There are a lot of things about this really are irrelevant to CycleBath. It’s an existing poorly maintained, rough, and mostly muddy towpath that becomes almost unusable in mid-winter. In fact the erosion is so bad that the Canal and River Trust have been desperately looking for money to fix the path for years. The CCAG fund has given them this opportunity to make it accessible and mud free all year round for all users, walkers, pushchairs, wheelchairs and, of course, cyclists. What they seem to not get is that the council officers chose how to spend the CCAG money, not CycleBath. I don’t think it’s a bad spend of the money, but it could have been better allocated to create better networks.
However there are people that want to portray this as a mission by CycleBath to tarmac it, fell all the trees and make it good for cycling. I’m ok with that. I honestly do not care what happens to the towpath as long as the full width of the towpath and path connecting the towpath to Grosvenor Bridge is made use-able all year round. It helps get more people cycling. It helps a lot more people use the path in mid-winter. It makes it accessible to all.
I will admit there is a young tree over a massive hole caused by a stream eroding the Grosvenor bridge path that probably needs removing as part of repairing the stream bridging point. It’s a safety issue. The other trees on the path are magnificent and only one tree marginally impacts the path width, but should not be cut down.
There are obviously major issues with the current useable width and the poor interaction between bad users of the towpath. A lot of close passes by people cycling and some collisions. Making the full width (2.5m) of the towpath use-able all year round and promotion of the towpath code of conduct should solve these issues. It’s worked on other towpaths and even on the Two Tunnels. It has a good chance of working here. Doing nothing is simply not an option given the chance the CRT has to finally make this a more accessible path and better for ALL users. Education is key to managing bad behaviour.
Talking about bad behaviour, “Collective responsibility”, the act of lumping all “cyclists” into one group and then blaming them seems to be the name of the game here unfortunately. Just remember CycleBath is focused on creating infrastructure good enough for you to let your kids cycle to school. Fixing an existing poorly maintained path that is slowly being eroded away is way down the list of our priorities. Getting your child safely to the path is WAY more important.
Now go sign the petition. We need a public consultation.
It was exceptionally fortunate to have David Fearne there. As K&A Trust chair he was able to keep people informed. It was re-assuring to know that anything done to the towpath would be done to exceptionally high standards and must preserve the heritage of the K&A waterways. The CRT are GOOD people.
There was a lot of fear about what a smooth surface will do to the speed of cycling along the towpath. It was good to get the focus on to the benefits to everyone else. The path currently excludes people with disabilities and families with pushchairs.
It was emphasised that any work to the towpath would also include promotion of the towpath code of conduct. The towpath code of conduct is a key part of educating bad users, not keeping the path in a bad state of repair to hopefully curtail bad behaviour.
Further to this, Cllr Lin Patterson emailed me this morning and stated that a public consultation will be held by Cllr Martin Veal (Cabinet Member for Communities Services) [TO BE CONFIRMED WHEN] on this. I will see you there.
I will keep people informed as I find out more. I have informed the CRT of this meeting. Hopefully they will be in attendance.
Of note, I sent Martin an email and in it provided him a timeline of CycleBath’s involvement. This is important for people to read:
- Nov 2014 : £114M CCAG Money announced.
- 30 Dec 2014: CycleBath hold workshop to determine their request to the council’s Cycle Forum on the 7th of Jane 2015 for what the BaNES bid should be.https://docs.google.com/document/d/1yAZSp_9Tkp9DCE_YUEMO_uCpXmdekMNX4_b4i8yRgIY/edit?usp=sharing
- 12 Jan 2015: With much negotiation this is the final letter: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1qgaIvltlwrtmd0fjVQN1S9S_NeQebB-Ig3fRxgMgX2I/edit?usp=sharing ads the council officer has decided the CCAG bid will deliver two new bridges and the repair to the towpath. LEP money would be bid for to provide the Weston and Newbridge Hill routes CycleBath desperately want done.
- March 2015: £3.8M CCAG money awarded. Cycle Forum is held, CycleBath begins it’s work on it’s own proposal for expanding the CCAG Bath East to connect better with communities. https://cyclebath.org.uk/ccag-bath-east/ A public consultation is promised.
- Elections blow things up. No consultation is held.
- Before the CCAG money came along, council had allocated £180k to upgrade Larkhall path and part of towpath in the 2015/16 budget. This can still be used to ‘fix’ towpath connections.
- The Canal and River Trust, Sustrans and the council have been trying to find money to do urgent maintenance on the K&A towpath for many years. CCAG solved this for them. https://cyclebath.org.uk/2015/06/17/the-towpath-and-getting-things-wrong/
- Towpath is cared for and owned by the CRT. They are unbelievably tough when it comes to what is done to the towpath.
When you campaign for better cycling infrastructure to get more people cycling, you can very quickly get focused on fixing what you perceive as issues and move on from what you see as the obvious. The upgrade of the towpath and ramp was one of those things that I, and Cycle Bath, saw as an obvious thing. As can be seen by the Cycle Bath CCAG Bath East bid the ramp and towpath are pretty much mentioned in passing. The focus is on connecting communities to schools and the heart of the city. Getting more people cycling.
I’d like to apologise to the people that signed the letter in the chronicle. The way this has all gone makes me feel uncomfortable and I don’t think my “I know a little bit more about the history of the towpath upgrade” attitude has in anyway helped.
I also think the fact the council’s Cycle Forum promised a public consultation on the work and then this never materialising has not helped either. Again I think (I do not know) this comes about because, from the council’s point of view, the upgrade of the towpath and ramp are “obvious” and there is a previous “agreement” in place with the Canal and River Trust to get this done . I believe (I do not know) that the CCAG bid money has now been limited to the towpath and ramp upgrade, and this is why the public consultation will not happen.
For the people that love what the towpath currently is, this is a low blow. I cannot apologise for the lack of a public consultation. It was not mine to give. I had written multiple emails over the months trying to get the date of the consultation.
From Cycle Bath’s point of view we do not connect communities, we do not get child friendly routes from communities to schools and the heart of the city. We do not fix Batheaston to Bathampton, no toucan upgrade across London Road and no new toucan on Beckford Road into the back of Sydney Gardens and connecting to the Cleveland pools. It means years of campaigning to get the extra bits done to get safe routes to the towpath.
Now if possible I’d like to get into why Cycle Bath and the council thought the towpath upgrade was “obvious” and it comes down to a planning objection letter linked in the heated discussions on the Bath Chronicle website.
Continue reading The Towpath and getting things wrong
As some of you might be aware and many of you may not, the BaNES Cycle Forum held on Tuesday discussed the Cycle City Ambition Grant, in particular how to proceed with delivering the £675,000 Bath – East Grosvenor Bridge improvement.
Due to the timescales (we need to get started in April), we need to move fast. So a public workshop will happen in the next two weeks where all the various options will be presented and then ratified into one ‘final’ design. To facilitate this workshop, tomorrow I am hosting a guided tour and on bike workshop of the project area. If you want to understand the complexity of the issues and what issues need solving, you should attend this.
Meet 10am Kingsmead Square, this Saturday, 14th of March for a ride/walk through Sydney Gardens exiting at the play area gate, cross over to K&A towpath, down to Grosvenor bridge, across to Lambridge, explore St Saviours, down to Morrisons, back along Meadows to Grosvenor bridge. Out to Bathampton, then to Batheaston to discuss Batheaston Carpark plans with the people hosting the event there.
Bring Tape measure and camera. Expect detailed discussions AND very slow riding pace with frequent stops and some bits to be walked.
Please at least read this post where I discuss some of the ideas of what is possible.
See you Saturday!
PS: Probably will have a Fish and Chip lunch at Batheaston.