Simple safety improvements needed at cycle path tunnel

A local cyclist, who sustained a fractured skull after falling from her bike, has spoken of her anger at Scottish Borders Council for failing to fix the path where she suffered her horrendous accident.

Nearly 4 years ago, Shirin Shirin Sherkat-Khameneh, 62, was left unconscious after she hit the inside wall of the old Eshiels railway tunnel. The tunnel is located just east of Peebles and runs underneath Innerleithen Road (A72) as part of the Tweed Valley Railway Path (TVRP) linking Peebles and Innerleithen. She spent three days in Borders General Hospital and her road to recovery has taken a great deal of determination and effort ever since.

The 50-metre tunnel narrows unexpectedly as it bends and dips towards the eastward exit. With no markings, signs or lighting, it is also dangerously dark, particularly when entering from outside on bright sunny days. Cycling is made more hazardous by the uneven surface and loose stones of drainage areas that flank the tarmacadam path.

The council, which was responsible for the design of the path when it opened up the old railway line to walkers and cyclists in 2013, agreed to compensate Shirin for the extent of her injuries, but despite this has done nothing to make improvements.

Shirin’s case took over three years to resolve but despite a successful outcome after the Council agreed to compensate her for her injuries Shirin she still feels let down by the Council’s continuing reluctance to act. Their seeming lack of urgency, she believes, could cost a life.

Shirin, a business analyst from Innerleithen, said:

“Sadly, when local councils fail to listen to experts and ignore the warnings of cyclists, accidents happen. Sustrans advised me that SBC was in receipt of a detailed feasibility study prior to the opening of the Tweed Valley Railway Path and the original plan did include installation of lighting. The report highlighted the need for safe access for cyclists and pedestrians and clearly without lighting the tunnel is unsafe and dangerous. I was very badly injured, but consider myself lucky. Fighting this case has been important to give the Council a wake-up call and urge them to make the improvements to the cycle path. I do not want to see someone lose a life before something is done.

“Working with Brenda Mitchell at Cycle Law Scotland has been vital. Brenda is a cyclist and has cycled through the tunnel. She understood and has been incredibly supportive. Over the course of the case, she brought in specialist experts and civil engineers to illustrate the simple measures the Council should have taken at the time and have failed to do since to make the path safe.”

Brenda Mitchell of Peebles based Cycle Law Scotland said:

“I have cycled this route many times and often on my commute to work. There are occasions when travelling through the tunnel I cannot even see my hands on my handlebars, it’s so dark. The TVRP is a great use of public funds and allows for segregated cycling between Peebles and Innerleithen. It’s vital that the Council take on board the recommendations made by the Consultants. It’s rather obvious that a tunnel, with no lighting and a slightly skewed alignment, presents an acute hazard to cyclists. It was reasonably foreseeable that accidents such as that which befell Shirin were likely to happen. It’s not good enough to suggest that the tunnel should remain in darkness due to a few roosting bats. There are bat friendly lighting options.

“What is of great concern now is that four years on, and with an increasing number of cyclists on the path, that the Council has made no attempt to improve safety at the tunnel. We would like to see measures put in place that ensure cyclists can see the tunnel path clearly, including lighting, edge markings or reflectors and warning signs to indicate the potential dangers.”

She continued:

“Shirin is an extremely positive and determined person who has had to work through a lot of changes to her life since the accident. It has never been about the compensation for her. What she received has allowed her to take time off work to recover. It has always been about making the Council take heed of the warnings.

“I know that Shirin has not cycled through the tunnel since, but she has told me she will find the courage to do once the required lights or warning signs have been put in place.”

“The TVRP is a tremendous asset to the Tweed Valley, the Council needs to take immediate action to ensure it is safe for everyone to use.”

To hear what is like when Brenda Mitchell cycles through the tunnel, click here

To hear what Brenda Mitchell thinks needs to be done, click here.

To hear why Brenda Mitchell thinks this is important, click here.


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