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Designer believes elevated route along Regent’s Canal would clear crowded towpath - but it’s dismissed as ‘bonkers’

Artist’s impression of cycleway. Inset: Designer Antony Nelson

Artist’s impression of cycleway. ‘It would completely destroy the tranquillity of the canal,’ said a critic.  Inset: Designer Antony Nelson

Published: 12 April, 2013

CANAL chiefs have spent years trying to solve the conundrum of how thousands of pedestrians and cyclists can negotiate the narrow towpath along the Regent’s Canal in harmony.

Now, designer Antony Nelson believes he has a solution – an elevated cycleway that would stand three metres above the water.

Mr Nelson, head of landscape design at architecture firm Design International in Holborn, told the Tribune the current walkway – about to be upgraded at a cost of £100,000 – was not fit for purpose.

“The towpath is incredibly narrow, and has become more and more popular with cyclists, pedestrians, joggers and wheelchair users,” he said.

He believes his cycleway, which would run from Angel to Victoria Park, would free up the towpath for pedestrians while preserving the tranquillity of the waterway and keeping room for boats.

“We are trying to raise awareness of the presence and beauty of the canal, to find a way to tackle the problem of congestion, and turn it into a vibrant and exciting place,” said Mr Nelson.

The cycleway would be held up by waterproof steel columns and would join onto existing bridges and roads.

Disused buildings could be turned into “cultural hubs” as part of the proposals, featuring cafés, cycle shops and outreach centres.

The plans  include “floating vegetated islands” tethered to the bottom of the canal that would glide out of the way when boats approach.

But Ian Shacklock, chair of the Friends of Regent’s Canal, gave the idea short shrift. He described it as “bonkers”.

“I’d be absolutely horrified if this was given any credibility,” he said. “It would completely destroy the look and feel, the open space and the tranquillity of the canal.

“Everyone living along the canal would laugh, and then resist.”

Mr Shacklock, whose group lobbies to protect the canal, agreed there was a problem of congestion but said this was not a sensible way to address it.

“You’d be moving the congestion from one place to another,” he said, noting that the Canal and River Trust was already looking to widen the towpath. However, he said the idea of a book fair or farmers’ market would be welcome.

Transport for London has come up with £100,000 to refurbish a section of the towpath between Danbury Street, Angel, and Sturt’s Lock.

The work, overseen by the Canal and River Trust, will see the towpath levelled and bushes cut back to create more room.


Don't punish all cyclists

I use the towpath as a cyclist a few times a week, and I agree that some cyclists are extremely inconsiderate. I think a speed limit (especially during peak hours as well as Saturday/Sundays) would be a great idea.

Please don't ban cycling on the canal though. Cycling on London Roads is extremely dangerous, and the canal offers at least a little bit of respite (and is also a great way to spend a day out cycling with the kids, exploring the local area).

It's a shame that some people don't have the common sense to slow down when there is a pedestrian walking down the towpath. Or just get off the bike if the path is very crowded. But don't punish the majority just because of the stupidity of a small minority. If we applied that logic, cars would have been banned a long time ago. Look at how many people have died innocently as a result of them!


Have to disagree about the roads being 'extremely dangerous'. I've cycled in London for 10 years without incident. The roads should be improved with more serious cycle lanes and more restrictions on vehicles during 7-10 4-7 but the traffic is generally slow and not dangerous if you are careful.

Eitherway cycling on canals as they are is pretty anti-social and should be discouraged

What a stupid idea. The

What a stupid idea. The architect should spend his time on more useful work.

There is indeed a problem with too many cyclists on the canal towpath in inner London and this is having the effect of putting off pedestrians from using the towpath, leaving those who do to fight off attacks by speeding cyclists.

The Canal and River Trust should erect chincanes, so as to slow cyclists down, and implement a 10 mph speed limit for cyclists.

Nice idea - terrible resolution

Article clearly says Designer not Architect. I always thought a floating pontoon would work , however the quantity of boats now moored here would probably make this impossible - maybe for sections

It's a real problem

Bike users seem to think they have right of way and ruin relaxing walks on the tow path. This Saturday a dim witted hooray-Henry on a boris bike hit an elderly gentleman as people were walking in both directions but the cyclist didn't want to stop. Mr Nelson is thinking outside of the box which is great. Maybe an easier solution is to ban bikes though. There are many roads for the more inconsiderate of them to ride fast and aggressively on. See if they can intimidate a car as much as they can a pedestrian...

A start

Something must be done! Good on Nelson for the chivalry

Absolute Crap idea. Bicycles

Absolute Crap idea. Bicycles should not be allowed on the canal in any case.

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