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.
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.