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Council coughs up £36 for puncture repairs after local waged year-long campaign over poorly maintained cycle path

The local authority initially refused to clear the path, claiming that the hedge cuttings and debris are the responsibility of the landowner

A council in the East Midlands has committed to reviewing how it maintains the area’s cycleways, after forking out £36 for puncture repairs – over eleven months after a local cyclist complained that a bike path littered with hedge cuttings and debris caused three punctures in one ride for two Ukrainian guests staying at his home.

Rutland County Council initially refused to clear the hazardous bike path, claiming that it was the responsibility of the owner of the adjacent field, prompting the cyclists to sweep the path clear themselves.

After months of correspondence between the cyclist and the local authority, including threats of legal action, the council eventually agreed to settle the claim, through its insurers, almost a year later, while promising to review how it responds to reports of debris on cycleways. However, the council has continued to deny liability for the punctures.

David Nicholson first contacted Rutland County Council in September last year, after two Ukrainian guests staying at his home suffered three punctures, caused by hedge cuttings on a bike path located next to the busy Ryhall Road. The pair were then forced to walk their bikes into Stamford for repairs.

“I offered to cover the cost, but they are the most considerate people I have ever met and would not take a penny,” Mr Nicholson told the Rutland and Stamford Mercury.

“Anxious to avoid a repeat, or to force them to cycle on a busy road, I rang the council and asked it to clear the cycle way. To my amazement, it refused, saying that it was the responsibility of the landowner.”

> Council pays cyclist five-figure settlement over "harrowing" pothole crash

While the cyclists decided to sweep the cycle path clear themselves, Mr Nicholson contacted the council’s highways department, arguing that compensation should be granted to cover the costs of the new tubes.

“A cycleway is part of a highway and, as with spills on a road, the council has a responsibility to keep it clear,” he said.

After initially being sent an incorrect form, Mr Nicholson eventually submitted a receipt for the £36 worth of puncture repairs to the council.

“Rather than accept responsibility, and settle the relatively tiny sum, it referred the claim to Zurich, its insurers,” he noted.

“Firstly, Zurich Insurance denied liability on the basis that the responsibility for clearing up lay with the person who cut the hedge. That may be so, but it does not absolve the council from responsibility for ensuring that it is cleared, just as would happen in the event of a lorry spillage.”

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After eight months of silence from the council – during which Mr Nicholson threatened to take the matter to the smalls claims court – in August he sent a final letter preceding court action, demanding a reply within 14 days.

“At last, on the final day, it agreed to settle the claim,” he said.

“I'm surprised that Rutland didn't just settle out of its petty cash. I would not have persevered for my own sake, but our guests do need the money and would not accept charity beyond our help overcoming the Government’s Homes for Ukraine visa hurdles and somewhere to live for nine months.”

However, earlier this month, a few weeks after Mr Nicholson’s claim was finally settled, another local posted on social media an image of another nearby cycle path – located beside the Stamford Road in Oakham – littered with hedge cuttings.

A council spokesperson told the local newspaper that the delay in dealing with Mr Nicholson’s claim owed to its “robust” insurance processes, established to protect from fraud, while claiming that it is currently reviewing how it deals with claims of debris-littered cycleways, such as the one above,

“They may seem excessive, but are important to protect public money from potentially false claims,” they said.

“In this case, the claim involved a third party acting on behalf of the claimant, which can take longer to resolve. We have also apologised for delays caused by the council sending out an incorrect form.

“In addition, we are reviewing the way we respond to reports of debris on cycleways.”

Ryan joined road.cc as a news writer in December 2021. He has written about cycling and some ball-centric sports for various websites, newspapers, magazines and radio. Before returning to writing about cycling full-time, he completed a PhD in History and published a book and numerous academic articles on religion and politics in Victorian Britain and Ireland (though he remained committed to boring his university colleagues and students with endless cycling trivia). He can be found riding his bike very slowly through the Dromara Hills of Co. Down.

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11 comments

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eburtthebike | 2 months ago
4 likes

Whilst the clippings are undoubtedly the responsibility of the landowner who caused the hedge to be cut, if they haven't cleared them up, surely the council could do it and claim the cost of doing so from them?  Given the cost of getting a council to do anything, I'm pretty sure the landowner would be very keen to make sure it didn't happen again.

Avatar
ktache replied to eburtthebike | 2 months ago
1 like

Or the council "ask" the landowner to clear up the highway. Would sound a lot more weighty than coming from the cyclist.

Hedge utting is as good as any reason for tubeless and their associated faff.

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VIPcyclist | 2 months ago
3 likes

Here's my take on it. The debris on the road, if they are cuttings and not leaves that have blown, constitute an act of fly-tipping. It is the responsibility of the land owner on which the fly-tipping has occurred to clean it up. Even if it's wind blown debris the cycle-way should be kept in a safe condition ; I know no road in our banana kingdom are in a safe condition. Given this the council should clear the debris and if it's cuttings on the cycle-way charge the landowner who has left them for doing so. This leaves a slight problem though the landowner might just leave the hedges etc to grow onto the road. Then the council would have to cut and dispose of the waste ; much like I have to cut my neighbours trees, at the boundary, when they encroach onto my property. In that case I'm responsible for removing the waste.

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mike the bike replied to VIPcyclist | 2 months ago
1 like

VIPcyclist wrote:

...... Then the council would have to cut and dispose of the waste ; much like I have to cut my neighbours trees, at the boundary, when they encroach onto my property. In that case I'm responsible for removing the waste.

I think the wood you cut from the trees remains the property of the owner of those trees and it's their job to dispose of it.  You are at liberty to chuck it all back over the fence.

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qwerty360 replied to mike the bike | 2 months ago
0 likes

mike the bike wrote:

VIPcyclist wrote:

...... Then the council would have to cut and dispose of the waste ; much like I have to cut my neighbours trees, at the boundary, when they encroach onto my property. In that case I'm responsible for removing the waste.

I think the wood you cut from the trees remains the property of the owner of those trees and it's their job to dispose of it.  You are at liberty to chuck it all back over the fence.

Not quite;

 

The cuttings remain property so they have to be offered to the owner of the trees, but AFAIK they don't have to accept them.

 

 

For carriageways there is specific laws that make the landowner responsible. Council can instruct them to cut it back to meet legal requirements (X above carriageway, Y above footways - technically higher limit should apply to cycletracks; in practice I wouldn't worry about it if they meet ped requirements) and if they landowner doesn't fix it promptly the council can do it and bill them.

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Wardy74 replied to VIPcyclist | 2 months ago
1 like
VIPcyclist wrote:

Here's my take on it. The debris on the road, if they are cuttings and not leaves that have blown, constitute an act of fly-tipping. It is the responsibility of the land owner on which the fly-tipping has occurred to clean it up. Even if it's wind blown debris the cycle-way should be kept in a safe condition ; I know no road in our banana kingdom are in a safe condition. Given this the council should clear the debris and if it's cuttings on the cycle-way charge the landowner who has left them for doing so. This leaves a slight problem though the landowner might just leave the hedges etc to grow onto the road. Then the council would have to cut and dispose of the waste ; much like I have to cut my neighbours trees, at the boundary, when they encroach onto my property. In that case I'm responsible for removing the waste.

Highways have a higher right than your garden. Trees and hedges must be kept clear of roads and footpaths/shared paths, 5.2 m above carriageways an 2.5m above paths. Notifications and then enforcement action can and will follow if these are not adhered to.

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Rendel Harris | 2 months ago
7 likes

Mr Tyler's picture (lifted a bigger copy from his Facebook, hope that's OK Jamie) provides a stark illustration of just how cyclists are second-class citizens in this country, look at the state of the road compared to the cycle path! By contrast I've greatly enjoyed every stage of the Vuelta for the last three weeks and the cycle paths in Spain are a minimum twice the size of ours and much more than twice the quality. We are a much richer country than Spain (financially speaking, at least), with a GDP per capita more than 50% higher, if they can afford it why can't we?

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OldRidgeback replied to Rendel Harris | 2 months ago
8 likes

In all fairness, I've seen much worse cycling provision than that so many times I couldn't count. How many times have I ridden cycle lanes in the door zone, scattered with broken glass, full of potholes or with slippery painted surfaces?

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Andrewbanshee | 2 months ago
3 likes

I have had the same issue with Leicestershire CC. The path looks identical but in this instance it is the LA cutting the hedgerow. I used the argument that it is part of the highway so needs to be afforded the same care for those that use it. Nothing was done of course.

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bensynnock | 2 months ago
6 likes

Isn't this part of the problem with the approach of simply sticking a sign on a footpath and calling it a cycle path? It isn't real cycling infrastructure.

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Sriracha | 2 months ago
14 likes

David Nicholson sounds like a stalwart chap, chapeau. It might seem trivial to some, but when cyclists end up using a busy road instead of the adjacent cycleway some motorists can't stop themselves providing the cyclists with an education, or worse.

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