David: Dogs and bikes

Published: Wednesday, 20 January 2016

THE story about the fine imposed on a Cornish dog walker for failing to clean up highlights the crucial factor in several contentious issues affecting the canals. The authorities, whether it is CaRT or whoever, can make all the rules they like for cyclists, continuous moorers or dog walkers, but unless they are ruthlessly enforced they are a complete waste of time. The Cornish council employs someone to enforce the rules and they are not frightened to prosecute. The size of the fine (which was probably exacerbated by the unco-operative attitude) and the resultant publicity will certainly encourage other dog walkers to comply.

There are some signs that CaRT is beginning (at last) to bear down on continuous moorers; I talked to one recently who told me that she was tied up on a remote towpath location and on the 15th day she received a polite email from CaRT telling her that it was time to move on, which she did.

Cyclists, of course, are more of a problem since they are entirely unregistered, carry no identification and can get away from any enforcer at speed. Until government requires all bicycles to carry a number plate it is difficult to see how CaRT can carry out enforcement against the dangerous ones. Until this happens, and I am not holding my breath, I feel that CaRT should ensure that all their towpath enhancements include frequent speed bumps designed to keep cyclists down to a safe speed. Where I live on the Kennet & Avon there is no problem as the tree roots in the towpath serve this purpose admirably and safe shared use is perfectly possible, though I do wish more cyclists carried a bell.

Licence experience

Just for the record I must record that our licence renewal this year went through without a hitch. We wanted to have a Gold licence for 2016 so it was slightly more complicated than usual, but it was issued and reached me without any problem or significant delay.

Navigation authority

As we're off to the Thames and the Fens I noted Jimmy Lockwood's diatribe about CaRT taking over the Environment Agency (EA) navigations, and have to say I entirely disagree with him. It defies logic and common sense to have two different authorities for inland navigation and it is much easier to hold CaRT to account, where it only has the one function, than the EA, where navigation is a very small part of its job and most people would think its responsibility for flood defences was a much more important part of its remit.

CaRT already controls the navigation on numerous rivers and I would guess that the mileage it is responsible for is already greater than the EA's. CaRT/BW have a better track record for maintaining and restoring navigations; there are several locations where the EA is avoiding its responsibility to maintain navigation (Welches Dam for example) and have we forgotten already the failure to dredge at Denver Sluice which made it unusable?

Let's give CaRT all the navigation responsibilities, including the separate ones like the Middle Levels and the Avon, and leave the EA to do what it is supposed to do and defend us against floods (and cosset the wildlife, of course.)

David Hymers