One persistent irritation with my cycle route from London to Whitstable is the Medway Tunnel, which currently bans cyclists from using it, despite it effectively being a link between major long-distance NCN1 routes (Gravesend-Strood Canal and Chatham-Sittingbourne). What's especially bad is that this tunnel is a modern one, built in the 90s, so why does it not have provision for cyclists?
Particularly ironic is that when the Tour de France came through Kent in 2007, they shut the tunnel to road traffic and used it for the route!
No such luck for regular cyclists though, we must use the alternative, which is to go over the chalk hills above Strood, or through the delightful large industrial estate, over the Rochester Bridge, and through Rochester and Chatham.
Is this just a regular rant from me? No, there is substance to my complaint. In the beginning of 2003, the local council looked into encouraging cycling in the Medway region. They came to much the same conclusions as me - council notes here and cycle strategy report here. The key findings from the report (my bold and italics):
The most important infrastructure issue from the consultation exercise is the provision of a cycle facility through the Medway Tunnel.
Currently an Act of Parliament precludes cycling through the tunnel and the provision of a safe route is difficult to achieve without considerable financial implications. However, the omission of a link for cycling in this locality effectively divides Medway for a great number of cyclists and reduces cycling as a viable option for a large section of the community. This division is highlighted by the proximity of the University of Greenwich and Medway City Estate to the Medway Tunnel.
However, the intimidating environment in the tunnel may discourage its use by inexperienced or nervous cyclists.
It goes on to say :
Whilst there is strong demand for a cycle route through the tunnel by existing cyclists, the delivery of a scheme will be problematic due to:
* the need to amend the tunnel bill;
* the need to obtain the agreement of the Rochester Bridge Trust;
* the requirement to reduce the effective carriageway width;
* the requirement to undertake physical alterations in the tunnel to allow for the safe passage of cyclists; and
* the likely additional ongoing maintenance costs and possible increased closure time for maintenance.
So my reading of that was that they would have to go to the effort of doing some paper shuffling, and a bit of tinkering to the tunnel. By all accounts there is already a narrow pedestrian walkway at the edge which is wide enough for bikes, but currently has some obstacles which could be moved. Let's do it!
Their alternative short-term solution is apparently to introduce a bike shuttle, which is ridiculous for the short length of tunnel. It does, however, recommend that an investigation be carried out to progress the recommendation. There doesn't appear to have been any progress in this matter subsequently. I will submit a complaint to the council soon and report back if I make any progress.