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The charity making life better by water

Cycling FAQs

We've listed some of the most frequently asked questions about cycling on our towpaths for you.

A cyclist talking to two walkers on 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. Find out about any towpath closures.

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 Slow Down This is why we run this campaign. Whether you're walking, running, cycling, fishing or boating let's keep making sure everyone feels welcome by the water, however they visit.

Read more FAQs from our Stay kind, slow down campaign

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.

Read more about our Towpath Code

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.

Am I more likely to get a puncture from thorns and branches if I cycle on your towpaths?

We do our best to cut back vegetation but with over 2,000 miles of towpaths to care for it is possible that you will encounter thorns, branches and other vegetation on your cycle, especially during spring. We recommend carrying a pump, basic tools and a spare inner tube or a puncture repair kit with you. You could also invest in puncture resistant tyres.

Is there a map specifically designed for the towpath to see where there is and isn't a towpath to cycle?

We're working on it! At the moment we don't have a map of our towpaths available but we do have a map showing all of our canals and rivers. You can use this to plan your journey and then follow any signs asking you to walk with your bike. You can also see details of any towpath closures by searching through our stoppages and notices section of the site.

Last Edited: 07 October 2022

photo of a location on the canals
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