Canal towpath users urged to Share the Space

By on 02/10/2015 in Cllr Trickett, News

As the numbers of people using the nation’s towpaths reaches record levels, the Canal & River Trust, which cares for 2,000 miles of waterways in England and Wales, is calling for the reintroduction of old-fashioned manners to preserve the peace.

The charity will be meeting people on the towpath in Brindleyplace on Thursday (October 8) from 10am-6pm to remind to visitors to share the limited space available along canal towpaths.

Centro, the public transport co-ordinator for the West Midlands which actively promotes healthier travel choices, will be supporting the campaign. Officers will be there on the day, along with Sustrans, to advise people who would like to get on their bike to enjoy the canals. Cycle Chain will also be offering free safety and maintenance checks for cyclists.

Built at the time of the Industrial Revolution for horses to tow boats laden with goods, towpaths are now busier than ever, with walkers, cyclists, boaters, anglers and runners – not to mention the ducks and other creatures – all sharing the often narrow waterside paths. Last year more than 360 million visits were made to the Canal & River Trust’s towpaths, with around 31 million visits made to waterways in the West Midlands prompting the charity to call on visitors to help protect the special atmosphere which has made these spaces so popular.

Peter Mathews CMG, chair of the West Midlands Waterway Partnership for the Canal & River Trust, explains: “For many people our towpaths are among their most precious green spaces, antidotes to the pace and stress of the modern world and places to relax and unwind. They are ‘super slow ways’, providing a slice of peace and calm through the centres of our busiest cities.

“Today they are more popular than ever, with more investment in improvements and better signage, but with that success there are also problems. We are calling on visitors to share the space and help make our canals preserves for old fashioned good manners.”

Peter continues: “In Birmingham we know that there are issues with cyclists choosing the towpaths as a fast alternative to the roads and we want to address this with our towpath visitors here. It’s not surprising that so many people like cycling along the canal but it’s important to remember that there are a lot of pedestrians on the towpath, many of whom are children. Please help by being considerate of other users, slowing down and remembering we are all there to enjoy the space. If you are in a rush, please choose a different route.”

Birmingham City Councillor Lisa Trickett, Cabinet member for Sustainability, says: “The canal towpaths of Birmingham are a key feature of our city’s complex and busy transport network – and with the recent improvements made by Birmingham Cycle Revolution, we are expecting them to become even busier. Events such as this not only promote all of the great work going on in Birmingham but also help to remind us that we need to share the space and take time to enjoy these tranquil spaces in the heart of our busy city.”

The Trust’s towpath code ‘Better Towpaths for Everyone’ was produced after consultation with more than 2,000 towpath visitors and interest groups. The top three issues raised were the need for improvements to the towpaths, better signage and better behaviour between visitors.

Last year, the Trust secured more than £8m of funding to improve its towpaths, and it is planning a further £10m investment in the next 12 months.

For further information about Share the Space, Drop your Pace, visit

For further information about the towpath policy ‘Better Towpaths for Everyone’, visit


For media enquiries please contact:

Claire Risino, Campaigns Manager, Canal & River Trust
T: 0203 204 4430 M: 07785 920 863


Notes to editors:

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.

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