Sharing the towpath
In the April and June editions, cyclists asked if it was too much to expect a metre-wide level gravel strip, an issue that tests the charitable nature of other towpath users. May we make four polite points: 1 In the previous century, boaters readily shared towpaths with horses, lock-wheelers, and others; the towpaths could get muddy in wet weather. 2 Since 1946, boating groups have seen the perennial lack of official funds to maintain our wonderful waterways to even the basic statutory standard. Instead of waiting for a fairy godmother, volunteers navvied in mud, raised countless millions of pounds and faced up to the authorities, thus by their own physical efforts rescuing the network from decay and restoring hundreds of miles of lost canal and river navigations; a citizenled process still continuing across England and Wales. 3 By contrast, Sustrans received a multi-million pound windfall from Whitehall in the 1990s, but when the old BWB asked cycling groups for a paltry sum per head (with insurance thrown in), it was flatly refused. 4 Boaters can well understand that cyclists want to escape from the awful intimidating traffic on our roads, so cyclists should realise that other traditional towpath users also have the right not to be intimidated. Faster cycling surfaces are judged in this light. We have said enough.