Thursday, 17 June 2010

Meet your "canal ranger" and spread the love on London's Regent's canal ...

I went to a slightly unusual press conference this morning on the Regent's Canal, just by King's Cross, London. Unusual because it was really just a couple of us standing on the towpath with some very nice people from British Waterways. The message was - cyclists, "take it easy on the towpath". But I did also learn that there is a message for pedestrians too - when you hear the famous "two tings", you should try to stand aside to let the cyclist past. And, during peak times, take those headphones off. All very sensible.

Jo Young, Towpath Ranger

But I think what I found most fascinating about the whole thing is that there exists a ... "towpath ranger". And I met him. For some reason, I've always rather liked the idea of having the word "ranger" in my job description. Obviously you think of Lone Ranger, but there are all those other rangers out there in the USA fighting crime and generally making the world better. 

Anyway, Jo Young, by all accounts a seriously nice guy, spends his days roaming the towpath along the Regent's Canal on foot and on his bike, giving friendly advice to cyclists and pedestrians about how to behave on the Canal. And probably lots more besides.

I interviewed him using my helmet cam. Rather embarassingly, the interview is mainly with his reflective vest rather than his face, so I thought it best to save the embarassment and just stick a still up instead. 

A couple of things I found especially interesting: 

I asked him how bad the aggro is between pedestrians and cyclists - how many incidents? He said that in terms of reported collisions there were about ten in the last year. But clearly there's a lot more "low level" stuff where words are exchanged but no damage is done. Does ten seem a lot? I don't know.

He was also keen to stress that one bad experience with one cyclist tends to make the pedestrian tar all cyclists with the same brush - and vice versa. So a friendly wave, a thank you, a smile, especially when someone goes out of their way to wait for you, or help, makes all the difference. 

I asked him whether it's just coincidence that several parts of the canal are currently closed or part of a concerted improvement plan. He said it was just coincidence. 

He also said that if people reading this blog wanted to funnel questions or observations about the canal to him, he'd be happy to have me chat through issues with him. I promise that I'll bring some more sensible recording gear (e.g. iPhone) and get him properly in vision. Do use the comment form below if there are issues about the canal you want raised.

Anyway - all the info about the "two tings" campaign, and the things British Waterways has got organised for next week, National Bike Week, can be found at the Two Tings site.  

6 comments:

Ella Thomas said...

HI KarmaCycle! I am thrilled to hear of the towpath ranger, and similarly wish it was my job. It makes you feel safer to know there's someone so lovely and seemingly caring out there. Keep up the egood work,Jo! And we look forward to hearing more from you when KarmaCycle gets his recording act together...

KarmaCycle said...

Thanks Ella. Perhaps we should all just add the word "ranger" to our job description and see how it turns out.

Yup - sensible recording equipment would be good. Helmet cam is great but you have no clue where it's pointing. Sometimes you get very nice video of half an hour of the road.

Natalie said...

My main issue on the towpath is that pedestrians seem to be unaware of the two tings policy. I've had a number of people having a go at me as they assume I'm being aggressive rather than just being considerate. This is going to be even more of a problem since I've replaced my "ting" bell with a rather loud Chinese bell. Even my other half accused me of being "a bit aggressive with that thing" when all I was trying to do was stop a couple of women wavering under my bike wheel! Hey ho.

KarmaCycle said...

Oooh I like the idea of a Chinese bell ... sounds exciting. It's funny isn't it that a bell can sound aggressive - but I know exactly what you mean. I've been trying to make my bell sound apologetic by sort of muffling it with my hand immediately after I've rung it. But I suspect I'm at least half mad. I confess that I sometimes don't ring my bell if I feel that, to judge by the back view, the person won't understand the two tings rule and also looks rather aggressive. Amazing what you can deduce from someone's back.

Mark said...

The whole 'two tings' thing is what prompted me to change my bell (sounds crazy I know!) I used to have one of those 'ting! ting!' bells where the bell is struck with a little hammer that you pus with you thumb and it sounded so shrill and aggressive and wasn't having the desired effect. So I swapped it for an old fashined bicycle bell with the hammer inside on a spring which goes 'ding dong'; it sounds much more gentle, and I get a much better reaction from pedestrians (except those wearing their headphones - grrrr!) As you say KC, it's all a matter of karma: the peds need to learn to move to one side when they hear a bell (don't just freeze and stand there!) and cyclists need to learn to slow down on the canal (it's not a road after all), use their bell, and use it early.

PS Being a Canal Power Ranger sounds like a great job!

KarmaCycle said...

I think you're on to something Mark with that nice sounding bell. I've still got the aggressive external hammer type and I think it probably is quite annoying. Perhaps I need to go and find someting a bit more mellow. But perhaps keeping a monster fog-horn in reserve for when I get on the big streets and there's so much noise no-one has a chance of hearing you! KC

PS like the sneaky addition of "power" to the job title ...