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Approach to Garve Level Crossing

It's not often that we anticipate what a new client is going to say before they have actually told us, but this was the case when Colin first got in touch having suffered an accident at the Garve Level-Crossing in Ross-shire, Highlands.

Roz Boynton, our Aberdeen based Associate Solicitor, has often travelled through Garve and noted that the level-crossing railway tracks are at such an angle to the road that they must surely be a hazard to cyclists. So, when Colin called to ask if we could help, Roz knew exactly what he was going to say and talk about.

The A835 runs through Garve and is part of the now famous NC500 road which is a bucketlist challenge for many cyclists. As such, the quiet village of Garve sees many more cyclists than you would think. The railway line also runs across the main road at an angle and whilst there were some warning signs advising cyclists to dismount, these signs come very late and are placed much too close to the railway line to give cyclists adequate warning of what to do. Further, there is no safe alternative for cyclists here as there is no pavement for them to walk on. Stopping dead to dismount on the road would also be unsafe.

In 2019, Colin had set off on his 1952 Flying Scot steel bike with two friends to cycle the NC500 clockwise leaving from Inverness. This was their first day of riding and as they arrived in Garve, looking for somewhere to stop for a coffee and a cake, Colin’s front wheel came into contact with the railway track. He fell from his bike onto the road and landed on his right shoulder breaking his collarbone. He also suffered concussion even though he was wearing a helmet.

The owner of the café nearby came to provide assistance. Colin was shocked to hear that the café owner was so used to cyclists coming off at this point on the road that he had started to keep a first-aid kit ready for them. Colin was taken to Raigmore Hospital in Inverness by ambulance where he was found to have fractured his collar-bone.

Colin was forced to sit out the rest of the NC500 tour and instead travelled the route in the support car whilst his friends cycled. When he got home, he wrote a letter of complaint to Network Rail and the Transport Minister. He received replies from both, however they were very dismissive and more or less stated that he should have read the signs more carefully.

It was at this point that Colin felt compelled to contact Cycle Law Scotland to see what we could do to help to make the area safer.

We were able to contact Transport Scotland and Network Rail with requests for information under the Freedom of Information Act and were shocked to note that they did not seem to have a record of any of the cycling accidents which had occurred at this location.

We were able to speak to numerous cyclists who had suffered identical accidents like Colin in the years prior to his own and had also reported them to Network Rail and Transport Scotland. Quite frankly, it seemed to us that it was simply accepted that cyclists would continue to have accidents at this location and nothing could be done to prevent them. We intimated a claim to Network Rail who denied liability for the accident, saying that Colin ought to have dismounted his bicycle in accordance with the signs. Colin had not seen the signs and nor, does it seem, had many of the other cyclists.

In order to progress Colin’s case, we raised a Court Action at The All-Scotland Personal Injury Court with supportive evidence from John Franklin, Cycling Expert and the author of Cyclecraft which is very much the authority on safe cycling. Mr Franklin was supportive that this level-crossing was not safe for cyclists and changes had to be made. Only in August 2021 was Velostrail rubber panelling installed to eliminate the grooves in the level-crossing, making it much safer for cyclists to pass through. Shortly after raising his case in the Court, liability was admitted for Colin’s accident and, after some negotiation, settlement was achieved.

We're delighted that changes have been made to make the Garve level-crossing safer for all those wishing to enjoy cycling in the area. However, if you've had an accident at the Garve level-crossing in the last three years, please do let us know and we will be pleased to help.


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