A man from Sheerwater in Surrey has appealed for more consideration between canal towpath users after an angry exchange with a cyclist culminated in death threats. The man had been walking along a stretch of Basingstoke Canal on Thursday August 20 when one of his two dogs emerged from a bush, in the path of what the man himself describes as a ‘racing’ cyclist.
Get Surrey reports that the alleged incident took place halfway between Sheerwater Road and the West Byfleet Lock Cottages. The walker reported the matter to Surrey Police, but has been told that it is unlikely they will be able to do anything.
“He came to a sliding halt and then he just started swearing at me. He told me to control my dog, and I explained that the towpath was not a racetrack. I said it was used by young mothers and children and that he should slow down.
“We had probably been talking for no more than 20 seconds and then he said ‘I will find where you live and murder you and your entire family’. I was stunned. My first thought was for my family.”
The man also said that the cyclist had been going particularly quickly. “Most of the cyclists on the towpath are ambling along," he said. "This person was really racing along. I think sometimes these people try to time themselves.”
On its website, The Canal & River Trust points out that pedestrians have priority on towpaths. “If you’re in a hurry, consider using an alternative route for your journey,” is the suggestion.
In 2013, Sustrans told cyclists not to race on shared use paths, asking riders to slow down or even keep off them. The organisation also called for apps like Strava to highlight routes that were inappropriate for fast cycling. CTC spokesman Roger Geffen agreed, pointing out that walkers can feel as intimated by fast cycling on shared-use paths as cyclists are by fast driving.
Parts of the Basingstoke Canal towpath have undergone improvement works in recent years and the man believes that the improved surface may be encouraging a number of cyclists to ride more quickly.
Last week, posters expressing concern about ‘speeding cyclists’ featuring a photo of a woman’s bloodied face were put up alongside a canal in Bath. The towpath in question has been earmarked for improvements after the council successfully bid for Cycle City Ambition funding. However, it seems that a number of canal users are concerned that this could lead to the stretch being overrun by cyclists.