NABO comments on CRT’s “Sharing Towpaths” proposals.

NABO believes that it is absolutely fundamental to recognise that the prime users of towpaths are boaters, who contribute around a quarter of CRT’s annual income. There must be recognition in the Towpath Code of the need for other users to respect boaters and their needs. The needs of boaters should also be paramount in future towpath improvements.

Boaters in the London Better Relationships Group, using the findings of the GLA review, have been pressing CRT for additional mooring rings to be installed during towpath upgrade works. They have also been pressing for other enhancements to boating facilities such as additional refuse points. NABO supports these calls for improvements and notes that other users, apart from boaters, also need access to these facilities.

NABO observes with concern that “Principle 3” states that towpaths should have free access for all users who wish to walk, fish, cycle etc. Since when has fishing been free? Also, cycling was not included in the CRT set-up rules from DEFRA, and only free walking access was required to be maintained. Why is cycling given away as free now and set up as a 'principle'?

Discussions also need to be held with Sustrans about their code of conduct. We accept that not all cyclists are Sustrans members but many are. The conflict between high speed and inconsiderate cyclists with other towpath users has reached serious levels and action is urgently required. In some cases the towpaths have become a race track for events or rapid access to work. Like other towpath users, cyclists need to be encouraged to take litter home. We would like to point out that the work that BW’s WUSIG (Waterway User & Special Interest Group) drew up guidance for cyclists that addresses most complaints about cyclists.

Mike Rodd