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Derbyshire County Council (16 011 651)

Category : Transport and highways > Highway repair and maintenance

Decision : Not upheld

Decision date : 30 Mar 2017

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: The Council was not at fault when it provided like for like replacement of narrow cycle lanes after resurfacing a main road.

The complaint

  1. Mr X complains that, after resurfacing a main road in his local area, the Council has marked out the same substandard, narrow cycle lanes that were present before. He says the Council has not justified its view that the cycle lanes are adequate.

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The Ombudsman’s role and powers

  1. We investigate complaints of injustice caused by maladministration and service failure. I have used the word fault to refer to these. We cannot question whether a council’s decision is right or wrong simply because the complainant disagrees with it. We must consider whether there was fault in the way the decision was reached. (Local Government Act 1974, section 34(3), as amended)
  2. If we are satisfied with a council’s actions or proposed actions, we can complete our investigation and issue a decision statement. (Local Government Act 1974, section 30(1B) and 34H(i), as amended)

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I have considered:
    • information from Mr X’s complaint and from a telephone conversation with him; and
    • the Council’s response to my enquiries and information from a telephone interview with a Council officer.
  2. I have given Mr X and the Council the opportunity to comment on a draft of this decision.

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What I found

  1. Current guidance from The Department for Transport on designing cycle lanes is set out in Local Transport Note 2/08 - Cycle Infrastructure Design. Councils are expected to take account of the guidance but there is no legal requirement to meet the standards it sets out.
  2. The guidance covers many issues to do with provision for cyclists. In its guidance on the width for cycle lanes it says:
    • “a minimum width of 1.5 metres may be generally acceptable on roads with a 30 mph limit” and
    • “A narrow cycle lane may ... give motorists (misplaced) confidence to provide less clearance while overtaking than they would in the absence of a cycle lane.”

The situation before resurfacing

  1. Mr X is a cyclist who lives in the Council’s area. He lives in a residential area which includes a main road. The main road has had advisory cycle lanes marked on it for over 20 years. The lanes are approximately 1 metre wide.
  2. In 2013/14 the Council identified a problem of cycle accidents along the main road. There were cycle facilities on some stretches of the road but nothing on other stretches. Part of the Council’s response was to design a new stretch of advisory cycle lane on the main road near Mr X. It was to join up with the existing cycle lane.
  3. The Council designed the new stretch of cycle lane as 1.35 metres wide. The design plan indicates that width was chosen to still give other vehicles a 3 metre wide lane. Had the cycle lane been any wider it may also have resulted in a need to make more major changes to road markings in the centre and opposite side of the road.
  4. The new stretch of cycle lane was installed in 2015.

Resurfacing

  1. Unless a specific improvement scheme has been approved, resurfacing a road consists of replacing the worn road surface and recreating the road markings that were on the old surface. Any alterations to road markings have to be the subject of a specific, approved design scheme.
  2. The Council resurfaced the main road in 2016. There was no improvement scheme to be carried out so the Council recreated the previous road markings on the new surface.

The Council’s current views

  1. The Council says if it were to introduce a new cycle lane scheme now it would consider lanes wider than 1 metre. But it also considers it can be better to have some cycle lane available rather than none.
  2. The Council says it may be possible to widen the cycle lanes on the stretch of main road in question. But before making such a decision it would have to consider how that could be achieved in the space available and its impact on all road users. It would also aim to consult on any scheme with local residents, emergency services and cycling groups.
  3. Officers have bid for money to review the cycle lanes on this stretch during 2017/18. But there is no guarantee when or if the work will be done as the Council has limited funds available and competing priorities. Should alternative government funding become available the Council will consider whether this project would qualify.

Findings

  1. The Council was not at fault when it provided like for like replacement of narrow cycle lanes after resurfacing the main road. They were not marked out as part of an improvement scheme. The re-painting was part of planned highway maintenance. The cycle lanes are narrower than government guidance advises but there is no legal requirement for wider lanes.
  2. The Council is prepared to consider wider lanes but it currently has no funding agreed to do this.

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Final decision

  1. I have completed my investigation because I have found no fault by the Council.

Investigator’s decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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