Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Cycling Underwater

This week I have been cycling underwater. This is something I have wanted to do for a year or so and it was on my bucket list of things to achieve before I pop my clogs or...kick the bucket. Anyway, I have done it now, so that is one less thing I need to do before I die.

This particular desire arose after I heard of a purpose built cycle tunnel under the River Clyde. I then found one existed under the River Tyne too. Well, as I am a regular visitor to the Newcastle area I decided to make cycling the Tyne a priority and this week I got to do it.

I cycled the 25 miles or so down from Morpeth, joining National Cycle Route One just south of Blyth and followed the coast along through Whitley Bay and onto Tynemouth. I found the tunnel entrance off a non descript road and made a trip from the north side at Howden to Jarrow on the south before retracing my route. Of course I have made a video.

Please note. Will not play on mobile devices. Sorry

The cycle tunnel is actually one of two parallel tunnels, the other being for pedestrians. The Tunnels are grade 2 listed buildings and were opened in 1951 in time for the Festival of Britain. These are two of three which form the Tyne Tunnel Project which includes the original road tunnel completed in 1967. The whole project was actually concieved in 1937 but WW2 kind of delayed things a bit. 

At each end of the cycle and pedestrian tunnels are two escalators and a lift. The escalators have 306 wooden steps each and are the original models from 1951. These escalators remain the longest wooden escalators in the World but when I visited only one was working, as was only one of the much more modern lifts. There are plans to update the escalators, making one at each end into a kind of funicular lift while overhauling the remaining ones and keeping them for reasons of heritage.

It is obvious the vision behind these tunnels stems from a time when the car was not supreme and there was serious infrastructure provison for cyclists and pedestrians. The tunnels are certainly dated but are charming none the less. I think they are great slice of England - visionary but a little past thier glory days.

I can't be the only one who likes them because, despite the loss of much of the shipbuilding workforce who originally used the tunnels, 20,000 trips are still made through them each month. This number is split pretty equally between pedestrians and cyclists and is slowly increasing. 

Now, when can I arrange a trip to Glasgow to cycle under the Clyde?


  1. Great video. Love those head cams... I need one. And how civilised to allow cycling in one of the two tunnels. The Greenwich foot tunnel that I went through last year bans cycling - probably because it is only one tunnel - you will soon read about that comical experience in the book. I wondered why the escalators were so slow... and then I read the written post. You have inspired me to get off my arse and go cycling today. Thanks you. Spent too much time this summer on the PC book promoting; point taken!! Andrew

  2. Andrew

    Oh you should get one. They are fun but be warned the editing can be time consuming.

    Enjoying your book. Maybe i'll do a blog post about it...

  3. I cycled underwater yesterday when I went under a bridge carrying the Bridegewater canal over a road near Lymm.

  4. Pete

    That sounds really exciting for you. Did you do a video?

  5. No.

    I'll be cycling underwater again, if not before, when I go to see Salford's last game at the Willows on 11th Sept. The Bridgewater canal passes over the road at Barton-on-Irwell.

  6. Pete

    Is that the swing aqueduct? I love aqueducts. Any chance of a video of your adventure? Please??

  7. No, it's not the swing aqueduct. From the Urmston area I will be cycling over the swing road bridge across the ship canal and then turning right passing under the road bridge which takes the Bridgewater canal over the road to Eccles. This road bridge is a few yards north of the swing aqueduct which takes the Bridgewater canal over the ship canal.

    I'll try and do a video for you in return for your entertaining blog, but I've only got an old, cheap digital camera so don't hold your breath!

  8. Pete

    "...entertaining blog...". Why thank you very much.

    Wait. Urmston, 11 Sep? Maybe I can come and film you? Make you an internet star??