Published: November 25, 2011
by PETER GRUNER
A SPLIT emerged this week in Islington’s cyclist and pedestrian coalition over how to deal with the worsening conflict on the towpath.
The coalition group has approved a statement by British Waterways saying the Regent’s Canal towpath is under huge, unsustainable pressure and calling for cyclists to reduce speed. It follows complaints about speeding cyclists turning the towpath into a “no-go area” for pedestrians.
Pedestrian organisations are calling for more strategically placed chicane obstacles to force speeding cyclists to slow down or use alternative routes.
However, Islington Cycling Action Group, one of the signatories, argued against the installation of more chicanes on the towpath. They say that this action should not be taken until a safe alternative road route has been established.
ICAG committee member John Ackers said: “Cycling on the road is extremely hazardous, as we know with the number of fatalities there have been lately.
“While I accept that cyclists need to slow down on the towpath I’m not sure about the chicanes. There is a difference of opinion among cyclists about these obstacles. Chicanes just make it much more difficult for cyclists to use the towpath.”
The BW statement was also agreed by Islington Council, Islington Living Streets, Hanover Primary School, Friends of Regent’s Canal, and St Peter’s ward councillor Martin Klute.
Ian Shacklock, chairman of the Friends of Regent’s Canal, said that the object is not to stop all cyclists from using the towpath. “It’s there for recreational use and boaters need to use it and they have bikes too. We do want to deter commuter cyclists and anyone in a rush. We know that chicanes make it difficult for cyclists to use the towpath. That’s the idea. It just means that they have to slow down. And in parallel we need suitable, alternative well signposted, and most importantly safe, cycling routes.”
Cllr Klute said he was very encouraged that BW are now showing signs that they want to get involved in this issue of conflict on the towpath. “It is a good idea on BW’s part to get a consensus on this. And we are particularly pleased that the statement has been signed by the Islington Cyclist Action Group.
“I think many people are beginning to recognise that the towpath is not a right of way for cyclists and walkers do have priority.”
BW is encouraging local boroughs and Transport for London to provide safer and more attractive alternative route options for cyclists. The organisation campaigns to encourage more responsible and courteous behaviour among all towpath users, including a Towpath Code of Conduct and regular ‘Two Tings’ – cycle bell ringing as an early warning to pedestrians.
• Friends of Regent’s Canal have a meeting at the London Canal Museum, King’s Cross, on December 7 at 7pm. The subject is how to clean up towpaths and plans for a bicentenary of the waterways. email@example.com