If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.

- George Washington

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Fix My Street

There's a stretch of road near my house, about a mile and a half away towards town. There is a nasty double kink in the road, and right on the bend there is the entrance to a farm on one side and a residential home on the other. The road layout is utterly lethal, and there have been numerous minor accidents there where cars have entered the bend too fast and been caught out by either a vehicle exiting the farm or home, or another vehicle approaching but hidden by the kink in the road. No fatals as far as I know, as the road at that point doesn't encourage high speeds, but it's something you have to be wary of every time you pass that way. I tend to ride it at about 10 mph, looking everywhere.

Source: Google Street View

(Edit: the depth of view in this photo is totally wrong, I suspect because the Street View camera uses a very wide-angle lens. The distance between the camera point and the furthest bit of the road is probably no more than 50m, and it looks three times that in the photo. It's all upon you much quicker than it appears from the image.)

The farmer couldn't give a toss about anyone else, apparently, because the road for 400m either side of the farm is regularly inches deep in either cowshit or mud. His cows cross the road right on the bend, and his tractors drag mud out of the fields either side and deposit it in large quantities along the road. In dry weather such as we have at the moment, the road is just a dusty grey with dried mud. In wet weather, the road can be covered in a layer of mud and shit which poses a serious hazard. And not just stripes where the wheels go - the mud covers the full width of the road. There is no 'clean' way through it. I know the guy has to make a living, and I understand that cows will do what cows will do, but he makes no effort whatsoever to clean up what is, after all, the public highway. Farmers in Europe do it (by law) and construction firms in the UK can do it, but this guy doesn't seem to see it as an issue. I am no clean-bike obsessive, but many times I have turned round and taken the long way to town when I have seen the state of the road here. Not only is it a serious skid hazard, but within ten feet the bike would be hanging with filth. My Danish friends were horrified: "In Denmark, that farmer would have to clean it up. The road belongs to everybody." I had to point out that, in the UK, some farmers are excellent and some don't give a monkey's, and there's not a lot we can do.

This came to a head a while ago, when the road was resurfaced and we suddenly had a lovely, black, smooth tarmac surface instead of the potholed mess that was there before. And within two days, it was covered in crap, just for that stretch.

I came across an interesting website recently, www.fixmystreet.com, and I thought I would give it a go. You find a road which is in a dangerous condition, you enter the postcode and locate the exact point on a map. You provide a description of the problem, and then the site contacts the relevant local authority on your behalf. So I did all this for the road I am talking about.

Hot news: it works.

On the same day I reported the problem (in fact, within an hour or so), I had an email from Pembrokeshire County Council saying that they had noted the issue and had passed it to Dyfed-Powys police, who deal with all reports like this in the area. And the following day, I had a phone call from the police, asking for further details and assuring me that they were aware of the problem. The police person gave me some backgroud on the force's approach to the issue (they have been mounting a campaign on cleaning up roads with local construction companies and are only now turning to farmers) and said they would be having a word with the farmer concerned. They would then monitor the situation and would take legal action if things didn't improve. I wasn't made to feel I was an interfering busybody or a nuisance. In fact, when I said that the problem had been going on for years, the guy got a little stern with me and said that I should have reported it far sooner.

The road is dry and dusty right now, and I can't see any difference. Whether this approach has worked will be evident in a few weeks' time, when he's brought in the silage on a wet day. I will be watching with interest. But so far, I am impressed with the way it's been dealt with. Top marks to PCC and DPP.

Please feel free to use the site to report any issues in your own area - it covers the whole of the UK - whether it's spilt diesel, a dangerous pothole, or something else that ruins your day. The next biker to ride that bit of road might thank you for saving his skin.


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