With our towpaths fast becoming one of the nation’s favourite places to relax, we are urging people to slow down to ensure they remain the special places millions of people enjoy visiting every year.
In a recent survey* commisioned by us as part of our Share the Space, Drop your Pace campaign, nearly a quarter (23%) of people said their biggest bugbears in public places is when cyclists speed past them so the charity is helping to remind people to watch their speed. With half of Brits (50%) going out of their way to find a quieter/greener area to escape the hustle and bustle of main roads this will be welcome news to those who like life by the water.
Throughout the summer we will spray messages on the towpath in the busiest areas around England and Wales to encourage people to ‘slow down and look around’ and that there’s ‘no need to rush, just relax’. Visitors will also be able to spot a 3D image of a sleeping policeman at certain points along the towpath encouraging people to drop their pace, a light-hearted nod to the physical speed measure often seen on roads.
During 2016, 396 million visits were made to charity’s towpaths by walkers, cyclists, boaters, anglers and runners, a huge number considering they were originally designed for horses to tow boats laden with goods.
Dick Vincent, our national towpath ranger, says: "Towpaths are wonderful places to visit, whether you use them every day to commute to work or visit them occasionally for a nice walk after Sunday lunch. They are calm green spaces in the concrete jungles of cities and people come to them to relax and unwind from the stresses of everyday life. Unfortunately, some people chose to go too fast when they are cycling or running on the towpaths and this is causing problems for other visitors, particularly during commuting hours.
"Pedestrian’s take priority on our towpaths so we’re asking people who cycle and run too fast to please slow down and take time to enjoy their towpath visit. If you are trying to beat the clock on an app or in a rush to get to work, the towpaths are not for you so choose another route.
Due to the heritage and environmental constraints and the need to make sure towpaths are easy for everyone to access, there are limited opportunities for the charity to add physical speed measures to the towpaths and the survey showed that 73 per cent of people agreed that physical speed measures are either a bad idea (50%) or should be used only as a last resort (23%).
Dick continues: "We hope our new recruit will help us spread the message, and a smile, to slow down and to enjoy your time on our historic slow lanes. Life is much better by the water…but you might end up in it if you go too fast! Slow down and enjoy the ride.”
Sam Jones at national charity and campaigning body Cycling UK, says: "I cycle to work every day along our towpaths and love nothing more than exploring our beautiful waterway routes. Travelling at a leisurely pace I can truly enjoy the beauty of the seasons along our banks and chat with others passing by from families to boaters moored up. I’d urge everyone to hop on their wheels and enjoy the tranquillity of the towpaths this summer, but don’t just rush through and miss it! It’s not a motorway, so if you find you’re travelling a little too fast around others, take it easy and then everyone can enjoy our canals equally."
National towpath ranger Dick Vincent and the sleeping policeman will be on tour this summer visiting hot spots across England and Wales where people may need a reminder to travel slowly.