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Cyclist killed after hitting pothole

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A 51-year-old cyclist was killed on a charity bike ride after riding over a pothole the council had failed to repair, an inquest heard.

Martyn Uzzell died instantly when he hit the 4in deep pothole on a main road and was thrown into the path of a car. Only a month before the tragedy, the council sent workers to inspect the pothole after police said it was a hazard. But it was decided immediate repairs were not necessary.

Coroner Rob Turnbull told the inquest at Skipton Magistrates’ Court there was ‘no doubt whatsoever that the condition of the road on that occasion was the cause of the incident’. He said the pothole, which surrounded a roadside drain, had ‘existed for some time prior to the accident’.

Yesterday Mr Uzzell’s widow Kate,  48, revealed she was pursuing a  compensation claim against North Yorkshire County Council after his ‘entirely avoidable’ death. She said: ‘It is simply disgraceful that a pothole on such a busy road was allowed to go unrepaired. This should not have happened. My husband was an experienced cyclist and was out doing what he loved, while raising money for charities close to his heart, but it has cost him his life.’

The tragedy happened in June 2011 when Mr Uzzell, a service engineer, was cycling with two friends from Land’s End to John O’Groats to raise money for a cancer and children’s charity. They were riding along the A65 road at Giggleswick, North Yorkshire, when Mr Uzzell hit the pothole and fell into the path of a VW Golf behind him. He suffered devastating head injuries.

After the coroner ruled his death was the result of a road traffic accident, Mrs Uzzell, of Clevedon, Somerset, said she wanted to know ‘why something wasn’t done’ when the council had been warned about the pothole. Local authorities have a legal obligation to keep roads in a good state, but usually prioritise repairs according to how deep and dangerous potholes are. It is not known how deep the pothole was when inspected by council staff five weeks before the tragedy, the inquest heard. Police had called the council’s customer service team to report the pothole, but the operator did not pass the information on to the highways department, the inquest heard.

However, a council inspection was carried out two days later and the hole was ruled not serious enough for immediate attention. A further inspection was made of the road before the accident and again no action was taken.

Mrs Uzzell said: ‘I do not want anyone else to lose a loved one because the roads have not been properly maintained. ‘My life has been devastated, I have lost my best friend and soul mate, a lovely person, who bought joy to my life, I am lost and lonely without Martyn.  'And it isn’t just me, Martyn’s entire family is also suffering the loss of someone very special.’

Police confirmed Mr Uzzell and his group had cycled competently, travelling at a reasonable speed with a good distance from one another and were wearing appropriate clothing. The Crown Prosecution Service decided the council failings did not constitute a criminal offence and refused to press charges. Mrs Uzzell said: ‘I was devastated when the CPS told me they would not be prosecuting. My husband has died yet no one is being held to account as to how this was allowed to happen.’

North Yorkshire County Council said it would consider the coroner’s comments carefully and expressed sympathy. Potholes, made worse by harsh winter weather, cause millions of pounds of damage to cars each year but are especially dangerous to cyclists.

Chris Peck, of the Cycling Touring Club, said: ‘They can cause injury and in some cases such as this, death.’

Article supplied by Street Repairs

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