Towpath etiquette tips from Debrett’s

High society manners guru’s tips for how to behave on canal towpaths

by Martin Thomas   September 29, 2010  

Regent's Canal London (photo: Caroline Ford)

The source of high society etiquette wisdom Debrett’s has issued advice to cyclists to encourage safer use of canal towpaths.

Debrett’s polite code of conduct for commuters was produced at the request of British Waterways, the public body that’s responsible for Britain’s network of historic canals, rivers and docks.

British Waterways’ towpath ranger, Joseph Young, said, “In most instances pedestrians and cyclists share the towpath with no problems, but we are seeing an increase in the number of speeding cyclists, who seem to forget, or aren’t aware, that pedestrians do have right of way. Sometimes cyclists can forget how fast and threatening they can be if they are passing you at speed.

“British Waterways, working with Transport for London, is promoting the Two Tings campaign asking cyclists to slow down, and pedestrians to listen out for bikes. It’s all about sharing the route and remembering how your actions could be perceived by others.”

Debrett’s five-point plan for harmonious towpath usage

  • Cyclists must be aware of pedestrians at all times. Remember that pedestrians have priority – ring two tings on your bell to warn them that you are approaching. Pass people carefully and slowly, and never cycle too quickly.
  • Pedestrians should allow cyclists to pass wherever possible. Don’t forget to listen out for the two tings warning you that a cyclist is approaching.
  • Both cyclists and pedestrians should be considerate to each other, as well as both being extra careful at bends and entrances along the towpath. A smile and polite ‘thank you’ is courteous if someone has let you pass.
  • Respect the environment and the waterway’s natural beauty. Never drop any litter.
  • Dog walkers must always clean up after their dog.

To promote more towpath politeness and safety, throughout today (Wednesday 29 September) from 7.30am to 6.30pm stilt walkers, heritage bicycle riders, etiquette experts and towpath rangers will be joining forces on Regent’s Canal towpath in Islington, north London, alongside the Packington Estate.

The guide could be one of British Waterways’ final acts as a quango, as it’s facing the axe as part of next month’s public spending review. The body has expressed the hope that it will survive as a charity.

As you’d expect from such a polite organisation, Debrett’s is perfectly balanced when it comes to dishing out advice to road-users. The Debrett’s guide to driving etiquette includes the following excellent recommendation: “Always give cyclists plenty of leeway, slowing down when you approach them and indicating when it's safe to overtake.”

15 user comments

Oldest firstNewest firstBest rated
cactuscat's picture

posted by cactuscat [302 posts]
29th September 2010 - 11:38

like this
Like (2)

6) Don't poo in the tunnels - thanks

posted by Pickypong [55 posts]
29th September 2010 - 11:43

like this
Like (2)

that a problem round your way, pickypong?

7) old folks: don't walk three abreast all the way across the path, ignore the bell, then tut and moan when you get a polite 'excuse me'.

8) cyclists: don't treat it like a race track. you want go fast? go on the road. i get verbal because you can't behave.

Dave Atkinson's picture

posted by Dave Atkinson [7324 posts]
29th September 2010 - 11:54

like this
Like (3)

There is a stretch of canal that runs by the homeless shelter, and after a few bottles of frosty jack anywheres game!

posted by Pickypong [55 posts]
29th September 2010 - 12:11

like this
Like (1)

The Ting tings? Aren't they purveyors of popular music for young persons?

OldRidgeback

posted by OldRidgeback [2194 posts]
29th September 2010 - 17:10

like this
Like (2)

OldRidgeback wrote:
The Ting tings? Aren't they purveyors of popular music for young persons?

ahhh. you beat me to that one by 5 mins.!

Fringe's picture

posted by Fringe [1081 posts]
29th September 2010 - 17:16

like this
Like (1)

Whatever happened to the Ting Tings? The young persons in my house never seem to mention them anymore

Tony Farrelly's picture

posted by Tony Farrelly [4136 posts]
29th September 2010 - 17:24

like this
Like (1)

tony_farrelly wrote:
Whatever happened to the Ting Tings? The young persons in my house never seem to mention them anymore

They're probably to be found "...by the old canal. I met my love, by the gasworks wall. Dirty old town, dirty old town."

OldRidgeback

posted by OldRidgeback [2194 posts]
29th September 2010 - 17:29

like this
Like (2)

is that near the homeless shelter that Pickypong was talking about? Sounds like it could be

Tony Farrelly's picture

posted by Tony Farrelly [4136 posts]
29th September 2010 - 17:34

like this
Like (3)

two tings? how about rice and pea?

jezzzer's picture

posted by jezzzer [339 posts]
29th September 2010 - 17:45

like this
Like (2)

Signalling on the canal seems much like the famous quote on life: just one ting after another.. (enough ting jokes...Ed.)

Silly me. You're probably right....

MercuryOne's picture

posted by MercuryOne [1058 posts]
29th September 2010 - 18:09

like this
Like (1)

What part of London does a polite towpath cyclist hail from? Two ting beck.

posted by wild man [279 posts]
29th September 2010 - 21:03

like this
Like (2)

wild man wrote:
What part of London does a polite towpath cyclist hail from? Two ting beck.

Ah, but a posh polite towpath cyclist gives THREE tings.

Why? Two ting common...

Simon_MacMichael's picture

posted by Simon_MacMichael [8034 posts]
29th September 2010 - 21:22

like this
Like (3)

Was in Too ting Bec the other week

OldRidgeback

posted by OldRidgeback [2194 posts]
29th September 2010 - 21:30

like this
Like (1)

One bell only - why? It's just the ting old man.

alotronic's picture

posted by alotronic [262 posts]
1st October 2010 - 14:00

like this
Like (2)