Call for a free consultation today

The Dangers Of Potholes For Cyclists

We’ve all seen potholes and experienced the jolt as you unavoidably bump over one. In a car, hopefully, the worst that will happen will be damage to the vehicle. But even for the most skilled and experienced cyclists, the risks are multiplied and can even be fatal. A slight knock or bumpy ride because of riding over a deep pothole can cause loss of control or even throw you from your bike.

The UK’s pothole problem is going from bad to worse, as soon as one is filled, another appears. A recent survey of UK cyclists for 2022 National Pothole Day found that 21% have been involved in an accident because of a pothole, with 22% of those incidents resulting in a personal injury. The survey also found that 88% of cyclists had been forced into a dangerous maneuver by a pothole and that 63% had suffered damage to their bike because of one.

What causes a pothole?

Potholes are caused when general wear and tear of the road creates small cracks in the surface and when it rains, water seeps into these cracks. In winter time, this water freezes and expands. When the weather warms up in the spring and summer months, ice melts and the water evaporates which leaves gaps under the surface. Traffic then breaks down the surface of the road even more and this causes potholes.

Whose responsibility is it to maintain UK roads and why is the pothole problem getting worse?

The state of repair of public roads in the UK is the responsibility of the Highways Authority, managed at a local council level. This includes repairing defects and resurfacing where necessary.

Despite this responsibility, councils are not under an obligation to fix all potholes immediately, they’re only required to make regular inspections, every 6-12 months and can only repair potholes if they are aware of them and if they fit an ‘intervention criteria’.

As local funds are squeezed, the ‘intervention criteria’ – how severe a pothole needs to be in order to be repaired, has been stretched, which means bigger and bigger holes in our roads.

Cycling UK set up a reporting system which means road users can report potholes and other road defect they may come across, to their local council. If you’d like to report a pothole, please report it using FillThatHole.

Why are potholes more dangerous in winter?

Not only do potholes multiply in winter, they’re also harder to spot. Darker nights and poor street lighting can make it near impossible to spot a pothole until its too late.

Puddles, leaves, and ice can obscure potholes and other road defects, making the roads more dangerous.

What can I do to stay safe?

Years of underinvestment and temporary repairs, combined with darker and wetter weather is a recipe for danger, so it’s important to pay extra care when hitting the roads on your bike.

Potholes can appear overnight, so never let your mind wander when you’re on the roads and avoid routes where the roads are breaking up.

Don’t hug the kerb, good road positioning 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 chance your road position gradually if there’s a hazard. Pothole depth can be hidden by rainwater or the shadow from headlamps or a low sun, so always plan to go around if you can.

What should I do if I’ve been in a collision with a pothole/road defect?

  1. Evidence

It’s important to gather as much evidence at the scene as soon as possible after the incident. The more time passes, the greater the scope for an argument that the defect wasn’t dangerous at the time of the crash.

  1. Injuries

Depending on the severity of your injuries, seek medical attention. Don’t shrug off any injuries, arrange a check-up, either with your GP or via a walk-in centre.

  1. Assess your bike

If in doubt about the condition of your bike, don’t ride it until it’s received a professional appraisal. Don’t forget to take photos of any damaged components.

  1. Instruct a specialist solicitor

If you decide to claim for damages to yourself or your bike, choosing the right solicitor to deal with your claim is key. At Cycle SOS, our team of specialist lawyers have been championing the rights of cyclists for over 30 years, and are experienced in supporting cyclists who have been in an accident caused by a pothole or other road defect.


For further assistance with measuring and photographing a road defect, reporting a road defect to the local authority, and making a successful cyclist pothole claim, contact the Cycle SOS team today. Our helpline at 0808 100 999 5, is free to call.

For more information or to start your claim, call 0808 100 9995 and speak to one of our specialist solicitors. We’re here to help. You can email us or schedule a callback.


Written By: