Maintenance Matters

This article was published in 2006, in Newsletter 65.

In Newsletter 29, six years ago, we printed a short article ‘Bumpy ride‘ about the failure of the County Council to maintain standards for cycle routes.

We’ve seen little improvement since then, so I was interested to find the UK Roads Board now refers to the Cambridgeshire County Council standards as an example of good practice in its publication Well-maintained Highways: Code of Practice for Highway Maintenance Management when referring to cycle routes. See and look up section 10.6, page 127.

In December we wrote to the County Council asking specifically about drain gullies and said:

In both the 2000 version of the ‘Network Management Plan’ and the 2004 version of the ‘Highway Maintenance Network Management and Policies and Standards’, reference is made to ‘Gullies in Cycle Lanes’.

According to the 2000 version of the Network Management Plan,

(4.16) Road gully gratings shall be of the flat type and be laid flat within 10mm of the road surface. Where other types of grating exist, a programme of replacement will be effected.

The Highway Maintenance Network Management and Policies and Standards (2004) states:

(5.8) Road gully gratings shall be the flat type and be laid within 10mm of the road surface. Where gratings levels greater than 10 mm exist, a programme of replacement will be effected.

We asked what progress had been made on these issues, how many ‘curved gullies’ had been identified, and how many had been changed. We also asked how many had been checked to ensure that they were laid to within 10 mm of the road surface.

We received a reply from an officer (local government jargon for civil servant) of Cambridgeshire County Council saying:

…I have to admit that this matter has probably not been given the attention that was intended when the policy was introduced. To help put us back on track, it would be useful if your membership highlight any particular location where unsuitable gratings remain to allow us to target these for replacement in the near future.

On Cambridge Road, GreaT Shelford, 20 out of 65 gullies are of a dangerous type.
Image as described adjacent

As an example, on my route from Stapleford to Cambridge, along the section with cycle lanes on Cambridge Road, Great Shelford, I pass 65 curved gullies, of which 20 are a dangerous type. Even a number of the ‘flat’ type are so far out of line that a 25mm block will fit under a 600mm straight edge placed in the line of a cyclist’s travel.

If you know of such locations where gullies fail the maintenance standards on one of your regular routes, please let us know and we’ll collate them, pass them to the County Council, and see what happens. Please give us the road name and if possible the number on the nearest lamp column and email it to (for post or fax, see contacting the campaign).

There are other maintenance standards for cycle facilities that the County Council is clearly failing to meet. See section 5 of the Highway Maintenance Network Management Policies and Standards which is available via a link from

Perhaps some letters from members to their local councillors might help move these up the County Council’s list of priorities. You can also report failures in maintenance via the County Council’s call centre on 0845 045 5212.

I was also interested to find that Dorset County Council does parts of its highway inspection with staff on bicycles. With modern devices such as GPS and hand-held computers this is obviously an effective method. Perhaps Cambridgeshire should consider this, or would here a Health and Safety policy reject such a scheme?

Jim Chisholm