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Pothole and loose gravel danger leaves sportive organiser frustrated as council refuses to let him repair route defects

Aberdeenshire Council said it had no plans to repair highlighted defects ahead of the Ride the North event, but also will not let organiser Neil Innes hire contractors to do the work himself

The organiser of a Scottish sportive has expressed disapointment at the council's decision to opt against works to address road defects and loose gravel on Ride the North's route ahead of next month's event, also barring him from hiring contractors to fix the issues himself, including prohibiting sweeping the road.

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, organiser Neil Innes 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.

> Cyclists blast last-minute "crude patch-up" of potholes ahead of Cycling World Championships, as Tadej Pogačar's team reportedly say Scottish roads are "worst they'd ever seen"

"The issue isn't really about potholes but much more about countryside roads that are covered in all sorts of mess, some of which can be potholes," Neil told road.cc. "More stones, gravel, surface dressing. These things are really dangerous for cyclists but as they are not potholes they don't merit the attention of the local authority."

Potholes and loose gravel (Neil Innes)

When raising the concerns with Aberdeenshire Council, Neil was told that just one of the 13 faults would be repaired as the 'matrix' used to decide which defects are prioritised for repair did not score them highly enough for immediate maintenance.

"As a last resort" Neil suggested he could "fix the worst of this rather than either risk the welfare of cyclists or have to cancel the event". 

Potholes and loose gravel (RideTheNorth/Facebook)
Potholes and loose gravel (RideTheNorth/Facebook)

However, he explained, "The Local Authority has denied me permission… it has told me that it's not legal for me to sweep stones off its roads. I have applied for permission to maintain the roads for them. It has not responded."

In a comment offered to the Daily Record, Aberdeenshire Council's head of roads and infrastructure, Philip McKay, said: "In line with the code of practice, reactive road maintenance is undertaken following a risk-based approach.

> "Thought I'd sort it out before a cyclist went through it!": Public-spirited local fills in pothole... council arrives an hour later to fix it

"The defects on our network, including the route chosen by Mr Innes for the event, have been assessed and prioritised to reflect the risks posed to road users. This evaluation takes account of the ­physical characteristic of the defect and the nature of the traffic on the road."

A senior road engineer for the area also told Neil, "What may appear as a defect/hazard for you, may not score highly enough on our matrix to warrant prioritising that defect over other defects in the area and I therefore cannot guarantee any ­reinstatements/repairs will be carried out along your proposed route(s) prior to your event.

Potholes and loose gravel (RideTheNorth/Facebook)

"As for sweeping the route, it is felt that, although the surfaces have various forms of detritus on them, it is no more than you would expect on any country road and, given our current resource issues, we would not intend sweeping the route prior to your event.

"I would therefore suggest that you make entrants aware, possibly as part of a health and safety briefing, that they can expect to encounter many different surfaces along the route including mud, loose stone chippings, ruts etc and that they should take the ­appropriate measures for the conditions of the road."

Potholes and loose gravel (Neil Innes)

Speaking to the Scottish newspaper, Neil said the council had made it clear "that they would be doing virtually nothing about dangerous parts of the road and they have now made it clear I have no authority to make improvements myself".

"This causes me a lot of frustration, given that I have witnessed one cyclist crash, who needed major surgery, due to the state of the road in a previous event," he said. "The problem seems to be that complaints about roads are dealt with by engineers, who couldn't care less about 1,400 riders coming to the area, spending more than a million pounds.

"The council seems to think that fixing these roads won't be worth the effort."

Similar concerns about the state of Scottish roads have been heard ahead of next month's UCI Cycling World Championships coming to the country. Back in February, a Glasgow cyclist raised the alarm to road.cc about the "dangerous" pothole-covered state of the road race routes.

2023 World Championships Glasgow road race potholes (Liam McReanan)

Then, a week ago, amid last-minute patching works to make the route safe ahead of next month's event, cyclists criticised the "crude" standard of the works, Tadej Pogačar's Slovenian team reportedly saying the Scottish roads are the "worst they'd ever seen".

Dan joined road.cc in 2020, and spent most of his first year (hopefully) keeping you entertained on the live blog. At the start of 2022 he took on the role of news editor. Before joining road.cc, Dan wrote about various sports, including football and boxing for the Daily Express, and covered the weird and wonderful world of non-league football for The Non-League Paper. Part of the generation inspired by the 2012 Olympics, Dan has been 'enjoying' life on two wheels ever since and spends his weekends making bonk-induced trips to the petrol stations of the south of England.

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12 comments

Avatar
Jimmy Ray Will | 7 months ago
2 likes

The issue here is asking permission. Don't, just get it done. 

 

Avatar
Rendel Harris replied to Jimmy Ray Will | 7 months ago
2 likes
Jimmy Ray Will wrote:

The issue here is asking permission. Don't, just get it done. 

Unfortunately, in our litigious age, just getting it done would quite likely leave the organisers vulnerable to lawsuits from people claiming to have been injured as a result of their actions. It would be nice if it wasn't thus, but it is.

Avatar
Jimmy Ray Will replied to Rendel Harris | 7 months ago
2 likes

Too true... don't get caught doing it, lol!

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muhasib | 7 months ago
6 likes

So it was planned as a Sportive but is now a gravel event?

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Bigfoz replied to muhasib | 7 months ago
1 like

Should be able to raise the entry fee 20% then... Add "Eroica" to the title and add 50%

 

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open_roads | 7 months ago
8 likes

Mr McKay would do well to note that by virtue of having had defective road surfaces brought to his attention and chosen to do nothing, he now puts his employer in the position of having little or no ability to defend itself against any accidental damage / personal injury claims arising.

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Dnnnnnn replied to open_roads | 7 months ago
0 likes

He hasn't chosen to do nothing - he assessed and prioritised - so the question would be more whether the assessment and prioritisation were appropriate in the circumstances. Hopefully those won't include any injury claims.

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Legin replied to Dnnnnnn | 7 months ago
2 likes
Dnnnnnn wrote:

He hasn't chosen to do nothing - he assessed and prioritised - so the question would be more whether the assessment and prioritisation were appropriate in the circumstances. Hopefully those won't include any injury claims.

This is correct. However by looking and assessing they have opened Pandoras Box. On the one hand they could be liable for any injuries, on the other if the organiser believes the course is too dangerous he should cancel the event.

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Dnnnnnn replied to Legin | 7 months ago
0 likes

It would make an interesting legal case (although let's hope it doesn't get to that).

On one specific point: I can understand the council not allowing individuals to start undertaking private repairs on public roads - but I wonder if he offered to pay the council to do it? The roads guys might appreciate the overtime.

More generally, Aberdeenshire is an excellent cycling destination, with a huge network of virtually pothole-and-traffic-free minor roads. Some do have loose gravel, usually in the centre (lack of traffic to sweep it aside?) but in thousands of solo KMs around the county, it's never been an issue for me. Different for groups though.

Avatar
Sriracha | 7 months ago
12 likes
Quote:

The defects on our network, including the route chosen by Mr Innes for the event, have been assessed and prioritised to reflect the risks posed to road users motorists. This evaluation takes account of the ­physical characteristic of the defect and the nature of the [motor vehicle] traffic on the road.

Avatar
Miller replied to Sriracha | 7 months ago
3 likes

Well, quite. The quoted remarks mean exactly that the council thinks it's fine for cars. No action required, end of.

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IanMSpencer replied to Miller | 7 months ago
7 likes

Indeed, I am wondering if it is worth contacting Cycling UK or the like with a view to surveying local authority repair criteria and assess whether they are criteria suitable for all legal users of the road, or just for those who are there only under licence?

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