IF you’ve ever nearly taken a dip in the canal thanks to a speeding cyclist, or you’re a fisherman whose bait box was raided by a passing pooch, there’s some good news from the UK’s largest waterways and wellness charity.

This week, the Canal and River Trust (C&RT) launched its new Towpath Code, designed to ensure visitors of all kinds enjoy 'the UK's thinnest park’ without causing annoyance or disturbance to other users.

C&RT claim UK waterways are busier today than at the height of the industrial revolution, with around 900 million visits in 2022, up 30 percent in the last four years.

The code contains guidance for walkers, cyclists, fishermen, pet owners, boaters, picnickers, and others, on how to make the most of the canals without letting your needs interfere with the enjoyment of others.

Northwich Guardian: Some canal towpath users, including children, are especially vulnerableSome canal towpath users, including children, are especially vulnerable (Image: Canal and River Trust)

Dick Vincent, marketing operations advisor at the C&RT, said: “Our towpaths are the longest, thinnest park we have in this country, so it's important users remember to be nice to each other.

“That’s easily the best way to make sure everyone has a great day out.

“We’ve introduced the Towpath Code as a simple and easy to understand guide for how to share towpaths.

“It’s just a little bit of guidance that explains the best way to be kind to each other, to look out for each other, and to make the best use of the towpaths as you possibly can.

“Pedestrians have priority because they are more vulnerable and often move slower on the towpath.

“Cyclists must slow down for others. If you’re travelling faster than those around you, the best thing to do is slow down, take it easy, and enjoy the ride.

“People should also be careful around pets and wildlife, as our furry friends need a bit of care too.

“We’re also asking people to think about those actually using the waterway, like canoeists, paddleboarders, anglers, and those stepping on and off boats.”

The new code makes a distinction between certain types of motorised vehicles, with wheelchairs, mobility aids, and unmodified e-bikes given the green light.

But e-scooters, motorbikes, and illegal or modified e-bikes are not permitted.

Richard Parry, chief executive of C&RT, said: “We saw a huge rise in visits to our waterways during the pandemic and they have remained important places for many people who discovered them during that difficult time.

“But with so many people sharing them, and with waterways bringing nature and biodiversity into our towns and cities, it is important that we're kind to each other, and to wildlife.”

The Canal & River Trust’s Towpath Code is a simple, easy to understand guide for how to share towpaths thoughtfully and considerately. 

Remember: Share the space, Drop your pace, It’s a special place.  The following applies:

  • Pedestrians have priority.
  • Cyclists must slow down for others.
  • Take extra care when passing people, pets and wildlife.
  • Respect people using the waterway for activities like angling, boating or paddle-sports.
  • Wheelchairs, mobility aids, cycles and legal e-bikes are allowed.
  • E-scooters, motorbikes, modified e-bikes and other unauthorised vehicles are not allowed.
  • Keep dogs under close control and clean up after them.
  • Take litter home.