Road Defects, Cycling Claims and National Pothole Day

Pot holes in the road

Friday 15th January, the end of the second full working week of 2016, is likely to be a cold day for most of Scotland.  Winter weather can cause problems for cyclists and this Friday is a particularly relevant day to think about staying safe on the road – it is the UK’s second National Pothole Day.

Cyclists in different parts of the country will encounter potholes and road defects on a daily basis.  Now, the website Street Repairs is driving a campaign to encourage road users to report potholes directly to local authorities, increase awareness nationally of the seriousness of the problems and highlight potential dangers relating to the poor conditions of our roads.

Cycling claims due to poor road surfaces in Scotland

Our specialist cycling team at Digby Brown Solicitors know all too well about the dangers the state of our roads can be for cyclists. We frequently receive cycling claims enquiries from cyclists who have suffered injury and damage to their bike and equipment as a result of a poorly maintained road surface.

Legally, what must a road authority do for Scottish roads?

A Scottish roads authority has a statutory legal obligation to manage and maintain its road network under the terms of the Roads (Scotland) Act 1984.  In practice, this means carrying out regular inspections of their road network and arranging for any necessary road repairs to be undertaken. 

Recommendations about how often roads should be inspected, assessing road defects and setting standards for road repairs are outlined by local authorities. Authorities will also base their road safety regimes upon the 2001 Code of Practice – Delivering Best Value in Highway Maintenance and in the Well Maintained Highways Code of Practice for Highways maintenance Management 2005.

What does this mean for cycling claims for pothole injury and damage?

Unfortunately for those cyclists suffering injury or damage as a result of hitting a pothole, securing compensation is far from straightforward.

If the local authority can demonstrate that their road inspection systems are reasonable, they will more often than not be able to defend any cycling claim against them.

The Scottish courts are generally reluctant to impose too high a standard upon local authorities as they recognise that, given the resources available, there is only so much cash-strapped councils can do to proactively maintain roads and prevent potholes.

For cyclists to ensure their personal injury claims are dealt with appropriately evidence is needed regarding how long the pothole was in existence and whether there had been any previous reports that the pothole had caused road accidents or previous complaints of the pothole made to the relevant local authority.

A local authority may legitimately argue that if nobody has told them about a pothole they cannot be expected to do anything about it. The situation is different if the Scottish council is made aware of a pothole in between scheduled inspections and fails to take action within a reasonable time.

How can a cyclist report a pothole?

There are various resources allowing cyclists to report potholes to local authorities online, including:

Street Repairs

Scottish Government

The Scottish Government website also provides a link to individual local authorities in Scotland allowing you to report potholes to them directly.

Perhaps the best way to help fellow cyclists in Scotland is to put pressure on local authorities by reporting the location of any hazardous potholes you come across whilst out riding your bike. Not just on 15th January of course but throughout the year too.

If you need expert legal advice having suffered injury and other losses when riding your bike, contact our specialist cycling solicitors at Digby Brown by calling 0333 200 5925 or filling in a short enquiry form. Our team are more than happy to help you with any potential cycling claim.