Here you'll find lots of answers to your most pressing questions, with your top five questions at the top.
Since this spring, canal towpaths have increased in popularity. Now, more than ever, we all want somewhere local to relax and unwind, get fit and stay strong.
In response to concerns about the speed and behaviour of a small number people riding bikes on towpaths, we are running this campaign to ensure that whether you’re walking, running, cycling, fishing or boating, everyone feels welcome by the water, however they visit.
We’re listening to people’s concerns about the speed of a small number of people riding bikes on our towpaths and we want to help everyone to feel safe. Although canal towpaths have been shown to be much safer than roads for cyclists and many enjoy our network safely and responsibly, we also want to help those cycling avoid hurting themselves and others. So we’re asking people on bikes to use common sense and slow down. We think it’s the kind thing to do.
We are responding to concerns about speeding cyclists on our towpaths by testing the impact of various towpath interventions. One of the tools that we are testing is the use of new signage.
Please don't make your own signs, as this could create a hazard for towpath users. If you think signs are needed in a location, please contact us to let us know and we’ll pass this on to the local team.
With over 2,000 miles of towpaths, it’s not always easy to identify hotspots and it would spoil the unique character of canals to put signs everywhere, so your local knowledge and experience allows us to be targeted in our approach.
Using a bell on towpaths is not required by law, but it is common sense. It's a considerate way to let other people know that you're there if they can't see you. Remember that some people who use the towpath may be hard of hearing and may not be able to hear your bell.
As in all public places, the emergency services are your first port of call should an accident occur that requires medical or emergency attention. The emergency services may, in turn require our assistance.
Sometimes it can be difficult to describe where you are on a towpath to emergency services so it’s helpful to let them know the nearest landmark such as a lock, a bridge or a road. Alternatively, you can also use the What 3 Words app to pinpoint your position.
Once any immediate concerns have been dealt with, then please visit our reporting page which explains how best to report these incidents to us.
Our counters and speed monitoring units do use some elements of a camera to record data, but they’re not cameras as you would usually understand them. The images are processed then analysed using an algorithm to differentiate movements, footfall numbers and activities. As the data is anonymised it’s not possible to use the devices to monitor or identify individuals.
Statistically speaking, yes it is. Compared to roads, they are around 44 times safer. Department of Transport figures report 5,272 casualties in Great Britain for every billion miles cycled on roads compared to 120 per billion miles cycled on our towpaths.
However, everything in life contains some element of risk and it’s up to everyone to play their part in minimise that risk, for themselves and others. Therefore, we are asking everyone to use their common sense, Stay Kind and Slow Down.
Towpaths are shared spaces with a pedestrian priority, which means they’re not suitable for setting a personal best. These shared spaces are places for family days out, a leisurely ride to the shops or taking your first steps into the world of cycling.
If you're late for work, or want to train hard, please use an app like Cycle Streets to plan your journey. You will almost certainly find a quicker way or something to really challenge you.
We're aware that some people do use e-scooters on towpaths, despite the rules, and where we are aware of these incidents we have begun to put up signs to remind visitors of the policy. For areas of repeated reports of e-scooter use we are asking the public to report these incidents to the local authorities.
We know that most people ride along canal towpaths at a kind and reasonable pace. So, although a small minority of people do ride too fast, by slowing down you’d be joining the thousands of canal visitors who choose to ride responsibly.
You will also be able to relax and enjoy your journey much more if you slow down, with more time to spot and react to hazards. This will of course free you up to enjoy your scenic route, which is why many choose to travel on our towpaths. In addition, going too fast could result in injury to yourself or someone else, and result in damaged property too.
All the evidence points to cycling on towpaths (and elsewhere) as being one of the best ways to get fitter, stay healthier as well as helping to make our air cleaner too.
As a charity focused on bringing wellbeing to people on their doorsteps we want to do everything we can to enable more people to use our towpaths including cycling, so a ban isn’t desirable.
Your local canal is a place for everyone to share, enjoy, feel safe and slow down. We look out for pedestrians, as they are more vulnerable than those on bikes, in a similar way to those on bikes being more vulnerable than cars on the road.
We have put speed measures on the towpaths in the past and continue to do so where it can be proved they work and don’t limit access for those in wheelchairs, with prams or other accessibility requirements. In most cases this isn’t possible and there isn’t much evidence that they are effective in getting people to slow down. In many instances speed measures can create other problems and can often cause trip hazards, especially in places where lighting and visibility are poor.
The towpath is not the place for a personal best or time trials and we ask you to find an alternative route. If you see a route on Strava or other fitness training app or device that includes a segment on the towpath, please do not use it and flag it as unsafe for riding at speed.
We’re asking people running or walking along our towpaths to remember to stay mindful of others who may need to pass by. If a group of runners are approaching you, slow your pace and move to the inside of the towpath, away from the water. This should indicate to them that you’ve selected the inside lane so they can run by nearest to the water.
Towpaths offer a much-needed respite for everyone and we’re proud of the contribution this is making to the wellbeing of our nations during the pandemic. This has been especially important for those people who don’t have garden spaces of their own, which is commonplace in most urban areas.
Since the pandemic, more people than ever have been seeking out local spaces where they can relax and unwind, get fit and stay strong. This includes local canals. We closely monitor government guidelines and social distancing measures to help keep everyone safe.
One of our key priorities is to ensure that our canals are accessible and safe for everyone. We're trying to create awareness and change user behaviour through this campaign, by encouraging users to be aware of and respectful to all visitors.
Last date edited: 12 March 2021