Overgrowth of Vegetation

This article was published in 2006, in Newsletter 65.

Although this is hardly a hot topic at this time of year, the overgrowth of vegetation on cycle routes is an issue during the summer months. I raised this at a recent Cycling Liaison meeting with the City and County Councils and we were asked if we could make some matters clear to help members report and understand the issues.

Now that there is a ‘single point of contact’ (0845 045 5212), for all similar matters within the County, this should be the first option for reporting when nettles, brambles, branches, or other vegetation obstruct your route. You need to give the exact location, and a reference to a house number or the number on a lamp column or street sign will be helpful. If you want to be able to follow up the report make sure you get the call reference number. In many cases the relevant Local Authority cannot act directly unless they own the land, and an approach has to be made to the landowner. If an informal request does not work, then a formal notice can be issued, and following a statutory period the local authority can then undertake clearance that obstructs the highway and charge the landowner. Although some regular maintenance cuts on Council land do occur, the time and rate of growth depends so much on the weather that such cuts can never cover all circumstances. Remember, if no one reports it, it is unlikely to get cleared.

We also agreed that if there were particular locations that caused problems and seemed either difficult to report or get cleared, that consideration would be given to special notices at such locations. A simple notice similar to that placed on lamp columns was suggested. This would preferably be fixed to an existing post with wording could say ‘Vegetation Obstruction? Ring 0845 045 5212 and quote ref. VEG XA12’.

If you find that particular locations give problems and don’t seem to get cleared please report them to the Campaign (see contacting the campaign, or contact@camcycle.org.uk).

We do know of members who have resorted to carrying sickles or secateurs to clear obstructions, and some members who are also Sustrans Rangers undertake such minor tasks as volunteers.

No doubt there are some eccentric cyclists who relish a quick lashing with nettles or brambles on their way to work, but I assume the vast majority of us would prefer to report such incidents and get the obstructions cleared.

Image: the leylandii hedge before. Image: the leylandii hedge after trimming.

Campaign member, Alasdair Massie, has been conducting a wonderfully vigorous correspondence with Evan Loughlin, the maintenance engineer responsible for maintaining Daws Lane, a valuable pedestrian and cycle path linking Sidney Farm Road in Cherry Hinton with Walpole Road. Alasdair’s campaign was prompted by seeing a young girl go over her handlebars, landing on her face, after getting snagged in these leylandii. He stressed that, in order to make this path and others like it safe and serviceable, the vegetation should be cut back to the edge of the path, plus half a metre, plus the expected growth to the next cut, plus any additional amount required to give satisfactory visibility. The county council eventually persuaded the householder to cut back these leylandii at the junction with sidney farm road.

Jim Chisholm