Cyclists on towpaths are a menace says The Guardian

Published: Monday, 12 August 2019

HARD hitting comment indeed of speeding cyclists on the towpaths by Paul Townsend, Home Affairs Editor of The Guardian.

Paul wrote that on roads, cyclists are vulnerable—but on towpaths they're the menace and that the use of Britain’s narrow canal towpaths as cycling commuter routes is not sustainable and adds it’s time to ban bikes at peak times.

Highly regarded national newspaper editor

This comment by an highly regarded national newspaper editor will perhaps come as a shock to Canal & River Trust, but will certainly not to us boaters who have either been hit or had narrow escapes from speeding cyclists on the towpaths that really are not wide enough for both them and pedestrians.

In his hard hitting article Paul quoted the case of Katie Jackson who heard a screech of brakes and then a cyclist speeding off, but looking back saw her kitten had been struck, that died just minutes later in her arms.

Causing misery to others

Up to then, he told that as a cyclist it was the final straw, and he abandoned the towpath as a commuter route and has not regretted it, no longer feeling uncomfortable swerving past mothers with prams or cutting up small dogs that made him feel ashamed at causing misery to others.

Paul points out what Canal & River Trust, in its desire to upgrade its towpath for cyclists, cannot understand. That is many of the UK’s towpaths are narrow and cannot be widened, meaning it is impossible to separate pedestrians from cyclists, writing:

"Take a canalside seat at rush hour and watch the chaos unfold. Guaranteed, you will witness a litany of near-misses. Amid the blur of rushing metal, wide-eyed pedestrians nervously sidestep their way to work. The soundtrack is one of shrill bells interspersed with the squeal of brakes.

"Predictably, there are accidents. Anecdotal cases reported along Britain’s 2,000 miles of canal include descriptions of hit-and-run cyclists crashing into guide dogs and pensioners.

"Canals, particularly in rush hour, have become the domain of bicycles, the trucks of the towpath. Some travel so manically they are called cyclopaths.

"These waterways should be calm spaces where people seek solace."

Or perhaps put another way it should be 'Better by Water'.  But alas, as The Guardian editor points out—all too often it is not.