Cyclists Requested To Slow Down On London's Towpaths

By Londonist Last edited 31 months ago
Cyclists Requested To Slow Down On London's Towpaths
Photo by Geoff Holland in the Londonist Flickr pool

They may be considered among London's most peaceful thoroughfares, but with the growing popularity of canal towpaths, are these routes are now prone to the kind of aggro you'd expect from a Saturday afternoon on Oxford Street? This is the view of the Canal & River Trust, which is launching a campaign to tackle speeding and barging (as opposed to barges) along the city's waterways.

Of the 48 million people who take to London's towpaths annually, it is cyclists in particular who the Trust feels could be more considerate to others. Ahead of introducing a Share the Space, Drop your Pace scheme on Tuesday, Dick Vincent, London’s towpath ranger for the Trust, called for the 'reintroduction of old-fashioned manners', saying:

Of course it’s great that so many people like cycling along our lovely canals 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, the towpath is not the best place for you so please choose a different route.

The counter argument is that towpaths provide a safe passage for cyclists and pedestrians through the city; after all, 85% of incidents involving cyclists in London happen at a busy junction — virtually non-existent if you're travelling along a canal.

The Canal & River Trust will be extending their own old-fashioned manners, by asking people nicely to heed their advice; on 6 October those using the towpath on the Regent’s Canal by The Proud Archivist will be serenaded by a string quartet.

Perhaps if there was a string quartet permanently installed every 100 metres along London's canals, everyone would be inclined to slow down.

What are your opinions? Are cyclists and other potentially fast-moving objects a menace to the towpaths? Or are towpaths the only safe route through London? Tell us in the comments.

Last Updated 04 October 2015


I'm not particularly familiar with the area, but (dare I ask) are the cycling facilities on the roads along the canal up to scratch? If not it's no surprise that some people are using it as a rat-run.

Andy Holliman

Worst thing about walking along the regents canal is the cyclists, not all but some have no consideration for anyone, so tempting to push them into the canal.

Jason Cumming

I walk and run along the canal. At the wrong time of day it's like stepping into traffic - you can't even walk side by side. Bridges are bottlenecks and you never know what's coming. The cyclists frequently seem to forget the pedestrian right of way let alone the concept of braking.
I'm all for them having a safe traffic free route, just not where we're all on foot. So a review is definitely due.

Annie Brown

I am a cyclist but would never cycle on the towpath and frankly think it should be forbidden. A - it's uneven in many places, narrow, and the bridges/ tunnels do not allow for a safe view. B - there are too many walkers/ runners/ people with prams and it's a pain to navigate around them every few metres. C - whilst running along the towpath, I have been hit/ brushed by on a number of occasions by cyclists who are simply don't care about pedestrians or are in too much of a rush. Like I said, I am a cyclist and commute to work form East London to Clerkenwell. Would my commute be more beautiful along the canal? Of course. But if everyone did that - and that's the way we're headed - it will become pretty unbearable pretty quickly. Let's keep it nice for those occasions when we are all in less of a rush and keep the cyclists on the road.


Speaking as a cyclist, and a frequent regents canal pedestrian, cyclists along the regents canal are a menace - mainly just because of the constrained space and volume rather than a lack of manners. The vast, vast majority of cyclists are polite. However, with the ever increasing numbers of cyclists, there are times of day when walking along the canal is just dangerous. Its also unpleasant; you have to walk in single file and are constantly worried about that 1/100 cyclists that is charging along recklessly. I have seen several collisions including one spectacular dismount into the water. Unforunately, I think there are some sections of the towpath which are just too narrow to be shared by cyclists and pedestrians safely, given increasing numbers of the former. Which is a shame. I fear only a major accident will result in any substantial change in policy.


I'm a frequent cyclist and pedestrian on Regents canal and one of those who last year and the year before have responded to these surveys by the trust to ask them to do something about the ridiculous speeds, especially 8:30-9:15am.

I thought the 'ting twice be nice' campaign was brilliant and should be revived, just highlighting and encouraging both politeness (does it hurt to thank pedestrians when they pull over? Or cyclists that hang back?) and for people to give warning before coming up behind you or going under a bridge.

The roads along the canal are great for fast travel and are far quicker routes. The canal is there for an enjoyable and safe commute. But not a fast one.

I would hate cycling to be barred from the canal, but the commuter speedsters spoil it for everyone.

Be nice people, and enjoy the tiny bit of wild space!


As a frequent pedestrian on the towpath who has been shouted at by cyclists speeding along and sworn at for not leaping out of the way quickly enough, I'm all for this campaign. The towpaths are too narrow for such speedy cyclists and the whole point is often to have a pleasant saunter along.. Let's hope this works but to be honest if it doesn't I'd favour a ban.


I cycle along Regents Canal fairly regularly on my morning commute. I'm quite respectful of pedestrians, although I see some other cyclists who are going really too fast, and worry about the perception of the cyclist. It is meant to be "considerate cycling" on the canal.

However, just to backtrack: there are several routes I can take each morning...I prefer the canal because it is quiet and peaceful, compared to the aggressive and unsafe city streets. My motivation is a peaceful ride, not necessarily speed. If we had better conditions on some of our streets, I would take other routes. So the boroughs should actually cough up the dough and invest in better cycle infrastructure if they want to help the canal traffic.

Also, I never take the canal at the weekends - too busy.

Clunking Fist

Surely you are mistaken: cyclists are saints.

Rosh Roshie Rosh

I've given up on cycling on the canals. Some parts such as where the stretch from Victoria Park northwards are un cycleable and dangerous to even attempt on busy days. I accidentally hit someone's arm once on that stretch through no fault of myown bar the sheer amount of people on a sunny Saturday afternoon. Since then I avoid that stretch. There's a quiet road which runs parallel use that. Some parts,- Victoria Park to Limehouse) are perfectly reasonable to use as their less busy and wood wider. I think that the trust should put speed limits and signs up the busier bits.

James Ward

An interesting discussion and from a narrowboaters perspective cyclists are putting boaters off cities. Imagine struggling with a 20 ton boat in the wind with a rope cutting into your hands and being told to get the F out of the way by cyclists. Have a little search for the woman pedestrian who lost four teeth when hit by a bike. The London boaters cat that died in her owners arms and the boater being sued by a cyclist who came off his bike after hitting the boaters dog.

Barney Laurance

What's the point of asking all cyclists to slow down? Some are already slow, some won't be sure whether they are slow enough.


The "towpath" to me is actually the "rush hour towpath", the "weekend towpath" and the "weekday off-peak towpath". It isn't just about speed but numbers too. Want to go for a leisurely stroll along the "rush hour towpath"? Think again. People are on their way to work. Come back in a couple of hours time and you'll have the place to yourself. Want to race along the "weekend towpath"? Think again - it's got loads of strollers, joggers, families and dog walkers.

Would you go for a leisurely stroll across London Bridge 8.45 of a weekday and expect folk to stop and wait whilst you take your scenic pics? 8.45 of a weekend - you've got the Bridge to yourself.

It wasn't that long ago the towpaths were no-go areas and anyone going along them had a high expectancy of being mugged. Cyclists using them opened them up again, campaigning for the removal of the various gates (they used to be locked after dark), the pedestrians followed and then the recent increase in boat numbers.


Pedestrian routes and ciclists routes are not compatible together, especially if you apply them both to a narrow path. It is about time that London designs and builds a cicling route just for cicling.

Anon Y. Mous

Why do they have to be asked? Why can't these people exercise common sense?


Maybe there should be inflatable cycle paths in the canal for peak times to keep cycling/walking separate.

Albertina McNeill

I was so worried after my evening encounters with cyclists on the Grand Union from Park Royal to Greenford from May onwards this year that I raised the matter with local police. The most frightening was a man who was obviously listening to music and screaming along with it as he cycled very, very fast. I doubt if he saw me at all as he was in a world of his own. I always stay well over to the land side of the path and stand still as soon as I can tell a cyclist is going to pass me. Most come up behind me in the evenings and they don't always use a bell though having it ring it immediately behind you can be unhelpful if it makes you jump out of your skin. To be fair I have also found runners who belong to a local group quite thuggish and rude when they insist on bunching up and chatting to each other. It's ironic that they do this as a group to feel safer. I've been obliged to force my way through intimidating groups of male pedestrians who don't feel the need to move out of the way or share the space. The towpath takes me almost door to door from work but a small proportion of cyclists makes the walk a miserable experience and I doubt if I will do it again next summer. The path is usually too narrow for more then two to walk abreast and more "natural" sections can be blocked by vegetation that has grown over it or been dragged down by rain and wind.

shan b

I was 6 months pregnant when I was walking side by side with my husband and got hit by a cyclist. My right arm was badly bruised but it was the shock that caused me so much distress.
Polite requests will not work. In order to maintain a peaceful and enjoyable part of London, cyclists must be banned from canals or at least outside of peak commuting times. Perhaps speed bumps every 4 metres would help and thereby need little human resources.


Cyclists are dangerous causing many accidents and injuries to adults, children and dogs. They should either be banned or speed humps or barriers at regular intervals should be installed.