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Yorkshire Water Vehicle Barrier is a Pain In The Neck for Local Cyclist

02 August 2010

A cyclist from Yorkshire has won his case against Yorkshire Water after a vehicle barrier catapulted him off his bicycle, fracturing his neck.

Christopher Westerman, 51, of Upton in Pontefract, was cycling over a vehicle barrier near Eccup reservoir in Alwoodley, Leeds when it rose suddenly, slinging him from his bike. He landed on his head and shoulders, causing severe injuries to his vertebrae and breaking his shoulder. Following the cycling accident, Mr. Westerman required an operation to re-set his shoulder and was unable to work for 18 weeks. He then had to undergo a further operation to remove the pins and plate in his shoulder.

Mr. Westerman, who used the free legal advice afforded to him through his membership of CTC, the UK’s national cyclists’ organisation, is calling for barriers to be clearly marked. He said: “What happened to me could have been prevented if appropriate signs had been in place. The road barrier that caused my injuries had no audio or visual warnings for cyclists or walkers at all – it merely had a sign for cars, but nothing that stated the possible danger for those crossing it. There weren’t even any markings on the road so that road-users would be aware of where it was.

“I can only hope that after seeing the devastating effects that improper signage can cause, more care will be taken in addressing these issues. I’ve returned to the barrier that caused my accident and unfortunately, whilst the signs on the road have been changed, the barrier still hasn’t been painted a different colour to make it more visible. I live for my cycling, especially during the summer and as more people are getting out on their bikes at this time of year, I just hope that no one has a similar accident.”

Sara Heppenstall, a Sheffield-based personal injury specialist at Russell Jones & Walker representing Mr. Westerman, said: “The barrier that Mr. Westerman rode over had no clear signage stating the time in which pedestrians or cyclists had to cross safely, and the result is that Mr. Westerman has had to have extensive surgery to set his shoulder and neck, taking significant time off work.

“We are delighted with the result of the case, which will provide some solace for Mr. Westerman for the months of pain and recuperation he has had to endure. Cases like this highlight the fact that the safety of all road-users must be a priority for the authorities, not just drivers. Since Mr. Westerman’s injury, the previous sign for cars has been replaced with a sign addressing motorists and cyclists – something which should be rolled out for all potentially dangerous barriers.

“Yorkshire Water has not yet taken any further steps to alter the appearance of the vehicle barrier that caused the accident in order to improve visibility, despite acknowledging liability in Mr Westerman’s case. Taking simple steps, such as painting the ground a different colour is a simple and relatively cost-effective measure that would make the roads safer and avoid further accidents and injuries.”

Roger Geffen, CTC Campaigns and Policy Director added: “This barrier was designed in a way that could injure a cyclist or a walker and showed a lack of thought for the safety of people who choose to travel in a greener, more sustainable way – something that we should all be encouraging. This case is a reminder to those managing our roads that they have a duty to take account of cyclists’ safety.”