Should the Towpath Idiot of Year Award go to the bloke who drove a motor bike straight at me yesterday, or should it go to me for deliberately standing in his way ? Read on.
There we were, at West Drayton, doing our bit for the Trust. Our big boat Jena was moored just by the bridge, on board an exhibition showing the plans for towpath improvements
lots of charts, maps, leaflets etc and a few of us on hand to explain and answer questions. Outside the boat we were accosting passers by and generally having a sociable time.
Then from under the bridge a young man appeared riding a trials type motor bike. A couple of the CRT staff stopped him and asked him to take his bike off the towpath, it being illegal and unsafe. The young man wasn’t at all impressed by this advice(surprise surprise) and forced his way through. I was standing on the path pretty much exactly where I stood to take the above photo, so I thought I’d have a go at stopping him, standing in his path with my arms spread. So what did he do? Open the throttle and drive straight at me. I thought he would stop when got to me, but he didn’t. Luckily I remembered my matador’s training (OK that bit might not be true) and just got out of his way at the last millisecond. We collided, but not heavily and he broke through and escaped. You might (or might not) be glad to know I was unhurt physically or psychologically, although I did spill the coffee cup I was holding, but it could have been much worse. I’m sorry to say although this was the first time I have been charged down by a motor bike, I have on a few other occasions been charged by nasty pedal cyclists refusing to stop.
Well, we thought we’d better alert Mr Plod so we dialled 999 and twenty minutes later two very nice constables arrived in a squad car and took down the details. Naturally we couldn’t agree on how old the miscreant was, or what colour his clothes were etc etc. because it all happened very quickly and he was gone. The policemen told us that motor bike towpath complaints were frequent in the area, a fact we already know because we did a little investigation of our own a year or two back.
It was all a bit poignant because only a week or so ago a couple of CRT guys who I know but will not name, were attacked by cyclists on the towpath near Southall. That was much much worse and knives and bike chains were used against the staff. Luckily no serious physical injuries were involved although as you would expect they guys were badly shaken up and are now understandably nervous about being out on the towpath in such places.
The official CRT advice (especially to volunteers) is of course not to get involved in confrontations, just walk away, but in the heat of the moment it’s hard not to try and stop people who are being complete bastards.
You’ll be glad to know that the rest of the day was fine even though we moved on to the notoriously dodgy area by Hayes bridge. and all in all we had discussions with about 120 towpath users virtually all of which were pleased about the improvement plans. Today Jena moves (without me) to Uxbridge Rd moorings and then to the Black Horse. Should you be passing by, do stop and learn about the coming improvements and give your views. You might get a sweetie and a cup of coffee. Yesterday they even had Jaffa Cakes. I’ll be back on board on Friday as we move ever closer to Paddington.