Our guide to towpath safety
With more and more people enjoying being on or by our canals, navigable rivers and waterways, it is important to know how to keep everyone safe. Each navigation authority will have their own rules and even byelaws, which must be followed. Our guidelines to towpath safety are a simple summary to help us all.
Canals and navigations were built for boats. Top priority must be given to boaters, whether mooring up or casting off, or working a lock, bridge, etc. Remember, you are in their working environment, and they will be concentrating on their boat and their own safety. If a boater is pulling on a mooring rope across a towpath, it is likely they won’t be in a position to let go or get out of your way. Until the boat is safely against the bank, especially in windy conditions or if there is a current, the boater may need the extra leverage to keep control. If they are displaying a Boater’s Blue Card, please give them extra consideration.
Don’t fish by or in locks, or on official mooring spaces.
Allow pedestrians (either walking or using mobility aids, such as a wheelchair or mobility scooter) to enjoy their stroll along the towpath. If you are cycling or scooting, do not assume that just because you have sounded your bell that you have been heard. Similarly, just because you are coming towards a person, do not assume that they have seen you. Equally, do not assume that everyone is able to react to your approach in the way that you would expect. There are a variety of reasons why someone may not be aware of, or able to respond to, your approach. Think towpath safety. Slow down and be prepared to stop until you are sure that it is safe to pass.
Keep dogs under control
It’s a lovely environment to exercise your pet, but please make sure they are under your full control. If they are likely to jump up at people, annoy other dogs, or be uninvited guests on boats, then keep them on a lead. If you use a flexi lead, then keep it locked on its shortest setting to avoid a trip hazard.
Always clean up after your pet.
Keep your speed down
If you are cycling or scooting, bear in mind this is a pedestrian environment and keep your speed to an appropriate level. Navigation authorities may have their own speed limit. We would recommend going no faster than 10mph – less if there are people around and when passing moored boats. Always give pedestrians and mobility aid users priority, and be prepared to dismount if necessary.
No powered vehicles
In the interests of towpath safety, motorcycles, e-scooters and most electric bikes are generally not allowed on any towpath. Check the regulations of the appropriate navigation authority and canal.
Please don’t drop litter – find the nearest bin or take it home. Litter spoils the environment for all, and can be very harmful to wildlife. It can also attract rats, and the issues that come with them. Food waste can also be harmful to dogs, especially if they ingest something they shouldn’t. If the dog is an Assistance Dog, the consequences could be even more serious.