Tuesday 19 January 2010

Suppressing cycling by rivers and canals

Cycle lanes should be built in wide open spaces segregated from traffic where possible. If they want to encourage cycling in the suburbs of Enfield, Haringey, Waltham Forest, Hackney, Newham &Tower Hamlets they could begin by making sure the canal paths of the River Lea & Regents Canal are smooth, paved & tidied up.

That way people from inner London & outer London areas like Tottenham Hale could cycle more easily all the way to the Stratford Olympic park or Canary Wharf on segregated cycle paths away from traffic & through some nice parkland.

I cycled there recently. They have existing cycle routes along these canals but facilities have fallen into disrepair (rocks, glass, slabs on path) & are not well known or signposted. In the Netherlands many cycle paths are right next to canals but for some reason on the TFL journey planner they don't have routes along canals or river Thames, even though these river side paths would be the most safe way through London without encountering traffic. The routes are not as direct as on the road perhaps, but they are safe enough for novice users to feel comfortable in - at least during the daytime. That will encourage more people (who would never cycle on roads) to start cycling.

- Joseph, Tottenham

‘Joseph’ is right, but of course no one involved in promoting cycling in London will give a toss, because cycling promotion is all about marketing and spin rather than practical investment in infrastructure. I’ve blogged recently about the atrocious condition of a Lea Valley dedicated cycle lane in the London Borough of Hackney.

I remember trawling through the archives of the Hackney cycling group and coming across the group’s discovery that “British Waterways does not want cyclists on its land” – an observation which I find entirely credible. The existing Lea Valley towpath is grossly inadequate for the high volumes of walking and cycling traffic it experiences. Who determines this miserable state of affairs? The car supremacist board of British Waterways, presumably, even though it is state-funded and wholly owned by government.

It’s another symptom of the dismal state of cycling in this country, the hostility towards cycling by national and local government, and just about every state-funded institution from the diseased, car-dependent National Health Service to the unaccountable management of British Waterways.

Meanwhile with the Olympics just two years away, the cycling route along the River Lea to the Olympic site is crap – too narrow, crumbling, and with teeth-rattling humps designed to bring cyclists to a juddering halt. How apt that this route ends underneath a giant sewage pipe.