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
by ADAM BARNETT
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.