Revealed: the mystery man behind canal safety signs
A RETIRED driving instructor has been unmasked as the man behind a safety campaign aimed at cyclists who speed along the Union Canal. Self-confessed canal champion Stan McWhirter, 66, aroused speculation after secretly erecting fly-posting safety advice for cyclists along the towpath last summer.
Today as he admitted he was behind the mystery notes he welcomed the news that British Waterways has now erected signs restricting cyclists to top speeds of 6mph.
The trial, which will run for the next two months, will also see British Waterways employees conducting surveys with towpath users to determine whether the new signs have had an impact on reducing the speed of cyclists.
The move follows tensions between pedestrians and cyclists over the speed at which some people cycle on the narrow path.
The Evening News carried two stories about the phantom posters which had canal users and community groups scratching their heads over who was responsible.
Mr McWhirter from Balcarres Street in Morningside, created the posters after conducting an experiment on how many cyclists use bells to alert walkers to their presence.
He said: "Somebody was actually injured one time by a cyclist going too fast so one day I decided to sit at the Canal Society boat house and I counted 62 cyclists in two hours and only thirty-six of them used their bells.
"I decided to write the notes to encourage more people to do the same.
"I took me a long time to write them because I like to be very diplomatic and I was trying to appeal to their good nature.
"I would hide behind something to see if people were stopping to look at them.
"It was gratifying to see that people did stop and I think that they did take notice of them."
He added that he welcomed the British Waterways' initiative, saying: "It's good when people actually listen to what people are saying. Persuasion is better than shouting at people."
As well as being responsible for encouraging courteous cycling, Mr McWhirter is also behind the towpath's litter-free look.
He spends hours clearing rubbish from the path every week.
His efforts, from Wester Hailes to Harrison Park, have been praised by the local community, with regular canal users often seeing Mr McWhirter in action.
Bridget Stevens, chairwoman of Merchiston Community Council, described Mr McWhirter as "an unsung hero".
She said: "I think it's wonderful. As a result, the towpath is always spotless. It's the kind of spot that would normally be overflowing with litter if he wasn't there cleaning it up all the time."
Mr McWhirter became a member of the Edinburgh Canal Society about eight years ago.
He added: "They did a spring clean every year, but I felt it needed cleaning more regularly than that.
"I do about three days a week, usually about an hour at a time."
A spokesperson for British Waterways said: "In response to consultation with users of the towpath, we have introduced signs asking everyone to observe a 6mph speed limit.
"Our aim is to ensure all users have a safe, enjoyable experience."
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