Outdated pothole funding ‘puts cyclists’ lives at risk’

Calls for a rethink on road maintenance spending to protect vulnerable road users

Zurich Municipal says potholes pose a far greater risk to cyclists than to drivers

An outdated means of allocating road repair funds is putting cyclists' lives at risk, according to a leading insurer.

Local government insurer Zurich Municipal claims that the formula used to share out funding ignores the threat potholes pose to cyclists and the need to maintain cycle paths in the same way as roads.

The insurer said it had seen a “worrying” rise in claims from injured cyclists in the later part of 2020 as many people took to two wheels as lockdown eased.

It has now called for greater focus to be given to maintaining cycle paths and footways to support the boom in cycling and protect riders. It argues that while potholes can cause damage to cars, they can lead to life-threatening injuries for cyclists.

Funding for pothole repairs was boosted by 15 per cent in 2020/21 but under the government formula for allocating funds, none of the money is intended for cycleway maintenance, with 82.42 per cent going on roads, 15.4 per cent on bridges and two per cent on lighting columns.

Department for Transport data shows that 368 cyclists were badly injured in crashes caused by poor road surfaces between 2007 and 2016 and Zurich handled 2,800 claims against councils from cyclists last year.

Sarah Rowan, public services segment manager at ‎Zurich Municipal said: “Cycling has exploded in popularity during the pandemic which, along with the introduction of e-scooters has changed the way our roads are used. The challenge now confronting the Government is how to avoid a rise in related injuries as an unintended consequence of green recovery.

“We are urging the Government to reassess its allocation of transport spending to reflect the changing nature of our roads and enable local government to prioritise active travel routes. If ministers are serious about a green recovery, and protecting lives, local councils must be given the resources to allocate repair cash where it is needed most.”