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Title: Lost the front on gravel

Date: 08 June 2011

 

Question
 
I lost the front on a bank of road gravel resulting in bike damage and a broken thumb. I telephoned the council to make them aware of the danger and to save another rider suffering the same fate and the area was cleared some time later. The council’s insurance company have quoted 1980 Highways Act, Section 41, which refers to a road survey undertaken on 17/06/2010 with no defects noted. The gravel at the junction was an accumulation over several months and in places was at least 25mm deep and stretched across the width of the junction.
 
M Waters, Torpoint
 
Answer
 
Section 41 of the Highways Act offers the council a defence to claims such as yours. This section basically states that the Council is responsible for maintaining the fabric of the road. It does not, however, extend a liability to the Council for failing to sweep or clear the road surface (unless arguably the build-up of road detritus is as a result of a failure in the road surface itself). Provided that the Council has complied with its statutory duty to inspect the highway it matters not that the inspection failed to identify a hazard and it is merely sufficient for them to have inspected the highway. 
 
The issue is further complicated by a recent House of Lords Decision: Valentine v Transport For London & Another which determined that the obligation to maintain the highway does not extend to the clearing of road detritus. The obligation to maintain is limited to the inspection and repair of the road surface and the Council will not therefore be liable if it is alleged that the gravel is the build-up of road detritus as opposed to a failure in the fabric of the road.  
 

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