Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Canal Rage

As the furore continues unabated about the increasing numbers of cyclists travelling at excessive speeds along the towpaths. I started to read some of the available on-line documentation. I even joined some of the on-line cycling groups. The documentation and attitude of some cyclists does not make for pleasant reading from a boater or pedestrians perspective - but it certainly explains why the Canal and River Trust will not, cannot, dare not declare a sensible speed limit of say 10mph along the towpath.

It may also go some way to explaining why 'education' of cyclist is seen at the trust as the way forward. leafleting is also contained in the Sustrans documentation as a way of 'educating' users. Education in the form of leafleting may after all be the only option available to the Trust. Until such time as there is a fatal accident. Then the coroner my well have a differing view and perhaps a court appearance for one or more directors and trustees might help to clear the myopic view of the scale of response to the issue. 

There is little in the documentation which takes into account that towpaths are very different from other kinds of routes. For instance, there is scant mention of boaters and at the same time there is also scant mention of fishermen.  Both of which utilise the towpath in a different way to everyday pedestrians. Both of which 'pay a premium' on top of their taxes to use the towpath. There is little more than a nod in the direction of people with disabilities.

It appears that the trust has simply accepted that if it is to get money for towpath upgrades. Then the trust will have to also accept the terms and conditions put in place by the funding provider. The conditions of the funding may not have as the prime target of their focus on the pedestrians, fishermen and boaters. But may well be targeted at cyclists as being the prime user. However, it is for the above reasons that the towpath is and should be considered as a special case. One that does not fit into a convenient mould.

Everyone who walks on our high street will see cyclists riding on the pavement. There seems to be a blind eye turned by the authorities to the issue. In a way, I have some sympathy with those issues. I would not let any of my children ride a cycle on the roads. Because there are dangerous drivers (the press has road rage incidents reported on a daily basis) perpetrated by those whose behaviour beggars belief. 

However, the towpath is suffering from a similar sort of malaise.

Pedestrians, fishermen and boaters are now being placed in a similar circumstances to those of cyclist on the road. However, the malaise is being brought about on the towpath by the cyclists themselves. I stress the point, not all cyclist - but is certainly a significant and it is certainly a growing number. The waterways press has towpath incidents reported almost on a daily basis. One of the key issues for cyclists in the cycling press is road rage and hit and run incidents as well as the number of sad deaths. At the same time, some of these incidents include hit and run by cyclist on pedestrians and the towpath equivalent of road rage is perpetrated by cyclists and I have suffered this myself.

One document that I read was on the Sustrans website. The 'Greenways Guide.' in particular I found chapter 8 to provide some interesting points to ponder.

Chapter 8 - Paths and Areas Free from Motor Traffic Shared Paths

More than one-third of the National Cycle Network will follow paths along disused railways, river or canal banks, bridleways, unsurfaced tracks and forest roads. These will generally be free from motor traffic, although some will provide access to premises. The standards adopted should be based upon the design of established paths, and will relate to the likely levels and type of use of each section as well as the demands of the locality.

National Cycle Network routes will not all be of one type. Gravel roads may be appropriate in forest areas, stone dust surfaces in some rural areas and tarmac surfaces where a path provides access to premises for motor vehicles or where the journey to work is an anticipated use. Design speeds of 10-15mph should be assumed for most locations, although higher speeds may be expected on commuter routes and downhill sections.

All new sections of traffic-free path will be designed equally for pedestrians, including wherever possible people with a disability (including users of wheelchairs). In some instances, provision for horses will also be required, and in these cases the appropriate standard will very much depend upon the level of use anticipated. Whilst most sections of these paths will have unsegregated use, segregation will be appropriate in some circumstances.

With 400,000,000 visitors each year and rising along the 2,200 mile canals [CaRT's own figures] - the density of people should be having a significant bearing on the construction, design, planning and implementation as well as the conducting of any Health and Safety risk assessments.

When I met Richard Parry a few weeks ago. We had a conversation about the speeding cyclists issue. I told him of our experiences. I have a great deal of time for Richard as he has done considerably more than the previous incumbents. If only to gather the views on the management of the CaRT controlled inland waterways from folk on those waterways. It might be time now for Richard to go out on walkabout again. This time, to seek the views of boaters on the towpath and not the views of residential boaters in marinas. Get the views of the people who feel as though they are now on the front line.

I would like to draw readers attention to a new group on Facebook called 'Speeding Cyclists on Towpath' where boaters are asked to provide evidence, anecdotal and photographic of the scale and nature of the issue.  

As a boater, you might find the whole of this SUSTRANS document interesting reading. It is very large and large swathes of the document concentrated on issues other than the towpath.

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