This towpath shall never open!

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Will it or won’t it? Lisson Grove towpath stays shut Nov 2015

The long, drawn, still ongoing saga of the Lisson Grove towpath is still with us. Canal & River Trust informed the world it would be open on October 27th.

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CRT’s blog informing Lisson Grove towpath would be finished by 27th

Since then, nowt. Towpath remains shut. No sign of it re-opening. A terrible state of affairs. ‘Improved towpath’ from Waters Meeting to Eryre’s Tunnel as CRT’s blog details (note CRT calls it ‘a bridge’ once again!!) yes but that was also due to be completed by the 20th Oct and it is clear that this ‘completion’ is nowhere in sight with the enforced Lisson Grove towpath closure.

Blog closing….?

This blog may be closing…. or rather being transferred to my other blog, which has more visitors and a proper domain name.

It’ll also mean far more people will read the posts I have written.

If pages show up with a redirection link, it’ll mean pages are no longer on this blog 🙂

Towpath gates and a dangerous road

Following on from the earlier post featuring a collation of news snippets regarding canal towpath cycling in the W2/W9/NW8 areas, here’s another similar post, this time concerning the dreadful pedestrian route over the top of Maida Hill tunnel – and of course those ubiquitous gates at the Lisson Grove moorings – which seem to open and close at times clearly suited to the whims of a particular guy who spends his days captaining either the waterbuses or Prince Regent.

Some days the gates dont even open! The gates have clearly denoted times of opening and closing at either end of the Lisson Grove moorings, yet as I and many others have observed there’s very little regard made to these published times. At one time I kept a tally of the times the gates did (or did not open) and complained to British Waterways about it. Have even tweeted about the gates being shut at the wrong times or never opened at all.

The problem of public access to the section past the Lisson Grove moorings has been ongoing for years now – there are problems with the gates being shut at unauthorised times every single summer and winter.

I now fully realise those many past complaints dont exist because as we will see, Canal & River Trust claim it is only just recently that people are complaining.

Besides myself, many other people actually complained to British Waterways too. I know about this and I have seen the correspondence on this. It comes as a shock then that Canal & River Trust make a largesse claim in their statement below: “There are many people that have enjoyed use of this towpath over the years without cause to complain.

Yes, indeed CRT, lets just pretend that no-one has complained until of late, let’s just say its been happening since mid 2015!

A brief history of the management of the Lisson Grove gates: These were previously managed by Thames 21 who found its representive very unreliable. Guess what. The same problems existed then as now! We are talking about 8 years or so back. The person operating the gates was eventually dismissed and other people took over the job before British Waterways scrapped the contract and did the task with its own employees once again.

In the long run up to Canal & River Trust management, British Waterways issued a new contract for the management of the Lisson Grove gates. Guess what? The same person employed (and dismissed) by Thames 21 comes back and the task is up to him once again.

Clearly they (being mainly the same management team that migrated from British Waterways days) are burying their head in the sand once again.

Is there any wonder that the whole thing is a shambles? Oh dont worry! If the gates are closed one can always damn well walk through the Wharncliffe Gardens estate, the Lisson Green estate and via the Pateley Street footbridge!

They might as well throw away the keys and make this other route the official one! Someone might lose their job but at least people walking the towpath wont loose their heads trying to make heads or tails of the strange and unreliable management of the gates at either end of the Lisson Grove moorings – nor worry that their complaints will be instantly dispatched to the great filing cabinet in the sky!

Again this curation of relevant items concerning the route over the top of the canal tunnel comes from the very useful Westminster Labour website:

Blomfield Road/Edgware Road

We have asked the Road Safety Team to investigate this issue which has been raised by a number of residents:

“As a resident of Clarendon Gardens for many years, I can only add to the concern expressed about pedestrian risk at the western end of Blomfield Road by saying that the eastern end, the turn off the Edgware Rd, is equally dangerous. Apart from the lack of a crossing, this very heavily used rat run is made very unsafe by drivers tuning into Blomfield Road at high speed long after the lights have turned red against them. Can the police be persuaded to arrest/install safety cameras here? They would make a lot of money in fines.”

“The crossing has several issues which we would like to highlight below and hope you will be able to assist to make this a safer place for residents and visitors, in particular pedestrians:

• Blomfield Road has no camera. There is an increasing number of drivers that run the red light to cross. We assume these to be locals, aware of the traffic light system and lack of a camera on Blomfield road. This seems to be an increasing issue.
• Blomfield Road has no pedestrian crossing. there is no safe moment for pedestrians to cross as there is always one direction of drivers having the green light to cross. pedestrians have to endure a lot of verbal abuse when trying to cross and slowing down cars trying to enter/leave the road. we have witnessed and endured this on endless occasions.
• The pedestrian crossing across Edgware Road has a very short green light, which does not give pedestrians enough time to cross safely. Especially the elderly and families. 
• The kerb on the side of Aberdeen Place, where pedestrians press the green light to cross Edgware Road and wait for the green light, is not raised. A lot of cars coming from Blomfield Road run over the curb and are of great danger to pedestrians. We have witnessed this on numerous occasions.
• Edgware Road is often congested, especially during peak hours (e.g. mornings). This causes the crossing to be blocked by cars pushing in despite the congestion. This includes many London buses, which cause a dangerous barrier. During these peak hours it is near impossible to cross as the crossing is never clear with the green light. There are also many cars coming from Blomfield Road trying to push into the already congested Edgware Road and continue their journey on Edgware Road when the pedestrians have the green light, putting them into great danger.
• Cyclists coming from Aberdeen Place have their own green light. They often ignore or are not aware of pedestrians crossing at Blomfield road, which lacks a crossing. Pedestrians can’t hear the bicycles approaching and/or are not aware of the bike lane system. There have been many near misses.
The fact that the crossing is very busy with families and tourists walking along the canal makes it even more dangerous for these pedestrians as they are slower and/or unfamiliar with the dangerous light system.”

**I absolutely agree. The Edgware Road/Aberdeen Place/Madia Avenue/Blomfield Road junction is a mess!! The layout means a lot of motirists run the lights especially to/from Blomfield Road. As well as that, there’s a mighty surprise being that traffic from Maida Avenue can go in other directions not controlled by the lights and vehicles carrying out these manouvers often catch people unawares!! Westminster Council doesnt seem too bothered about this.

Lisson Grove moorings

The Canal and River Trust tell us;

“Having looked at our records there have been few complaints made regarding access at this site and those that have been formally logged with us have been dealt with accordingly. We currently use an external company that manage the gates on behalf of the Canal & River Trust at a fairly substantial cost. We have had two complaints in the last couple of months regarding the person responsible for the opening and closing of the gates and we have been working with them to resolve these problems. There are many people that have enjoyed use of this towpath over the years without cause to complain. However, we are always looking at ways of improving the canal users experience and I am looking into alternative ways of managing the access at this site with a view to improving current practice which will include clear signage indicating exact opening and closing times of the gates.”

Also we have written again to enquire about “what has happened about the horrible CYCLISTS DISMOUNT notices which wreck the beautiful gates down to the Canal from Lisson Grove?”, raised by a resident.

Regent’s Canal

We have made enquiries with the Canal & River Trust about the following matter;

“During good weather I try to walk to work from the north end of Edgware Road. I walk down Aberdeen Place to the Regent’s Canal and it has been shut on many occasions. Last summer I complained to the Canal and River Trust on several occasion with very little effect. On one occasion the gate closest to Aberdeen Place was open but the gate at near Regent’s Park was closed and I couldn’t exit (I ended up being late for work)! On another occasion I was going down the steps to the canal 20 minutes before the closing time and the person who had come along to close the gate refused to let me in and also a group of tourist – according to him we couldn’t make it to the next gate in 20 minutes! It normally takes me 6/7 minutes. I have started walking to work again and yesterday I got to the gate at 8.40am and it was closed. At times I have caught someone opening the gate (at much later time then advertised) and when I have pointed out the opening/shutting hours they have been quite rude. In my experience the gates are very rarely opened and shut at the designated time. I have lived in my area for a long time and I have realised that the opening/closing times of the gates to the canal are really at the whim of those living on the boats!”

Regent’s Canal

We have made enquiries with the Canal and River Trust following receiving the following enquiry;

“There is a lovely walk along the canal from Little Venice to Regent’s Park. This is used by many tourists as well as residents. There are two gates at the entrance to that walk. A sign on the gates gives the opening times but they are often locked for no reason even at weekends when the walk is very popular. I have complained to Canal and River Trust but with no result. It is very frustrating – especially for the poor tourists. I would be most grateful if you could ask them for an explanation.”

The Canal and River Trust has told us;

“I would like to apologise for the inconvenience towpath users are experiencing in regards to the locked gates between Little Venice and Regents Park. The gates situated at Lisson Grove moorings are there to provide much needed security to the long term mooring site located on the towpath. The opening hours are based on reasonable assessment of the demands of towpath users and the potential limitations with the contract in place for these gates being opened/closed. There is an alternative route in place, as marked on signage at site, which runs along the opposite side of the canal which enables visitors to continue their journey alongside the waterway albeit at street level but given that the Maida Tunnel is located 100yds from the moorings visitors have to leave the towpath at that point anyhow. We are aware of the current situation of the gates not being accessible at its required times, and our moorings manager is currently investigating the situation.”

More towpath cycling items – from the local Labour party

The following are items on canal cycling from Westminster North Labour Party’s October 2015 Newsletter:

Regent’s Canal cycling – what you say

“I do think cyclists should not be allowed to cycle there at all. The towpath is narrow and there is always the danger of the pedestrians especially those with children being startled and knocked into the canal!”

“Westminster should do much more to encourage cycling, including on the canal tow path. If you can get a broader demographic cycling speeds would be lower, and hence safer for all; not just youngish men in Lycra.”

“As a cyclist and a walker, I understand the issue from both sides. The problem is often due to the width of the pathway, which is very narrow in places. In my opinion, TFL and the Mayor missed a huge opportunity when planning the London cycle superhighway, in not considering the canal network as the best place to run this. All the canal paths desperately need upgrading. The fact that there are several points where the path ends, forcing users back onto busy, polluted roads is also a major problem. In the short term, it’s clear cyclist users and walkers need educating. Aggressive riding and failure to use their bells is commonplace. But from a cyclist’s point of view, pedestrians are often ignorant too, refusing to move out of the way, even with a gentle bell-ringing warning. One short term solution could be a clear demarcation of a cycle lane, where this is possible, and much better signage, informing users to be aware of the mixed-use nature of the canal.

In the long term, a massive upgrade to the canal paths would be of huge and lasting benefit to all of London, providing a safe, clean and fast cross-London route that would prevent accidents and also allow traffic to flow more smoothly, bringing economic and health benefits.”

Little Venice canal path – what you say

“I can add my voice to those who have experienced aggressive cyclists on the Little Venice canal path. I had a cyclist actually swear at me and my 3 young children to get out of the way as they passed at high speed under the bridge beside the Browning pool. I noted that there are signs on the walls that say that pedestrians have priority but I think it is necessary to actually paint them on the pavement to make it more obvious to those who might actually just be ignorant and not intentionally delinquent. “

“I don’t normally respond to your emails – but in this case I really want to underline the issue raised by one of your correspondents – the bit about cyclists on the canal towpath. A few do ring their bells when they come up behind you – but the majority think that a) they own the towpath and b) pedestrians are a nuisance. Anything that can be done – more sleeping policemen? – would be appreciated by those of us who use the towpath as a walkway”

“I would like to echo the concern expressed about cyclists on the canal path. I have seen a number of elderly people startled by a cyclist coming up behind them having to move quickly out of the way and not knowing whether to go toward the canal or into the greenery. The canal path being quite narrow at some points a fall into the canal could well happen. I am particularly concerned over the possibility that the canal path is going to be become integral to the plans to extend cycle routes in the city. If this happens then inevitably many cyclists will be attracted to the path and walkers will no longer be able to enjoy the rare pleasure of a quiet peaceful walk by the canal.”

Little Venice canal path

We have written to the Canal and River Trust about this issue:

“I often walk to work along the Little Venice canal path between Harrow Rd and Paddington. Despite clear signage that cycling is prohibited on the canal path, cyclists are a constant presence on the path. There is a wide and clearly signed cycle path next to the canal path (on the other side of some fencing) and yet they persist in cycling along a very narrow stretch which is supposed to be prioritised for pedestrians. I agree that cycle paths are important and encourage a healthy way of life, but it seems that pedestrians are starting to be affected more by the ‘anything goes’ attitude of many bike riders.”

Delamere Terrace cycling – what you say

“Whilst I take the point that it is not possible to cycle east along about 200m of Delamere Terrace because the road is one way gong west and this section of the canal no cycling, I think it is a mistake to mix pedestrian pavement and cycle tracks. There is always a minority of cyclists who travel very fast and very close to pedestrians. This also occurs and is much worse on the section from Delamere Terrace along the towpath to Paddington Station. I have been deliberately bumped into by impatient cyclists several times on this section, and one occasion I was carrying a months old baby in a baby-sling. It would be much better to segregate pedestrians and cyclists on both these sections with a cycle lane on the canal towpath and a contraflow cycle lane on the street along Delamere Terrace.”

“It is indeed uncongenial and risky because that bit is only for pedestrians, and he probably makes himself very unpopular if he cycles there: when the towpath reaches Westbourne Green eastbound the cycle route forks away from the towpath, which is no entry to cyclists here, The cycle route then proceeds over Westbourne Green for a short distance and ends at Delamere Terrace/Lord Hills Road.  Here you are theoretically supposed to walk your bike for 3 or 4 minutes eastwards until you may rejoin the towpath, past the bridge. A shared use path along Delamere Terrace for cyclists and pedestrians is something the London Cycling Campaign has been wanting for a long time.  I don’t see why it should be a problem – the cycle paths in Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park are all shared with pedestrians”

Delamere Terrace cycling – what you say

I feel I must speak up for those of us who cycle along the canalside pavement in Delamere Terrace. I am sure we are all aware that it is technically an offence, but it is really a question of harm: what harm are cyclists actually doing by cycling there? It is a very wide pavement and is little used by pedestrians, not surprisingly since there are no dwellings on that side of the road, and pedestrians have the alternatives of the pavement outside the flats and the canal towpath. Would your correspondent really prefer cyclists to cycle along the towpath, which is narrow and uneven, and obviously beside the canal? The risks would manifestly be greater. Since the towpath is a recognised cycle route, but that particular short section is very uncongenial and risky, it is not surprising that cyclists divert onto the broad, safe pavement of Delamere Terrace. Furthermore, WCC and TFL have created a cycle path alongside the canal, across Westbourne Green, which ends at the corner of Delamere Terrace and Lord Hills Road; it is obvious that any eastbound cyclist will proceed from there along the Delamere Terrace pavement, and that was clearly the intention when it was created: it is disingenuous to suppose otherwise. Live and let live is my advice, and if the cyclists ring their bells they are clearly trying to do the right thing.”

Delamere Road

We have asked the Council to investigate the following problem:

“I wonder if you could advise how I could ask you to investigate the cyclists to use the pavement on Delamere Road W2 on the canal side. Westminster Council and the police have confirmed that this is not a cycle route but there is no money to paint signs on the floor to make this clear. There is permanently but more so in the morning, a stream of cylists speeding down that road who feel that ringing there bell means you should move aside for them. Please could you let me know how to officially get you to take this up with Westminster Council as I have reached dead end after dead end.”

Towpath cycling items October 2015

A couple of weeks ago I published a letter from the Camden New Journal’s editor Tom Foot regarding towpath cycling.

Towpath cycling and its discontents should certainly be of main interest to the Camden New Journal because the canal runs just a few feet away from the newspaper’s offices in Camden Road.

The CNJ does publish quite a wide cross section of letters covering cyling in Camden, including the canal towpath and Hampstead heath etc, and quite a few of these I have kept over the years.

Following Tom Foot’s letter, two more items have come up, one from the venerable Lester May who has regularly made his views most clearly known on the menance of towpath cycling. The other is from Jon Guest, who has been the London Waterways Manager for years, both under British Waterways and now Canal & River Trust.

For the sake of continunity, Tom’s letter is published once again followed by May’s and Guest’s.

CNJ-8-10-2015

Tom Foot 8/10/2015

Lester May 15/10/2015

Lester May 15/10/2015

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Jon Guest 23/10/15

No matter what Jon Guest claims, towpath cycling has not improved at all. If anything cyclists are determined to go even faster and the skills they demonstrate in London’s streets and on its pavements are very adeptly used on the city’s towpath.

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.

Towpath cyclists – be nicer!

I noticed this write-up from the Camden New Journal (9th October 2015 on page 9) that’s not available on the internet.

The newspaper’s editor Tom Foot reports the Canal & River Trust have appealed for towpath cyclists to be nicer to those who use the towpaths for walking along.

Clearly Canal & River Trust’s towpath ranger Dick Vincent is saying, if cyclists want to use the canal towpaths for speed, the towpath is definitely not the place for it. See the article below for his full quote.CNJ-8-10-2015