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Thursday 18 September 2014

Overgown hedges giving us a real run for our money

Our Road Safety Authority expert this week speaks from personal experience on how hedgerows can invade smaller country roads

Published 06/08/2014 | 00:00

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Verge maintenance may be lower down the pecking order for local authorities on regional and local roads in rural areas

IN my spare time, I like to run. When I go for a run, my nine-year-old daughter likes to cycle along with me.

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Last term her school was visited by a cycling proficiency trainer, so all the children were taught the basics of safe cycling and road craft.

As you can imagine she was really keen to show off her new skills, but is still too young to cycle on the road by herself. We are both getting something out of it. She is getting valuable supervised experience in a traffic environment and she keeps me company on runs. She is a great pacer too.

She really is a ticket. Preparing for the run she would load up a string bag with enough supplies for an assault on Everest.

So I have to spend a little time before each run, lightening her load and trying to convince her she doesn't really need to bring half the food in the cupboard as we are only going for a short run.

I should point out that we live in the country, so most of the routes we are using are small country roads.

Something I have noticed recently when out for the run and cycle, is that we are being pushed further and further out from the side of the road.

It's because the hedgerows are all overgrown and reaching out into the roads. It must be a problem for anyone out cycling too.

As a result, if you are walking or cycling you'll find yourself getting moved out a little bit further onto the road than usual, something drivers should be on guard for, especially on smaller local roads.

Drivers too face challenges when dealing with overgrown hedges and roadsides. It can really pose a problem at junctions, especially when a driver's line of sight is obscured.

At one recent local council meeting it was reported that car rental companies are refusing to give back deposits on cars scraped by overgrown hedges and noted that this is sending out the wrong message for tourism.

I'm sure the local authorities are getting plenty of questions from the public around this time, asking them to do something about overgrown hedges and verges.

The Roads Act 1993 clarifies the position around the maintenance of roadside verges and overgrowth.

It places responsibility for the maintenance of roadside hedges on the owners of the adjoining lands and says that responsibility for the maintenance of the roadside verges rests with the local authority itself.

Verge maintenance may be lower down the pecking order for local authorities on regional and local roads in rural areas.

That's because budgetary constraints mean road maintenance operations such as repairing potholes and drainage come first. However, an exception is made is at junctions or obstructions to road signs.

Many county councils place advertisements in the pubic press each year to remind landowners of their responsibilities and this is welcome. But in most cases it is up landowners to cut back on overgrown hedges.

In extreme cases the local authority does have the power to serve notices on landowners where a hedge is a potential hazard requiring the owner to remove it. But in most cases it really does require a member of the public to draw such situations to the attention of the local authority for action to be taken.

So if you are out walking or cycling in rural areas beware of the challenge that overgrown hedgerows may pose. And drivers, take a little bit more care on country roads and bye roads.

That walker or cyclist may need a little more road space than normal.

Irish Independent

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