Published: 3rd June, 2011
by PETER GRUNER
ONE of britain’s leading transport commentators has called for an end to towpath “hostilities” between cyclists and walkers.
Holloway man Christian Wolmar urged cyclists riding along the Regent’s Canal in Islington to slow down as they approach walkers.
He also suggested signs be installed reminding cyclists to ring their bell when they overtake people on foot.
At the same time Mr Wolmar said he was not in favour of a ban on cyclists from the towpath and added that walkers must not assume they are the only ones with the right to be there.
Mr Wolmar, a leading figure on the board of Cycling England and the Islington Cycling Action Group, was invited by the Tribune to see the towpath from the walker’s point of view on Wednesday.
Walkers complain they are being deterred from using the towpath at peak times because of a small minority of aggressive cyclists.
Mr Wolmar walked along the towpath at York Way, King’s Cross, opposite King’s Place, home of the Guardian newspaper.
He said: “I regularly cycle along the towpath but I rarely walk.
“Now I’ve taken a stroll during peak commuting times my sympathies are with the walkers.
“There is nothing more terrifying and anger inducing than a person on a large bike charging towards you expecting you to move out of the way.
“It’s wonderful that there are more people are on their bikes than ever before. But cyclists should behave themselves. They should reduce their speed, ring their bells gently and be polite.
“Cyclists should not cycle aggressively. We’ve seen one or two people today pumping iron.
“The towpath is not for speed and it’s not a highway. It’s a calm, pleasant, relaxed and safe environment for all but it has to be used responsibly.”
British Waterways say they regularly remind cyclists who use the towpath to be aware of walkers.
“Complaints by walkers against cyclists are down compared with recent years,” said a spokesman.
“However, there are still a small minority of cyclists who do make life difficult for everyone else.
“We have our ‘two- ting’ campaign which reminds cyclists to ring their bell before passing and we are using volunteers on the towpath. We could put signs up but they tend to be ignored.”
In April this year, the Green Party’s candidate for London Mayor, Jenny Jones, also spoke out against cyclists who use the canal towpaths like a “race track” with “complete disregard” for people who walk.
Ms Jones, 61, a mother of two, said that as a bike enthusiast herself she was “appalled” by the behaviour of a few a cyclists on towpaths.
“One idea,” she said, “would be more kissing gates along the tow-path, which would mean cyclists would have to dismount.”
St Peter’s ward Labour councillor Martin Klute said he was in favour of the “kissing gates” proposal. He also advocated a parallel cycling route along less busy roads.
• Minutes after giving an interview to the Tribune, Mr Wolmar’s bike was stolen.
He had left it by a bench after locking the back wheel on Wednesday evening at around 6.30pm to walk along the towpath opposite the King’s Place bridge in York Way. Less than 10 minutes later, the bike was gone.
Police have been informed. The large Dawes bike is described as silver coloured with a rack. The heavy-duty lock was taken with the bike. Anyone who sees it urged to email Mr Wolmar at firstname.lastname@example.org