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Cycling campaigners close to winning campaign to have towpath resurfaced
PART of the towpath along the Oxford Canal could be resurfaced a year after cycling campaigners were told it was too narrow for the work to be done.
Oxford City Council has said it will pay for the work to upgrade a neglected 1,100m stretch of the canal towpath through North Oxford.
The work has been earmarked in its budget for the next financial year and was unveiled on Wednesday. However contributions will be needed from Oxfordshire County Council and the Canal and River Trust.
City councillor for North ward Louise Upton said: “This is exactly the sort of initiative we need to make cycling safer. As far as possible we want to get cyclists off the streets and on to safer, dedicated paths.
“I hope this will encourage more people to get on their bicycles.”
The section of track which leads from the Walton Well Road bridge to the Aristotle Lane bridge is uneven and difficult to cycle upon.
But last December Government-funded charity Sustrans said the city-centre route will not receive any money because it is 20cm too narrow.
It went on to say there is no chance of the path being widened, because the verge next to the canal is a protected habitat for water voles.
At the time Sustrans said it asks for a minimum of two metres for this type of work to be carried out and the problem would not be resolvable.
The towpath was upgraded between Isis Lock and Walton Well Road in 2010 with £150,000 from Oxfordshire County Council.
Richard Mann of cycling campaign group Cyclox said: “The reality is that lots of people do use that route and it is a useful connection that links West Oxford and the train station to North Oxford.
“It is now very bumpy and it is a missed opportunity. There are some routes near Grandpont which have become very well used after being resurfaced and this will help people, particularly with children, to get on to their bikes.”
County council spokesman Sam Henry said: “We have received a request for a financial contribution towards a city council project to resurface part of the Oxford Canal Towpath. We are currently in the process of assessing the proposal.”
James Clifton, enterprise manager for the Canal and River Trust, said: “We are delighted that the city council has offered to contribute a large part of the funding needed to improve this popular stretch of towpath, extending the Jericho section which was funded by the County Council and ourselves.
“Providing the remainder of the money can be secured, we would be delighted to carry out the work.”
City council spokesman Louisa Dean said: “The council’s budget for consultation proposes that the Cycle City budget be increased to ensure schemes like this can happen, and this one is a top priority.
“However, the budget won’t be approved until February 2014 so it is too early to give details on how much the council will be spending or when work will start.
“We are now looking forward to working with the county council to agree how these Cycle City schemes can be funded.”
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