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"Embarrassing and dangerous": Cyclists' disbelief at road resurfaced with sea of loose chippings

Aberdeenshire Council responds to cyclist's claim he's "genuinely never seen anything quite like it"...

The state of Aberdeenshire roads has been put in the spotlight once again by the organiser of the Ride the North sportive, this time after a video of a "road newly reopened with brand new surface" did the rounds on social media, showing a deep loose chipping surface that has been branded "embarrassing and dangerous".

Ride the North organiser Neil Innes visited to see if the road could replace another gravel-strewn part of his route, but was left to conclude he has "genuinely never seen anything quite like it" after coming across the resurfacing job on a ride near Aberchirder last night.

Last week, Neil told road.cc how he had been left frustrated and disappointed by Aberdeenshire Council's reluctance to repair defects, including loose gravel and potholes, ahead of his event in August, also preventing him from hiring contractors to do the work himself.

Mr Innes said the gravel and surface dressings are "really dangerous for cyclists but as they are not potholes they don't merit the attention of the local authority".

Now, he has again been left in disbelief at the state of one of his local roads, saying he is seemingly "at odds with" the authorities over "what constitutes a safe road surface".

"I don't know if it's unfinished," Neil added. "Well, it is obviously unfinished, but I don't know if they plan to do more work here. I do know it's open! The feel of the surface is quite familiar to anyone who has walked on a shingle beach. Four wheels would be a problem, two wheels..."

From the concerned cyclists joining the conversation on social media, many had experienced similar on their home roads, perhaps not to the same extent, with some suggesting it is likely the council will return to sweep excess in the coming days.

"I don't know whether this work is still underway," Neil continued. "I'll guess they send someone to sweep it today and tell you that it was just unfortunate that I happened to show up just at the wrong moment."

road.cc has contacted Aberdeenshire Council for comment and was given the following statement:

While we all accept that our surface dressing programme causes short-term inconvenience to the travelling public, on all modes, it provides long-term benefits for the maintenance of the road network.

 Our surface dressing programme is carried out in accordance with the Road Surface Treatment Association Code of Practice. The council has a safe system of work for surface dressing that seeks to ensure the safety of the workforce and the public, including two wheelers, both during the works and after surface dressing works have been completed.

This includes traffic management requirements, in accordance with national guidelines, to ensure that works have adequate temporary signing during and after completion.

Procedures are also in place to ensure road sweeping is carried out as soon as practical after works are completed and as required prior to removal of all warning signs.

Unfortunately, on this particular site there was a slight delay in undertaking the sweeping part of the process. However, the site was appropriately signed throughout that period and the mandatory speed limit remained in place.

Sweeping operations commenced Tuesday 11th of July, and the warning signs and speed restrictions will remain in place until excess chips have been removed.

It is important that temporary speed limits are observed during and after completion of the works. These measures are in place to ensure that hundreds of thousands of journey miles are made through these works in a safe manner.

One reply to Ride the North's posts called the surface "shocking and lethal", while another said it was "crazy, dangerous, cheap, disgraceful", a third adding "embarrassing and dangerous".

"We have stunningly beautiful countryside and gladly welcome visitors but the only way for both tourists and locals to get around our remote, vast county is by road. This is just one example of an unacceptable surface. Sort it out!" they added.

In recent times, Neil has written to the council as with less than 50 days to go until the Aberdeenshire sportive is due to take place on Saturday 26 August — offering 100-mile (161km) and 64-mile (103km) routes, with participants from across the UK, the Netherlands, Germany and even the United States — he fears he cannot put the ride on with the roads "in that condition" and covered with "all sorts of mess", including potholes, loose gravel, stones and surface dressing (another of the event route's roads is seen below).

Potholes and loose gravel (Neil Innes)

After last night's disappointment, Neil concluded: "Ultimately I, like 99.9 per cent of cyclists, am interested in keeping people safe and getting more people to ride bikes, for the good of a healthy society and a healthy planet.

"The biggest issue of all, for my money, is that I accept that I live in area where the A-road between market town A and market town B will never, in my lifetime, have a cycle path alongside it like it might if I lived in Netherlands, Denmark, Germany or Belgium. I am realistic.

"However, we have a great network of backroads that connect everywhere with everywhere, they might be 1-2km longer and go over an extra hill, but they are great for cycling. Correction… they were great for cycling! 'We' apparently cannot afford to build safe infrastructure on A-roads and we now cannot afford to maintain the alternatives?

"It's school holidays here… I have teenage sons out riding bikes in Aberdeenshire today. I'd tell them to 'be safe' and, where possible, cycle on the roads that take them away from the 60 mph cars and HGVs… what would Aberdeenshire Council tell them?"

Dan is the road.cc news editor and has spent the past four years writing stories and features, as well as (hopefully) keeping you entertained on the live blog. Having previously written about nearly every other sport under the sun for the Express, and the weird and wonderful world of non-league football for the Non-League Paper, Dan joined road.cc in 2020. Come the weekend you'll find him labouring up a hill, probably with a mouth full of jelly babies, or making a bonk-induced trip to a south of England petrol station... in search of more jelly babies.

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21 comments

Avatar
ubercurmudgeon | 1 year ago
6 likes

They do similar down my way. And they put out temporary signs for a month saying the speed limit is 15mph. But not even little old ladies or members of the clergy have the patience to drive that slowly these days, and the weight of the average car is higher than they used to be, so you get painfully pebble-dashed with loose stones thrown up by their tyres as they go past.

Avatar
brooksby replied to ubercurmudgeon | 1 year ago
3 likes
ubercurmudgeon wrote:

They do similar down my way. And they put out temporary signs for a month saying the speed limit is 15mph. But not even little old ladies or members of the clergy have the patience to drive that slowly these days, and the weight of the average car is higher than they used to be, so you get painfully pebble-dashed with loose stones thrown up by their tyres as they go past.

They put in 20mph speed limits in my village recently.  I had to drive, the other week, to collect my daughter from something and when I was coming back through the village at just under 20mph she protested, "Dad! Why are you driving so slowly?".  I replied that I was driving at the speed limit, and she rolled her eyes in a teenager way and said, "NOBODY drives that slowly!".

Avatar
sheridan | 1 year ago
2 likes

Anybody else remember that time Richmond Park did something similar, just before Bike Week and on a hill?  Just over ten years ago, I think.  One organised ride I was on had a casualty (the person managed to get up with cuts and bruises and I think continued with the rest of the ride to an evening picnic on the Thames bank at Ham) and I'm sure I read about other 'accidents' around the same time.

Avatar
CF@Wds | 1 year ago
1 like

This has been going on for decades on quieter or more rural roads, however it's also starting to be used on the Primary Route Network.
I'd imagine that if the contractor is new to the business they might overestimate the amount of chippings necessary to bed in across the plain. There's always a bit of wash on the edges but this time it's excessive and looks to be a risk, although not clear if the temporary speed reduction signs are in operation.
As a cyclist, not only us there the obvious issues of slide, grip (adhesion) but also whether passing motorists can do so safely if they move into a gravel bank.
There's also the risk of not seeing or been seen if cars are generating too much dust (as well as breathing it in).
If I was organizing an event on this surface I would re-reroute or cancel the event.
As a resurfacing measure, it's quite effective providing that the underlying carriageway has been remedied well. It's certainly better than nothing!

Avatar
eburtthebike | 1 year ago
2 likes

It would make an interesting case if a collision, single vehicle or multiple, occurred because of such gravel.  As I understand it, the gravel is rolled into the wet surface and left for a week to bed in, then the excess gravel is swept up, but the potential for accidents in that time, especially to two-wheeled vehicles is considerable.  Surprised I haven't heard of any such incidents, and if they happened, were the victims able to claim of the council?

Avatar
andystow | 1 year ago
1 like

If they would just grind it up and do proper compacted gravel, it would be a nice surface for anyone with over about 28 mm tyres, preferably over 32 mm. I have lots of lovely gravel near me, and it really makes for nice quiet roads that drivers avoid.

Yes, even on a folding bike.

Avatar
mike the bike | 1 year ago
10 likes

Local councils seem particularly prone to idiotic schemes like this.  I suppose it is a direct result of the low calibre of candidates for election.

My own council once resurfaced a cycle track to a pretty good standard but then topped it off with a loose layer of miniature flints.  With all the attributes of arrowheads they flattened dozens of bike tyres before the officers could be convinced to sweep them up.  Their answer to sustained criticism from cyclists was to keep repeating the fact that Kew Gardens had chosen this surface for their new paths.  The fact that Kew gardens is almost wholly closed to cycling didn't seem relevant to them. 

Avatar
Samtheeagle replied to mike the bike | 1 year ago
3 likes

This is a standard specification for prolonging the life of a road surface.  A tar slurry is applied that seals the surface and fills in minor fissures to prevent water ingress.  The granite chippings are applied liberally to provide a traction element as the slurry would be slippery on its own.  There is an expectation that traffic will press the chippings into the surface.  There is usually a follow up sweeping to secure the remaining chippings not bot fixed into the surface.  Dont like it myself - simply putting into context from asking a roads engineer.

Avatar
hawkinspeter replied to Samtheeagle | 1 year ago
2 likes
Samtheeagle wrote:

This is a standard specification for prolonging the life of a road surface.  A tar slurry is applied that seals the surface and fills in minor fissures to prevent water ingress.  The granite chippings are applied liberally to provide a traction element as the slurry would be slippery on its own.  There is an expectation that traffic will press the chippings into the surface.  There is usually a follow up sweeping to secure the remaining chippings not bot fixed into the surface.  Dont like it myself - simply putting into context from asking a roads engineer.

Is it a thing to skip the tar slurry and just apply the chippings? I've seen roads that appear to have just had chippings put on them and no sign of extra tar.

Avatar
HoarseMann replied to hawkinspeter | 1 year ago
2 likes
hawkinspeter wrote:

Is it a thing to skip the tar slurry and just apply the chippings? I've seen roads that appear to have just had chippings put on them and no sign of extra tar.

This is sometimes done when the weather is very hot, to try and stop the road melting in the sun, or to coat a road that has already melted!

Avatar
brooksby | 1 year ago
3 likes

Did someone think, "Ah, that road's out in the middle of nowhere - nobody will notice"...?

Avatar
hawkinspeter | 1 year ago
16 likes

Someone's obviously in the deep pockets of Big Gravel - they're just ensuring that all cyclists have to turn in their road bikes and buy brand new gravel bikes instead.

Avatar
Pub bike replied to hawkinspeter | 1 year ago
5 likes
hawkinspeter wrote:

Someone's obviously in the deep pockets of Big Gravel

Tar spraying and gritting is cheap way in theory to extend the life of a an asphalt road before resurfacing becomes necessary.  In practice it is clearly a massive nuisance, especially if it isn't swept afterward.

Avatar
Glov Zaroff | 1 year ago
8 likes

If the Cooncil* actually get round to sweeping it after a week then it’ll be fine. If they don’t bother (which is sadly too common) the loose chips will grind the surface over winter and by spring next year it’ll be covered in small potholes.

 

*Correct spelling in Scotland.

Avatar
mark1a replied to Glov Zaroff | 1 year ago
6 likes
Glov Zaroff wrote:

If the Cooncil* ...

*Correct spelling in Scotland.

Jings, crivvens, help ma boab!

Avatar
hawkinspeter replied to mark1a | 1 year ago
5 likes
mark1a wrote:
Glov Zaroff wrote:

If the Cooncil* ...

*Correct spelling in Scotland.

Jings, crivvens, help ma boab!

We should have more articles written in local dialects

Avatar
Dnnnnnn replied to hawkinspeter | 1 year ago
0 likes

Aberdeenshire's Doric dialect is particularly rich - and largely impenetrable to outsiders (although you'll be pleased that your late monarch was au fait).
www.bbc.com/travel/article/20210321-scotlands-little-known-fourth-language

Avatar
hawkinspeter replied to Dnnnnnn | 1 year ago
11 likes
Dnnnnnn wrote:

Aberdeenshire's Doric dialect is particularly rich - and largely impenetrable to outsiders (although you'll be pleased that your late monarch was au fait).
www.bbc.com/travel/article/20210321-scotlands-little-known-fourth-language

Not my monarch - I never voted for her

Avatar
Matthew Acton-Varian replied to hawkinspeter | 1 year ago
2 likes

Now Yow'm torkin!  Gorra loff, else yer cry! (Sorry, Black Country dialect)

Avatar
hawkinspeter replied to Matthew Acton-Varian | 1 year ago
3 likes
Matthew Acton-Varian wrote:

Now Yow'm torkin!  Gorra loff, else yer cry! (Sorry, Black Country dialect)

Arrright me babber, that's proper mint, mind.

Avatar
belugabob replied to mark1a | 1 year ago
1 like
mark1a wrote:
Glov Zaroff wrote:

If the Cooncil* ...

*Correct spelling in Scotland.

Jings, crivvens, help ma boab!

You are "Oor Willie" and I claim my five pounds

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