Response to a towpath user

Here’s a response I wrote in relation to a major complaint I received from a towpath user who has been hit by, sworn at by cyclists. They inform me as a daily user of the towpath, they have seen and heard many other recurring incidents with pedestrians who try to explain the ‘Share the space, drop the pace’  concept only to get abused by cyclists. Major concerns re aggressive cyclists at pinch points such as the bridge below Camden locks and on the floating walkways around King’s Cross.

They say what should be a pleasant stroll along the canal towpath regularly turns into a stressful experience and asks why no one is policing the towpaths to stop these aggressive cyclists.

The person has contacted Canal & River Trust without satisfactory result and seems to think CRT dont care in the least.

The content of my response is as follows:

Dear Towpath User,

Thank you for your email.

I am not the right person to make a complaint I just manage my London Canal website as it says on the first page it is not affiliated to any canal or waterways authorities.

Canal & River Trust are the people to make complaints to (or perhaps even Camden and Islington council – the latter’s area covers the first bit of towpath from Muriel Street towards York Way.)

Unfortunately Canal & River Trust are not too interested in peoples’ concerns, I have been hit by cyclists three times since they were permitted to use the towpath. On one of these occasions (this was Brentford on a slightly wider section of towpath ironically!) I was told by the cyclist I should not be on the f**king towpath.

I don’t think cyclists should be allowed there are simply far too many aggressive cyclists to really make it work well. Canal & River Trust say they keep asking cyclists to be nicer and have recently made an emphasis on this saying if cyclists want to hurry along then find a different route.

Of course it does not work. Look at places such as Sturts Lock (on the other side of Islington tunnel) as well as those bends below Camden locks (the tunnel you mention) and the bridge under St Pancras railway lines, one finds that cyclists adopt speeds far in excess of the approach needed at these very tight, blind, spots. They don’t care about pedestrians, we are the last of their concerns.

Canal & River Trust has a ranger called Dick Vincent, yet I have never seen him patrolling the towpaths! Perhaps others have. He is supposed to be the one to deal with complaints and incidents but as I have found to my disappointment he is potentially just another bureaucratic deflection whose task seems to be ensuring complaints are subdued and forgotten as quickly as possible. When it comes to realising I have a disability they at Canal & River Trust apparently run faster than some of these cyclists!

Ironically Canal & River Trust get thousands in funding from the councils and Government, National Lottery, other organisations, to pay for the upkeep of the towpaths (which they clearly don’t upkeep too terribly well either) as long as full unlimited access is permitted to all users. Thus arises the magical concept of shared use walking/cycle routes. Works fairly well in parks and in the country where space is sufficiently wide enough both both to use the path comfortably. Not a canal towpath barely just a couple of feet wide in many places which is used as a major commuter route.

Schools have already complained about the massive abuses suffered by their pupils, Hannover Primary School in Noel Street has campaigned about towpath abuses in the past and clearly despite this cyclists still speed along and conduct abuses without care for children, the disabled, mums with small kids and the elderly or anyone else who is simply out for a quiet, gentle and convivial stroll along the canal.

Hannover Street is not the only school to have complained another in West London had a poster campaign detailing the abuses and accidents and stories of children hit by or swore at by cyclists. It placed campaign posters and drawings, paintings by its children along the towpath around Little Venice and Harrow Road. It was hoped that cyclists would read these and learn to abate their ways. It didn’t work. The cyclists keep on with their aggression and abuses.

I do know Canal & River Trust, I have alternative views on their stance and the use of towpaths by cyclists, but Canal & River trust will not listen they see me as some intrusion, but I do have a good reason to complain, after all as I have said I have a disability and the cyclists are at their most abusive in this respect.

Canal & River Trust (like its predecessor, British Waterways) just wants to bury its head, and of course John Guest, who is the London waterways manager, was the very same manager under British Waterways and in my view there has been barely any real, perceptible change, in the stance employed by the canal authority over the years when it comes to abusive cyclists.

John Guest wrote in the Camden New Journal recently, saying that his organisation did not “have the powers or resources to police” the towpaths or impose speed limits.

In my view if they, the Canal and River Trust do not have the powers or the resources and cyclists keep on with their aggressive ways, then NO cyclists should be allowed on the canal towpaths especially in the cities. It is as simple as that.

London Canals.

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