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Birmingham canals more popular than ever

Canals in Birmingham are now more popular than ever thanks to a £14million project to improve 54km of towpath in and around the city centre.

Walkers and cyclists on towpath by bridge over canal in Birmingham

Data shows an average 37% increase in the number of people using towpaths for leisure purposes and commuting.

Working in partnership with Birmingham City Council, we have been busy over the last two years carrying out major improvements to towpaths along the Birmingham Main Line, Birmingham & Fazeley, Grand Union, Worcester & Birmingham, Tame Valley and the North Stratford canals, in order to improve routes for walkers, cyclists and boaters on some of the nation's most historic waterways.

More people using the towpaths

Data collected from a series of counters located along the towpath show that on average there has been a 37% increase in the number of people using canal towpaths for commuting and for general leisure activities. On the Worcester & Birmingham Canal at Selly Oak the increase has been as much as 52%. The data also shows that the canals are being used more throughout the day outside of the normal peak commuting times and that they are being used more during the winter months.

John Harris, from the Canal & River Trust, said: “It's fantastic news that the towpaths are being used more by local people and boaters, sharing the space for cycling, walking and jogging, as it makes all this improvement work worthwhile. In the long term, this can only be a good thing for the health and wellbeing of the people who live and work in Birmingham.”

Share the Space

The council, through its Birmingham Cycle Revolution initiative, and the Trust are now encouraging even more people to get out and explore their local canal and have published a series of downloadable maps, highlighting places within easy reach of the towpath.

Councillor Stewart Stacey, Birmingham City Council Cabinet member for Transport and Roads, said: “The canal network is a great space where people can enjoy cycling in a safe environment – whether they are cycling as a leisure activity or commuting to and from work.

“But, it's not just about improving the health and wellbeing of individuals, cycling is good for everyone in Birmingham because it helps us to tackle important challenges such as congestion on our roads and the quality of the air that we all breathe.”

The towpath improvement works have been funded by the Department for Transport's City Cycle Ambition Grant scheme awarded to Birmingham City Council and the Greater Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership to get more people cycling in the city by improving infrastructure, providing free bikes and running free cycling activities.

For more about Birmingham Cycle Revolution and to download the canal maps visit

Last Edited: 04 July 2016

photo of a location on the canals
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