BaNES to hold consultation sessions on towpath upgrade

Following pressure from local residents, towpath users and some boaters, BaNES Council is holding two public consultation sessions on 28th and 29th August regarding its plans to upgrade the towpath along the Kennet & Avon Canal between Sydney Gardens and Bathampton.

Local residents have expressed concern about the lack of consultation by BaNES about these plans, which will not only mean the loss of some trees, but will increase the danger from high speed cycling for all other towpath users such as boaters and their children; walkers; families out for a weekend stroll; anglers; dog walkers and their pets, and people who use mobility scooters. Five residents started this petition which more than 300 people have signed. One of the reasons for the objections by local residents is that the Council was originally only planning to consult cyclists. Thanks to local opposition, BaNES now appears to be holding a full public consultation.

BnNES Council states that it has “developed preliminary proposals which include improving the surface for year round use and widening the towpath where possible”. Unfortunately the plans also include improving the footpath that leads from Grosvenor Bridge (by Kensington Meadows) to the canal but this section of the ‘upgrade’ does not appear to be included in the consultation.

The proposals will be presented at two sessions where the public will be able to submit their views as follows:

Friday August 28, 2-8pm: Bathampton Village Hall

Saturday August 29, 11am – 5pm: New Oriel Hall, Larkhall

Boaters, walkers and other towpath users have frequently raised concerns about the dangers caused by high speed cycling on towpaths that have been improved with a smooth surface, including the western K&A where BW received a large grant from Sustrans to upgrade the towpath from Bath to Devizes. BaNES Council states that the upgrade is being funded by £650,000 from the City Cycle Ambition Fund; BaNES has been allocated £3.8 million over the next three years.

There has been a growth in speed trials on the towpaths with cyclists using the Strava web site to record and beat each others’ times. The route between Bath and Bradford on Avon is very popular for these cycle races. Other towpath users have tried to pressure CRT into preventing high speed cycling but so far CRT’s only action has been its ineffective Towpath Code. In many places where the towpaths have been upgraded for cycling with funding from Sustrans or local authorities, the path is too narrow to meet the 2.5m width specification for a safe shared path. In recent years there have been numerous near misses and a number of accidents caused by fast cyclists where slower towpath users have been hurt.

Cllr Anthony Clarke (Conservative, Lansdown), the BaNES Cabinet Member for Transport, is the lead Councillor responsible for this project. His email address is
anthony_clarke@bathnes.gov.uk if you have any comments or questions about the development.

This is the wording of the residents’ petition:

“We are calling for a far reaching public consultation about the plans to resurface and widen the towpath from Bathhampton to Sydney Gardens in and to remove trees from the path that links the Grosvenor Bridge to the towpath.

£675,000 has been allocated to improve conditions for cyclists on the towpath. So far, it appears that only the views of cyclists have been taken into account. There is a lack of awareness of the proposed works amongst many towpath users.

This is a much loved route for many. We are concerned about the implications for the majority of canal users who have not had an opportunity to express their views. This includes hundreds of walkers, anglers, boaters and dog walkers. Many people are worried about the potential for increased numbers of cyclists travelling at speed on the towpath. The towpath, at its widest, will be 2.5 metres. This is unlikely to be enough to make a safe, ‘shared space’ for all users.

Once the work has been done, it will be irreversible. The Canal and River Trust stress that it is crucial to have a public consultation on any new towpath design in order to avoid future conflict.

There have been comments made that there will be a Code of Conduct for cyclists. It will be difficult to ensure that is policed and adhered to.

We are calling on the council to give us an opportunity to voice our concerns in a fully open and public meeting. This meeting must be fully publicised to ensure that all parties are made aware of the date and time and nature of the meeting”.

See also

http://kanda.boatingcommunity.org.uk/the-rising-conflict-between-cyclists-and-pedestrians/

http://kanda.boatingcommunity.org.uk/cycling-and-safety-on-the-towpath/

See www.strava.com to find out just what speed some cyclists are travelling and whose record they are trying to beat – which could explain why many cyclists are rude, aggressive and refuse to give way to pedestrians.

Here is CRT’s Towpath Works Specification document BW Towpath design spec2012

Here is CRT’s Towpath Policy 8533-national-towpath-policy

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