The Independent London Newspaper


Travel expert Christian Wolmar steps into the Regent’s Canal towpath row

Cyclist admits he has sympathy for walkers’ plight as ‘hostilities’ continue along the canal

Published: 3rd June, 2011

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


Towpath Cyclist Danger

It's not just the Regent's Canal that has this problem. The towpath on the Lea is also now a dangerous and unpleasant place for pedestrians due to these testosterone-pumped city 'gents' using the towpath as a short-cut and rat-run and go at A road speeds and expect everyone to jump out of their way. I have been remonstrating with these cyclists and urging them to slow down and use their bells. I always get a similar response: "F*cking shut up and get out of my F*CKING way." Two weeks ago I did not get out of the way. I got sworn at loudly, knocked down on purpose and injured. My hands have not yet healed up where i fell down. A lot of skin came off the palms of my hands. The cyclist (generic, white, lycra clad, expensive gear, wrap around shades, should know better) did not even stop. It was basically a hit and run. But ON PURPOSE. I am a 51 year old woman on her own. The police are treating it as common assault. These cyclists do not have licenses or insurance. They are liable to nobody and are a danger and a menace and it's about time to authorities took action before something more serious happens. If a dog was causing this menace and danger it would be put down. What is going to be done about these cyclists, a minority who are making misery for all?

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