Quietways - cycling in London

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The Trust’s 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.

Safer towpaths

We also enlisted the help of our very own sleeping policeman, Bobby, to remind everyone to take it slow and enjoy the towpath and allow others to do so safely too.

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.

Getting rid of the muddy puddles

Following feedback from stakeholders, the design work was completed for the towpath and access improvements. See a detailed map of the changes.

The towpath improvements are underway and have been completed between Ladbroke Grove and Old Oak Lane, east of Alperton, between Bull’s Bridge (Southall) and Greenford, and, with the help of Hillingdon Council, between Stockley Park and West Drayton. Access has also been improved at Oldfield Lane (Greenford), Bridport Road (Greenford), Ruislip Road (Southall) and Bankside (Southall).

Improvements are about to start on the towpath between Hayes and Stockley Park and west of Alperton (see ‘Upcoming improvements’ below). The remaining improvements will be delivered through to 2021.

Old Oak towpath: quietways

Alperton towpath: quietways

Get involved and give us your feedback

Find out how you can get involved in the project and looking after the West London Canals – love your canal and it will love you back! With help from Transport for London we'll be 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 have ideas about how you can help with Quietways, we’d love to hear from you. Please do email us at Quietway@canalrivertrust.org.uk

Upcoming improvements

Following recent restrictions on our work due to the Covid-19 pandemic, we are starting to get back to our planned programme of towpath and access improvements on the Grand Union Canal to bring better towpaths to West London. 

Improvement work is planned in various locations between Alperton and West Drayton on the Grand Union Canal and Paddington Arm during 2020. The towpath improvements will replace existing gravel surfaces of varying widths with a smoother, wider and more level surface.

With the help of Hillingdon Council, we are providing a two-metre-wide surface between High Street Yiewsley and Trout Road Yiewsley. The work will take place from the 6th July for 14 weeks. The canal will remain open to navigation during the works but the towpath, access points and moorings will need to be closed. Diversion routes for pedestrians and cyclists will be in place. Information on closure dates and diversions can be found on our notifications page.

Between Alperton (Manor Farm Road) and Horsenden Lane we have completed the final surface dressing, following  towpath widening last year. We will be completing the surface dressing from Horsenden Lane to Greenford Railway Bridge by Friday 18 September. The towpath and access points will need to be closed in stages with diversions in place. Please see our notifications page. The canal will remain open to navigation and mooring during these works.

Portobello Dock access point improvements (Ladbroke Grove) will be completed by Friday 18 September. There will be a one day closure with a short diversion route. Again, please refer to our notifications page.

We will be improving the towpath between Printing House Lane in Hayes and Old Stockley Road near Stockley Park from 10th August until the end of December. The towpath currently has rough gravel surfaces of varying widths which will be improved to provide a smoother, wider and more level surface. This year’s work will lay a smooth asphalt surface which will then be coated in a natural stone chip top layer next Spring. As part of this work, we will also be improving the access ramp and handrail at Printing House Lane. Bank space for casual moorings will be retained when the work is complete. During the improvements, the towpath and access points will need to be closed with diversions in place and moorings will be suspended.  More information can be seen on our notifications page.

The remaining improvements between Hayes and Bull’s Bridge and at Horton Bridge Road access point will be carried out (subject to funding) between 2020 and 2021.

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 Quietway@canalrivertrust.org.uk


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 will bring 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.

Last date edited: 10 September 2020