Tuesday 30 March 2010

War hero killed by a pothole?

The national newspapers are finally interested in a cycling fatality, reporting that the Afghan War veteran Captain Jonathan Allen was killed by a pothole last week as he rode home along the A338 in Wiltshire.  I am not in possession of the full facts which will, I trust, be explored fully at an Inquest.  However it does appear to me far too simplistic to blame the pothole.  Captain Allen was run down by an HGV.  It is a sorry feature of cycling in this country that a significant proportion of traffic fails to give adequate room when overtaking.  In Spain and France, overtaking traffic is required to allow a margin of at least 1.5 metres.  Here the Highway Code implies (though not without an unfortunate degree of ambiguity) that a car width is required.  It also follows as a matter of incontrovertible physics that the larger and faster your vehicle the greater the care you must exercise when overtaking a bicycle.  Did the HGV wait until nothing was coming the other way and pull into the adjacent lane in order to overtake?  If he did, how did this collision occur notwithstanding the pothole in Captain Allen's lane?  It is no good just 'blaming' the pothole.  The fact that cyclists need to avoid potholes, and may even be brought down by potholes, is one of many reasons why motorists (and HGVs in particular) must GIVE CYCLISTS ROOM.


  1. I wonder whether, had he swerved to avoid a cat, and that had caused him to die under the lorry, whether the headline would have been "Afghan War Hero killed by Cat"?

    Nope: potholes are a topic that the newspapers are currently bashing away at (with a sad lack of any in-depth analysis). The pothole is the star of this story, the ex-Afghan War soldier bit being an added bonus.

    Of course the more accurate headline "Cyclist run over by Lorry" would not generate enough interest to sell newspapers.

  2. I was at school with Jonathan. This was the last way that I would have ever expected to see his death reported in the newspapers.

    Fonant, had he swerved to avoid a cat, that would have been a tragic accident. A huge, unbarriered pothole is not an accident. It is a lethal act of stupidity and laziness, as my friend found out at the cost of his life.

    Rest in peace, Jon.

  3. Cycling in today, a woman in an XC90 left me about half a metre when I was already very close to the kerb. When I caught up with her two minutes later and showed her how much room she'd left, she said "I didn't have much room on the other side." When I pointed out that means she has to wait for me to go first, she rolled up her window.