Two Tunnels route branded 'dangerous' in ITV report

Report seems to be mostly scaremongering, given the level of use and number of incidents

by Simon_MacMichael   May 2, 2013  

Two Tunnels opening - riding

The new Two Tunnels Greenway in Bath has been branded 'dangerous' in an ITV West Country report this week, although the evidence given to back up that claim is flimsy to say the least.

"It may only take a few minutes to cycle from one end to the other, but if you can't see where you're going, or what's coming towards you, it could make things pretty dangerous", the report starts, and from there onwards it's pretty obvious the picture it's trying to paint. It's a classic attempt to drum up a bit of conflict and perceived risk when really there's not much to go on.

Reporter Laura Makin-Isherwood takes to two wheels in the tunnels to see what it's like for herself. "Cycling through here with a light on seems to be okay", she says, "and I can kind of make out what I'm looking at. But if I come across anyone without a light It's really difficult to see them, and dodging dogs and runners is just a nightmare". It probably doesn't help that when she's riding through the tunnels with her light on, it spends most of its time pointing at the ceiling. That won't please the bats, either. Also, if Laura's so worried by safety in the tunnels, it might be an idea to do up that helmet strap...

road.cc staffers are regular users of the tunnels; Dave has ridden through them about 25 times in total since they opened, on the commute to the office and at the weekend with his children. So what's his take on them?

"The lighting intensity is fairly low in the tunnels. That's to keep the bats happy, Sustrans say, but it also means visibility isn't as good as it is outside", he said. "That means you have to keep to a sensible speed, which is clearly good practice on a shared-use path anyway. Rolling through the tunnels at, say, 12mph I've never encountered any kind of problem that's caused me to brake suddenly, even black dogs off the lead are visible once your eyes adjust to the conditions. As you enter the tunnel there's a period where you can't see as much, so it's best to check your speed as you go in"

"Once you're in and your eyes have adjusted you can open up a bit if they're clear. The longer Combe Down tunnel, especially, is perfectly straight for the majority of its length. It's really not hard to see if there's anyone in front of you, or coming the other way."

"Some people go too fast at times when it's not sensible. On weekends the route is busy; there's lots of kids, walkers and dogs. If you try and fly along on a Sunday afternoon there's a chance you'll end up hitting someone. But that's an issue with user behaviour, not an issue with the route being inherently unsafe. If there was a report on road design every time an idiot driving too fast ploughed into something, I daresay ITV news wouldn't have time to broadcast anything else."

Sustrans have responded to say that they're reviewing the signing at the tunnels and they're looking to introduce a code of conduct, which will re-iterate what the vast, sensible majority of route users are doing already: checking their speed, keeping dogs under control and looking out for one another.

So far as we're aware there's been one incident in the tunnels that necessitated any kind of response from the emergency services, which we understand was a rib injury caused by a collision between a cyclist and a pedestrian.

30 user comments

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Batty report on Bath's double tunnels by double-barrelled hack...

Raising the lighting intensity near the exits/entrances would be possible I'm sure, just to help that transition and I suspect won't bother the bats one bit.

posted by IHphoto [95 posts]
2nd May 2013 - 12:36

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slow news day...

posted by Cycle_Jim [281 posts]
2nd May 2013 - 12:44

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I suggest a sign, one that's a white circle with a red border and the number 10 in it should get the message across. Now if only we already made signs like that for another purpose.

{for the pedants, yes an advisory rather than an actual speed limit sign would be better, especially since it only needs to be advisory}

posted by racingcondor [109 posts]
2nd May 2013 - 12:51

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Not only is it dangerous but it's subversive as well. I mean fancy getting from A to B without using a car and god forbid! enjoying yourself as well. Big Grin

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posted by FATBEGGARONABIKE [583 posts]
2nd May 2013 - 13:39

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The lighting in the tunnel may be dim, but it probably never gets anything like as dark as many ordinary shared-use paths after sundown.

I often cycle after dark on a shared-use towpath that has no lighting whatsoever, and I'm sure that's a more common hazard and one more worth worrying about. As ever with shared use paths, a bit of consideration goes a long way - I'm fairly good at staying alert and spotting joggers, dogs and oncoming cyclists in good time, but lights and reflective material help (especially with the dogs - small fast-moving black dogs on black asphalt backgrounds on a dark night are really not that easy to pick out with ordinary bike lights.)

I had an unfortunate experience on a shared-use path yesterday. I was sticking to my own side of the path, and I could see a family of four 100 yards ahead of me. Their alert little four-year-old was looking well up the path for oncoming traffic, and he swung smartly back onto his own side of the path when he saw me approach. I wanted to give him a medal, and I passed the family expecting to hear him being complimented on his excellent road sense, but his dopey big brother and his dopey parents hadn't been looking ahead up the path and anticipating, so all three of them came close to rear-ending the little boy when he moved in. They were all cursing him angrily for moving back to his own side when I caught up with them.

posted by bambergbike [84 posts]
2nd May 2013 - 13:42

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Having ridden through them with hundreds of other people on the gloriously sunny launch day a few weeks back, I can honestly say that the lighting in the Two Tunnels is some of the best I've ever seen. It's even, it's perfectly distributed to where you need it most, and it gives the tunnels an amazing atmosphere. A bit of unlit video footage doesn't convey how good the lighting is at all.

The only problems are people riding the other way with their Deal Extreme specials on strobe mode.

Like the Bristol-Bath Path, it's a massive cycling success story, which means that local news teams have to think up trumped-up reasons to rubbish it. Look at the amount of coverage a single collision on the BBRP received last year.

posted by Mr Agreeable [136 posts]
2nd May 2013 - 13:45

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I've done the Two Tunnels a few times (so to speak) and the biggest problem is road bikers, who overtake at speed. The lighting is good, but it takes time for your eyes to adjust to it, even if you have got a lighthouse lamp attached to the front of your bike. Add to this the fact that it's used by families with wobbly kids and it's only a matter of time before a roadie careers into a clueless five year old.

Like Dave I try to keep a steady pace through the tunnels - about 10-12 mph - but I don't go hell-for-leather. I was overtaken in the longer tunnel by a couple of roadies the other day and I shouted "Slow down!" at them, and was met by a bunch of lewd jeering echoing down the tunnels. It just pissed me off to be honest - the tunnels are so enjoyable, and such a well-made piece of cycling infrastructure that it makes me want to slow down to appreciate and admire it. All it would take is one nasty accident for them to be closed forever by some health and safety jobsworth.

I realise that this kind of makes me akin to an elderly lady who complains about cyclists doing "50mph" on the pavement, but I'd rather people didn't ride like twats because it could just ruin it for everyone.

posted by thelimopit [119 posts]
2nd May 2013 - 14:48

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thelimopit wrote:
the tunnels are so enjoyable, and such a well-made piece of cycling infrastructure that it makes me want to slow down to appreciate and admire it

exactly this. i haven't got bored of them yet Big Grin

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posted by Dave Atkinson [7316 posts]
2nd May 2013 - 15:20

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exactly this. i haven't got bored of them yet

I don't think I ever will Wink

Doing them for the first time was absolutely mind-blowing.

posted by thelimopit [119 posts]
2nd May 2013 - 15:38

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This article was probably commissioned before the tunnels even opened. Journalists like to keep us on our toes. Based on this morning's 'Today' programme I'm hopeful bird flu will kill me before my endowment shortfall is exposed.

posted by robert_obrien [117 posts]
2nd May 2013 - 15:53

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Banning dogs from the tunnel may be a start.

posted by Some Fella [745 posts]
2nd May 2013 - 15:54

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All those runners with no lights, no insurance, bet they don't even pay tunnel tax.

posted by mbthegreat [8 posts]
2nd May 2013 - 16:45

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the lighting is only as dime as the reporter.......

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posted by ianj [15 posts]
2nd May 2013 - 16:58

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Tunnels are fun. I haven't ridden those but Rotherhithe Tunnel under the Thames was particularly memorable: drafting a Porsche Boxster who only pulled away on the slope out... Wink
http://www.mobypicture.com/user/IHphoto/view/12824344

posted by IHphoto [95 posts]
2nd May 2013 - 16:59

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If they are that worried about it why don’t they tell the council to put better lights in so it’s bright enough to see where you are going, have been or are about to crash in to? As for worrying the bats they are blind so you could strap a couple of those stadium floodlights all the way along it and get a suntan on your way through (I know they are not before you start and that the frequency/sound of the lights would interfere with their hearing).

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posted by cidermart [460 posts]
2nd May 2013 - 17:14

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I've had to flag a few strava segments - not something I normally do, but I think it's best if we don't have anyone cycling "furiously" in a dark tunnel. I don't think I'm the only one - they seem to disappear fairly quickly.

posted by Moylj1 [8 posts]
2nd May 2013 - 18:22

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She wants to try descending in the Alps, where you suddenly plunge into a unlit tunnel from bright sunshine. Almost blind for a few moments. And that's with cars coming the other way as well.

Also I would expect that the tunnels have more light than a country lane in the middle of the night.

I wish media crews would actually send sensible people with experience of cycling rather than silly types who have never been on a bike since childhood

posted by gazza_d [200 posts]
2nd May 2013 - 19:51

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I've been through these tunnels many dozens of times and have 'only' experienced 3 incidents. 1 middle aged un svelt lycra bulging knob on a road bike squeezing through a gap between me and a wobbly 3yrd old (not mine)and 2 cases of oncoming lights so bright that nobody could see anything else. As Dave said in the article there's nothing inherently unsafe about the tunnels. The lighting is absolutely fine - I'm not aware of possessing any super powers but I can see unlit black clad pedestrians from way off.
Vaguely enlightened viewers will find it hard to accept a safety message from someone stopped on a thoroughfare under a dazzling light without their safety helmet on properly.

posted by Ting [51 posts]
2nd May 2013 - 20:47

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Im pretty sure that by commenting on my frustration I am doing exactly what the journo wants. I reckon it was a slow news day and sunny outside and she thought....How can I make up an excuse to go out on my bike? - Pretty much what we all do most days Wink

posted by Winstan88 [10 posts]
2nd May 2013 - 22:47

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You don't need lights in the tunnels -the lighting is adequate whether cycling or walking.
The only lighting problem is the cyclists who insist on using their retina burning lights sometimes in disco strobe mode.
Otherwise the tunnels are brilliant - hats off to Sustrans (and Victorian railway navvies).

posted by Bristolbybike [11 posts]
2nd May 2013 - 23:14

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Fuss about nothing. The tunnels are better lit than the rest of the route would be after dark.

ITV West News had little credibility before this report. Now it has even less.

posted by nigel_s [28 posts]
2nd May 2013 - 23:39

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Looks like the lighting is much brighter than the Shute Shelve tunnel - but that would mean leaving the cities to do a report on cycling and ITV won't do that!

posted by a.jumper [696 posts]
3rd May 2013 - 6:53

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Moylj1 wrote:
I've had to flag a few strava segments - not something I normally do, but I think it's best if we don't have anyone cycling "furiously" in a dark tunnel. I don't think I'm the only one - they seem to disappear fairly quickly.

+1.

Let's all immediately flag any Strava segment that includes any part of the Two Tunnels route - above or underground. It's totally inappropriate to introduce any sort of competition onto this sort of infrastructure.

Should a Strava segment be created and a crash happen where the cyclist was found to be a Strava member, it will be an exponentially larger stick to beat the cycling community with.

I was told there would be Cake. Luckily there's http://TestValleyCC.org.uk

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posted by KiwiMike [474 posts]
3rd May 2013 - 9:59

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KiwiMike wrote:
Moylj1 wrote:
I've had to flag a few strava segments - not something I normally do, but I think it's best if we don't have anyone cycling "furiously" in a dark tunnel. I don't think I'm the only one - they seem to disappear fairly quickly.

+1.

Let's all immediately flag any Strava segment that includes any part of the Two Tunnels route - above or underground. It's totally inappropriate to introduce any sort of competition onto this sort of infrastructure.

Should a Strava segment be created and a crash happen where the cyclist was found to be a Strava member, it will be an exponentially larger stick to beat the cycling community with.

Does Strava even work in the tunnels? According to my phone's GPS I stopped existing somewhere under Combe Down.

posted by thelimopit [119 posts]
3rd May 2013 - 10:23

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There are lots of idiotic Strava segments through the tunnels. Mostly repeating and overlapping each other.

I think a little bit of advisory signage might be a good thing, but you have to bear in mind that half the people there are a bit dim even before they go into the tunnels.

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posted by nowasps [246 posts]
3rd May 2013 - 11:03

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thelimopit wrote:

Does Strava even work in the tunnels? According to my phone's GPS I stopped existing somewhere under Combe Down.

not really, you're relying on your GPS to pick up that you're back in the open as quickly as possible. my garmin sometimes comes back almost immediately, other times it takes 10 seconds or more. so any segment through the tunnels has an element of chance about it...

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posted by Dave Atkinson [7316 posts]
3rd May 2013 - 12:23

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Typical lazy Daily Mail style 'evidence free' piece. Been through it a couple of times myself on bike and foot and everyone seemed to be going about their business just fine.

Ride For Precious Lives - Annual Cornwall to Bristol charity ride.

posted by graphite [58 posts]
3rd May 2013 - 18:06

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The two tunnels are virtually floodlit. The tunnel on the Bristol to Bath path was completely unlit for years, it was a bit like the ghost train at Blackpool going through there. When it first opened, the path surface was also just chippings, it was a challenge to stay on your bike all the way through. You had to aim at the little half circle of light at the end and hope for the best.

The nearby Strawberry Line tunnel was still unlit last time I did it a year ago, very dangerous. One of our group was disoriented in there and went into the side of the tunnel, came off, damaged her shoulder. Talking to others who stopped to help, it happens all the time.

posted by bikeylikey [163 posts]
4th May 2013 - 17:12

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The Strawberry Line Shute Shelve tunnel has been lit since it opened, I think, but it's only old LEDs up the middle of the floor and they don't always activate, so it's a good idea to take some lights.

posted by a.jumper [696 posts]
4th May 2013 - 18:15

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I think shared paths in this instance is just an accident waiting to happen. Rather bold statement as I have not used these tunnels but there is always some prat (cyclist, runner or pedestrian) with the its my bit of pathway and I'm not moving mentality! Surprise
Then there's toddlers and children who don't know any better, especially if they have one of the aforementioned prats as a parent!! Smile

posted by sodit [67 posts]
8th May 2013 - 8:47

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