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The charity making life better by water

Quietways - cycling in London

Our London towpaths are more popular and being enjoyed more than ever before.

We are transforming over 16 miles of towpath between Paddington and West Drayton, working in partnership with Transport for London under the Cycleways (previously Quietways) programme.

People on the towpath

Building on previous improvements between Paddington and West Drayton, we're providing:

  • better quality surfaces
  • wider paths
  • improved access points
  • new signs

The work will bring huge benefits to everyone visiting and enjoying West London canals.

Why we're doing this

In 2014, we asked people about how towpaths across England & Wales should be improved and received a huge response. Three priorities emerged, now forming our Better Towpaths Policy:

  • better infrastructure (such as improved towpaths and access to them)
  • better signs
  • better behaviours from everyone

Better signage

We're already delivering better signs across all 2,000 miles of towpaths and our ‘Share the Space, Drop Your Pace' behaviour campaign is now established nationally as a way to encourage good behaviour and respect for all when enjoying the waterways.

We painted duck lanes on towpaths across England and Wales to highlight the narrow space available for everyone – and every duck – to share.

Duck lanes painted on the towpaths in London

Polite zones

We introduced special polite zones for people to embrace good old-fashioned manners across the busiest stretches of towpaths. The aim is to encourage people to ‘smile and say hi as you go by' and to remember that they are entering ‘a hat tipping zone', a nod to times past when people tipped their hats or doffed their caps as a sign of respect or merely as a greeting.

Cyclists doffs his hat to passing pedestrians on the canal towpath
Share the space: sleeping policeman

Better infrastructure between Paddington and West Drayton

In 2016, we agreed a delivery programme of infrastructure improvements with, and funded by, Transport for London as part of the Cycleways (previously Quietways) programme.

We held a series of drop-in events on our floating visitor centre, 'Jena', for people to find out more about the proposed improvements and the benefits they will bring. See the exhibition boards about the project.

Following feedback from stakeholders, the design work was completed for the towpath and access improvements and these improvements are underway.

Getting rid of the muddy puddles

The towpath improvements have been completed between Ladbroke Grove and Old Oak Lane, between The North Circular Road (Alperton) and Bull's Bridge (Southall) and, with the help of Hillingdon Council, between Printing House Lane (Hayes) and West Drayton (Yiewsley). Access has also been improved at Portobello Dock (Ladbroke Grove), Manor Farm Road (Alperton), Oldfield Lane (Greenford), Bridport Road (Greenford), Ruislip Road (Southall), Bankside (Southall) and St Stephen's Road (Yiewsley).

The remaining improvements between Hayes and Bull's Bridge will be delivered once funding is released, and likely to be underway during 2025.

Alperton towpath: quietways

Get involved and give us your feedback

Love your canal and it will love you back! With help from Transport for London and West London boroughs we're able to transform the towpath of the Grand Union Canal and Paddington Arm, but keeping it neat and tidy is down to the Trust - and we rely on YOUR help and support to do this.

You might be part of a community group wanting to create a towpath garden, to adopt a stretch of towpath or even to volunteer for the Trust. There is more information about all of these opportunities in our volunteering section. If you’d like to get involved have ideas about how you can help with Quietways, we'd love to hear from you. Please do email us at [email protected]

Upcoming improvements

We're continuing our planned programme of towpath and access improvements on the Grand Union Canal to bring better towpaths to West London.

Improvement work is completed in many locations on the Grand Union Canal and Paddington Arm. The towpath improvements have been replacing existing gravel surfaces of varying widths with a smoother, wider and more level surface.

The remaining improvements between Hayes and Bull’s Bridge will be carried out (subject to release of funding) from 2025.

Following additional towpath improvements delivered by Hillingdon Council between Cowley Mill Road and Rockingham Road, Uxbridge, the council’s contractors are now improving from Rockingham Road to Oxford Road this summer. There is a diversion route in place while the towpath is closed and mooring is currently suspended. More information can be found on our Notices and Stoppages page.

More project updates will be provided here through the course of the improvements. If you have any queries or comments in the meantime, please email us at [email protected]

Cycleways - previously called Quietways and Cycle Superhighways

Cycleways are routes that link communities, businesses and destinations across London in one cycle network. They used to be called Cycle Superhighways and Quietways. Transport for London (TfL) and its partners are creating 450km of new Cycleways by 2024 so that more Londoners will live near the cycle network.

Quietways link key destinations by following backstreet routes, parks, tree-lined streets and also our waterway towpaths. They were established by TfL, the London Boroughs, The Royal Parks and the Canal & River Trust to create a network of quiet cycle routes throughout London. Quietways are being incorporated into the Cycleways network.

A Cycleway (Quietway) route is being provided along the Grand Union Canal between Paddington and West Drayton. This is bringing significant towpath improvements, including better surfaces, wider paths, improved access points and more helpful signage, benefitting not only cyclists but the wide variety of visitors to our waterway. The route will provide a quieter, traffic-free route, creating a much-improved environment for cyclists who want to travel at a more gentle pace.

Learn more about Transport for London's Cycleways programme across the capital.

Volunteering outside

We'd love to tell you more

Our newsletter is packed full of exciting updates and stories of how our charity keeps canals alive.

Last Edited: 27 June 2024

photo of a location on the canals
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