Shock tactics in canal towpath campaign.

The shockingly graphic posters that have been erected. Click on the image to enlarge.
The shockingly graphic posters that have been erected. Click on the image to enlarge.

Those who fear improvements, planned for the canal towpath into Bath, will lead to a cycling take-over are using shock tactics to get their message across.

Graphic posters have been erected around the Grosvenor Bridge access route to the canal towpath into Bath showing the bloodied face of a woman who – we assume –  has been in collision with a cyclist.

Though the poster talks about ‘widespread evidence for an increase in speeding cyclists where towpath upgrades have already been done’  l have been told the image is of someone who does not live in this area and comes from an ‘incident’ which occurred elsewhere in the country.

Meanwhile, the poster says the Kennet and Avon Canal towpath is – l quote -“widely publicised as a part of the Two Tunnels circular cycle route and there has been a big increase in cyclists. Many cycling experts say that 2.5 metres is not wide enough for a busy shared path.”

Is there room for walkers and cyclists?
Is there room for walkers and cyclists?

The poster urges that the views of all canal users needs to be heard and mentions the two up-coming B&NES consultations on the improvement proposals.

Adam Reynolds who is Chair of CycleBath.
Adam Reynolds who is Chair of CycleBath.

The first is on Friday, August 28th at Bathampton Village Hall from 2 to 8 pm and then on Saturday, August 29th at the New Oriel Hall in Larkhall between10 am and 5pm.

The Virtual Museum has been talking to Adam Reynolds who is the Chair of CycleBath – an organisation that is campaigning for a better cycle infrastructure in Bath and also promotes cycling as a form of transport.

The Kennet and Avon Canal towpath into Bath
The Kennet and Avon Canal towpath into Bath

Improvements are being made possible thanks to a successful bid for City Cycle Ambition Funding by the Council, which has been allocated £3.8 million over the next three years.  £650,000 is available to undertake the works on the towpath.

This will include an improvement to the towpath along the Kennet & Avon Canal between Sydney Gardens and Bathampton, and two cycling facilities across the River Avon near Bath Spa Station and Locksbrook Bridge.

Basically its money awarded to promote cycling being used to upgrade the towpath.

Adam gave his version of the remedial work that is needed.

We met on the towpath on a wet Monday morning.


  1. Reblogged this on CycleBath and commented:
    Not only do you get an interesting article, you also get to see me sporting an acceptable moustache. Please please please attend the towpath consultations happening on Friday (Bathampton Village Hall 2-8pm) and Saturday (New Oriel Hall, Larkhall 11-5pm)

  2. I am horrified to hear of a new towpath to facilitate bikes.  I have been associated with the canal since1971 and always understood that bikes were tolerated.  In fact it wasn’t so long ago that bikes needed a licence to use the towpath. 

    What position are the k and a association and the British waterways adopting? 

    Even at present walking the towpath has become unpleasant due to incessant bells from bikes in a hurry. 

    I hope this towpath work will be disallowed 

    Sent from Yahoo Mail on Android

    From:”THE VIRTUAL MUSEUM OF BATH” Date:Mon, 24 Aug, 2015 at 17:06 Subject:[New post] Shock tactics in canal towpath campaign.

    Richard Wyatt posted: ” Those who fear improvements, planned for the canal towpath into Bath, will lead to a cycling take-over are using shock tactics to get their message across. Graphic posters have been erected around the Grosvenor Bridge access path to the canal towpa”

    1. Hi Nicholas,
      This work is not being done “for bikes”. It’s being done under the CRT’s “Better Towpaths for Everyone” policy

      This is a national policy with the intention of resurfacing ALL 2000 miles of towpaths, where necessary, widening towpaths to make them useable all year round.

      To portray this as a “cycling” improvement is exactly what the shock campaign is trying to achieve and you have fallen for it. It was never about improving it for cycling. The CRT has been seeking money to repair the eroded path since 2011. The CCAG money has enabled this work to happen. The Seven Dials scheme in the city centre is primarily a pedestrian scheme financed through CCAG money.

      It is just a source of money that must be used to improve the public realm for walking and cycling.

      This will provide an even (not specifically smooth) draining surface for walkers, people with pushchairs, people in wheelchairs, and people cycling. It will also enable the installation of signage educating people to “Share the pace and drop your pace”.

      You also appear to completely ignore that the towpath from Bath to Reading is part of the National Cycle Network Route 4 and has been for many many many years.

      21.6% of BaNES residents (39,812) ride a bike at least once a month and the pressure on shared paths is increasing. To really solve this, the council needs to start creating on-road segregated cycle lanes. People are taking long detours via towpaths rather than try and share space with HGVs. The council’s lack of serious support for creating segregated space for cycling massively encourages pavement cycling.

      Preventing a sensible upgrade to enable the towpath to make it useable for ALL types of users ALL year round because of “speeding cyclists” is cutting your nose off to spite your face. The towpath is horrible after heavy rain and unusable by wheelchair.

      We need the “Better Towpaths for Everyone” approach that the CRT is taking to its National Network. We also need a serious conversation with BaNES councillors as to why they allow council officers to deliver horrendous schemes that encourage people to seek shared traffic free routes or cycle on pavements.

    2. To Nicholas Page: I’ve been involved in the Kennet & Avon Canal since 1969, when I first started joining work parties clearing the locks at Caen Hill at Devizes. I think the proposed improvement to the towpath will be an excellent idea. Part of the problem at the moment is that the current towpath is in such a poor state of repair that cyclist have to zigzag across the whole width of the towpath to find a puddle free and smooth surface to ride on. This can be very disconcerting for walkers, If the path were improved, then cyclist could choose a much straighter, predictable path.

      Most cyclist use bells not to indicate that they are in a hurry, but to warn walkers ahead that they are approaching, so that they won’t be startled by the sudden appearance of a the cyclist behind them. It is a gesture of consideration and politeness, not of “get out of my way”. In my experience the Two Tunnels route, which has a much wider path than the K&A towpath, rarely has any conflict between any of the different types of users, and that is because there is sufficient space for all.

  3. The following paragraph, written by Adam Reynolds, is taken from the Cycle Bath website (9th March 2015):

    ‘Bath to Bathampton along Kennet and Avon Canal

    The canal is considered one of the busiest walking and cycling towpaths in the country. The Canal and River Trust Towpath design guidance allows the width of the path to be increased dependent upon the traffic upon it. There has been a discussion where the path width was to be set at 2.5m, however given the immense amount of footfall, and based upon the experience of the Two Tunnels, I would suggest an attempt is made to make it at least 3m wide and where the path is obviously worn even wider. The visual clues that the path width is 4m worn wide should be used as a guidance. The CRT Towpath design (PDF) guidance does advocate 4m wide paths in places of high footfall.
    I also feel the CRT’s guidance that people can ‘step off’ the path and give way provides a hostile environment and puts people who cycle in a bad light. It is our duty to minimise conflict on the towpath and this can only be achieved designing out conflict. A 2.5m path is unsuitable along this route.’

    I am confused. Does Adam think that the towpath is suitable for conflict free sharing or not? I understand that the towpath will be 2.5 metres at the widest and that Adam is now very much in favour of increasing the number of cyclists along this route. I also have on record that Adam does not advocate shared space as a safe option for cyclists and pedestrians. I would welcome an explanation.

    1. I stand by the idea that to create a conflict free space on the towpath you would widen it as much as possible, particularly on the section from Beckford Road to the ramp down to Grosvenor Bridge. If safety was the only concern then people would be pushing for a 4m wide path. However the heritage of the canal needs to be taken into consideration and compromises are being made to affect a long needed repair.

      I do not personally believe that repairing one 2.4km section of a 7km route will in anyway increase the cycling along it. There is already more cycling than walking along this route. Cycling is going up year on year as a leisure and commuting activity and will put more pressure on the towpath.

      I will say this again. Using Cycle City Ambition Grant money to put a gold plated repair on a towpath is a poor use of cycling money. The ramp is the only bit that actually will benefit the cycling within the city. The towpath itself just needed a new draining surface. Then again that didn’t stop them using CCAG money to deliver the Seven Dials shared space.

      I think shared space is horrendous but is cheap for councils to implement and ticks boxes. However if we want to remove cycling from the shared spaces we need to provide segregated space on roads. I’ve written about it

      Jane I know you hate strava, but I came across this the other day and it shows how horrendous the A36 is with many experienced riders choosing to come off there and onto the towpath. If we want to get cycling off the towpath we have to start getting on-road protected cycle lanes.

Comments are closed.