Immediate Action – Highway Defect

To the cyclist who has crashed due to a highway defect, resist the urge to report to the Highway Authority because it will rush out, repair and then say: “Thanks for telling us, it wasn’t there when we last inspected so we knew nothing of it; Go Away”. 

As soon as you and a companion (or a couple of friends if you’re not up to it) can return to the scene, do so and identify the PRECISE defect. Photograph it with a ‘datum point’ (some fixed feature) in shot.

Then measure length, breadth and depth. 40mm and 300mm with a lip is the most basic rule of thumb, but the variety of defects is almost infinite. A differential in height either transversely or laterally is the usual culprit. Image the measuring device (straight edge and ruler) in situ and then bring along the bike and insert the wheels into the defect and image.

Then do nothing (save for finding a legal representative) for the likely period of time that will be the inspection frequency, which depends on the category of road and its usage. 1 month is the shortest, 3 months for many B and C roads and 6 months for rural lanes or little used urban roads. If nothing has happened in that period the HA cannot really say it has an effective system in place.

If the defect is repaired, try to note approximately when.

It’s called pothole monitoring.

The Law.

Irrespective of what the Highway Authority might tell you about their intervention criteria (“no, we don’t deal with anything less than 50mm: that’s our Policy”), the HA cannot get away with that, because these are the tests a Court will apply and (c) is the one the Judges keep for their own discretion.

(a) the character of the highway, and the traffic which was reasonably to be expected to use it;

(b) the standard of maintenance appropriate for a highway of that character and used by such traffic;

(c) the state of repair in which a reasonable person would have expected to find the highway;

(d) whether the highway authority knew, or could reasonably have been expected to know, that the condition of the part of the highway to which the action relates was likely to cause danger to users of the highway.

  • Full measurements should be taken of the defect including the depth, width and length. 
  • A photograph of the defect with either a proprietary or improvised measuring device included, to illustrate the measurements should be taken at the earliest opportunity and certainly before any contact has been made to the relevant Highway Authority to prevent the defect being rectified and the evidence lost.
  • Cycle-Aid used to issue feeding bottles called Waterholes with a scale of the side for comparative purposes out on a ride: There’s nothing to stop a cyclist taking a black marker pen to their own bottles for the same purpose.
  • Resist the urge to report to the HA until a period equal to the likely routine inspection period has passed.