Sunday, 10 January 2010

Slippery Sustrans

Bristol is home to "the UK's leading sustainable transport charity", Sustrans, who have their national head quarters down in Trinity Street, next door to the Cathedral and conveniently within spitting distance of the Council House. Sustainable transport of course means above all cycling and walking, so it is perhaps instructive to note their own efforts to clear the well used walking route outside their offices (the white facade below).

That's strange, even by 4 p.m. on Wednesday 6th Jan (above) no one in "the UK's leading leading sustainable transport charity" seems to have bothered to clear the pavement outside. Perhaps they were short staffed that day, what with the snow problems. Surely by Friday 8th (below) someone will have noticed that the pavement outside is in need of clearing, or are they all too busy designing glossy brochures and flashy websites to notice what is going on outside in the real world?


The Bristol Blogger said...

Brilliant post.

It seems any organisation that receives public money is prepared to do precisely sod all to help us.

It's about good manners as much as anything isn't it?

No doubt they'll be claiming clearing the snow could "leave us open to legal action"?

Anonymous said...

Didn't they fuck you over once Chris??

RogerH said...

If you don't clear the snow soon after it falls it gets much harder as it gets trampled down.

Me and my neighbour cleared the pavement outside our flats and the neighbouring ones (as the neighbours are elderly) on wednesday morning and it's stayed clear since, surprisingly. But i pulled something in my lower back as i don't own a spade so was using a garden trowel, so i'll think twice before doing it that way again.

Forest Pines said...

Trinity St might be their official Head Office, but most of their staff (and presumably management) work in Bush House, above the Arnolfini.

Pigsty Hill said...

Never mind the footpath - the Sustrans gravy train is still running...

MJ Ray said...

Unless it's their land, they've only a right to clear it if the council agrees.

I know they don't answer the likes of me, but you would have thought that Cycling City BCC would agree to Sustrans HQ staff helping, wouldn't you?

If they went one step further and coordinated the Sustrans Ranger volunteers to clear as they see fit in the wider area, that would be a real Cycling City innovation.

Pigsty Hill said...

I've been reading "a critique of Sustrans" (see link on this page). I hadn't realised that Sustrans is a self-perpetuating oligarchy.

Should such an undemocratic organisation be receiving public funds?

harryT said...


Please stop spreading these myths.

Its a public highway.

Of course they can clear the path outside their front door. no one needs the council's permission to do so and no one can be sued for doing so.

Jon Rogers said...

The following was sent to EP last Tuesday, "Snow time presents a challenge to the whole city - not just to the council and other local agencies, but to residents and businesses as well.

"Local councils have a responsibility to take any "reasonable, practical steps" to ensure the safe passage of cars and pedestrians along the highways.

"So there are things the council must do - such as keep the major routes gritted so that buses and traffic can get moving as soon as possible.

"Each year we ensure that we have as much grit as we can stock and enough people power to direct to this challenging task.

"The council also has to make sure grit is available for people to use on pavements - particularly on hills and dangerous corners. If grit bins are getting low, or yours is missing, call customer services on 0117 922 2100.

"There is obviously a limit to what can be achieved within the resources - in terms of money, workers on the ground, and just plain grit.

"We rely - and have always relied on the Great Bristol Public to pitch in by gritting pavements near their homes and businesses and clearing snow near their doorways if necessary.

"Recently people have become fearful that doing their bit may lead to legal action if someone slips on their handiwork. This is an urban myth. No-one can be sued for taking reasonable steps to clear the pavement.

Sorry that it didn't get released more widely at the time.


MJ Ray said...

@Harry T - once more, you writing "myths" doesn't make it true. I'm working to verify the particular claims I've received, but you're just writing "myth" on blogs.

@Jon Rogers - so will you ensure a speedy reply to the FoI request that refers to EP coverage please?

Where is that "Snow time presents a challenge" statement on

The Bristol Blogger said...

"No-one can be sued for taking reasonable steps to clear the pavement."

BCC, 5 Jan 2010

"Our legal services section have previously advised us not to grit as this could leave the city council open to legal action"

BCC, 10 Jan 2010

harryT said...

MJ Ray

I have now checked the online resources of Lawtel and Justis and these show no such case. I have looked at Bingham's Negligence cases and no such case appears.

You are the one who keeps making assertions of law when no such law exists. You even re-wrote a Hansard debate to support your claim.

The reason I am saying it is a myth is that in the entire history of the English legal system, there is no reference to:

1. anyone needing permission to clear a natural (ie not something belonging to someone else - eg a tree branch, snow & ice, a rock) obstruction from the public highway.

2. anyone being found in breach of duty for clearing the public highway of anything.

If someone asserts the existence of something without proof or evidence (other than other people saying it exists) then that is a myth.

Jon Rogers said...

Bristol Blogger gives two selected quotes from BCC.

The first applies to residents on public pavements, the second applies to council employees on council property.

I agree that more clarity is needed on the second. It does say "previously". My view, for what it is worth is that we should be guided by common sense, unless the law forbids such guidance (which it seems to do on occasions!)

Jon Rogers said...

MJ Ray

(1) asks me to chase up FOI requests? - they are all dealt with as speedily as possible. Me chasing after a few days is not good use of my time or our staff's.

(2) asks where quote is on BCC website? - it went as a brief response to questions from Evening Post rather than general press release. I expect now the issue has been raised, a proper press release will happen.


The Bristol Blogger said...


there is no law - or even serious threat of litigation - from council staff clearing snow from anywhere.

If you want to see common sense from us then apply it yourself.

Is it really more sensible to leave your residents to slip and fall on ice and snow than clear it away?

MJ Ray said...

@Harry T - You appear to be wilfully ignoring that the uncertainty is not about breach of duty or any crime, but liability. Now I'm accused me of rewriting Hansard! I can't rewrite Hansard and it really does contain the "if the snow is cleared in a less than complete manner" quote from Lord Burnham on 2 February 2004.

Just because it's a public highway doesn't mean you can do anything you want to clear the ice. For example, the Highways Act 1980 says you mustn't damage a highway by lighting a fire on it (section 131), while disturbing the surface of a footpath is also an offence (section 131A). But the main worry here isn't the highways authority.

Glad to hear there's nothing in Lawtel and Justis and Bingham's Negligence. Let's see if we can get to the bottom of this, either a case or some other explanation! Is that 2004 Lords debate and the surrounding coverage the earliest appearance of the claim about the UK? I can find earlier US ones, which might explain it.

harryT said...

"@Harry T - You appear to be wilfully ignoring that the uncertainty is not about breach of duty or any crime, but liability."

MJRay - Breach of duty and liability are the same thing.

I'm sick of having a software engineer try and tell me what the law states. This is what I do day in day out. We don't study for years and then practice for years for nothing.

You know nothing about this. Now, unless you are seeking deliberately to mislead people, just leave out the mythmaking.

And you did re-write the Hansard debate to make it say something completely different.

MJ Ray said...

@harryT - nice argument by authority there, with a twist of personal attack. Apparently you study for years and then practise so you can make vague handwaving comments in blogs under a pseudonym.

How can people tell I'm a software developer? Because I link my name to my website and I'm listed on various independent sources. Confusing "developer" with "engineer" and "practise" with "practice" is rather less attention to detail than one would expect from a lawyer. How can readers tell if harryT is a real lawyer or just plays one on blog comments?

harryT said...

Okay MJRay

I give in. You are right. There is a secret unknown duty that only comes into play when poeple voluntarily clear the highway of snow or ice.

The Courts have never mentioned it and neither has any textbook. Only people like you know it exists.

Really - what difference would it make if you knew who I was ?

MJ Ray said...

@harryT - The difference it would make is that I could leave you to explain youself, rather than having to check things for myself.

I don't know whether the courts or any textbook have mentioned it. None that I found so far say either way or discuss it in much detail. If that's because there's no case, great. If that's because it's not been widely reported, not great. That's what I'm verifying at the moment. All I know is the advice I received at a council meeting which any reasonable person would believe pending verification, don't you think?

I've some concerns about interfering with the highway or accidentally damaging it in the course of removing ice. Accumulation of snow is seen an obstruction in both cases and section 150 of Highways Act 190 but I've not seen mere snow and ice mentioned in that context.

MJ Ray said...

One "accident compensation claim firm" (accident consult) seems to have removed its road gritting article since I last saw it. It was a mention-no-names version of a story from more reputable site, but I find the recent removal curious... will this lawyer-written one in the Times go soon, too?

MJ Ray said...

A statement similar to Jon Rogers's is now on the BCC website with the "This is an urban myth. No-one can be sued..." bit replaced by "I can reassure them that no-one can be sued...". Good to see. After that and looking in more depth but failing to find anything earlier than that Lords debate, there's only the Somerset allegation which worries me.

Anonymous said...

Hi found this searching for Sustrans path info - looks like the only paths they are interested in are cycle paths - check this out

Pigsty Hill said...

Three points distilled from the Guardian blog:

Sustrans is a self-appointed oligarchy, funded by our taxes and lottery money. As a matter of principle, any organisation receiving public funds should have a democratic structure.

Sustrans refuses to answer questions about pavement cycling, no matter how often they are posed.

Sustrans has no concern for any mode of transport other than cycling - and that includes walking. In fact it promotes recreational cycling, not sustainable transport.

foothpath accident said...

Oohhh..... you have to clear your path all the time after snowfall and before going out.