Canal & River Trust wants your views on sharing towpaths

Consultation on proposed Towpath Code will close on Friday, May 2

by John Stevenson   April 22, 2014  

Canal in Dudley (CC licensed on Flickr by Brianac37)

A consultation on towpath use being conducted by the Canal & River Trust with a view to introducing a code of conduct for users will close on Friday 2 May – and it is running an online survey to canvass the views of those who use the paths along the waterways of England and Wales.

The charity is currently drawing up a National Towpath Use policy with the help of local authorities and communities, aimed at improving the experience of people who use towpaths as well as encouraging safe, shared use.

It also wants to attract more visitors – according to the Canal & River Trust, half the population of England and Wales live within five miles of one of the waterways

A six-page document, Sharing Towpaths, outlines the background to the consultation and also sets out a proposed Towpath Code, which is repeated at the end of this article.

The document notes that most towpath users are pedestrians and emphasises that they have to be given priority by cyclists.

Possible steps to encourage safe sharing include erecting “pedestrian priority” signs; using more volunteers to patrol paths; and perhaps even “physical measures with the aim as not to inconvenience.”

The trust says it may also introduce campaigns along the lines of the Share the Space, Drop Your Pace initiative which introduced a code of conduct for London’s waterways such as the Regent’s Canal, used by an estimated 500 cyclists an hour at peak times.

Feedback can be given either by completing a survey or by email, with views being sought on the proposed Towpath Code as well as in the following areas:

  • Do you experience problems on your local towpath?
  • What additional priorities should we address in our code of conduct?
  • What behaviours should we seek to encourage?
  • How should we encourage better sharing of towpaths?
  • Should we adopt the same approach in all areas, urban and rural?
  • How should we balance the needs of busy communities with capacity of the towpaths in those areas?

Here is the proposed Towpath Code, based on the one developed for London under the Share the Space, Drop your Pace campaign:

Share the space – consider other people and the local environment whenever you’re on a towpath. Remember some people may move less predictably, for example young children or those with visual or mobility impairments.

Drop your pace – considerate sharing of the limited towpath space is the key. Jogging and cycling are welcome, but drop your pace in good time and let people know you are approaching by ringing a bell or politely calling out before waiting to pass slowly.

Pedestrians have priority – towpaths are shared spaces where pedestrians have priority and vehicles, except bicycles and mobility aids, are generally excluded.

Be courteous to others – a smile can go a long way. Abusive or threatening behaviour is no acceptable and should be reported to the Police.

Follow signs and obey local bye-laws – they are there for the safety of everyone. Cyclists should dismount where required and use common sense in busy or restricted areas, recognising that pedestrians have priority.

Give way to oncoming people beneath bridges whether they are on foot or bike and be extra careful at bends and entrances where visibility is limited.

Give way and use common sense when travelling in large groups, especially if you are running or cycling.

Avoid wearing headphones as this makes you less aware of your surroundings, possible hazards and others sharing the same space.

Keep dogs under control ideally using a short lead on busy towpaths and clean up after them.

Dog fouling is unpleasant for other towpath users and is a health hazard.

At all times, keep children close to you and encourage them to learn and follow the Towpath Code.

36 user comments

Latest 30 commentsNewest firstBest ratedAll

Cyclist wrote:
I ride down the canal towpaths regularly, I shout from at least 100m then 50 etc on your left or right, if they make no attempt to move or move across into my line I don't move or slow down, if they do then I will always slow and say thanks. I don't blame kids under 10ish or dogs. A couple of summers ago I shouted at the top of my voice to a fisherman who had one of this great white fishing poles across the path I was well over 100m away he looked straight at me and carried on doing his thing, so I ran straight over his pole, lovely crack. I consider myself to be considerate to others in every way, however one chance is all you get as that is all I will get from a lorry.. However ref the headphones and walking, let's talk about idiotic cyclists who wear them..idiots, far more so than walkers on a canal towpath.

I really hope you can swim!!

One day you might do that to the wrong person.

Some people wonder why there is a poor perception of cyclists, might I suggest that behaviour like that above may have something to do with it?

posted by freespirit1 [171 posts]
22nd April 2014 - 20:29

38 Likes

You are just the sort of guy who gives the rest of us a bad name and the reason
why there will be objections to cyclists sharing tow paths, or any other footpath for that matter.
Have you have considered that the people you are shouting a warning too might have impaired hearing or poor sight?

posted by Condor flyer [19 posts]
22nd April 2014 - 20:31

37 Likes

I drive on roads regularly, I sound my horn at least 100m then 50 etc, if cyclists make no attempt to move or move across into my line I don't move or slow down, if they do then I will always slow and wave I don't blame kids under 10ish or dogs. A couple of summers ago I parped at a cyclist who had one of bikes lying on its side across the road I was well over 100m away he looked straight at me and carried on doing his thing, so I ran straight over his bike, lovely crack.

I consider myself to be considerate to others in every way, however one chance is all you get as that is all I will get from a lorry..

Sound familiar?

All Campag

posted by Flying Scot [551 posts]
22nd April 2014 - 20:37

44 Likes

Cyclist wrote:
I consider myself to be considerate to others in every way, however one chance is all you get as that is all I will get from a lorry...

What's a lorry doing on a towpath?

sector4's picture

posted by sector4 [2 posts]
22nd April 2014 - 20:38

36 Likes

I drive on roads regularly, I sound my horn at least 100m then 50 etc, if cyclists make no attempt to move or move across into my line I don't move or slow down, if they do then I will always slow and wave I don't blame kids under 10ish or dogs. A couple of summers ago I parped at a cyclist who had one of his bikes lying on its side across the road I was well over 100m away he looked straight at me and carried on doing his thing, so I ran straight over his bike, lovely crack.

I consider myself to be considerate to others in every way, however one chance is all you get as that is all I will get from a lorry..

Sound familiar?

All Campag

posted by Flying Scot [551 posts]
22nd April 2014 - 20:39

14 Likes

Canal towpaths are fine for leisure usage but are not very good for commuting during the lighter days when others are using them for leisure - the fishermen, joggers, dogs and walkers. As a transport system it doesn't work well.
I wrote a blog on our local canal a few days ago - http://blog.andy-goodman.co.uk/2014/04/traffords-cycle-networks-part-2.html

posted by Andy G [19 posts]
22nd April 2014 - 21:58

12 Likes

I think there should only be one rule, and that is "Don't be an idiot".
I'm sure we've all witnessed numerous violations including:
Trying to set strava records or do intervals on a sunny saturday afternoon in June.
Cycling, walking, rollerblading three abreast to ensure nobody can pass in either direction.
Checking your email on your smart phone while your child or dog ambles to and fro across the path.
Deciding that the path is a suitable place ride your e-bike full speed while smoking cigarettes (a big problem where I live).

The list in endless. If only all users could use better judgement.

posted by isaacrsmith [6 posts]
22nd April 2014 - 22:48

24 Likes

2 rules:

Rule 1 - don't be a c*nt.

Rule 2 - obey rule 1.

Jobbus dunnus, as the Romans would say. Would apply to interweb forums too.

posted by allez neg [4 posts]
22nd April 2014 - 22:59

23 Likes

We shouldn't be turning towpaths into paths for commuting. They are, like any shared use path, completely unsuitable for handling a large number cyclists who want to travel at a speed faster than jogging pace AND should stay that way! I'm lucky enough to live next to the bridgewater canal which is one of very few places you can have a gentle ride with family along lovely scenery, the last thing I'd like it to become is a wrecking ground of strava segments and lycra like regents canal in London seems to be.

Don't tarmac over some of the few green spaces we have left in cities in a desperate attempt to get cyclists as far away from cars as you can. Instead be brave and give road space to bikes, heck even parking space will do. Only a network will make cycling a legitimate transport option, one GTFO the road, path along the canal does no good.

posted by cub [62 posts]
22nd April 2014 - 23:17

11 Likes

Oops

posted by CXR94Di2 [139 posts]
23rd April 2014 - 7:53

5 Likes

Cyclist wrote:
I ride down the canal towpaths regularly, I shout from at least 100m then 50 etc on your left or right, if they make no attempt to move or move across into my line I don't move or slow down, if they do then I will always slow and say thanks. I don't blame kids under 10ish or dogs. A couple of summers ago I shouted at the top of my voice to a fisherman who had one of this great white fishing poles across the path I was well over 100m away he looked straight at me and carried on doing his thing, so I ran straight over his pole, lovely crack. I consider myself to be considerate to others in every way, however one chance is all you get as that is all I will get from a lorry.. However ref the headphones and walking, let's talk about idiotic cyclists who wear them..idiots, far more so than walkers on a canal towpath.

Muppet. Karma will be coming your way

posted by CXR94Di2 [139 posts]
23rd April 2014 - 8:00

9 Likes

I used to ride to work on the towpath put they just arent great for commuting. Most of us ride quite fast on commutes and it just doesn't mix well with joggers, fishermen etc.

Great for gentle rides with the kids etc.

I can only imagine how busy the towpaths in London must get!

posted by NeilXDavis [111 posts]
23rd April 2014 - 9:28

8 Likes

sector4 wrote:

What's a lorry doing on a towpath?

following his sat nav instructions - DUH!

posted by RedfishUK [54 posts]
23rd April 2014 - 11:21

7 Likes

cub wrote:
We shouldn't be turning towpaths into paths for commuting. They are, like any shared use path, completely unsuitable for handling a large number cyclists who want to travel at a speed faster than jogging pace AND should stay that way! I'm lucky enough to live next to the bridgewater canal which is one of very few places you can have a gentle ride with family along lovely scenery, the last thing I'd like it to become is a wrecking ground of strava segments and lycra like regents canal in London seems to be.

Don't tarmac over some of the few green spaces we have left in cities in a desperate attempt to get cyclists as far away from cars as you can. Instead be brave and give road space to bikes, heck even parking space will do. Only a network will make cycling a legitimate transport option, one GTFO the road, path along the canal does no good.


While I agree with your sentiments and the need for proper cycling infrastructure
I use the Leeds/Liverpool canal to go 12 miles into Leeds. This is being "upgraded" with some of the £30m that Leeds got for the Super Highway. It will be surfaces - and not mentioned in the Trusts leaflets, money will be used to repair the canal banks which have deteriorated in a number of places.
The Canal gives a quick win, as all but the last 5 miles are in the countryside it is often quiet - deserted would be a better description, and avoids most of the big hills.
I wouldn't discount the use of tow paths too readily.

posted by RedfishUK [54 posts]
23rd April 2014 - 11:28

9 Likes

As well as cycling my other pastime is fishing. Whilst there are no canals round where i live i go on fishing forums which regularly have articles about tackle being damaged by people on bikes (and that includes all ages and types of bikes).

Its fairly common for someone to start such a topic and generally it ends with people saying the path is there to share and you have to be considerate for all users.

Generally i think everyone accepts this and people just need to be a bit more carefull. As for running over a fishing pole, these can be in excess of £3k to buy so i'm sure you wouldn't want your £3k bike getting wrote off by a numpty in a car would you ?

‘It is useless to meet revenge with revenge: it will heal nothing.’

stumps's picture

posted by stumps [2761 posts]
23rd April 2014 - 11:50

8 Likes

RedfishUK wrote:
cub wrote:
We shouldn't be turning towpaths into paths for commuting. They are, like any shared use path, completely unsuitable for handling a large number cyclists who want to travel at a speed faster than jogging pace AND should stay that way! I'm lucky enough to live next to the bridgewater canal which is one of very few places you can have a gentle ride with family along lovely scenery, the last thing I'd like it to become is a wrecking ground of strava segments and lycra like regents canal in London seems to be.

Don't tarmac over some of the few green spaces we have left in cities in a desperate attempt to get cyclists as far away from cars as you can. Instead be brave and give road space to bikes, heck even parking space will do. Only a network will make cycling a legitimate transport option, one GTFO the road, path along the canal does no good.


While I agree with your sentiments and the need for proper cycling infrastructure
I use the Leeds/Liverpool canal to go 12 miles into Leeds. This is being "upgraded" with some of the £30m that Leeds got for the Super Highway. It will be surfaces - and not mentioned in the Trusts leaflets, money will be used to repair the canal banks which have deteriorated in a number of places.
The Canal gives a quick win, as all but the last 5 miles are in the countryside it is often quiet - deserted would be a better description, and avoids most of the big hills.
I wouldn't discount the use of tow paths too readily.

The Bridgewater that both Cub and myself have referred to is similarly being upgraded and the council see this as being the answer for cycle provision for commuting. It isn't, it doesn't work in the summer months as there are simply too many people using it for conflicting purposes. Commuters need to move at a reasonable pace (not necessarily fast, but stop start on a tow path is no good) whereas other users want to mill around. The two will always be in conflict. It might be a quick win but it is wrong. The underlying issue is that there are too many people wanting to use travel means other than motor transport and the powers that be in this country are trying every means possible to solve the problem other than implementing the proven solutions that the Dutch use.

The other issue is that councils/government just don't seem to be able to see beyond providing leisure cycle facilities. The thought that somebody might want to use a cycle as a means of transport seems to be beyond them.

posted by Andy G [19 posts]
23rd April 2014 - 12:04

12 Likes

Cyclist wrote:
I ride down the canal towpaths regularly, I shout from at least 100m then 50 etc on your left or right, if they make no attempt to move or move across into my line I don't move or slow down, if they do then I will always slow and say thanks. I don't blame kids under 10ish or dogs. A couple of summers ago I shouted at the top of my voice to a fisherman who had one of this great white fishing poles across the path I was well over 100m away he looked straight at me and carried on doing his thing, so I ran straight over his pole, lovely crack. I consider myself to be considerate to others in every way, however one chance is all you get as that is all I will get from a lorry.. However ref the headphones and walking, let's talk about idiotic cyclists who wear them..idiots, far more so than walkers on a canal towpath.
I don't care how bird brained a pedestrian or fisherman is on a tow path - there is never ANY excuse for a premeditated assualt or act of deliberate criminal damage.

You bring shame on us all when you do things like that you selfish idiot.

posted by MKultra [227 posts]
23rd April 2014 - 12:05

9 Likes

Andy G wrote:
The Bridgewater that both Cub and myself have referred to is similarly being upgraded and the council see this as being the answer for cycle provision for commuting. It isn't, it doesn't work in the summer months as there are simply too many people using it for conflicting purposes.

It gets a bit rogue round Old Trafford/Trafford Park way, the narrow paths and high walls aren't ideal when you are being offered out by a hissing goose!

I used to use it quite a bit going to and from Navigation Road in Alti and it was lovely until you got past Stretford heading in to town. Where are the improvements being made?

Also, has anybody ever made the mistake of following the canal through town to the bottom of Canal Street? Christ, that is a grim, grim stretch of towpath. You can almost smell the murder!

posted by farrell [1457 posts]
23rd April 2014 - 12:22

7 Likes

farrell wrote:
Andy G wrote:
The Bridgewater that both Cub and myself have referred to is similarly being upgraded and the council see this as being the answer for cycle provision for commuting. It isn't, it doesn't work in the summer months as there are simply too many people using it for conflicting purposes.

It gets a bit rogue round Old Trafford/Trafford Park way, the narrow paths and high walls aren't ideal when you are being offered out by a hissing goose!

I used to use it quite a bit going to and from Navigation Road in Alti and it was lovely until you got past Stretford heading in to town. Where are the improvements being made?

Also, has anybody ever made the mistake of following the canal through town to the bottom of Canal Street? Christ, that is a grim, grim stretch of towpath. You can almost smell the murder!

Oh joy there's me thinking about hiring a narrowboat for the family this summer and heading along the canals Sad

‘It is useless to meet revenge with revenge: it will heal nothing.’

stumps's picture

posted by stumps [2761 posts]
23rd April 2014 - 12:33

3 Likes

I Live on the basingstoke canal (much more beautiful than the name indicates), using the towpath for walking with the family, dog, running and occasional cycling.

Cyclists who give notice they are riding up behind get good treatment, those that fly up too fast and expect me to jump out of the way will struggle to get past. Other than that, I always lets cyclists through, making sure the dog and kids are out of the way but only when the tow path is wide enough.

When on the bike, just ride with common sense and accept you do not have priority.

long poled Fisherman, do everyone a favour and pull your compensating rod in for everyone.

'It's the closest you can get to flying'
Robin Williams response when asked why he enjoyed riding so much

posted by Simmo72 [312 posts]
23rd April 2014 - 12:35

7 Likes

stumps wrote:
Oh joy there's me thinking about hiring a narrowboat for the family this summer and heading along the canals Sad

Round Greater Manchester? If you're being serious, just avoid the canals in and around the City centre and you'll actually have some gorgeous scenery.

The Ashton canal will take you past the velodrome and National Cycling Centre and then you can connect on to the Peak Forest canal and on to the Macclesfield Canal. Once you're up around Marple it is gorgeous, especially the aquaduct leading in to Marple Bridge.

I believe the Rochdale canal is quite nice once you get past Moston way and you can head over to Hebden Bridge.

The Bridgewater canal as mentioned is very nice to travel down once you're past Trafford Park way, I believe you can stop off very near Dunham Massey once you're through Altrincham/Timperley and that's always worth a visit.

*Edit* I've just remembered I was once riding down the Bridgewater canal round Stretford Marina and heard a bloke having a right row with what I assumed would be his missus, when I gingerly turned the bend expecting to be cycling through a domestic there was just one bloke with a can of something super strength in his hand and a duck pottering round the towpath.

A few frosty seconds of passing through the bickering couple wondering if it was me losing my marbles I heard the bloke rear up, and with a quick glance over my shoulder I saw him pointing at the duck and growling "See? That's your fault that, you're always showing me up...."

Needless to say, I just kept going.

posted by farrell [1457 posts]
23rd April 2014 - 13:19

7 Likes

Bridgewater improvements - currently finished from Brooklands to Watersmeet and from the back of Kelloggs to the Ship Canal. There's a 1/4 mile section from Watersmeet to Kelloggs where the canal wall is being worked upon at the moment - see my blog, link above.

The undergrowth has been cleared on the first part of the branch from Watersmeet towards Manchester, so I assume that this will be improved soon. Certainly the whole stretch from Altrincham to Manchester is due to be completed next year.

At the beginning of March the tow path was blocked near United for the building of Giggs and Neville's hotel, not sure what the diversion route is, if there is one or how long the closure is for.

As for geese, there's one on the unfinished bit near Kelloggs that will swim across the canal to have a go at you. I find that a sharp 'Boo!' sounds them cowering away, but I generally treat them with the respect you would anybody else on the canal.

posted by Andy G [19 posts]
23rd April 2014 - 13:20

5 Likes

Farrell, yep deadly serious, been looking through the Hoseasons site but cant decide which canal / route to follow. My mrs does a lot of running and wanted somewhere where she could let of steam whilst me and the kids did a spot of fishing hence the canals with tow paths.

The broads is no good as its just reed beds most of the time and your stuck on the boat, but i digress, thanks for the tips though.

‘It is useless to meet revenge with revenge: it will heal nothing.’

stumps's picture

posted by stumps [2761 posts]
23rd April 2014 - 13:28

11 Likes

stumps wrote:
Farrell, yep deadly serious, been looking through the Hoseasons site but cant decide which canal / route to follow. My mrs does a lot of running and wanted somewhere where she could let of steam whilst me and the kids did a spot of fishing hence the canals with tow paths.

The broads is no good as its just reed beds most of the time and your stuck on the boat, but i digress, thanks for the tips though.

http://www.penninewaterways.co.uk/cheshirering.htm

posted by farrell [1457 posts]
23rd April 2014 - 13:33

3 Likes

I use a short section of towpath on the Peak Forest Canal most weekends.

I got wolf whistled recently by two cackling ladies walking their dogs.

Everyone is generally chilled and lets face it lifes too short to worry overmuch.

Love, peace and chicken grease.

couldgetacarforthat's picture

posted by couldgetacarforthat [16 posts]
23rd April 2014 - 14:10

3 Likes

farrell wrote:

Also, has anybody ever made the mistake of following the canal through town to the bottom of Canal Street? Christ, that is a grim, grim stretch of towpath. You can almost smell the murder!

I don't think that's murder you're smelling...

posted by cub [62 posts]
23rd April 2014 - 17:07

1 Like

Surely everyone should treat others as they themselves would want to be treated.
Be reasonable and friendly.
Be an ambassador for cycling.
Otherwise, you're no friend of cycling.

posted by Recumbenteer [146 posts]
24th April 2014 - 6:47

3 Likes

Whilst I fully understand the need for the occasional speed slowing furniture, please be considerate.

Small speed humps that are designed for cars are really teeth-nashingly horrible to cycle over, if you're going to make a speed hump, please design it so that it's pleasant to cycle over at slow speed. And the irony is that it can actually be nicer to go over these things faster.

It seems that measures to slow cyclists have a tendency to go to extremes.

Gravel/similar, please don't use gravel on paths that cyclists will use, that nasty stuff gets all over the bike, it makes stopping hard and greatly increases the risk of losing control of the bike, especially for young, old and inexperienced riders. And at worst it gets kicked up as dust which gets into everyones hair faces etc.

Don't put up barriers that a double buggy or pushchair can't get past easily (Probably Illegal under the discrimination act).

Please don't start sticking signs all over the canal paths, they are an eyesore and the simple fact is a***holes will be a***holes regardless of how many signs you put up, don't spoil the paths because of a few idiots. Just paths

How can cyclists not give pedestrians priority? Do you think they are going to run over the pedestrians? Of course they're not. You don't have to tell them that pedestrians have priority. Priority is for 2-ton vehicles hurtling along roads, not cyclists and pedestrians.

Don't waste time and money on a code of conduct, I've cycled down Regents canal many times and a code of conduct will make no difference. What would make a difference is making the path a more uniform width and making sure it's level, I think it is positively dangerous in it's unevenness.

It boggles the mind that £20,000,000+ was spent pointlessly painting roads blue when a real difference could have been made completely renewing the canal paths.

Do you experience problems on your local towpath?
Yes, inconsiderate pedestrians and cyclists.
What additional priorities should we address in our code of conduct?
None, it is a waste of time.
What behaviours should we seek to encourage?
Pointless nanny-statism, you are not our police or parents.
How should we encourage better sharing of towpaths?
Put down good quality paths and infra-structure, nothing more.
Should we adopt the same approach in all areas, urban and rural?
Put down good quality paths and infra-structure, nothing more.
How should we balance the needs of busy communities with capacity of the towpaths in those areas?
Put down good quality paths and infra-structure, nothing more.

Seriously, look:
Just paths

posted by kie7077 [480 posts]
24th April 2014 - 11:29

3 Likes

NeilXDavis wrote:
I used to ride to work on the towpath put they just arent great for commuting. Most of us ride quite fast on commutes and it just doesn't mix well with joggers, fishermen etc.

Great for gentle rides with the kids etc.

I can only imagine how busy the towpaths in London must get!

I used to commute approx 7 miles down the Lea valley tow path and compared with London's roads it was great for commuting, most people don't seem to realise it's there so it only ever got a bit busy on the hottest of summer days. London's roads on the other hand are very very busy.

posted by kie7077 [480 posts]
24th April 2014 - 11:58

3 Likes

Cyclist wrote:
I ride down the canal towpaths regularly, I shout from at least 100m then 50 etc on your left or right, if they make no attempt to move or move across into my line I don't move or slow down, if they do then I will always slow and say thanks. I don't blame kids under 10ish or dogs. A couple of summers ago I shouted at the top of my voice to a fisherman who had one of this great white fishing poles across the path I was well over 100m away he looked straight at me and carried on doing his thing, so I ran straight over his pole, lovely crack. I consider myself to be considerate to others in every way, however one chance is all you get as that is all I will get from a lorry.. However ref the headphones and walking, let's talk about idiotic cyclists who wear them..idiots, far more so than walkers on a canal towpath.

Sarcasm doesn't travel well on the internet, dontcha know?

posted by jacknorell [386 posts]
24th April 2014 - 12:01

0 Likes