The Canal & River Trust has had some complaints about cycling behaviour on busy parts of the towpath, mainly from pedestrians who have been scared by cyclists passing too fast or too close. They have responded by adopting a Tow Path Code with a slogan 'Share the Space; Drop your Pace'. They also ask all towpath users to sign a pledge of (effectively) responsible conduct covering an assortment of different ideas.
All very good - but is it effective and could/should more be done? Is it only the responsibility of the C&RT to exert pressure? Irresponsible behaviour is not confined to the towpaths; any restricted space - town centres, shared space paths and parks are all affected.
Presumably some offenders are unaware that they cause anxiety to other users and may respond to a sign such as the C&RT slogan (which they say are placed on some of the Birmingham canals). More hardened offenders presumable feel it is more important that their journey takes preference over consideration for others. It is difficult to imagine that they are totally unaware that passing close or fast without warning is acceptable. Giving an audible warning and a wide berth when passing seems the least that should be expected. Pedestrians, often oblivious to other users, dog walkers, fishermen also have their miscreants but they rarely cause the nervous reaction caused by a near miss or a speeding person on a bike.
In addition to the authorities which govern these areas does a cycling organisation such as Push Bikes have any role in influencing those admittedly few cyclists who cause problems? And if so, how?
Firstly we can set an example; as individuals we can show obvious, possibly exaggerated, courtesy. A gentle early bell, a slow, wide approach, a pleasant word and friendly gesture. What about a non aggressive 'please slow down' to people cycling fast in the opposite direction? Placing pleas on social media may have little effect as they wouldn't be seen by likely offenders. We could work with the authorities in developing their plans to educate transgressors.
What no-one wants are artificial barriers to force speed reduction that would upset the vast majority of responsible cyclists and reduce the use of these beneficial routes.