Huddersfield Narrow Canal Path
Over the summer an upgrade to the Huddersfield Narrow Canal Path was completed as part of the West Yorkshire Combined Authoriy’s City Connect program. This was officially opened earlier in September (see separate report).
This project builds on previous work to improve the section between Huddersfield Town Centre and Milnsbridge to further extend the upgraded path to Slaithwaite.
Before the upgrade the canal path consisted of a worn dirt path.
The new path surface mainly consists of stone chippings bound by a layer of asphalt. Photo show part of the path before and after excess chippings where swept.
Cycle Kirklees welcomes this upgrade, it will benefit many users of the path. In particular this opens the path up to those on cycles, in wheelchairs and those on foot who don’t want to wade through mud. For those cycling it creates a great leisure route and will be valuable for some for utility cycling, getting to and from work, school, shops etc.
However this is still a Canal Path upgrade and as such suffers from the same limitations as other Greenways with added problems specific to shared canal paths.
Conflicts with pedestrians
This is a shared route between pedestrians, cyclists and people fishing and at less busy times this can work fine. However when the route gets busy, for example in summer when the weather is nice or at peak times when people are getting to work or school, this can become annoying to pedestrians feeling they have to keep getting out of the way and to cyclists having to keep slowing down.
West Yorkshire Combined Authority have a target of increasing cycling rates by at least 2,000% in order to achieve net zero by 2038. As cycling rates increase along this corridor it won’t be long before it becomes busy creating even more conflict with pedestrians unless alternative safe infrastructure is also provided.
There are problems when the path gets busy but there is also the problem of how safe users feel at more quiet times. Unlike routes along roads, passing by houses and businesses, canal paths have limited access points and can feel more secluded. Also the path is unlit a particular problem winter months.
Usefulness of the route
Because of the geography, the route is most useful to those who live along the valley floor near the canal. For anyone whose journeys start or end along the sides of the valley (e.g. in Golcar or along Manchester Rd) they cannot be expected to cycle down to the towpath and along before having to cycle back up the steep valley side to their destination. On highway routes that follow the contours along the valley also need upgrading with safe infrastructure.Another problem is that the route ends short of Huddersfield Town Centre – a problem in common with the Birkby-Bradley Greenway.
Obstacles and width restrictions
There are a number of places where the path narrows to go under bridges. For example see the narrow cobbled incline to under a narrow bridge below:
Another particularly narrow point is shown below where the path passes between a protruding wall and canal gate handle. At this point the width is between 80 and 90 cm, this could limit some non standard cycles being able to use the route.
This upgrade was well worth doing and creates a pleasant route along the canal. However, it is only part of the infrastructure needed along the Colne valley to provide safe attractive cycling routes between the places people need to get to. More is needed to get more people cycling shorter journeys rather than driving.