Council bosses in Wales have come under fire for forcing cyclists to dismount at a new underpass because of health & safety concerns over height clearance – even though Britain’s tallest man could ride through unimpeded.
It’s a decision that would probably cause Daily Mail readers’ heads to explode, combining as it does two of their pet peeves – “health and safety gone mad,” but with the affected group comprising the hated “lycra louts,” which seems to be their phrase of choice when describing cyclists.
Conwy Council has introduced the measure on the approach to a new £700,000 bridge at Llandudno Junction, which includes cyclists having to negotiate the underpass and its height clearance of 7 foot 7 inches. The bridge is part of a traffic–free route between Conwy and the RSPB’s Glan Conwy reserve, called the Conway Estuary Strategic Route.
Britain’s tallest man, 28-year-old ex-pro basketball player Neil Fingleton, stands 7 foot 8 inches, but given that cyclists’ posture on their bikes causes them to lean forward to hold the handlebars, he would pass comfortably underneath.
Indeed, transport charity Sustrans was quoted in Wales on Sunday as saying that a cyclist would need to be at least eight feet tall to hit his or her head – meaning that out of the planet’s 6 billion people, only one man, eight foot one inch Sultan Kosen from Turkey, is at risk.
And while Kosen, on the occasion of being recognised by Guinness World Records did say that he wanted to travel the world, we’re pretty sure that Llandudno Junction isn’t anywhere near the top of his list of potential destinations.
Sustrans Cymru’s manager for North Wales, Glyn Evans, praised the council for its investment in the wider bridge project. “It’s brilliant infrastructure,” he told the newspaper, “but they’ve spoilt it with ‘cyclists dismount’ signs,” adding that a softer tone, such as signs saying ‘cyclists beware – low headroom’ would have been a better solution.
His colleague Lee Waters, director of Sustrans Cymru said that this was an example of how routes designed specifically for cyclists were spoiled by signs and barriers that force them to get off their bikes. And that, he claims, discourages people from cycling and leaves people relying on their cars instead, with implications for their health.
“Rather than thinking ‘how can we cover our back so nobody sues the local authority,’ council officers should take a more common-sense approach,” says Waters.
“They take a very narrow definition of health and safety,” he continued. “The Foresight panel of 250 independent scientists said we’re creating an obesogenic environment, which encourages people to travel everywhere by car.
“The consequences aren’t just obesity but Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke and some cancers. Unless we make it easy and attractive to travel on the bike, people will think it’s simpler to use the car.”
In response, Iain Hayes, of Conwy council’s environment service, told Wales on Sunday: “Cyclists are asked to dismount because the headroom in the underpass structure is below the minimum standard.”
“However, we are always willing to discuss issues such as this with Sustrans and, if appropriate, we will make alterations.”
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.