Dr Alison Hill writes for Cyclox on the dangers of potholes for cyclists, including Sushila Dhall who was injured in an accident in Cowley Road.

THE Oxford Mail on April 30 reported that there had been 135 personal injury claims submitted to Oxfordshire County Council over the last year and one of the leading causes was potholes.

Potholes can be extremely hazardous for people cycling, especially when the pothole is encountered at speed.

However, what makes them even more perilous is the fact that they are often hard to spot.

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Puddles, leaves, and debris can obscure them, rendering them invisible to unsuspecting cyclists and exacerbating the dangers they face on the road.

The limited funds allocated for road maintenance in the UK have contributed to the worsening state of repair of our public roads.

Oxfordshire County Council as Highways Authority is responsible for maintaining these roads, but as local budgets continue to be squeezed, insufficient funds are currently available for the vital task of maintenance. Consequently, many potholes remain unrepaired, posing an ongoing risk to cyclists and other road users.

Oxford Mail:

While car drivers may experience a jolt and potential damage to their vehicles, the risks are multiplied for cyclists. Even the most skilled and experienced cyclists can face severe consequences when encountering a pothole at speed.

A slight knock or a bumpy ride caused by riding over a deep pothole can lead to a loss of control, potentially throwing the cyclist off their bike. In some instances, cyclists have swerved into traffic, leading to accidents that result in not only damage to their bikes but also serious injuries or worse, loss of life.

Here’s Cyclox member Sushila Dhall’s account of her encounter with a pothole which illustrates just how dangerous they can be for people on bikes.

“On August 11, 2021 the front wheel of my bike hit a deep pothole where Cowley Road had not been repaired properly. I was indicating to turn left and had one hand on the handlebar.

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“It seemed I fell in slow motion onto the handlebars, cracking my ribs and unable to take a breath. I fell briefly unconscious as I landed on my hand breaking my wrist, and had a seizure due to brief lack of oxygen. I was in hospital for three days, and off work for several weeks. It took my wrist a year to heal properly, as the bone had to be mended with a metal insert.”

Oxford Mail:

Another of our Cyclox members told us that she cycles less frequently due to the worry about potholes on the roads. This reduction in cycling not only affects individual well-being but also undermines efforts to promote sustainable transportation and combat congestion and air pollution.

What can you do to avoid potholes when out on your bike?

•Never let your mind wander. The term sometimes used is “relaxed concentration” when on your bike.

•Don’t hug the kerb. Good road positioning at least 70cm out from the kerb, will keep you away from sunken drains or steeply cambered road edges and will give you more room to manoeuvre around a pothole.

•Swerving out into the road is dangerous. Scan the road far ahead so that you can change your road position gradually if there’s a hazard.

•Pothole depth can be hidden by rainwater so always go around any puddle if you can.

Since potholes present greater danger to cyclists, it’s important that the council prioritises ones that put cyclists at risk. It’s crucial therefore that you report dangerous potholes. The best way to report is through Oxfordshire County Council’s dedicated FixMyStreet website https://fixmystreet.oxfordshire.gov.uk/ Alternatively you can download an app on your smart phone and report through that. Our experience has been that the county council is pretty responsive if a pothole is posing a danger to people cycling.

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About the author 

Andy is the Trade and Tourism reporter for the Oxford Mail and you can sign up to his newsletters for free here. 

He joined the team more than 20 years ago and he covers community news across Oxfordshire.

His Trade and Tourism newsletter is released every Saturday morning. 

You can also read his weekly Traffic and Transport newsletter.