Cyclists and pedestrians clash over towpaths

Published in Islington Tribune: November 25, 2011


A SPLIT emerged this week in Islington’s cyclist and pedestrian coalition over how to deal with the worsening conflict on the towpath.

The coalition group has approved a statement by British Waterways saying the Regent’s Canal towpath is under huge, unsustainable pressure and calling for cyclists to reduce speed. It follows complaints about speeding cyclists turning the towpath into a “no-go area” for pedestrians.

Pedestrian organisations are calling for more strategically placed chicane obstacles to force speeding cyclists to slow down or use alternative routes.

However, Islington Cycling Action Group, one of the signatories, argued against the installation of more chicanes on the towpath. They say that this action should not be taken until a safe alternative road route has been established.

ICAG committee member John Ackers said: “Cycling on the road is extremely hazardous, as we know with the number of fatalities there have been lately.

“While I accept that cyclists need to slow down on the towpath I’m not sure about the chicanes. There is a difference of opinion among cyclists about these obstacles. Chicanes just make it much more difficult for cyclists to use the towpath.”

The BW statement was also agreed by Islington Council, Islington Living Streets, Hanover Primary School, Friends of Regent’s Canal, and St Peter’s ward councillor Martin Klute.

Ian Shacklock, chairman of the Friends of Regent’s Canal, said that the object is not to stop all cyclists from using the towpath. “It’s there for recreational use and boaters need to use it and they have bikes too. We do want to deter commuter cyclists and anyone in a rush. We know that chicanes make it difficult for cyclists to use the towpath. That’s the idea. It just means that they have to slow down. And in parallel we need suitable, alternative well signposted, and most importantly safe, cycling routes.”

Cllr Klute said he was very encouraged that BW are now showing signs that they want to get involved in this issue of conflict on the towpath. “It is a good idea on BW’s part to get a consensus on this. And we are particularly pleased that the statement has been signed by the Islington Cyclist Action Group.

“I think many people are beginning to recognise that the towpath is not a right of way for cyclists and walkers do have priority.”

BW is encouraging local boroughs and Transport for London to provide safer and more attractive alternative route options for cyclists. The organisation campaigns to encourage more responsible and courteous behaviour among all towpath users, including a Towpath Code of Conduct and regular ‘Two Tings’ – cycle bell ringing as an early warning to pedestrians.

• Friends of Regent’s Canal have a meeting at the London Canal Museum, King’s Cross, on December 7 at 7pm. The subject is how to clean up towpaths and plans for a bicentenary of the waterways.

via ‘Regent’s Canal towpath chicanes not the answer’ | Islington Tribune.

6 comments to Cyclists and pedestrians clash over towpaths

  • sarah

    bw's two tings campaign is not good enough, cyclists give 2 tings then expect you to instantly leap out of the way. They should slow down anyway. If they don't slow down i don't move out of the way.

    • Will Chapman

      I agree that there has to be better discipline from cyclists. This summer on the K&A several times I experienced near misses as cyclists flashed by whilst I was attempting to pull the boat close to the edge (insufficient depth of water for mooring). Forget ‘two tings’ – the first I knew they were there was from the breeze caused by them zooming past. I’m astonished there haven’t been more accidents reported.

    • hilaryblake

      I am in my 60's, moved to flat by canal last year, hoping to enjoy walking and cycling on towpath. Gave up cycling pretty quickly – and now considering giving up walking except at very quiet times of day. Have nearly gone into canal on several occasions due to aggressive cyclists. Really nasty incident yesterday on icy stretch with young male cyclist tearing past. Walking can be extremely scary. There is a passage near were I live, by Narrow Boat pub, with a sign asking cyclists to dismount at both ends. its been there for a couple of months. I have NEVER seen any cyclist dismount, and there seems to be no policing of what goes on on the towpath. Is this the case?

      • Will Chapman

        I’m sorry to say that this type of frightening and dangerous experience is not uncommon in some parts of the canal system. What part of the canal system do you use? If more people made their views known to the local British Waterways office, perhaps they would consider doing something about it before there is a serious accident.

        In preparation for the transition of British Waterways to new waterways charity, the Canal and River Trust, a local waterways partnership may already have been formed and if one exists in your area, it may be a good idea to write a letter of concern to them. This type of issue is one that they would/should be addressing as it concerns the welfare and enjoyment of more than one type of canal user.

  • s.morrison

    I am a cyclist but self righteousness has never been my thing! However, I appear to be in the minority!

    • Will Chapman

      I suspect that most cyclists don’t realise how many boaters use bikes for lock-wheeling as well as travelling to work and shops. The net result is that there is a higher level of understanding amongst boaters than the non-boater would perhaps accept. On the other hand, I sense a lack of appreciation from those cyclists that cause other towpath users so much concern.

      It will be interesting to see how the new Canal & River Trust handles the issues; I suspect that the greater involvement of local communities through the local and regional waterway partnerships will take more interest than BW has in the past.

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