Injured cyclist taking Yorkshire Water to court

51-year-old blames floor barrier for crash that fractured his neck

A cyclist from Leeds, England, is taking legal action against the local water company over allegations that a floor barrier on their premises catapulted him off his bicycle, fracturing his neck.

Christopher Westerman, 51, of Upton in Pontefract, says he was cycling over the automatic barrier near Eccup reservoir in Alwoodley, Leeds, when it rose suddenly, pitching him off his bike.

He landed on his head and shoulders, fracturing vertebrae in his neck and breaking his shoulder. He needed an operation to re-set his shoulder and is awaiting further surgery in July to remove the pins and plate.

Mr Westerman was unable to work for 18 weeks after the crash. As a member of CTC, the UK’s national cyclists’ organisation, he had access to free legal advice and decided to lodge a claim against Yorkshire Water.

It is his case that the firm breached section two of the Occupiers' Liability Act 1957, which says businesses have a duty of care towards people visiting or passing through their premises, and in the process exposed him to a foreseeable risk of injury/hazard.

He says the company created a hazard (the barrier rose from the ground very fast and without warning), permitted him to cycle over it when it was unsafe to do so and failed to take adequate care for his safety by failing to ensure there was an audible or visible warning that the barrier was to rise. A court date has yet to be set.

Mr Westerman is now calling for barriers to be clearly marked. He said: “The floor barrier which caused my injuries had no audio or visual warning for cyclists or walkers at all – it merely had a sign for cars, but nothing that stated the possible danger for those crossing it.

“The barrier had only been down for a matter of seconds and I cycled across immediately. The next thing I remember was waking to hear my daughter screaming and a member of our cycling club calling for an ambulance.”

Sara Heppenstall, the solicitor at Russell Jones & Walker representing Mr Westerman, said: “The barrier 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 extensive surgery to set his shoulder and neck, taking significant time off work.

“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 across all potentially dangerous barriers.”

Debra Rolfe, CTC’s campaigns co-ordinator, said: “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 chose to travel in a greener, more sustainable way – something we all should be encouraging.”

A spokesman for Yorkshire Water declined to comment, saying: "Any statement made before the case could prejudice the hearing."

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