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

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.”

Lifelong lover of most things cycling-related, from Moulton Mini adventures in the 70s to London bike messengering in the 80s, commuting in the 90s, mountain biking in the noughties and road cycling throughout. Editor of Simpson Magazine (www.simpsonmagazine.cc). 

15 comments

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cactuscat [284 posts] 5 years ago
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Pickypong [55 posts] 5 years ago
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6) Don't poo in the tunnels - thanks

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dave atkinson [6223 posts] 5 years ago
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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.

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Pickypong [55 posts] 5 years ago
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There is a stretch of canal that runs by the homeless shelter, and after a few bottles of frosty jack anywheres game!

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OldRidgeback [2620 posts] 5 years ago
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The Ting tings? Aren't they purveyors of popular music for young persons?

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Fringe [1047 posts] 5 years ago
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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.!

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Tony Farrelly [2868 posts] 5 years ago
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Whatever happened to the Ting Tings? The young persons in my house never seem to mention them anymore

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OldRidgeback [2620 posts] 5 years ago
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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."

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Tony Farrelly [2868 posts] 5 years ago
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is that near the homeless shelter that Pickypong was talking about? Sounds like it could be

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jezzzer [329 posts] 5 years ago
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two tings? how about rice and pea?

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WolfieSmith [1323 posts] 5 years ago
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Signalling on the canal seems much like the famous quote on life: just one ting after another.. (enough ting jokes...Ed.)

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wild man [297 posts] 5 years ago
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What part of London does a polite towpath cyclist hail from? Two ting beck.

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Simon_MacMichael [2452 posts] 5 years ago
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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...

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OldRidgeback [2620 posts] 5 years ago
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Was in Too ting Bec the other week

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alotronic [467 posts] 5 years ago
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One bell only - why? It's just the ting old man.