The Independent London Newspaper


Fears of 'conflict' with pedestrians as cyclists heading to Olympics take over canal towpath

Cllr Catherine West (left), and Peter Hendy

Islington Council Labour leader Councillor Catherine West, and Peter Hendy, the head of Transport for London (TfL)

Published: 25 May, 2012

SWARMS of cyclists heading towards the Olympic Park in Stratford could make the Regent’s Canal towpath unusable for pedestrians, a Parliamentary Committee was told on Wednesday.

Islington Council Labour leader Councillor Catherine West was speaking to an influential committee of MPs in her role as head of transport for all London boroughs.

But before being grilled by the Transport Select Committee, which is examining how London’s transport infrastructure will cope during the Olympics, she made her fears known to another witness, the head of Transport for London (TfL), Peter Hendy.

In his evidence to the committee, he agreed that the main route east for cyclists heading to the games would be along the Grand Union Canal, accessed via the Regent’s Canal through Islington.

“Catherine West said to me that the towpath of the Grand Union Canal will be full of cyclists rather than pedestrians,” he said. “I think that’s likely.

“She was worried about conflict. One of the most popular routes will be the canal to east London.”

Londoners are being urged to cycle and walk to work during the games to make room for an estimated 20 million extra visitors to the capital over the 17-day period of the Olympics.

Ian Shacklock, chairman of the Friends of Regent’s Canal, added his voice to the concerns. “I’ve been predicting this for the Regent’s Canal,” he said. “It will be an accident waiting to happen.

“There’s enough conflict now at peak times. But if a visiting ambassador or VIP is thrown into the canal it would make international headlines. I hope they will have more marshals because TfL have been publicising the canal as an alternative route to the games. I’m glad that Peter Hendy has now seen the light."

Cllr West told the committee that London boroughs were concerned that a lot of  visitors will ignore parking rules as it will be cheaper for a car full of people to club together and pay a fine rather than fork out for public transport. She described the current £60 fine for illegal parking as inadequate.

“For people coming to London, sharing a car, they can pitch in to pay a £60 parking fine and that is not a lot of money,” she said. “We don’t want a situation where people are ringing up because someone has parked their car outside their driveway all night, blocking them in.”

She raised concerns that the ability of Olym­pic sponsors to use the special road network for athletes and officials would only add to traffic.

TfL’s aim to reduce ordinary London traffic by 30 per cent was “unrealistic”, she added.


Right of way

We need a clear principle of law that on shared paths/roads the most vulnerable user has right of way. This will address people's fears here.

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