Flooding forces closure of part of Bristol & Bath Railway Path

Bath & North East Somerset Council to decide today on whether to pump water away from popular commuter route and on future flood-proofing measures

by Simon_MacMichael   February 17, 2014  

Bristol Bath Railway Path Flooding (picture credit AnalogueAndy on Twitter)

Flooding around the River Avon has led to the closure of part of a popular cycle commuting route, the Bristol and Bath Railway Path - the oldest, and one of the busiest parts of the National Cyle Network.

Over the weekend, Bath & North East Somerset Council (BANES) barred a 200 metre section of the route close to Newbridge to cyclists and pedestrians after it became submerged beneath up to 60 centimetres (2 foot) of floodwater reports the BBC.

A decision is due to be made today about whether to try and pump the water to clear the path, developed more than 30 years ago by Bristol-based sustainable transport charity, Sustrans. 

BANES' cycling champion, Councillor Nigel Roberts, commented: "With the amount of water there, it wasn't safe [to keep it open]."

The council's decision to suspend part of the path, which besides cyclists is also used by pedestrians, and in both cases adults and children, came under criticism from some people on social media this weekend.

Twitter user Robert Weeks (@Chutzpah84), noting that the BBC had been filming cyclists riding through the water, he added: "If it was REALLY dangerous there would be no way to get through."

Another, @JohnSelf, replied to him and to @AnologueAndy (who took the picture above this morning) saying: "seriously? For the love of god. 'Puddle slows cyclists for 60m. Next up: man short changed in Little Chef'."

But Dave F (@DaveF63) tweeted @CycleBath to say: "Disappointing that many PoVs [points of view] on flooded B2B path are based on their own abilities (& height) and not on those of their children."

The pictures we have seen of the affected area would appear to be taken at the eastern end of the affected part of the path and where the depth of the floodwaters seems to be shallower, cycling through 60 centimetres of water would be a serious undertaking for anyone trying it. Cycling through water above hub and bottom bracket depth, while a useful way of testing how well sealed your hubs and bottom bracket are is likely to have unpleasant side effects for your bike should they fail that test.  

Responding on Twitter over the weekend to questions from users of the route, Councillor Roberts said that options being considered by the council to prevent a repetition of this type of disruption in the future included raising the path above its current level at locations susceptible to flooding.

When roads and other routes are flooded, submerged hazards such as drainage grilles or potholes can become hidden, making it impossible for cyclists to see them and causing a danger.

This morning water levels on the path were said to have subsided slightly, although they were still high, and it had started to rain again. 

Last month, 73-year-old cyclist Ian Taylor died in hospital after falling off his bike on a flooded section of road between Wolvercote and Wytham, close to the River Thames on the outskirts of Oxford.

11 user comments

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Just to add a touch of context to my tweet:

"If it was REALLY dangerous there would be no way to get through."

I was referring to the fact that even though the council said it was closed for safety reasons, it was still simple to get on and off the path (just a footpath closed sign as far as I'm aware). As I read my own words here (without some of my other tweets on the subject to help frame it) it sounds a touch like I was saying "oh come on, it's not that bad". It is bad, because we shouldn't expect commuters, kids, whoever, to cycle through water this deep and say "just get on with it".

To me the whole thing was a liability reduction exercise, aimed at covering the council's backs if someone did manage to hurt themselves, and that's what my tweet was getting at. I think this is shameful, as this hasn't just "crept up" on the council. People have been moaning about this for ages.

Add to this their communications on where the closure is has been poor, as has their simple "find alternative routes" stance. What alternatives? The busy A4 dual carriageway, or the A431 which as we speak has a partial closure to stop it sliding down the hillside (see http://www.bathchronicle.co.uk/Concerns-safety-Kelston-Road-Bath/story-2...)

Chutzpah's picture

posted by Chutzpah [72 posts]
17th February 2014 - 13:58


Guess that solves the #bloodycyclists problem for now anyway...

posted by northstar [1113 posts]
17th February 2014 - 14:06


Least they are not moaning about racing cyclists killing our children.

Leodis's picture

posted by Leodis [374 posts]
17th February 2014 - 14:39


Leodis wrote:
Least they are not moaning about racing cyclists killing our children.

Apparently, the flooding was caused entirely by the tears of the local children, such was the terror caused by the "Beasts Of The Drop Bars".

True story.

posted by farrell [1946 posts]
17th February 2014 - 14:45


I'm loathe to cycle through puddles of any sort, makes it damn difficult to judge whether there's a wheel eating hole or a large rock waiting.

Also 60cm? That's no puddle!

posted by Ush [539 posts]
17th February 2014 - 15:33


Having just finished a construction project in Bath recently right alaongside the river avon its not surprising news. Maybe a adventurous adult could get through but taking children through is pointlessly dangerous. Who'd enjoy getting that wet in the winter anyway.

We're all entitled to a reasonable opinion!

posted by Guyz2010 [298 posts]
17th February 2014 - 16:35


The last time I went through the 'puddle' was last week and, whilst it was the worst I'd seen it, it wasn't that bad. Somebody tweeted this morning it was 25cm deep (ie below bottom bracket) and rideable. Bit of 'man-up princess', or in cycling speak, Rule #5 (Harden the f#*% up).


posted by Shades [272 posts]
17th February 2014 - 16:56


The simple solution to this is to move the recently installed (and completely useless, due to the flooding) bridge from Batheaston to the giant puddle.

posted by thelimopit [126 posts]
17th February 2014 - 18:27


Call that flooded? This was the W2W last year - six feet deep!

P1120603 resize.jpg

posted by spen [126 posts]
17th February 2014 - 19:57


The railway line was built with generous drainage, which did not require pumps. somewhere that has been messed up - by changing the levels, or blocking the outfalls - sort that out and the water should go away naturally.

47 years of breaking bikes and still they offer me a 10 year frame warranty!

A V Lowe's picture

posted by A V Lowe [560 posts]
17th February 2014 - 23:07


Went through there yesterday evening. Pretty much the same level as a week ago and you can just about keep your feet dry if you take it slowly. Somebody came through at 'full tilt' and probably got wet feet. You can't really do that and then complain bitterly about it, but it always amazes me how low some people's threshold for complaining is.


posted by Shades [272 posts]
20th February 2014 - 10:31

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