British Waterways Board (BWB) have run an excellent Two Tings programme since 1987. This has attempted to foster understanding and considerate behaviour between people on bikes and those on foot. It has been widely supported by members of the community, Councillor Martin Klute and local organisations : Islington Cyclists Action Group, Friends of Regent's Canal, and Islington Living Streets.
The latest intervention by BWB was the recent installation of speed humps, which has received a major thumbs down from pedestrians and cyclists alike as covered in the Tribune last Friday Bumpy start for speed humps as Regent's Canal towpath cyclists give them a miss. The speed humps fail to deter cyclists from travelling too fast and perhaps more significantly, present a serious obstacle to those with mobility impairment. Among pedestrians there is a significant number of vulnerable people, or those caring for the vulnerable: the young, the old, those with hearing, sight or mobility impairment; few cyclists can be so described.
As Chair of Islington Living Streets, I've ensured we've joined the debate and supported Two Tings, while refusing to see this as a polarised "us and them" situation between pedestrians and cyclists. Recently, the Islington Living Streets Committee has realised that many pedestrians have effectively been excluded by the overall volumes of cyclists on the towpath and this we anticipate will get worse. Whether or not this is because of the poor behaviour of a minority of cyclists is not altogether clear, but as an organisation representing those on foot we feel we should try to seek alternative solutions.
This prompted my recent letter to the Tribune Regent's Canal towpath cyclists need an on-road route that's safe, which suggested that people who are cycling either dismount and push their bikes through the narrow Islington section of the towpath or take an alternative on-road route. For what is in effect a ban on cycling - not cyclists - to be perceived as fair, the on-road provision has to be safe, high quality cycle infrastructure that is a pleasure to use. Whether anything like this (and the consensus to make it happen) is achievable remains to be seen. I'm heartened by the response of BWB who've called a meeting next week. Hopefully we can get rid of the unwelcome humps and find a way for all residents whatever their age or mobility to enjoy the peace and tranquility of a walk along the towpath.