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New cycle path branded “waste of taxpayers’ money” as cyclist counts 233 “huge” cracks in surface – six months after it was built

“At this rate the new path will not be safe to use in the next few months,” the cyclist said, after noticing the surface crumble and deteriorate over the summer

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.”

> “I switched into Steve Irwin mode and grabbed its tail”: Cyclists wrestle 7ft python... in Kent

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.”

> Cyclist in his 80s died after wheel got stuck in cracked road

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.

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15 comments

Avatar
rickiecheese | 2 months ago
2 likes

As a cyclist and resident of Herne Bay I have contacted my local Councillor regarding this cycle lane. It has been temporarily repaired but I will be pestering him about getting a permanent repair done. We shall see.

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Robert Hardy | 4 months ago
2 likes

I'm sure it was specified to 'design standards' but it gives every appearance to suggest that it wasn't actually built to those standards!

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IanMSpencer | 4 months ago
0 likes

See also "Council missed fatal pothole" for the real issue with these tramline cracks - where inexperienced cyclists are expected to be.

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Cugel | 4 months ago
2 likes

So, a path once usable as a footpath, at least, is "improved" to cater to cyclists, disabled buggies and the like so they don't have to use the roads but ends up a disintegrating and dangerous piece of wasteland worse than the naturally-evolved footpath.

More pavement over paradise, eh? 

*****

What sort of process was employed to award the contract, specify the requirements and actually perform the work?  How much is down to private cowboys and bungs; and what lack of qualifications is evident in the designers?

What process is there to make redress at no further cost to the ratepayers? Is there a process to get back the rates already wasted on this and probably a thousand other pieces of junk "infrastructure" of similar ilk? 

In short: cuh!

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mattw replied to Cugel | 4 months ago
3 likes

I never undertand this.

You're off on a rant about "a path once usable as a footpath" turning into "pavement over paradise" and a "naturally evolved footpath" turning into "wasteland".

That is I think a fairy story. No ones paving over any naturally evolved footpaths.

This is afaics a footway next to the A2990, which has been "upgraded" with an insufficient quality of work. At least this cycleway / footway can be accessed on a bicycle or a power-wheelchair rathe than needing to deal with unlawful anti-wheelchair barriers.

It is a small active travel project which has not been done professionally; the Council are fortunate that at least one person is paying attention (commendable!) and has called it out quickly enough to enable the project to be recovered before the warranty period is finished and the money tipped away.

I agree with your comments about specification etc - we need a reeducation of many parts of our Highway Construction profession; I have in the past proposed North Korea style re-education camps, but more likely it will be a long, slow campaign over a couple of decades through local activism.

To be fair to Councillor Dan Watkins and Kent CC - they are trying, rather than making excuses for not trying as happens in some places (Cough ! Ashfield and Mansfield in my local area).

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chrisonabike replied to mattw | 4 months ago
1 like

I think I see where Cugel is coming from.  We're still on a development treadmill.  The mantra is everywhere "growth" (presumably "or else they'll use it first!")  And we're still producing more humans with their wants and needs.

Perhap's Cugel's even visited The Netherlands - which has urban areas and villages at a high density over large areas?  And where until recently planners seemed to look at any patch of shrubs, grass or even sea and say "you know - we could build on that..."

Possibly it's that we mostly remember times when we were young more fondly than later periods.  And everywhere was less developed then.  It's just unfortunate Cugel's particular time frame for "t'were good enough for us back then" may have been before the invention of tarmacadam and the pneumatic tyre.

(EDIT - I agree with you, it does seem to be a slighly odd stocking-frame-burning viewpoint they have - except for a few specific modern doohickeys they have personally blessed!)

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Cugel replied to chrisonabike | 4 months ago
1 like
chrisonatrike wrote:

I think I see where Cugel is coming from.  We're still on a development treadmill.  The mantra is everywhere "growth" (presumably "or else they'll use it first!")  And we're still producing more humans with their wants and needs.

Where is Cugel coming from? Not a past golden age (there weren't any) nor some personal heaven now lost. (A Tyneside upbringing was a bit rough, really). But Cugel, you may be horrified to hear, is a conservative. And definitely has a touch of Ludd.

No, no, no!  Not a-one o' them New Model Aristocracy spivs who label themselves The Conservative and Unionist Party (but are in fact The Destroy Everything with Socio-Economic Fragment Bombs Party intent only on the acquisition of purposelss power and wealth no matter the damages) .... no, just one who prefers the proven and resilent utility of evolved ways of doing things as opposed to the ten-new-schemes-a-minute crazed inventors of that constant stream of "innovations" that's killing the planet and everything on it at an increasingly rapid rate.

These ever-expanding "human wants and needs" you mention is the fundamental problem, generated by the fundamentalist political dogmas of rabid and selfish individualism with its helpmeets the money-greedy neolib entrpreneurs, inventing new degradations every minute of the day & night, plastered with glamour makeup that soon drops off as the new! improved! things go to the landfill or just lie there rotting down into yet another heap of toxic waste heaped on to the smothered and the dead bits of nature-corpse.

Some are convinced of the chimerical notion of Progress, mistaking the vast efflorescence of technology and human artifice as some sort of improvement to human life. Such tech and artifice certainly comes wearing a nice frock and a ready smile but soon reveals that it needs to suck to life out of whatever it touches to keep generating cash for its makers.

Cycle paths, then, are Progress.  Huzzah Any human will be able to go anywhere in complete safety as fast as they like albeit a large swathe of flora and fauna must go to the wall (or under the path). Also, the Great New Edifice will eventually (but rather soon) want to suck at everyone's life, in one way or another. And the mask will fall off reet quick, to reveal the toxic crumble underneath.

But we never learn. Today's glittering new "convenience" is all that's seen. Tomorrow's heaps of rot? Some other bugger's problem! But soon we realise; we are the other buggers.

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chrisonabike replied to Cugel | 4 months ago
1 like
Cugel wrote:

These ever-expanding "human wants and needs" you mention is the fundamental problem, generated by the fundamentalist political dogmas of rabid and selfish individualism with its helpmeets [...]

(EDIT added links!)

The modern way is definitely increasing the rate we push down on the accelerator. But I'd say the pattern was set at the neolithic revolution! We don't tend to critique eg. the millions of mussel shells we see on the shore. Well - we might bemoan then if they're clogging up the pipes or if we've helped them get "where they should not". Humans have just successfully circumvented their natural limitations of predators, pathogens and production. Ergo without conspiracy between ourselves our numbers and effects will continue to grow until we hit another limit (which we'll no doubt fight against).

Cugel wrote:

Cycle paths, then, are Progress.  Huzzah Any human will be able to go anywhere in complete safety as fast as they like albeit a large swathe of flora and fauna must go to the wall (or under the path). Also, the Great New Edifice will eventually (but rather soon) want to suck at everyone's life, in one way or another. And the mask will fall off reet quick, to reveal the toxic crumble underneath.

I think you're more accurately describing mass motoring there!

Cycling won't "save the planet" any more than PPE will "save your life" in a crash - that means you don't die *then* (you will later...). Cycling is potentially a part of a harm- minimisation strategy that could *possibly* work from where we are. (Plus it opens up several virtuous circles). I'm not aware of many other likely ideas which might result in a reduction of consumption (the aftermath of global war being an exception).

You're both right and wrong about "cycle paths are progess". Overall, this may entail some building where there was none, true. However this isn't always necessary, lots can and does go on existing infra. In NL there are plenty of examples where they have been able to actually remove roads (and the concrete and tarmac) now they have reduced traffic volumes.

https://bicycledutch.wordpress.com/2020/09/16/utrecht-corrects-a-histori...

https://bicycledutch.wordpress.com/2023/08/02/utrechts-western-city-boul...

We could of course build recreational cycle paths for escooters through virgin nature. That would be a loss IMHO. (But if them city folks can't experience nature what stake do they feel they have in it is an argument too, I guess. Also - we already do this anyways, but bigger, for motor vehicles.)

Historically cycling has oscillated between useful tool (albeit facilitating more humans consuming slightly more) and frippery. It may be that a motivation for its origin was as a horse- replacement (due to shortage). Then it becomes a dangerous fad of the rich (cycling on pavements!), returned in a small way with multi-wheel machines and the first mainstream pedal powered bicycles, comes back again as extreme sport (high wheelers), the modern form is invented in another rush of popularity, (perhaps it can potentially help with a previous transport / pollution crisis - horses in cities?), cycling expands to become a major transport mode (start of century to 20s and 30s) etc.

Same with cycle infra - recall the roads as we know them weren't built for cars!

https://roadswerenotbuiltforcars.com/

There have been bursts of cycle infra building since then, the 30s (lots, to get the cyclists off the roads).  After than every decade or two it seems there's been some big but ultimately half-assed government scheme to "experiment with cycling" (e.g. efforts in New Towns like Milton Keynes, the National Cycling Strategy, cycling demonstration towns).

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Flintshire Boy replied to Cugel | 4 months ago
0 likes

.

'Cugel, you may be horrified to hear, is a conservative. And definitely has a touch of Ludd.'

.

Admire your honesty. But must warn you to prepare for some to try and hound you off this site.

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Diversity is most certainly NOT welcome on here.

.

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Cugel replied to Flintshire Boy | 4 months ago
2 likes
Flintshire Boy wrote:

.

'Cugel, you may be horrified to hear, is a conservative. And definitely has a touch of Ludd.'

.

Admire your honesty. But must warn you to prepare for some to try and hound you off this site.

.

Diversity is most certainly NOT welcome on here.

.

Ha ha - there's diversity and there's rabid reactionary bigotry of the kind best illustrated, these days, by The Toryspiv Party and it's doowally supporters.   1

Me, I'm opinionated up to the gunnels - but none of 'em are just baldy-shouty eejit opinions, no. They have been lovingly wrought from oodles of queer cultural soup-splash (as well as some rissoto, curry and roast philosopher) by way of an extensive series of notion-dinners, as well as frequent gulps from the arts&crafts bottles of grog or sup.

I like it best when these opinions elicit blasts of steamy refutation, alternative and rejection. What's the point of a forum that's just a mutual admiration society populated by nodding-dog folk?

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Cugel replied to mattw | 4 months ago
1 like
mattw wrote:

I never undertand this.

You're off on a rant about "a path once usable as a footpath" turning into "pavement over paradise" and a "naturally evolved footpath" turning into "wasteland".

That is I think a fairy story. No ones paving over any naturally evolved footpaths.

This path was build over "an old footpath fallen into disuse", acording to the article, which also quotes the council which commissioned the path saying:

 “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."

which is an object-lesson in the stupid and short-term attitudes of such eejits, happy to waste your tax and rates on something he admits will fall to bits in no time.

There's a big picture to be seen. To see it, remove blinkers.

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Car Delenda Est | 4 months ago
1 like

Subsidence is a thing (that I'm not an expert on) and while there are ways to counter it they aren't a guarantee: especially when you consider that the forces at play are working at a far larger scale than the construction works.

I'm more interested in this warranty: how quickly will the repairs be made and if cracks reappear will they be repaired or is it a one time deal?
If so there'll be a big incentive for the council to wait as long as possible before having the repairs made.

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mattw replied to Car Delenda Est | 4 months ago
3 likes

It means that foundations and the structure of the pathway have been done on the cheap & unsuitably for the prevailing conditions.

It's entirely possible to do it professionally and to acceptable standards, but thsiw as not done for some reason.

It happens to roads too - when our 2-3 mile single carriageway "bypass" was built, a super-doopah technique made it 20% cheaper; now the carriageway is being reconstructed about 2/3 of the way through its design life since it hasn't lasted and the forecasts were wrong.

Obviously nothing is being done about the 1m wide shared footpaths / cyclepaths next to the 60mph (now 50mph) road carrying AADT of 25k vehicles with uncontrolled crossings where 10-15 peds and cyclists have been killed since 2000.

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ktache | 4 months ago
3 likes

One of the problems I notice is that these surfaces are specified for very light users, a few hundred kilos, a heavily loaded tandem, (but of course we do more damage to pavement than a landing jumbo jet...) Or a fully loaded cargo trike, but they are used by motor large motor vehicles, rarely and perfectly legally, during construction and maintenance. Getting equipment, materials and personnel to and from worksites, and the quality and depth of construction really aren't up to it.

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chrisonabike replied to ktache | 4 months ago
2 likes

Yes - again it's "we should be able to tread more lightly (and cheaply) .... but cars and trucks (as always)".

Wonder if this is incorrect specification - in the budget / by the planners / powers that be, or due to inexperience by the designers?  Or incorrect use by vehicles for e.g. maintenance?

I'm not sure how they do it elsewhere but IIRC many Dutch cycle paths are spec'ed for fairly heavy vehicles since - like footways - there's an expectation of motor vehicle access for e.g. maintenance (and likely emergency vehicles).  (Again some eco-questions about this but they also have some concrete paths there).

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