Thursday, 12 March 2015

Carte Blanch

There is growing groundswell of opposition to the way that the Towpaths appear to have been taken over by cyclists. Now the towpaths are being used regularly as a place where cyclists can carry out various kinds of racing and time trial activities. As the towpath is improved larger sections can be used for longer races and time-trials.

Not Permitted
Under British Waterways there was a requirement to hold a permit to use the canal towpath. British Waterways also included cyclists with a permit in the Waterways Code. It was actually explicitly prohibited for the towpath to be used to as a race track or as a place where time trials could be conducted. Such a sensible set of rules that you would think would be enshrined by the trust in any changes that it made.

The changes have been made in two main areas. The first is with the relaxation of the requirement to even hold a cycling permit to use the towpath. The permit needed to be purchased and the terms and conditions were set as a result of the permit being granted and accepted. So as well as a funding stream the issuing of the permit tied the recipient to have agreed with the provision of the terms and conditions. The second change is the disappearance of the prohibition to conduct racing and time trials on the towpath. I can't help but think that it must have been a cyclist who enjoys such activities who drafted the changes.

The old British Waterways 'Waterways Code' has gone and it has been replaced by several other action plans under the banner of - 'Better Towpaths for Everyone.' With sections being identified as 'Greenways' and sections being joined together with 'Quietways.' The towpath is not only changing in name and appearance but also in usage. Another action plan is ‘Share the Space, Drop your Pace.'

Better Towpaths for Everyone
The old Waterways Code has been emasculated to the point where its worthless. The 'Better Towpaths for Everyone.' and  Share the Space, Drop your Pace' has dropped any reference for any kind of restriction being placed upon racing and time trailing. The resulting code does not even have at a minimum a sensible maximum speed. The trusts answer to the problem of groups of cyclists racing and conducting time trials is education. Which has so far been done by handing out a few leaflets in a few places.

Now, unfortunately for pedestrians on the towpath the time-trial genie is out of the bottle. The cyclist have been given a carte blanch nod to do as they wish. Anyone can turn up on the towpath and proceed at any pace they think is suitable. Get knocked down by a group of cyclist conducting a time trial. I bet they will claim that they were proceeding along at a sensible but indeterminate speed. When to their complete surprise the child threw themselves under the wheels of the cyclists.

A Paper Exercise
First of all there is a very significant difference between informing and educating. Handing out a leaflet is a piss poor method of informing- never mind actually educating. I have said it before – call me old and cynical with regards CaRT – But first of all how do you identify who needs to be educated. How can you differentiate between those who have even seen, or read, absorbed and understood the requirement of the Greenway Code. In what form will the education take place. Like all good educational system what measures are in place to ensure that the education is working. How will the trust test the validity of their educational system as being fit for purpose other than in a coroners court.

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