Suggestions for Sustrans

Published: Friday, 13 August 2010

EVENTUALLY getting a cycling safety leaflet from Sustrans, boater Kathryn Dodington was amazed to find there was no reference whatsoever concerning cycling on towpaths.

So was prompted to write to James Burden of Sustrans voicing her concerns:

Dear James,

I am concerned not only as regards Sustrans owned towpaths but also as regards Sustrans 'sponsored' waterways—I cannot think of a better word to use. e.g. The Basingstoke Canal for which eight miles of towpath have been upgraded under a Sustrans budget. We are always told it is a Sustrans budget—of course the views I have expressed are mine insofar as this email is concerned but do not only apply to the Basingstoke Canal but a large number of waterways in England.

When working a boat through a lock focus is on the safety of the people around the lock and on the boat as there is a huge amount of mechanical energy used to raise (or lower) a boat in a lock—approximately 25,000 gallons of water (more on the bigger locks and less on 'narrow' locks). There is nothing in the guide you attached that talks about saftey around locks—in some cases there is very little room (especially with moving balance beams—the method of opening and closing a lock gate).

I have some suggestions to alter/add to your document but I suspect it would be much more preferable if someone with waterways experience was to spend time with Sustrans to make them aware of the issues that boaters would like taken into account.
My suggestions for changing your document as as follows:

Old—These are designed for shared use by cyclists and walkers.

New—These are designed for shared use by cyclists, walkers, boaters and fishermen.

Old—Give way where there are wheelchair users and horse riders.

New—Give way where there are wheelchair users, horse riders, boaters and fishermen. Be very careful around moored boats and locks on waterways as boaters may be pre-occupied with attending to their craft and/or the lock operation and may not see and/or hear you or there may be a mooring rope and/or mooring spike which could be hidden from a cyclists view.

Add—When passing a lock which is being used please dismount and walk past the lock when the way is clear.

May I also suggest that Sustrans may gain some understanding of the disquiet there is in the boating community by looking at the website and reviewing the concerns expressed about cycling on towpaths.

I am happy to help and as a cyclist who always has a cycle on her boat I understand, I think, both sides of the coin.