I was exploring some of the back roads in Cornwall, which I don’t know well, when I came across a hard hairpin bend. I completely missed the apex, shot straight through the corner, wound up fishing my broken bike and my broken body out from a ditch.
A farmer had helpfully stretched barbed wire between some stakes to keep livestock in his field. I’m not having a moan at the farmer; he has to put fences up.
I am wanting to have a moan at Cornwall County Council however, because I think they should have signposted the road. It was a B-road, and I knew the road was pretty demanding, so I was expecting all the usual farm problems. What I was not expecting was for there to be a bend which almost doubled back on itself without any chevron signs. Can I claim against anyone, or am I just a bit of a numpty?
Name and address witheld
The facts of the matter are that you were riding beyond your line of sight, and that the Council has no obligation to put up road signs in those circumstances.
This is a question we get a lot, where people have overcooked corners, and they’ve said to me that, ‘There was nothing about the road that told me there was a very hard bend coming up.’
The highway authority owe you no duty to put up road signs unless they have put a hazard in the road. If they block a lane, there are strict guidelines which are enforceable in law as to how the signs should be positioned.
Safety checks and risk assessments need to be done, and the road needs to be shut down with a plan.
However, if the fact is that the road has a hard bend in it, the highway authority has no duty to put up signs. It has a power to put up signs if it wants to, and as a matter of English law, you cannot sue a local authority for failing to exercise its powers in the way that you think is appropriate.
That’s only possible where it has a duty, such as for example to keep the fabric of the highway safe for traffic. You can’t sue them if they choose not to exercise that power where it only has a discretionary power to make the road safer, such as by putting up road signs like the ones you propose here.
The law is like this: I have a power to invite you into my house, so if I want to invite you in I can. However I have no duty to invite you in and if I choose not to, then you can’t do anything about it.