Saturday, 24 August 2013

An accident waiting to happen.

An accident waiting to happen.

The Bingley five rise staircase locks on the Leeds Liverpool Canal is one of the major heritage attractions on the Inland Waterways, if CaRT are to believed they are one of the ‘Seven Wonders of the Waterways.’ Our recent trip up the flight did have a the odd person standing to watch as we progressed up. It was a day of good weather with hot sunshine, so maybe the unseasonal weather was suppressing the numbers. When we reached the top the tea shop was doing good business and the seats outside were full.

At the top of the flight the CaRT tent was in attendance. Doing the well practised propaganda exercise about how wonderful the heritage lock and canal is. To a non existent crowd.

The Leeds Liverpool canal is well known for its floating islands of weed. Taking advantage the CaRT tent was strategically placed alongside a huge raft of floating weed. Which was tastefully and artistically mixed with various other bits of floating rubbish such as plastic bags and bottles. Providing an alternative perspective to lock gate poetry. The whole welcoming vista had been corralled together with a mix of bits of rope and odd pieces of wood. An artistic interpretation that would put Tracey Emin to shame. As usual there was a huge skip container carefully placed to improve the whole ambiance of a heritage site that is advertised as a national treasure. A bit like the walls of Windsor Castle with a lean to shed attached.

There were a few people making their way along the towpath. Some were just strolling along hoping to be able to enjoy a walk with their dogs. Unfortunately because of the dangerous situation at Bingley their enjoyment was somewhat curtailed. Mothers with prams and sometimes with a few slightly older children were also hoping to enjoy the walk. But it was the same situation for them having to keep an eye on their offspring who were also being placed in danger. Joggers were huffing, puffing and sweating along and were also hoping to enjoy their run along the towpath. But it was the same scenario of being placed at serious risk. Not a smile on a face to be seen and some mothers had a genuine look of concern for their kids.

Bingley Five Rise Locks built more than 200 years go, are also one of the ‘Seven Wonders of the Waterways’. The staircase locks open directly from one to another, lifting boats 18 metres or 60 feet in old money, up the valley along the Leeds Liverpool Canal.

The biggest group making their way along the towpath are the cyclists. A constant stream passing in both directions. The cyclists were enjoying the outing most of all. Especially as they passed the CaRT tent and then prepared set off down the steep (60 foot fall) concrete ramp. Some peddling furiously at the start, like Olympic champions. Some 'wheeler' groups in what seem to be co-ordinated skin tight, multi coloured Lycra uniforms. Others were in bright yellow vests seemingly out to gain practice for next years Tour de France which will commence next year in Yorkshire.

Bingley five rise is an serious accident waiting to happen. Created by the speed and careless and carefree attitude of a plentiful stream of 'gung ho' cyclists. All attracted to the canals as a good place to be. As I was first up in the queue and as I prepared to remove the mooring lines I had to leap clear of a couple of cyclist who appeared out of nowhere. One passed between me and the boat on the narrow strip of grass.

He was travelling at a speed exceeding 35/40mph and missed me by inches. There is a carefully sited kink in the ramp that propels high speed cyclist towards the moorings. I later snapped a photo of the sheepish pair as they enjoyed a rest from their high speed exertions in the cafe!

One day some child will be maimed or even killed. Then maybe CaRT will decided to do something to slow down those people on cycles. Cyclists that CaRT have embraced and encouraged to use the towpath. An old dyed in the wool cynic such as myself might wonder if the lack of action by CaRT is because Bingley Five Rise, is part of the Sustrans National Cycling Network. The half baked idea of 'two ting's' will not be a sufficient excuse to placate a grieving mother and the courts.

Talking to people about my experience, apparently its not an uncommon one. Some mothers have taken to walking their children on the steep grass bank rather than put themselves and their children at risk on the concrete ramp. There have been serious life threatening accidents between cyclist and pedestrians on the ramp in the past. One was a woman who was involved in an incident with a teenage cyclist travelling along the route. The woman broke her leg in four places and fractured her hip. As one local said “The problem is that there are no rules about using the busy pathway. It is a bit like having a road which nobody knows which side to drive on. It is a recipe for disaster.” Another added “Cyclists come down the hill at such a speed that you just don’t hear them. If you step to one side, they could have you.”

No doubt that as a heritage site, CaRT would not want to make much needed safety changes that might detract from the visual amenity. After all Bingley is a national treasure and one of the Seven Wonders of the Waterways. Plus it will save the directors a bit of bonus money!

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