle ways but a lack of subsequent investment and maintenance in these important access routes for non-vehicular traffic.

The precise impact of this result is unclear. It is hoped that MCC will now regularly grit this cycle way (and others) in wintery conditions. It is also hoped that cycle routes will be regularly cleaned and maintained in non-wintery weather to prevent the build-up of other hazards such as moss and leaves.

What is clear is that the bridge ought to now feature on MCC’s list of highways maintainable at the public expense. If the bridge is not considered in future risk assessments, MCC will be at risk of further claims.

The claim was recently reported in the Manchester Evening News. An anonymous spokesperson for MCC disputes any claim that the bridge remains un-gritted. This should give Manchester cyclists and pedestrians some confidence that the horseshoe bridge will now be properly maintained and safe to use all year round.

To speak to a solicitor if you have been involved in a cycling accident, contact us today on 0345 241 5305, or fill in our online enquiry form to request a call back. For more information on cycling accidents visit our dedicated page.

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Ben Mather is a Paralegal located in Manchesterin our Personal Injury department

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Nadia Kerr is a Partner located in Manchesterin our Bicycle AccidentsPersonal Injury departments

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