As a mature rider, I keep in touch with club sites and what bikers have to say. I noted a problem of unprovoked front wheel slides at modest speeds on gentle bends kept coming up on the Fazer owners’ club forum.
The common culprit appeared to be a mix of molasses and ureic acid (from pig’s urine), which is being applied as an ice preventer and seems to be everywhere.
Many guys have reported coming off, and it seems that’s down to road conditions. Even after members e-mailed the councils, no one wants to take responsibility for our roads.
Many of our motorcycling friends are having a costly time, as well as hurting themselves. Have you come across this, and what can we do?
Ray Thorogood, ZRX Owners Club, Fazer Owners Club
The local authority have a statutory duty to ensure they have a reasonable system of making sure that roads are passable for traffic that might use them when the roads are icy.
The local authority will have carried out its own assessment as to what is safe, and the courts are unlikely to go behind this. It’s only when they breach their own policies that you’re likely to have a cause of action.
However, putting slippery gloop on the road is a different kettle of fish.
A highway authority which actively causes an obstruction or other danger on the highway without the authorisation of statutory powers is liable in the same way as any other person or body (Skelton v. Epsom and UDC  1KB112).
If you can show that this material is dangerous for motorcycles, because it significantly reduces the skid resistance of the highway, or the friction coefficient of the highway, then we wouldn’t have a problem establishing liability.
Somebody in the council has decided to use this material. If they can’t be shown to have taken motorcycles into consideration, or adequately taken into account the particular requirements of all road users – including powered two wheelers – then we would be happy to take on one of these cases on a no-win, no-fee basis.
The basic test is simple: with a sample of the material, can we replicate its slipperiness under ordinary road conditions? This would be easy enough to do at a testing ground, or simply by marking a known patch of road with this material and then friction testing it.
Friction testing in itself is not particularly easy. There are specialist machines which do this job, and you may have seen them driving around very slowly on the highways. We do have the facilities to set up this type of testing, but it is quite expensive and quite slow.
However, the basic point is that the highway authorities should not be putting material on the road until they are satisfied so that they are sure that it is safe.
It appears to me that the hedgerows (which don’t particularly like being coated with salt for three months of the year) are taking priority over motorcyclists. There may be something in the suspicion expressed by a number of forum contributors that local authorities don’t expect motorcycles to be used in the winter. However, whilst a number of bikes go away for the winter, mine certainly doesn’t, and that would be no excuse at all in law.
If any Fast Bikes readers have been injured as a result of an accident involving this material, please get in touch with me. I may be able to help.
If you are unlucky enough to come off on this stuff, keep your wits about you and collect a sample. It could come in handy…
March 2009 Issue