Letter: Jostling for space on the towpath

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The Independent Online
Sir: Your article on the rival network of cycleways promoted by National Byway was prefaced by a reference to canal fever ("Cycle scheme rivals on path to conflict", 11 November). We are one of many canal societies concerned about the plans by Sustrans to promote their cycleways on canal towpaths.

We recognise that there is long-established use of canal towpaths for cycling and we hope that it will continue. What does concern us is any proposal to create formal cycleways along towpaths.

If devised as an alternative to cycling on general highways, cycleways would not be needed just in daylight hours. Lighting would be demanded. Similarly, regular users would expect a well-surfaced track with safety barriers. Sustrans' general proposals already envisage such treatment.

In built-up areas neither lighting nor hard surfacing need be a problem but guardrailing can be dangerous for people who need to disembark from boats. However, the bulk of our canals either run through open countryside or provide a rural finger through otherwise built up areas. Thoughtless conversion to cycleways would destroy much of the very character that attracts people to them.


Calder navigation Society

Sowerby Bridge, West Yorkshire