A keen cyclist has warned of the danger of pot holes in Bedfordshire after he dislocated his shoulder when his bike hit a 10 inch long hole on a busy road.

Unite member Martin Bourne, 55, from Dunstable was forced to take a total of four months off work as a result of the accident and needed surgery to mend his shoulder.

He now avoids anything other than side roads and quiet cycle paths.

Mr Bourne’s trade union, Unite, instructed Thompsons Solicitors to pursue compensation following the accident. Central Bedfordshire Council was ordered to pay £12,951 by Luton County Court.

Bike wheel hit pothole in road

Mr Bourne said: “I was busy concentrating on navigating the junction ahead so I didn’t see it coming. Before I knew it I was on the ground.

“I’m only fortunate I didn’t suffer more serious injuries, but even so I had to take significant time off work as well as go through the agony of reconstructive surgery.”

Mr Bourne was returning home from a bike ride in October 2007 when the accident happened. He was cycling along Oldhill Road, towards a junction on the A5 in Dunstable, and as he slowed for a busy junction his front wheel hit the massive pot hole.

The hole was 6 inches by 10 inches and at least one inch deep but there were no markings to warn cyclists or drivers.

Reconstructive surgery needed after accident

The impact buckled the bike’s wheel and threw him on the ground where he landed heavily on his right shoulder.

He was able to pick himself up to push his bike the rest of the way home where his son took him to accident and emergency.

Mr Bourne was signed off his work as a warehouse operative for Scapa for four weeks and returned to light duties. But his shoulder never healed and in August 2008 he was underwent reconstructive surgery with a further three months off work.

He still suffers intermittent pain in the shoulder but has regained most of its function.

Thompsons Solicitors made claim for compensation

Following the accident he took photographs of the pothole and contacted his trade union’s legal service, Thompsons Solicitors, for advice.

Investigations by Thompsons revealed that despite an admission by a council witness that potholes had a tendency to develop quickly in this part of the road Central Bedfordshire Council had a policy of inspection just once every six months.

In fact the section of the road in question hadn’t been inspected for three months and when it had there was no ‘spotter’ in attendance as per the council’s written protocol.

Thompsons argued that the council should have made sure staff were following the written inspection protocol and that, given its poor history a more vigorous inspection programme should have been in place on that stretch of the road.

Inspection policies should be followed correctly

Natalie Shelley from Thompsons Solicitors said: “A policy isn’t worth the paper it is written on if it is followed haphazardly. The result, as Mr Bourne bore painful witness, is that many defects simply are missed. Sadly councils often cite inspection systems in their defence following cycling accidents and pot holes but if the lawyers know where to look and what to ask investigation shows they aren’t followed well or at all.”

Peter Kavanagh Acting Regional Secretary of UNITE London and Eastern added: “UNITE supports members and families who have accidents at or away from work. Here a massive pot hole had an equally massive impact on our member’s health and we hope that Central Bedfordshire Council will take heed of this award and take their responsibilities to provide safe highways seriously.”