Our canal towpath network represents an incredible recreational resource that is enjoyed by millions of visitors every year. The Kennet and Avon is an excellent case in point, since it is used by cyclists, walkers, runners, boaters, anglers, canoeists, and even the odd horse pulling craft along the water.
Having so many different activities in close proximity means that people must share the space considerately if they are going to get along. Unfortunately, there is always the odd inconsiderate person who upsets the delicate balance of give and take, and recently there have been reports of runners and cyclists charging along canal towpaths at top speed in order to set the best link times on Strava.
The Canal and River Trust has tried to respond to the problem by creating the Towpath Code, which clearly states that cyclists should slow down and give way to pedestrians and other waterway users. This has been promoted through the ‘Share the Space, Drop Your Pace’ campaign.
However, this has not been sufficient to completely eradicate the problem and in some places the Trust has carried out trails of speed reducing features such as speed bumps and chicanes in an effort to make the code self-enforcing. Unfortunately, these have the potential to cause additional problems, particularly for wheelchair and pushchair users. They also create hazards for users who may not be expecting them, particularly when using towpaths at night.
In order to get a better understanding of the extent of the problem and to identify possible solutions, the Trust has decided to carry out a survey of towpath users. This asks:
- how you currently use the towpath network
- if you have had any negative experiences whilst using the network (e.g. crashes, near misses, or confrontations)
- whether or not you use technology to track your speed when using towpaths
- your impressions of how fast people generally travel on towpaths
- your thoughts on chicanes, barriers and any other potential speed reducing features
The survey takes about 10 minutes to complete and by giving your views, you will be entered into a prize draw to win one of three £50 Wiggle vouchers. The consultation runs until 20 January.