Cycling UK, which runs the pothole reporting webtool and app Fill That Hole, recently published its finding showing local authorities have spent at least £43.3 million dealing with compensation claims and legal costs due to potholes over the last five years.
• FOI requests of all UK highway authorities show snapshot of how much potholes have cost Britain over last five years
• Injuries sustained by cyclists merit compensation 13 times higher than motorists
• Scale demonstrates long-term failure of Government to fund local roads properly
The cycling charity points out compensation claims and legal fees alone, not including staff time, from the 156 highways authorities is equivalent to 17 percent of the Government’s five-year Pothole Action Fund of £250m allocated announced in April 2015.
The findings are based on an investigation conducted by Cycling UK who submitted Freedom of Information (FOI) requests to 212 Highway Authorities in the UK, of which 156 responded. The FOIs included questions on the amount of compensation paid out to cyclists and motorists, the number of successful claims by both groups and the amount of authorities spent on legal fees between 2013 and 2017.
Key finding for the five-year period show:
• Authorities on average incurred costs of £277,707.44
• 670 cyclists and 30893 drivers had their claims accepted
• Motorists received on average £841.26 per successful claim
• Cyclists received on average £10,963.15 per successful claim
• £9,980,158.74 was spent on legal costs
The high level of compensation for cyclists – 13 times more than drivers – suggests cycling claims are much more likely to include personal injury rather than just property damage.
Department for Transport (DfT) figures estimate the true cost of “slight injuries” for road traffic accidents at £15,951. Given 670 cyclists had their claims accepted, Cycling UK estimates potholes have cost the economy a further £10.7 million over the last five years, once costs for the NHS, police time and lost working hours are considered.
It is likely council compensation records do not represent the full picture as a joint questionnaire of 5,000 cyclists conducted by Cycling UK, BBC 5 Live Investigates and Cycling Weekly found only 36 percent of injured cyclists alerted the council after the incident, with most people saying the process of complaining was difficult rather than easy.
The questionnaire also showed almost half had hit a pothole, with 54 percent slightly injured. 600 (40 percent) of those had to take time off work due to their injuries, with 200 off work for more than a week. Of most concern is that 31 percent were put off cycling as a result of a pothole related incident.
Sam Jones, Cycling UK’s senior campaigns officer said: “Cycling UK’s research reveals only a glimpse of pothole Britain’s human cost. It’s clear more people are being killed and seriously injured while out cycling each year due to years of persistent under investment in our rotting local road networks.
“The Government should concentrate on fixing the roads we have first before building new ones. Councils need to provide enough funding to adopt long-term plans for roads, maintenance, rather than pursuing a policy of patching up streets only as they become dangerous.
“With the Government looking to encourage more and safer cycling, then the UK’s road surfaces need to be safe enough for people to cycle on.”