Birmingham canals boost after towpath improvements

Data shows an average 37 per cent increase in the number of people using towpaths for leisure purposes and commuting

Canals in Birmingham are now more popular than ever thanks to a £14 million project to improve 54km of towpath in and around the city centre.

The Canal & River Trust, working in partnership with Birmingham City Council, has been busy over the last two years carrying out major improvements to towpaths along the Birmingham Main Line, Birmingham & Fazeley, Grand Union, Worcester & Birmingham, Tame Valley and the North Stratford canals, in order to improve routes for walkers, cyclists and boaters on some of the nation’s most historic waterways.

Data collected from a series of counters located along the towpath show that on average there has been a 37 per cent increase in the number of people using canal towpaths for commuting and for general leisure activities. On the Worcester & Birmingham Canal at Selly Oak the increase has been as much as 52 per cent. The data also shows that the canals are being used more throughout the day outside of the normal peak commuting times and that they are being used more during the winter months.

John Harris, from the Canal & River Trust, said: “It’s fantastic news that the towpaths are being used more by local people and boaters, sharing the space for cycling, walking and jogging, as it makes all this improvement work worthwhile. In the long term, this can only be a good thing for the health and well-being of the people who live and work in Birmingham.”

The council, through its Birmingham Cycle Revolution initiative, and the Canal & River Trust are now encouraging even more people to get out and explore their local canal and have published a series of downloadable maps, highlighting places within easy reach of the towpath.

Councillor Stewart Stacey, Birmingham City Council Cabinet member for Transport and Roads, said: “The canal network is a great space where people can enjoy cycling in a safe environment – whether they are cycling as a leisure activity or commuting to and from work.

“But, it’s not just about improving the health and wellbeing of individuals, cycling is good for everyone in Birmingham because it helps us to tackle important challenges such as congestion on our roads and the quality of the air that we all breathe.”

The towpath improvement works have been funded by the Department for Transport’s City Cycle Ambition Grant scheme awarded to Birmingham City Council and the Greater Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership to get more people cycling in the city by improving infrastructure, providing free bikes and running free cycling activities.

For more information on the work of the Canal & River Trust and how you can ‘Share the Space’ whilst out on the towpath visit For more about Birmingham Cycle Revolution and to download the canal maps visit


For further media requests please contact: Sarah Rudy, National Press Officer on 01908 302 584 / 07788 691 219 or email

Notes to editors:

To watch a video featuring feedback from towpath uses about the improvements visit

Canal Count per year 
  2013 (before improvement) 2015 (after improvement) % change from 2013 – 2015
Worcester & Birmingham Canal 75,618 115,029 52%
Birmingham & Fazeley Canal 32,519 45,435. 40%
St Vincent Street, Main Line Canal 50,150 68,126 36%
Ladywood Middleway, Main Line Canal 7,479 9,237 23%

Better Towpaths for Everyone is a national policy for sharing towpaths.

Our towpath code is a common sense guide to sharing the towpath and what to expect of others.

  • Share the space – towpaths are popular places to be enjoyed by everyone. Please be mindful of others, keep dogs under control, and clean up after them.
  • Drop your pace – pedestrians have priority on our towpaths so be ready to slow down; if you’re in a hurry, consider using an alternative route for your journey.
  • It’s a special place – our waterways are a living heritage with boats, working locks and low bridges so please give way to waterway users and be extra careful where visibility is limited.

The Canal & River Trust is the guardian of 2,000 miles of historic waterways across England and Wales, caring for the nation’s third largest collection of listed structures, as well as museums, archives, and hundreds of important wildlife sites.

We believe that living waterways transform places and enrich lives and our role is to make sure there is always a place on your doorstep where you can escape the pressures of everyday life, stretch your legs and simply feel closer to nature.     @CanalRiverTrust  @crtcomms

Birmingham Cycle Revolution (BCR) is a Birmingham City Council initiative. The objective of BCR is to make cycling an everyday way to travel in Birmingham over the next 20 years. We want 5 per cent of all trips in the city to be made by bike by 2023 and to double this again to 10 per cent by 2033. This will help to make our city healthier, greener, safer and less congested.

For more information on BCR, progress updates or how you can get involved please contact the Birmingham Cycle Revolution team by email at, tweet us @BCRbirmingham or like Birmingham Cycle Revolution on Facebook.

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