National Pothole Day blog – in search of SMOOTH

17th January 2020 Personal Injury

National Pothole Day coincides with my birthday (15 January) and this year I knew I had to do something special. I needed to celebrate the work I do with friends I ride with. So I decided that I would plot a route which visited just a few of the many, many potholes/road defects which have taken up so much of my working life for years. It was time to go in search of SMOOTH.

I pursue claims all over the country for vulnerable road users (cyclists mainly) and many of my cases involve road defects which have caused my clients to come off their bikes. Some of the injuries are serious – some are life changing. I feel a real sense of injustice that someone who chooses to take the responsible decision to be active, to move, to protect air quality, to keep fit etc should face atrocities on the roads which can cause them such harm.

I wanted my route to resemble the shape of a pothole…one with rough edges and a deeper central depression. So I set about plotting a route.

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I am not asking for perfection on the roads and the law doesn’t support this. Stretches of smooth are comfortable and easier to pedal. They are also safer. The law requires the local authority to act in accordance with what is deemed to be reasonable. So they need to have a policy which sets out how often they inspect the highway and what they do when they find an actionable defect which needs to be repaired. Standards and response times vary across local authorities.

As well as scheduled inspections, local authorities accept reports of defects and potholes from members of the public and they need to have a policy about what they do if they receive a report in that way. If the council fails to respond and/or repair and then there is an accident and someone is injured, the council can and should expect to pay compensation.

It is cheaper for the council to repair the defect than to pay for life changing injuries and I encourage people to report potholes because it helps local authorities target where to inspect and where to spend their money. I report defects as much as I can and use a smartphone app called ‘Fill That Hole’ which makes it very easy to log the exact location of  the defect. I should say though that not all local authorities accept reports from smartphone apps and the most reliable way is to report to the local authority directly. Often this is clunky and therefore not as user friendly as a smart phone app. You can find which local authority to report to by using this link

It is best to give the defect a description. Ideally it should have measurements but I’m not always able (or willing) to stand in the road to measure. I have used my helmet for scale. I use words like deep and dangerous and I use the word ‘crater’ sparingly …..over- exaggerating a description does not help anyone. I have seen some craters though and I have used that word. My mother in law thought I had actually fallen into this pothole…..! (Rackhouse Road, Manchester City Council – pothole reporting 141698)

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I reported 2 potholes on the same short stretch of Rackhouse Road in Manchester City Council area in 2017and 2018 -  referenced 141698 and 159123.

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I am happy to say that this section of this road is now smooth. What seems to be a successful and enduring repair is shown here on National Pothole Day 2020.

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So, on the big day we set off to cycle deeper into the countryside. There was a repaired but already starting to fail repair of a defect in Alderley Edge…..I felt a bit positive when I saw the black (new) tarmac but then I saw the crumbling (so soon) and when I turned round I saw a rutted road which I just wouldn’t choose to ride over.

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After a quick lunch stop chatting about potholes to fellow cyclists at Jodrell Bank café, we then moved on to Goostrey. This pothole had been reported by someone unknown on 2 August 2019.  Initially it was reported slightly in the wrong location through another smartphone app called ‘Fix My Street’. This defect is in the Cheshire East area. But Cheshire East do not accept reports from Fix My Street (see my Freedom of Information Request below).

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FOI request made to Cheshire East

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The defect was later reported to Cheshire East but they confirmed that there was no defect identified which was considered to be an immediate danger to highway users. I was surprised so I went out to look at it and this is what it looked like against my well used back pocket ruler on 15 January 2020.

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So my conclusion from my ‘National Pothole Day 2020 – in search of SMOOTH’ ride was that :-

  1. there have been some good and apparently enduring repairs leading to smooth, safe, comfortable stretches
  2. there was a repair which seemed to be failing already and
  3. there was a complete lack of repair to a substantial defect which has already caused an accident and has been reported.

I am all for helping the council to direct resources to the defects which need repair by reporting but if the council then doesn’t respond in a timely, appropriate and reasonable way, I will pursue them on behalf of my injured cycling clients. ​​​​​

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

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