Appeal to speeding cyclists on Falkirk canal paths to slow down

The speed at which some cyclists travel along Falkirk district towpaths and other routes popular with walkers will end up causing accidents and injury, according to a local resident.

By Jonathon Reilly
Tuesday, 27th July 2021, 4:45 pm
Updated Tuesday, 3rd August 2021, 10:25 am

Former STV presenter Nicky Docherty is adamant people will get hurt if nothing is done to address the issue.

Scottish Canals’ policy is to encourage those on bikes to dismount at places like road crossings, bridges and blind bends.

However, having experienced and witnessed a few close calls, he is calling on police and politicians to take action to discourage those on bikes from cycling at speed on pathways used by pedestrians.

Concerns have been expressed over the speed of some cyclists who use Falkirk district canal paths which are popular with pedestrians. Picture: Michael Gillen.

Mr Docherty, who also worked as a radio station newsreader, has drawn his fears to the attention of Falkirk West MSP Michael Matheson, Cabinet Secretary for Net Zero, Energy and Transport.

He said: “I’m an avid walker and initially I raised my concern over the towpath in Allandale where I was continually being bothered by people on bikes.

“Had I not deviated, I was going to be hit or end up in the canal.

"I said to Michael Matheson, ‘Something needs to be done because someone’s going to be seriously injured or end up in the canal’.

Nicky Docherty has experienced and witnessed close calls involving speeding cyclists and walkers on routes along the Forth and Clyde Canal. Picture: Michael Gillen.

“I noticed over lockdown incidents of people using the pavement as, effectively, their private road. They’re using it as their personal super highway and this happens constantly.

“Every day when I’m out I see cyclists hurtling along the pavements and it’s going to lead to somebody being killed, mark my words.

“If this is allowed to continue to happen then somebody’s going to suffer a serious injury or end up being thrown off the pavement into the path of an oncoming vehicle – and nobody seems to care.

“It’s an accident waiting to happen.”

Five-year-old Emily Hill knocked down by an electric motorbike in West Yorkshire. Picture: SWNS.

Mr Docherty continued: “I’ve been involved in notable occasions but I’ve witnessed it time and time again.

“I got off the bus the other evening and on the route back to where I live is an underpass. There is a blind bend at the other side, and this guy nearly knocked me down on a racing road bike.

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“It happened to me in Falkirk with two women on ebikes who came hurtling towards me.

A plea has been made to cyclists to slow down on the area's canal paths

“In one of the other incidents I was walking and, had I deviated because of a pothole or an uneven surface, if I’d taken a step to my right I would’ve been knocked out by a young guy on a bike. He literally clipped my ear!

“On Tuesday I saw two guys coming off a pavement, going across the pelican crossing and almost wiping out a partially sighted young girl carrying a stick.”

A story of a five-year-old girl who was left scarred for life after being struck by a “near silent” electric bike convinced Mr Docherty to take matters into his own hands.

Emily Hill was dragged 50ft down a West Yorkshire street by the electric moped and now faces cosmetic surgery after suffering numerous facial and head wounds.

Mr Docherty believes rulings indicating when cyclists must dismount on pedestrianised routes like towpaths are essential.

He said: “The article was the trigger.

“I’ve highlighted this to Mr Matheson, Falkirk Council’s sustainable transport coordinator, and I've spoken to police.

“When I saw the article, I thought, ‘this is what I’ve been saying for over a year now’.

“This is an accident waiting to happen. That child, for the good grace, is still alive but needs cosmetic surgery. Because that happened in Bradford, it doesn’t mean it’s not going to happen in Falkirk.

“I’m raising these concerns and I’m just being rubber-eared. What do you have to do to initiate some sort of response?”Mr Docherty highlighted the fact that Glenrothes in Fife has disembark signs, and added: “There should be some sort of regulation where, if there’s no space to carry a person on a bike and a pedestrian, the cyclist should dismount and walk.

“They’re travelling at speeds of 15-20mph in a confined space and that can do serious damage.

“This line of communication has been ongoing for more than a year and it was highlighted by the child in Bradford who, only for the good grace, isn’t dead.

“If that doesn’t set alarm bells ringing, goodness knows what will.”

Mr Matheson said: “I have raised this matter directly with Falkirk Council and I have sought assurances that all avenues are being investigated to increase the safety of pedestrians and cyclists who share these paths.

“Everyone should be able to enjoy our outdoor spaces in a safe manner and that means people should be considerate of others and ensure they are using these spaces appropriately.

“This includes, but is not limited to, cyclists reducing their speed on paths, utilising bells to alert pedestrians, giving pedestrians and other cyclists space when passing, and dismounting at crossings and busy points on their route.”

As bicycles are classed the same way as all other motor vehicles, the matter can only be legally enforced by police.

Chief Inspector Mark Patterson, of Police Scotland’s Road Policing Unit, said: “Bicycles should be used on the road or a designated cycle space.

“Both pedestrians and cyclists are classed as vulnerable road users. Every road user has a responsibility to keep others safe, and particularly other road users more vulnerable than they are.

“If you are cycling in shared space near pedestrians then it is important to give them space when passing and to slow down or dismount entirely if this is not possible.”

A Falkirk Council spokesman said: “Our path networks are for everyone to enjoy safely and we’d expect anyone to show courtesy to any other users while using them.

“Being considerate is important at all times and, if in doubt, consult the Scottish Outdoor Access website about using outdoor spaces.”

A Scottish Canals spokeswoman said: “The towpaths along our shared blue and green spaces are available for use by those walking or cycling and these traffic free routes allow users to enjoy the outdoors whilst commuting or as a leisure activity.

“We discourage cyclists from speeding on our towpaths and encourage users to dismount at road crossings, bridges, aqueducts, blind bends and at canal weirs.”

Visit the Scottish Outdoor Access Code good practice guide for more information.

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