THE Guardian’s Pedal Power campaign is all about encouraging the people of Northwich to get on their bikes.

We aim to do this through a series of stories about cycling in the area, top tips to get you started, inspiring stories about cyclists and events taking place to give you that vital training incentive.

But we also want to look at the issues that affect those of us on two wheels in a bid to raise awareness of them and hopefully improve Northwich’s cycling environment.

So this week’s lead Pedal Power article is the story of a Hartford man whose experience cycling though the town centre illustrates some of the dangers of the road and why we all need to keep an eye out for them and make sure they are solved quickly.


A SIMPLE cycle home from work turned into disaster for a Hartford man who ended up being taken to hospital with a partially collapsed lung.

Gert-Jan Fien was cycling along Chesterway during rush hour when he hit a sunken metal cover in the road and was catapulted forwards on to the road and his handlebars.

The 45-year-old dad-of-two suffered severely bruised shoulders and rib cage as well as a partially collapsed right lung and was taken to Leighton Hospital by ambulance.

“I was fortunate there was nothing behind me – there could have been a car or, God forbid, a lorry,” he said.

Gert-Jan had been coming downhill at between 25 and 30mph when he hit the sunken cover near the junction of Chesterway and Percy Street, opposite Lidl supermarket.

The incident happened at 6pm on January 9 and Gert-Jan spent two nights in hospital and a further two weeks recovering at home.

But he has not been put off riding his bike and is determined to raise the issue in a bid to improve road conditions for cyclists.

“Having grown up in the Netherlands until I was 25, I consider myself to be a very experienced cyclist,” he said.

“I have lived around Northwich for some 18 years, long enough to become familiar with the intricacies of cycling in England and long enough to know that conditions for cyclists have deteriorated, rather than improved.

“Cycle paths are poorly maintained and road sides often unsuitable for bicycle tyres.

“Cyclists appear to be even more of an afterthought, which cannot be acceptable in the current climate.

“Cycling needs to be more fiercely promoted and cyclists protected.”

He has written to Cheshire West and Chester Council (CWAC) about the issue and the council forwarded his letter to United Utilities as it is believed that the sunken cover was a drain cover.

United Utilities had not commented on the issue as the Guardian went to press.

CWAC, however, offered advice on the issue of potholes in general.

A spokesman said: “Potholes are more prevalent during, or shortly after, poor weather conditions.

“Winter weather with low road surface temperatures and repeated freeze, thaw or wetting and drying cycles combined with the loading effect of traffic and pressure and suction of vehicle tyres are the main reasons a pothole appears on the road network.

“Cheshire West and Chester Council has in place a system of inspection for roads and the frequency of inspection varies, depending on the classification and usage of each road.

“We have a well established team of specially trained personnel whose job it is to drive or walk the highways, checking and recording any defects considered dangerous.

“When such a defect is identified at inspection, or otherwise reported, the appropriate action is taken.

“Highway defects can be reported in a number of different ways and this will ensure information reaches the local area highways office who will assess individual requests.

“Our Customer Contact Centre number is 0300 123 7036 or alternatively defects can be reported via the council’s website.”

This web address is