A new off-road cycle path in Kent has been branded “a waste of taxpayers’ money” and almost “unusable” after one local cyclist counted over 200 cracks in its surface, some as wide as three inches, just six months after it opened.
The shared-use path, which runs alongside the A2990 Old Thanet Way between Herne Bay and Whitstable and forms part of a series of active travel improvements recently implemented by Kent County Council, opened in April this year following four months of construction, replacing an overgrown, impassable footpath.
However, on one mile-long section of the path, continuous cracks have already appeared in the surface, while the edges have also significantly deteriorated and crumbled.
Posting a two-minute-long video of the cracked surface to Facebook, highlighting the scale and extent of the erosion, local cyclist Sean Beaver – who first noticed the damage four weeks ago – said: “After a year of disruption having it built, it has only taken four months since completion for the new foot and cycle path next to the Thanet way to show the amazing quality of workmanship our tax money is paying for.”
He continued: “The stretch between Garden X [in Chestfield] and the [Herne Bay’s] recycling centre has developed huge cracks and is slipping into the neighbouring field.”
Speaking to Kent Online, Beaver said that he had counted 233 cracks in the path’s surface throughout that short section, and that the splits are “getting wider by the day”. He also explained that the surface also appears to be crumbling breaking away at the edges, due to kerbs failing and “taking big chunks of asphalt with them”.
“At this rate, the new path will be unusable in the next few months,” the cyclist added, noting the potential safety issues related to what he calls the “shocking” surface.
“It is really disappointing because that path is such a benefit,” he continued. “Originally it was just a footpath. This is a waste of taxpayers’ money.”
Conservative councillor Dan Watkins also said that he is “very disappointed” in the cracks in the path, which he notes has already become a popular route for cyclists, pedestrians, and people using buggies and mobility scooters.
“I was very disappointed to see the cracks in the path and have reported them previously to [the council], including the county councillor for the area,” Watkins said.
“I understand that such paths have a two-year warranty on them, precisely because underlying soil will expand and contract through the 12-month seasonal cycle following construction, making cracks very possible. As such, the contractor will be asked to repair these sections.”
A spokesperson for Kent County Council said: “The section of path along the Thanet Way between the garden centre and Westbrook Lane was constructed between January and April 2023, as part of a wider scheme of road, walking and cycling improvements. This was constructed to design standards.
“We are aware of damage to the path cause by clay ground conditions in the area and we will be carrying out repairs to ensure the path is safe. We will also work with our contractors to find a more permanent solution.”
Kent cyclist Sean’s warning about the dangers of cracked surfaces to people on bikes comes less than a year after the wife of a “much loved” member of the cycling community in the north west of England, who died after his front wheel became lodged in a nine-inch-deep crack in the road surface, throwing him from his bike, called on both the government and local authorities to do more to repair cracks and potholes on the UK’s “woefully inadequate” roads.
84-year-old retired music teacher and father-of-three Harry Colledge was cycling on a rural road near the Lancashire village of Winmarleigh on 2 January when the front wheel of his Claud Butler bike got stuck in a deep crack in the road, throwing him off and causing serious injuries. The former Cleveleys Road Club president was taken to hospital, where he died from his injuries.
In the week following Mr Colledge’s death, his wife Valerie urged both central and local governments to do more to protect people riding bikes on damaged rural roads.
Meanwhile, Cycling UK’s Keir Gallagher said that Mr Colledge’s death highlighted the serious threat posed by potholes and road defects to cyclists, arguing that “our crumbling roads… are deterring many from taking up cycling”.
“Popping out for some exercise in the countryside shouldn’t be a high-risk activity: it’s time for the Government to get serious about the risk potholes pose, and to ensure local authorities have long-term funding to properly fix and maintain the local roads,” he said.
Ryan joined road.cc in December 2021 and since then has kept the site’s readers and listeners informed and enthralled (well at least occasionally) on news, the live blog, and the road.cc Podcast. After boarding a wrong bus at the world championships and ruining a good pair of jeans at the cyclocross, he now serves as road.cc’s senior news writer. Before his foray into cycling journalism, he wallowed in the equally pitiless world of academia, where he wrote a book about Victorian politics and droned on about cycling and bikes to classes of bored students (while taking every chance he could get to talk about cycling in print or on the radio). He can be found riding his bike very slowly around the narrow, scenic country lanes of Co. Down.