Towpaths, canals and rivers

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Headline Messages: 
  • Cycling is welcomed alongside the canals and rivers managed by the Canal and River Trust (England and Wales) and by Scottish Canals.  This widens the choice of motor traffic-free routes open to cyclists for commuting, recreational and other purposes.
  • CTC encourages responsible use of towpaths and river paths. However, concerns about possible conflict with other users are often based on negative perceptions, rather than on reality. Genuine safety problems can often be managed through codes of conduct and suitable design solutions.
CTC View (formal statement of CTC's policy): 
  • CTC 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. CTC 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.
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Publication Date: 
July 2012
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  • Chief Executive: Paul Tuohy
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