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  • Writer's pictureSafer Highways

"Embarrassing and dangerous": Cyclists' disbelief at road resurfaced with sea of loose chippings

The state of Aberdeenshire roads has been put in the spotlight once again by the organiser of the Ride the North sportive, this time after a video of a "road newly reopened with brand new surface" did the rounds on social media, showing a deep loose chipping surface that has been branded "embarrassing and dangerous".

Ride the North organiser Neil Innes visited to see if the road could replace another gravel-strewn part of his route, but was left to conclude he has "genuinely never seen anything quite like it" after coming across the resurfacing job on a ride near Aberchirder last night.

Last week, Neil told how he had been left frustrated and disappointed by Aberdeenshire Council's reluctance to repair defects, including loose gravel and potholes, ahead of his event in August, also preventing him from hiring contractors to do the work himself.

Mr Innes said the gravel and surface dressings are "really dangerous for cyclists but as they are not potholes they don't merit the attention of the local authority".

Now, he has again been left in disbelief at the state of one of his local roads, saying he is seemingly "at odds with" the authorities over "what constitutes a safe road surface".

"I don't know if it's unfinished," Neil added. "Well, it is obviously unfinished, but I don't know if they plan to do more work here. I do know it's open! The feel of the surface is quite familiar to anyone who has walked on a shingle beach. Four wheels would be a problem, two wheels..."

From the concerned cyclists joining the conversation on social media, many had experienced similar on their home roads, perhaps not to the same extent, with some suggesting it is likely the council will return to sweep excess in the coming days.

"I don't know whether this work is still underway," Neil continued. "I'll guess they send someone to sweep it today and tell you that it was just unfortunate that I happened to show up just at the wrong moment." has contacted Aberdeenshire Council for comment and was given the following statement:

"While we all accept that our surface dressing programme causes short-term inconvenience to the travelling public, on all modes, it provides long-term benefits for the maintenance of the road network.

Our surface dressing programme is carried out in accordance with the Road Surface Treatment Association Code of Practice. The council has a safe system of work for surface dressing that seeks to ensure the safety of the workforce and the public, including two wheelers, both during the works and after surface dressing works have been completed.

This includes traffic management requirements, in accordance with national guidelines, to ensure that works have adequate temporary signing during and after completion.

Procedures are also in place to ensure road sweeping is carried out as soon as practical after works are completed and as required prior to removal of all warning signs.

Unfortunately, on this particular site there was a slight delay in undertaking the sweeping part of the process. However, the site was appropriately signed throughout that period and the mandatory speed limit remained in place.

Sweeping operations commenced Tuesday 11th of July, and the warning signs and speed restrictions will remain in place until excess chips have been removed.

It is important that temporary speed limits are observed during and after completion of the works. These measures are in place to ensure that hundreds of thousands of journey miles are made through these works in a safe manner."

One reply to Ride the North's posts called the surface "shocking and lethal", while another said it was "crazy, dangerous, cheap, disgraceful", a third adding "embarrassing and dangerous".

"We have stunningly beautiful countryside and gladly welcome visitors but the only way for both tourists and locals to get around our remote, vast county is by road. This is just one example of an unacceptable surface. Sort it out!" they added.

In recent times, Neil has written to the council as with less than 50 days to go until the Aberdeenshire sportive is due to take place on Saturday 26 August — offering 100-mile (161km) and 64-mile (103km) routes, with participants from across the UK, the Netherlands, Germany and even the United States — he fears he cannot put the ride on with the roads "in that condition" and covered with "all sorts of mess", including potholes, loose gravel, stones and surface dressing (another of the event route's roads is seen below).

After last night's disappointment, Neil concluded: "Ultimately I, like 99.9 per cent of cyclists, am interested in keeping people safe and getting more people to ride bikes, for the good of a healthy society and a healthy planet.

"The biggest issue of all, for my money, is that I accept that I live in area where the A-road between market town A and market town B will never, in my lifetime, have a cycle path alongside it like it might if I lived in Netherlands, Denmark, Germany or Belgium. I am realistic.

"However, we have a great network of backroads that connect everywhere with everywhere, they might be 1-2km longer and go over an extra hill, but they are great for cycling. Correction… they were great for cycling! 'We' apparently cannot afford to build safe infrastructure on A-roads and we now cannot afford to maintain the alternatives?

"It's school holidays here… I have teenage sons out riding bikes in Aberdeenshire today. I'd tell them to 'be safe' and, where possible, cycle on the roads that take them away from the 60 mph cars and HGVs… what would Aberdeenshire Council tell them?"

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