Towpath FAQs

Find out all about sharing the towpath.

Do I need a permit to cycle on towpaths?
You don’t need a permit to cycle on our towpaths. We simply ask that you cycle with great care for pedestrians, wildlife and the fabric of our waterways to ensure that everyone can enjoy them to their full potential.

Is the towpath a public right of way?
Most towpaths are not public rights of way. Instead, the majority of our towpaths are ‘permissive paths’ as we allow members of the public to use them. Occasionally we need to close towpaths to carry out maintenance work.

What is the speed limit on the towpath?
We don’t specify speed limits on the towpath. We ask that everyone uses common sense, with primary consideration for pedestrians and those handling boats, as they are often the most vulnerable. At busy times anyone in a hurry should use an alternative route.

Some cyclists cycle very fast and dangerously. What are you doing about this?
Most visitors are considerate and slow down when approaching others. Sadly, however, there is a minority of people (some of which are on bikes) who need reminding to Drop the Pace. Towpaths are for everyone so it’s important that we are all considerate of our speed, regardless of how we travel.

Joggers sometimes jog side by side and occasionally refuse to move. How can we stop this?
There is nothing wrong with jogging side by side, per se, but using common sense and being polite is the key to ensuring limited space is used sensibly. If you are travelling in a group, do what you can to make room for others and you can’t go too far wrong.

Pedestrians wear headphones so when I ring my bell they don’t move. What should I do?
Pedestrians are generally the most vulnerable and have priority at all times, so whilst it’s a good idea to let others know you are there by ringing a bell or calling out, this shouldn’t be a demand. This is especially important when considering people who may have impaired hearing.

I’ve been involved in an accident with another visitor on the towpath – what should I do?
All accidents, incidents and near misses should be reported to us. Please visit our contact us pages for more information.

Why is the towpath not wider?
Towpaths were built (in most cases) over 200 years ago for horses to pull barges. In many places, where we have been able to, we have improved the existing towpath width so it can be shared more comfortably by everyone.

Is there a map specifically designed for the towpath to see where there is and isn’t a towpath to cycle? 
You can see towpaths highlighted on our website’s maps. Please use common sense when using them and take notice of any signs advising you to walk with your bike along certain sections. You can see details of any towpath closures on these maps or by searching through our stoppages and notices section of the site.

Can I use my motorbike on towpaths?
No you can’t. Byelaw 31 of our General Canal Byelaws states that no person, unless authorised by the Trust, shall drive any vehicle over any towing path. 'Vehicle' is defined as anything on wheels. Therefore, unless we have given permission - as we have done generally in respect of push bikes, wheelchairs and prams - it is an offence under our Byelaws to ride motorbikes on the towpaths. It’s also an offence to park or store a motorbike on towpaths under byelaw 55 which states that no person shall leave or place upon any canal (which includes the towpath) any vehicle so as to cause an obstruction or hindrance or otherwise than in accordance with any reasonable direction of the Trust.

What about my scooter, mobility aid, electric bike or Segway? Can I use them on towpaths?
Again, Byelaw 31, applies but we’d obviously make an exception for 'mobility aids' - it’s about common sense really. The Better Towpaths for Everyone policy aims to keep speeds low and inspire better behaviour from all visitors. In this regard as scooters, Segways and hover boards (etc.) tend to make a fair bit of noise and move quickly in a way that most others don’t expect so they’re not really appropriate for a narrow space like towpaths. Considering this, unless you really need it for your towpath travels, take a walk or gentle bike ride instead – you’ll enjoy it far more. If you’ve got a specific device you want to check with us, please do get in touch so we can give some more advice.

And pedal assisted electric bikes?
These are legally the same thing as an unpowered bike. They don’t make much noise, look the same as a bike and are restricted to speeds that the average cyclist tend to travel, so they’re fine on towpaths. If they have been 'unrestricted', or are simply an electric bike without pedals they’re not the same thing so they shouldn’t be used on towpaths and Byelaw 31 applies.

Last date edited: 21 September 2016