I was riding my old, but well maintained, Yamaha Thundercat near where I live. Please don’t publish my name and address, but let’s just say it’s Southern England.

A bypass was being built, and anti-skid surface had been laid, but I was totally unaware of this, because there were no warning signs. As I approached the roundabout I braked and both wheels shot out from underneath me. I have got several witnesses who all told the police that I was riding completely normally and they could not understand why I fell off.

However, as soon as I picked myself up off the road, in the process having broken my right shoulder bone and right wrist, I could see that the road was covered in small white pebbles. This I have found out to be an anti-skid surface.

It might be an anti-skid surface if it’s in the Tarmac, but loose on top of the road, it’s like riding on ball bearings. My current solicitors have said that the Highway Authority doesn’t owe me a duty because the material was on top of the highway, and not actually part of the road, which sounds like a load of old bollocks to me. Are they right?

Name and address witheld


No, they are not right. They are getting two bits of law confused.

The Highway Authority is liable for the highway itself, and material which is to be found on top of the highway which has been deposited there by other people is not their responsibility, following a very damaging case to motorcyclists in the year 2000.

However, this is not material which has been dropped on the highway by others, it has been deliberately placed there by whoever was laying the anti-skid surface, and you certainly do have a case.

It’s easy enough to find out who the contractors were. I’m glad you had the foresight to sweep up a big sample of the material, and having seen it, I absolutely recognise that it is loose road anti-skid material.

It is particularly important that this road was designed to have an anti-skid surface. This means that whoever designed the road knew that people would be braking. In this case, it’s approaching both the roundabout and a set of traffic lights.

Therefore, it’s totally foreseeable that vehicles will brake, and motorcyclists who brake with loose road material underneath them are extremely vulnerable to falling off.

Even the Police Advanced Riders Manual recognises this fact and describes loose gravel on the road surface as being very dangerous for motorcyclists.

(Footnote: This person has now moved their instructions from their former solicitors to White Dalton and the case is progressing.)

Andrew Dalton

Fast Bikes Issue Number August 2007