Friday, 24 October 2014

Hobby Horse (2)

Continued from part 1

Should we as pedestrians be taking more care walking on the towpath and does he have a valid point. I don't know about you, but I never seem to hear cycles arriving behind me.  I always make sure that if a cycle passes from the front, it has to go past on the water side of me.  I find that cyclist slow when they realise that they are going to have to go closer to the edge. If we moor up on a bit of towpath that is being used as a velodrome - I put out a couple of folding chairs where we step on and off as a first line of defence.

There was a small electronic gadget box on the handlebar of his bike. I thought it was some sort of a light at first. It turns out that it was some sort of GPS but only used for measuring his pace between set points. The route along the towpath was a sort of personal 'time trial' He could download the data out of the gadget when he got home to see how well he had done. Where well is measured in the speed of route completion and the elapsed time taken!  

I said that there were set speed limits on the towpath.  To which he says - 'There are no horses to worry about today, old rules are just ignored by everyone.' That's when it struck home, today cyclists look at the towpath in the same way that they look at bridleways. 

Off he went and was soon travelling at a good speed - obviously above the (lack of a signposted) speed limit. He will continue to pass people on foot without slowing down. Boaters will be grumpy and point the finger. But there is the rub, its a bit don't do as I do, just do as I say. I say can boaters as a group actually complain! Because its the same out on the water, we see boats travelling in excess of the speed limit. The inconsiderate don't slow down if they have a breaking wash. Many don't slow for moored boats. So it is a bit like the pot calling the kettle.

So is there a problem - well yes there is - its obvious that there is a growing safety issue mainly through lack of awareness. Is the trust proactive in addressing the issue - frankly the answer is no - I don't think so. Will the problem be resolved any-time soon - no - not before there is a fatality. Then at that point some coroner will set the agenda. (Earlier this year in Nottingham, when complaining about the speed of cyclists. A group of us were assured by a trust employee that nothing will be done unless there is a fatality)

I will be surprised if in this world of, no win - no fee litigation that the trust does not get embroiled in 'investing' maintenance money, in some more costly court cases. Defending a situation, entirely of its own making. One final but interesting point - CaRT does not have a 'requirement' for a warning device to be fitted to a cycle used on the towpath - but it does 'recommend' having one. So next time you hear a shouted 'coming through' its perfectly acceptable to the trust if cyclists don't have a warning device. I bet it was a cyclist who wrote those recommendations!

So what of the 'Waterways Partnerships' which a friend of mine refers to ironically as the 'brains trust of the inland waterways.'  Have they come up with a solution. Well from a cursory glance at various meeting notes published. I could not find one that was even aware of the issue. I could not find one that had any basic policy of addressing the issue on their own patch. 

The trust meanwhile has published a good selection of web pages for cyclists. Including hints and tips as well as the canal route of the month for cyclists. One towpath conversion project will see the eventual creation of four new 'cycleways' from towpaths along the canals leading into the Peak District. The project is being funded through the Government's National Park Cycle Fund, with the Peak District National Park receiving £5 million. An additional £2.5 million will be provided by local authorities.

Birmingham City Council was awarded £17 million from the Department for Transport, which has been topped up to £24million after their successful bid to the Cycle City Ambition Grant Fund which aims to make cycling easier and safer. The money will be used to improve around 15 miles of canal towpaths turning them from towpaths into cycleways. The work will take place along the Birmingham Main Line, Birmingham and Fazeley, Grand Union and Worcester and Birmingham canals. With all this conversion from towpath to cycleway, is the trust selling out the towpaths to cycling lobby - that's certainly a moot point.

Well we have done getting on for 500 miles cruising this year. I have seen one cyclists dismount sign. That was where some building works were being done and the towpath was temporarily narrowed at that point. Surprisingly, the upgrading of the towpath to cycleways does not appear to include signs for speed limits. I wonder why?

I have a couple of question for you: When was the last time you saw a cycle speed limit sign on an entry or exit point on the towpath. and When was the last time you saw a cyclist dismount sign on a narrow bridge hole?

The rest as they say is pure conjecture.

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