The charity making life better by water

Towpaths for Everyone

Towpaths for Everyone is our policy for how we manage the towpaths that run alongside the canals and rivers we look after.

Elderly person walking on a canal towpath

Towpaths were originally used by the horses that pulled cargo boats (hence the name TOWpath) but now they are used for so much more. They are as much part of the unique canalside experience as locks, bridges or even the water itself. Whether you are boating, angling, running, walking, cycling, getting on to your paddleboard or simply having an alfresco bite to eat, you’ll almost certainly be using a towpath.

Our Towpaths for Everyone policy builds on our work in 2014 in which we established the use of towpaths as “shared spaces with a pedestrian priority” and the Towpath Code. We made three key commitments: to deliver better infrastructure, signage, and behaviour. Since then, we’ve, upgraded 25% of our towpaths, refreshed 85% of our signage, and delivered two successful high-profile behaviour change campaigns – ‘Share the Space, Drop your Pace’ and ‘Stay Kind, Slow Down’.

More people are using towpaths than ever before, with over 800 million visits to our canals last year. It’s even more important that we’re clear about the principles and priorities that guide how we manage and improve our towpaths, as well as what we expect from others. This policy, including our updated Towpath Code, sets out our vision of towpaths that are cherished, safe and accessible for everyone to enjoy. It has been developed in partnership with representatives of the users of the canal system (from our Council), together with Active Travel England, Sustrans and Sport England as well as other partners.

Last Edited: 11 January 2024

photo of a location on the canals
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