Lifelong cyclist Margaret Nicholl, 67, was killed as a result of head injuries sustained when she was thrown from her bike after hitting a pothole, an inquest into her death heard on Thursday.

Nicholl was out riding with her husband, Richard, in Shepton Montague, Somerset, on March 12 2011 when her cycle struck a pothole on a descent. She was thrown to the ground, hitting her head. Her husband found her lying unconscious having suffered severe head injuries, according to a report in the Western Daily Press. Neither Mr or Mrs Nicholl wore a helmet as they had read that they were not effective when riding at over 12mph.

The retired civil servant, who was a CTC member and had been an active cyclist for 50 years, was taken immediately to hospital in Bath before being moved to Frenchay Hospital in Bristol. She died of her injuries ten days later.

Somerset County Council had checked the road surface for defects the previous September, and had scheduled another check just days after the incident occurred. Evidence was presented at the inquest that the potholes had been there for four months.

The inquest at Wells Coroner’s Court recorded a verdict of accidental death.

Margaret Nicholl’s plight highlights the serious menace that potholes represent to cyclists and other road users – evenly highly experienced ones. Road defects can form quickly in wet and icy weather, causing the road surface to deteriorate rapidly.

National cyclists’ organisation CTC created the Fill That Hole website in January 2007 to help the reporting of potholes and road defects to the relevant local council. The site also includes a map of known hazards.

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CTC names Britain’s best pothole fixing council

  • Ted

    Adam states “My brother was wearing a helmet when he was killed in a bike accident and, yes, it didn’t make a difference. But in the twenty/thirty/forty crashes he probably had in the years leading up to that, I am in no doubt that it did.”

    Perhaps if your brother had modified his riding style to reduce the frequency of crashes he would still be alive. Relying on a helmet to protect you is not wise. This sounds like “risk compensation” in action. A helmet gives a false sense of security meaning more risks are taken therefore negating any benefit.

    I’ve never crashed in decades of riding. Why should I wear a helmet? For technical off road or racing they are worthwhile but other riders should assess their own risk levels.

  • adam monaghan

    Trevor – As I said, my brother was wearing a helmet when he was killed and it didn’t save him. It may not have saved this poor lady either. That is not the point. The point is in numerous ‘minor’ accidents, it DOES reduce injury.
    There is always the argument that an individual is free to chose to increase their chance of injury or death by doing certain things. But then there are laws in place – nanny state or otherwise – to, at times, over ride those individual choices. (Not using the phone whilst driving, not drinking and driving, wearing a seatbelt etc etc etc).

  • Joe Sammon

    Trevor Beecham – I have heard two reasons from lid-less riders as to why they ride without a helmet: a) because it obscures their view when riding or b) gives a false impression to car drivers that they would be ok if they took a ‘spill’. Neither of those reasons are factors in this instance, and to say that the pot hole caused her death is only part of the story. One fact remains if the lady had worn a device specifically designed to protect the head in the event of an impact she would have had a better chance of surviving than if not wearing said device.

  • Trevor Beecham

    Once again the Helmet Taliban can’t resist taking advantage of a cyclist’s death to pedal their dogma with such religious fervour. There is no evidence a helmet would have saved the unfortunate woman’s life. The cause of the the crash was the pot hole and the fact the cyclist did not avoid the pot hole, not that she was not wearing a helmet.

  • adam monaghan

    A sad story, for sure. But I can only echo the other comments. I am completely confused by the stance on helmets. Having cycled seriously for twenty years, the number of times my friends and I have left a spill with helmets in tatters. Without a helmet, that would have been our heads. I cannot see how anyone can dispute this. (This summer I had my worse crash doing 50kmph… can’t imagine how I would’ve been without a helmet on).
    My brother was wearing a helmet when he was killed in a bike accident and, yes, it didn’t make a difference. But in the twenty/thirty/forty crashes he probably had in the years leading up to that, I am in no doubt that it did. After one crash his old Specialised helmet used to hang in the bike shop- split in two and held together by its mesh cover. Unquestionably would have been his head if he wasn’t wearing a helmet…
    Of course, helmets do not save you in every circumstance. But neither do leathers for motorcyclists or seatbelts for car drivers. But they save you in many circumstances and that alone is sufficient to make them valid.
    The idea that they do not ‘work’ over 12mph or that drivers drive closer to you if you’re wearing a helmet…? Utter crap.

  • Mike Nelson

    There are a lot of cyclists out there who think they know better. No matter what evidence is produced to the contrary, they will insist that helmets are not necessary. I remember a few years ago a certain journalist, I think his name was Keith, fought tooth and nail against compulsory wearing of helmets. Why?

    I crashed at around 20mph in Mallorca thanks to a pothole. My helmet saved my skull which would not have been thick enough to survive the impact with tarmac ! I remember hearing the helmet compress as I landed and bounced – to escape with abrasions. By the way, trackies and road sprinters crash at 40mph. Should they not wear helmets?

  • Nick Hggarth

    Jeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeesssssssssssssss!!!
    HOW MANY TIMES???
    Who has the right to print that helmets are ‘inneffective’ over 12mph???
    Helmets save lives, PERIOD!!!! at ALL speeds, PERIOD!! It ain’t rocket science!!!
    I wouldn’t be here today, but for my trusty lid & the brilliant paramedics at the roadside, after a downhill spill near a cattle grid in August 2003!! Was doing over 30mph at the time!!!!!!!
    MAKE HELMETS COMPULSORY – NOW!!! I, for one, DON’T want to read of ANY MORE deaths like this!!!

  • D Cardus

    It seems quite amazing that so much money is poured into Health and Safety trivia like lifting chairs in the workplace whilst allowing these death traps to remain in our roads.
    Remember also the Army serviceman who survived war in Afghanistan and was killed avoiding a pothole when back in the UK!
    Apparently British roads are now the envy of the worlds motor manufacturers, they’re the best road to test cars on !!

  • yen

    As much as this is grossly sad – wearing a helmet saves your head whatever the speed: I know I crashed at about 25mph once on a ride with some guys & mine, as much as it cracked,…it definately saved me!

  • G Ellis

    We all know how dangerous it is to cycle in Britain; Awful road layouts, lack of cycle infrastructure & councils that don’t maintain roads.
    But knowing this and choosing not to wear a helmet is farcical. I know its a personal choice… but frankly a stupid one