Mud on the road

Mud on the road

I recently fell off my road bike on a country lane after riding into a large stretch of wet mud leading from a farmer’s field. It was all over the road so I couldn’t avoid it. I’m more or less okay, but I’ve written off the bike’s left-hand STI. One of my clubmates took a photo of the scene with his mobile phone. Aren’t farmers meant to clear up stuff like this? It didn’t look like it had just happened, as the shape of the tractor’s tyre tracks wasn’t well defined, and there had been heavy overnight rain before our morning club ride. Is there anything I can do?

Name & address supplied

Mud on the road is a common occurrence, especially on country roads surrounding farms. This can be especially hazardous to cyclists and motorbike riders.  The initial hurdle individuals may face is identifying which farmer left the mud on the road. This may be easier to determine if there is a nearby farm/field. Many farmers require the use of public roads to transport produce, equipment and other materials.

Councils and Local Authorities routinely encourage farmers to clean up any mud/ obstructions caused by their vehicles and livestock, or to place adequate, authorised signs to notify other road users of the danger. Not doing so because it is economically inconvenient is not a reasonable defence in law. This is due to the fact that if any person without lawful authority or excuse deposits matter onto the highway, and that matter causes an interruption or a danger to other road users, that person is guilty of an offence under Section 148 and Section 161 of the Highways Act 1980. The consequences could range from a fine to imprisonment.

If it appears that the farmer isn’t going to clean up the mess any time soon, one option you could pursue is to report the danger to your local Highways Authority. Under Section 149 of the Highways Act 1980, the Highways Authority has the power to clean up the road and recover expenses from the parties responsible. This may be dealt with quickly, depending on the type of road that has the obstruction. Busier roads will receive more attention because the risk of an incident occurring is much higher. If the farmer fails to remove the mud in a reasonable time after this notification, the Highways Authority itself may be liable for any damage/injury.

You may also be able to pursue a civil claim against the farmer concerned – particularly where you have suffered a significant injury. In this instance, thank goodness you appear to have suffered mainly damage to your bike. In the last issue of Cycle (Feb/Mar 18, p60), I set out how to proceed in such circumstances.

Richard Gaffney

Principal Lawyer, Slater and Gordon Lawyers

Q&A     Legal

This Q&A was published in 'Cycle' the magazine for members of Cycling UK. To contact the experts, email your technical, health, legal or policy questions to editor@cyclinguk.org or write to Cycle Q&A, PO Box 313, Scarborough, YO12 6WZ

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