‘Potholes put lives at risk’

Sean Faulkner at the site where he broke his back

Sean Faulkner at the site where he broke his back - Credit: Archant

A firefighter who narrowly avoided paralysis has hit out at highways chiefs who still haven’t fixed the potholes he alerted them to – nearly eight months after he broke his back in a cycling accident.

Sean Faulkner fractured two vertebrae, dislocated both shoulders and broke several ribs when he was flung over his handlebars outside Sidbury in January.

Now he says it is only a matter of time before another cyclist is hurt or killed if the criteria for fixing potholes are not changed.

“I broke my back and they haven’t done anything about the potholes I reported to them – I don’t want that to happen to anyone else,” said the father-of-three.

“Devon County Council (DCC) is carrying out repairs, but nowhere near enough. I’ve been riding these roads for 20-odd years but in the last three years they have got a lot worse.

“They [DCC] have to change their criteria to account for cyclists.”

As the watch manager at Sidmouth’s fire station, Mr Faulkner said he is aware of public sector cuts – but the lack of action is putting lives at risk.

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His ride came to an abrupt end when he hit a pothole measuring more than 50cm long, 33cm wide and four centimetres deep on the A375.

Had he fallen to the right he would have been thrown into oncoming traffic. Fortunately he fell on the grass bank – but landed awkwardly and suffered serious injuries. The surgeon told him he was inches from being paralysed.

The 46-year-old was in a back brace for six weeks and is undergoing physiotherapy for his injuries, which he says he is aware of 24/seven.

Mr Faulkner came close to hypothermia as he waited an hour for an ambulance. He believes there was a shortage of ambulances at the time, and is concerned about the effect on response times of further cuts to emergency services.

DCC has filled in the hole that broke his back but several others within a 50-metre stretch that he reported are still there, and getting worse.

Its criteria are that the hole must be more than four centimetres deep and more than 30cm in any horizontal direction.

Highways chief Stuart Hughes said that resurfacing of the A375 through the Putt’s Corner junction is programmed for the first week of November.

A neighbourhood officer is also due to carry out an inspection to check any current safety defects.

Last year, Devon County Council proposed that volunteers become ‘road wardens’ to take on hedge cutting, minor pothole repairs and road sign cleaning and help the authority cut costs.