Since when did cyclists ‘own’ the towpath of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal?

Since when did cyclists 'own' the towpath of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal?
Since when did cyclists 'own' the towpath of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal?

I have often wondered just when it was that cyclists started owning the towpath on the Leeds and Liverpool Canal.

Some of my favourite local walks involve stretches of the canal towpath from Hapton right through to East Marton.

It is a great stretch of canal which includes beautiful countryside, industrial heritage and more than enough opportunities to enjoy refreshments along the way.

It is also, largely, tranquil but close enough to main roads to cut your journey short should the East Lancashire weather get the better of you.

But nowadays it seems to be a cycle route with everyone else treated as second class citizens.

Many cyclists I encounter seem to believe they automatically have the right of way and that simply sounding a little bell or yelling means that everyone else has to jump out of the way.

I, of course, have no problem with anyone taking some exercise and enjoying the great outdoors.

And there are many reasonable cyclists who treat other towpath users with due respect and even say thank-you when stand aside so they can whizz by.

But I have a couple of questions. Firstly, the towpath used to have barriers which meant cyclists had to dismount and push their bikes through a narrow opening.

It slowed them down and gave everyone else on the towpath a chance. But why are they now all broken, offering no obstruction at all?

Were they officially removed or is their destruction nothing other than wanton vandalism?

And secondly, if a cyclist is slowing my progress as I drive around in my car, would they immediately expect to stop, or move aside, if I simply sound my horn at them?

Of course they wouldn’t.

On one walk near the Mile Tunnel I received a verbal blast for a cyclist who thought sounding his little bell would make me simply move aside.

I can assure you that half-an-hour later as he laboured up a country lane he got a taste of his own medicine as I, having waited patiently, gave him a bit of Straight Talking as I passed at an appropriate time.