The Independent London Newspaper


Towpath clean-up on the way at ‘lawless’ Regent’s Canal as chicanes are brought in to slow down speeding cyclists

Cllr Martin Klute said: 'It’s good news that the trust are interested in appointing the council’s contractor to remove rubbish from the towpath. Parts of it have become a real tip'

Published: 5 September, 2014

THE towpath at Regent’s Canal, which has become a dumping ground for rubbish, is to be cleaned by Islington Council in a landmark agreement revealed this week.

And a series of chicane structures are to be installed along the towpath between Angel and Hackney to slow down speeding commuter cyclists, who have turned the stretch into a “no-go” area for walkers. 

News of the agreement will be greeted by visitors to the popular annual Angel Canal festival at City Road Basin, off City Road, on Sunday.

The move follows the first-ever meeting between Richard Parry, chief executive of the Canal and River Trust, responsible for the waterway, and council chief executive Lesley Seary on Wednesday. 

The towpath and canal, once a haven of peace and tranquillity, have been beset with problems caused by lack of effective policing and management, according to critics. One of the worst incidents happened last month when cyclist Misha MccGwire – daughter of Holloway-based London Mayoral hopeful Christian Wolmar – was deliberately pushed into the canal by two young men. 

St Peter’s ward councillor Martin Klute, who also attended the meeting, said he was encouraged by the determination of the trust to bring about improvements. 

“It’s good news that the trust are interested in appointing the council’s contractor to remove rubbish from the towpath. Parts of it have become a real tip,” he said.    

“As for the chicanes, the trust want the council to install them. I hope they are introduced as a matter of urgency.

“Also, the trust have now agreed to accept emailed complaints from residents about things like engine noise rather than insist they come via anti-social behaviour officers on the council.”   

News of the improvements comes as a public meeting to discuss the rising tide of criminal and anti-social behaviour on the towpath is to be held on Wednesday.

Ian Shacklock, chairman of the Friends of Regent’s Canal group, who is organising the 7pm meeting at London Canal Museum, in New North Road, said he has a list of many grievances. 

“The Canal and River Trust are struggling to cope with it all,” Mr Shacklock said. “There’s the deliberate criminal behaviour of Misha being thrown into the canal. Then there’s the unintentional anti-social behaviour of cyclists who speed along the towpath.

“It’s virtually no-go for walkers on the towpath at peak commuter times. Old people or the disabled particularly are vulnerable. Cyclists should be giving way to pedestrians but it is not happening.”

Mr Shacklock is urging the trust to speed up plans to divert commuter cyclists away from the towpath and onto safe cycling lanes.                                                                    

Cllr Klute, whose ward includes the towpath, said the situation had become so “lawless” that a few months ago someone regularly drove a speedboat around the City Road Basin until they were finally stopped. 

Cllr Klute added: “Yobs throwing stones was another problem during the summer. Unfortunately, they obtained the stones from the Hanover School towpath floral display.”



Confused and complex issues

The issues of towpath safety, cleanliness and antisocial behaviour are confused in this sloppily written article and it seems in the wider public consciousness.

Chicanes and speed bumps only add more hazard to the towpath for all users, they are a dangerous and shortsighted intervention, not a solution. It is generally well understood that pedestrians have a priority on the path, most cyclists are considerate of that and should not be punished for speed they take in certain areas where it is safe to do so. However pedestrians should be aware that they are not the only users of the path and can cause a danger to cyclists and themselves through their behaviour also.

I am pleased to hear that the council and CRT are taking a more proactive role in cleaning up the path, there are bins that seem never to be emptied. I support them in their efforts.

Safety and antisocial behavior are problems city-wide and especially in quiet secluded areas like the canal. It's a shame that the attack on a political figure's daughter is what is necessary to trigger action when this fate has also befallen other mere mortals. Unfortunately making the towpath an attractive place to spend time away from the eyes of the city in the day also makes it attractive at night, when most of the unwanted behaviour occurs.

Resident's should have some understanding that boaters need to run their engines as this is often their only source of power. The canal is a piece of transport infrastructure and while can be a peaceful oasis also makes some noise. The boaters are a community that just with their presence make the canal safer. If they are demonised, penalised and driven away the problems described in this article will only get worse.

cycles.& towpaths

The problem is not just in London there is the same trouble all over CRTs waterways.

Pinch points are not good for anyone!

It would be good to install effective structures along the towpath between Angel and Hackney to slow down speeding commuter cyclists, who have turned the stretch into a “no-go” area for walkers. However, a series of chicane structures invariably creates "pinch points", small spaces into which pedestrians (many of whom are visually impaired, Deaf, etc) AND cyclists must squeeze.

This is a bad idea. Back to the drawing board please!

Last week’s paper gave

Last week’s paper gave details of the recent meeting between the chief executives of the Canal & River Trust and the London Borough of Islington.

Everyone involved recognises how important the canal is to the Borough – a valuable green space where people can get away from it all.

The Angel Festival at the weekend shows what an asset the canal is to Islington – thousands of people were out enjoying the canal at its best. This shows that the canal is a much-loved part of Islington that people will venture onto.

On this well-used section of canal, the children at Hanover School have adopted part of the towpath and have created a stunning community garden – it serves as a fantastic example of what can be achieved for all of us to aspire to.

Discussions are indeed underway for the Borough to collect rubbish from the towpath and empty the litter bins and we are hopeful that we can agree a workable and affordable solution to keep the towpath clean.

Regarding cycling, the Trust has been working with Transport for London to make the canal a better place for all towpath users. Our work with TfL and across the country suggests that physical ‘chicanes’ aren’t always the best option to slow down the few cyclists who go too fast as they can hinder other users; however we’ve agreed to explore this further with the Borough’s team. We all agree that part of the solution is to provide alternative cycling routes away from the busiest and narrowest sections of the towpath so that the canal is a place for those who want to slow down and enjoy a quieter pace of life.

We look forward to working in partnership with all those who value and appreciate the canal to ensure it is a space that everyone can enjoy.

Jon Guest, Canal & River Trust waterway manager

Towpath clean-up on the way at ‘lawless’ Regent’s Canal

This is long overdue. Boaters have been complaining for several years since CRT got into bed with Sustrans and turned the towpaths around that area into commuter routes for cyclists. We are all for shared space, but you have to get the balance right. Signage is very confusing, or non existant and cyclists genuinely believe they have right of way.

There have been several accidents involving speeding cyclists, however, as soon as someone of notoritey gets hurt then something gets done. It is shameful.

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