Dick Vincent London Towpath Ranger addressed our meeting on 15th October 2012. Dick worked for British Waterways for a year and since July has worked for its successor the Canal and River Trust. He told us then that the Canal and River Trust wants to revive the idea of providing good quality cycle routes on nearby roads.
Soon after that, Rosie Tharp (ex LCC) was appointed Strategic Routes Coordinator and she has been very active in contacting local LCC groups and others including Friends of the Earth. Early in December, Angela Hobsbaum and Jean Dollimore had joined Rosie for a ride along the Camden section of the canal. Rosie had told us that canal access points are high on her agenda, so she said the route shown in green on the map below looked like a good one to kick off with. We inspected the canal access points and considered how they would link up with existing cycle routes. The squares show the canal access points: the locations indicated by the green squares have ramp access whereas those at the red squares have stairs. Rosie confirmed that she believed good links between cycle routes and the canal are an aim in her project. The access points requiring attention are at Camley Street, Kentish Town Road and Oval Road. The red crosses indicate one-way roads in which contraflow cycling would be needed to provide a sensible two-way route. These include a short section of Camden Street, Hawley road and St Marks Square. We assume that the northern end of Royal College Street will receive the promised treatment.
Could we make a better route?
The route marked in green above would be really useful for people moving between the canal and one of the cycle routes (marked in blue). It would also be useful for bypassing Camden Lock. For that reason it seems an essential starting point. However, it is rather an indirect and zig-zagging course for someone who wants perhaps to bypass a longer section of the canal, perhaps we should also plan a more direct route e.g. between Royal College Street and St Marks Bridge (the western most green square). Also the green line between Oval Road (westernmost red square) and St Marks Bridge is very inconvenient compared with the towpath.
At one of our discussions, Alex Santacreu had raised the issue of being more ambitious. The orange line on the above map shows such a route. It would go along Pratt Street/Delancey Street. Rosie told us she had inspected that route with Brian Deegan and that he is keen on the idea. She suggested that we could arrange an informal meeting with Brian and someone from Living Streets to brainstorm alternative route proposals.
At the end of December, the BBC London News covered the alternative routes project. See the news. Although the BBC tried to sensationalise the story, Rosies interview was excellent as were those from Caroline Russell of Living Streets and Trevor Parsons of Hackney Cyclists .