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Cheshire East says it “cannot engineer against motorists who drive inappropriately”

In recent responses to road safety concerns about part of the Cheshire Cycleway, Cheshire East Highways states it “cannot engineer against motorists who choose to drive inappropriately” and that it “cannot prevent motorists choosing alternative routes.” Are these not two key tasks of a responsible local highways authority?

The statement seems to be at odds with the wide range of interventions a highways authority is capable of implementing — such as speed limits, physical calming and filtering roads to through motor traffic — all well-proven to engineer successfully against inappropriate driving (if never eradicate it completely).

This response came to a request for intervention on one of the borough’s roads used constantly as a rat run, off the main A537 Cat and Fiddle Road. Ankers Lane and Buxton Old Road are heavily used by drivers seeking to cut just seconds — and a few bends — off their journey, a large number of whom then fail to show any patience to cyclists or other vulnerable road users.

Map showing the route of Buxton Old Road and Ankers Lane, cutting just 0.5 miles off the A537 Buxton New Road (known as the Cat and Fiddle for its summit). It’s no wonder people choose to drive inappropriately when given such free-reign to do so.

The rat-run cuts just half a mile off the route of the A537 Buxton New Road.

As well as a scenic route towards Wildboarclough and Macclesfield Forest, Ankers Lane is signposted as part of the Cheshire Cycleway (Regional Route 70). Having been the victim of too many painfully stupid overtakes over the years, particularly when climbing it uphill out of Wildboarclough, earlier this year I suggested it’s missing a letter from its name. I’ll let you guess which one.

Only a few weeks later, I was contacted by a follower who’d just had a terrifying incident at exactly this spot. In this case they were cycling it downhill only to have a car coming uphill overtake another, directly into their path. Unbelievable. Luckily, a split-second swerve and slamming of their bike brakes averted tragedy.

There came a point where every single time I tried to cycle up Ankers Lane out of Wildboarclough I’d be overtaken close and at high speed approaching this blind bend, just as a car appeared coming the other way like this. So I just stopped.

This should not be happening. As the local highways authority, Cheshire East is showing reckless disregard for road users by continuing to allow this kind of behaviour to take place and by not putting in measures to prevent this dangerous rat-running, especially while the route remains signposted as the Cheshire Cycleway.

I wrote to Cheshire East explaining the problem and suggested that they look at closing/filtering the road entirely for motor vehicles, where it joins the A523 near the top of the Cat and Fiddle.

This would allow cyclists to continue to use it as a through route, and maintain access for landowners throughout, but ensure through motor traffic stays to the designated — and perfectly adequate — A-road.

Cheshire East Highways responded as follows:

Thank you for your enquiry regarding Buxton Old Road on the 21st June 2021.

The Council cannot engineer against motorists who choose to drive inappropriately. Any concerns concerning inappropriate driver behaviour should be reported to the police which can be done by telephoning 101 for none emergency calls.

Concerns relating to speeding can be reported on line using the report a traffic incident tool using the following link: https://www.cheshire.police.uk/ro/report/rti/rti-b/report-a-road-traffic-incident/

Your comments regarding motorists using Buxton Old Road as a cut through have been noted. The Highways team are aware that local traffic does seek alternative routes in this area for a variety of reasons. Having said this, the Council cannot prevent motorists choosing alternative routes as the reasons for them doing so, and the perceived benefits to them, are different for each motorist.

We trust the above is of assistance to you.

The victim of the incident above also received a near identical response, some weeks later.

Clearly this is a completely inadequate response and undoubtedly these comments being “noted” will lead to precisely zero action, as has been the case literally every time I’ve ever contacted Cheshire East Highways about anything. And I’m sure I’m not alone in that.

Cheshire East Highways’ belief that it “cannot” engineer against bad driving nor prevent motorists using alternative routes is really quite a wilfully ignorant approach to highways management. The idea that traffic seeks alternative routes “for a variety of reasons” is also ridiculous: it’s a rat run, simple as that.

Now of course some idiots are just going to drive like idiots — if you let them. But if you literally, physically, stop them from taking a completely unnecessary diversion down a certain more minor road, which is so well-used by vulnerable road users, then, actually you can engineer against inappropriate driving and prevent them using inappropriate routes, surely?

Hilariously (or not), Google’s Street View cameras have managed to capture a time in May of this very year when the rat run was closed to through traffic, with a simple “road closed” sign at the top where it joins the Cat and Fiddle, proving this is entirely possible to do and without truly inconveniencing anyone.

The funny thing is, if they’d just responded with a kind of “thank you for your insight, we will note it but we are incredibly stretched at the moment” then I would’ve taken it far better than this pithy and patronising reasoning to simply do nothing. Whether they’re right or wrong, it seems to be a needlessly hard-nosed response designed to simply make us give up and stop bothering them.

When I pushed back, noting that these claims are simply untrue and requesting again that action be taken to make the route safe, Cheshire East Highways responded bluntly:

“We note your comments. We have no plans to alter the use of this road.”

Which, oddly, suggests they could alter it, after all.

  • If you’d like to write to Cheshire East about Ankers Lane and Buxton Old Road, so they can “note” as many comments as possible, please do. They can be contacted at CheshireEastTraffic@cheshireeasthighways.org
  • Cycle route guide — Cheshire Mountains of Macclesfield uses Ankers Lane downhill, which is still the far more appealing way to cycle it, despite this incident. It provides a useful link into the wondrous hidden valley of Wildboarclough.

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About Peaks & Puddles

Hello, I'm Anthony. I started Peaks & Puddles to chart the ups and downs of cycling and walking the edges of the Peak District around Buxton, Macclesfield and Stockport, and to help more people explore this brilliant landscape between town and country. Find out more about me and Peaks & Puddles here.