CTC backs Cyclists' Defence Fund action against council over state of Peak District road
Charity uses little-known feature of Highways Act to try and compel Sheffield City Council to act
National cyclists’ organisation CTC has revealed that the Cyclists’ Defence Fund (CDF), a charity that it set up a decade ago to deal with legal issues affecting cyclists, has given notice to Sheffield City Council’s Highways Department that a road for which it is responsible and which is popular with cyclists is “out of repair.” Should the council take no action within the next four months, it may face court proceedings.
The road in question is Strines Moor in the Peak District, used in past in the Tour of Britain and said by CTC to be part of the route of the proposed Yorkshire Grand Départ of the 2016 Tour de France that a consortium led by the local tourism agency is currently bidding to stage.
CDF Trustee Martyn Bolt is taking action against Sheffield City Council on behalf of the charity since, according to CTC, in some parts of the road, “it is impossible to cycle the road without hitting a pothole or other defect,” adding that “as gradients are as steep as one in four, the charity fears for the safety of road users.”
"This is not a request solely for cyclists," explained Bolt, "but for the many motor cyclists, and car drivers who also use the Strines." The action is being taken under section 56 of the Highways Act 1980, which allows any person to ask the local highways authority to take appropriate action when a road is “out of repair.” Should it not do so, magistrates’ court proceedings can follow.
The council responded to the initial approach from the CDF by confirming that it is the authority responsible for the road in question, adding: “Strines Moor/Upper Midhope Village roads are inspected on a regular basis and repairs undertaken to defects that exceed safety intervention levels, currently defined as a trip or pot hole with a vertical trip height of 20mm or more, in locations which could be considered to be potentially hazardous."
Mr Bolt, however, has rejected the council’s assertion that it had inspected the road, stating: "I would invite the head of Sheffield highways to join me on a cycle ride across Strines moor, when they hit a 20mm hole, of which there are many, going down hill, in the wet they will perhaps have a different perspective on so called intervention levels."
CTC set up CDF in 2001 following the case of nine-year-old Darren Coombes who was left with brain damage following a collision with a vehicle while riding his bike.
CTC had become involved in the case after the motorist’s insurers counter-sued Darren’s parents, alleging contributory negligence since the youngster, who was himself suing the motorist for damages, hadn’t been wearing a cycle helmet.
The insurers were unsuccessful, and CTC subsequently set up CDF to help defend cyclists in other cases that may lead to a legal precedent being set.
CDF has also previously provided support to CTC when it challenged revisions to the Highway Code proposed by the Department for Transport in 2007 that would have left cyclists possibly facing criminal or civil action if they chose not to use any cycle facilities provided. CTC succeeded in having the wording revised to make it clear that use of cycle facilities was not compulsory.
You can find out more about the CDF’s work on its website.