February 14, 2006

Canal perils

I met a man last night who had recently fallen into the Coventry canal. He was cycling along the towpath when a swan startled him, causing him to veer and knock his helmeted head on the side of a bridge. This caused him and his bicycle to career into the canal.

Luckily he was wearing special clothing – he had normal clothes at his workplace.

I've long thought that the canal towpaths in Coventry and Warwickshire were too narrow for proper cycle tracks.


- 4 comments by 2 or more people Not publicly viewable

  1. Chris May

    I thought it was illegal, in the general case, to ride on towpaths? They're not rights of way AFAIK.

    On the Grand Union around leamington you're supposed to get a permit from British Waterways (the landowner) before riding on them. (Not that anyone ever does).

    Personally I tend to avoid them. As you say, they're a bit narrow, being designed for a horse going at 5MPH, and in my experience full of ramblers and dog-poo out of town, and chavs and broken glass in urban areas.

    I wonder whether the helmet was a good or bad thing in this scenario ;-)

    14 Feb 2006, 10:11

  2. For legalities see link

    There's positive encouragement of cycle use between Trentham Road (Hillfields) & Hawksbury junction (see map on British Waterways site). A lot of money has been spent on improving the towpath there – but there's just not enough room for an good solution. I'm not convinced that Sustrans has got the surface right on some of these tracks – brake cables seem to get filled with dust in dry weather and riders covered with mud in wet – the latter is no encouragement if you just want to cycle to the shops.

    I find the largest amounts of broken glass to be around off licences and clubby-pubs – all that binge drinking.

    As far as "chavs" go, it's often a case of "give a dog a bad name and he'll answer to it". In other words if you look full of disdain you will get a bad response. A matey attitude is a better approach.

    14 Feb 2006, 11:11

  3. Paul Kearns

    I use the canal towpaths daily, and it’s great to see increased usage now that the better weather has arrived. The other morning there were 5 of us cycling along in a row. A traffic jam I didn’t mind!

    10 May 2007, 16:09

  4. How wide is the path? The “Cycle Friendly Infrastructure” recommend a 3m minimum for bothway cycle traffic. If I found myself at the back of a line of four cyclists I’d be very wary of overtaking on that towpath – although an audible warning of approach might be useful (on Swiss ski slopes people sometimes yodel).

    11 May 2007, 09:08


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