Towpaths, canals and rivers
- Opening up towpaths and riverside paths for cycling enhances the network of motor traffic-free routes for commuting, recreation and other purposes.
- Some walkers and other users are concerned about sharing paths with cyclists, but codes of conduct on responsible cycling, together with good design, help promote harmony.
Policy Key Facts
- In England and Wales, there is no general statutory right of way over towpaths along navigable rivers or canals, but a number are public bridleways or footpaths, and others have local rights. In Scotland, cyclists have access to rivers, lochs and reservoirs, provided they respect the Outdoor Access Code.
- Cycling is, in any case, largely welcomed alongside the canals and rivers managed by the Canal and River Trust (England and Wales) and by Scottish Canals.
- 50% of the British population lives within five miles of a towpath or river.
- The Canal and River Trust cares for around 2,000 miles of waterways in England & Wales, while Scottish Canals looks after around 137 linear miles in Scotland.
Cycling UK View
- Cycling UK welcomes the decision by the Canal and River Trust to allow considerate cyclists to ride along most of the length of its towpaths. These routes are a valuable motor traffic-free facility both for utility and recreational cycling, and national and local government should view them as an important part of the strategic transport network.
- Codes of conduct help promote courtesy and understanding between users.
- There is little evidence to support the view that cycling on towpaths creates excessive hazards to walkers or to cyclists themselves.
- All towpaths should remain open to cyclists along their entire length, unless there are insuperable safety issues that can only be avoided with restrictions.
- There should be no need to apply for a permit or be charged for cycling along a towpath. Cycling UK therefore strongly welcomes the Trust’s decision to allow cyclists to use its towpaths without permits.
- To help facilitate cycling, towpaths and river paths should have good surfacing and drainage.
- There is little evidence to support the view that cycling is any more damaging to towpaths or river paths than walking.
2017-04-29 00:00:00 Europe/London