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TUNNEL VISION! Cyclists stunned as council slaps crazy ban on riding through new underpass.

Byline: RHODRI CLARK

COUNCIL chiefs are ordering cyclists to dismount at a Welsh underpass even though just one person in the world would hit his head on the roof - and he lives in Turkey!

Cycling experts last night said it was another example of common sense giving way to health and safety paranoia.

Conwy council spent pounds 700,000 on a new bridge specially designed for people to cycle safely across the railway at Llandudno Junction. To reach the bridge, cyclists go through a 7ft 7in high underpass - which has been slapped with the bizarre cycling ban.

Sustrans, the sustainable transport charity, says cyclists would have to be almost 8ft tall to be at risk, given that cyclists bend forward towards the handlebars.

That means the world's second tallest man, Bao Xishun of China, could probably cycle through unscathed because he's 7ft 9in. Only Turkish giant Sultan Kosen, 8ft 1in tall, would have to dismount.

Towering Wales rugby star Luke Charteris could even walk through without stooping - with 10in clearance.

But Conwy council has erected four signs telling cyclists to dismount because of "reduced headroom". Glyn Evans, Sustrans manager for North Wales, said: "They've spent almost pounds 1m on the bridge and the associated access. It's brilliant infrastructure, but they've spoilt it with 'cyclists dismount' signs.

"They need some kind of sign there to cover themselves, but 'cyclists beware - low headroom' would be much more welcoming than 'cyclists dismount'."

He said cyclists could not be fined for ignoring advisory "dismount" signs.

Lee Waters, director of Sustrans Cymru, said that too many cycle paths across the nation were impeded by signs or barriers for cyclists to get off and walk. You'll find it all over Wales. It sends the message that people on bikes are not really welcome.

"Rather than thinking 'how can we cover our back so nobody sues the local authority?' council officers should take a more common-sense approach.

"They take a very narrow definition of health and safety. 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."

The new bridge at Llandudno Junction is part of the Conwy Estuary Strategic Route, a traffic-free path linking Llandudno to the historic town of Conwy and the RSPB's Glan Conwy reserve.

Iain Hayes, of Conwy council's environment service, said: "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."

Councils in South Wales are now embarking on a pounds 16m expansion of the Valleys Cycle Network (VCN), adding 100 miles of traffic-free routes.

SALLY BAILEY'S VERDICT: PAGE 27

CAPTION(S):

TALL ORDER: A cyclist rides through the underpass at Llandudno Junction with loads of space to spare. Only 8ft 1in Sultan Kosen (above) may have problems in the saddle
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Publication:Wales On Sunday (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Nov 8, 2009
Words:523
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