UK: River and canal-side incident reporting

This is a press release from the Cycle Touring Club that may be of interest for many riders.

British Waterways appeals to cyclists

CTC today welcomed a move by British Waterways to involve cyclists in making the waterway network safer. British Waterways has always asked waterways users to report any incident, accident or ‘near miss’ they experience, but recognising the rise in popularity of cycling, they are particularly encouraging cyclists to report any incidents they encounter.

Using a simple form available on their website at, cyclists can let British Waterways know of any problems they encounter, and the information should help to make canals and other waterways safer and more pleasant places to be. Forms can also be obtained by making a quick call to British Waterways’ Customer Service Centre on 01923 201120.

CTC Off-Road Campaigner Richard George said, “The number of ‘off-road’ cyclists is growing every year, as more and more people recognise the benefits and enjoyment of getting out on their bikes. We often witness incidents in our travels, but until now there has not been any easy way of feeding that information back. Thanks to British Waterways, we can quickly report any problems we encounter, and in doing so, help make canals and waterways safer for everyone.”

Re: River and canal-side incident reporting

“mikepenton” <> wrote in

I was riding along the Rochdale canal a few days ago at lunchtime, and
noticed a sign that said cyclists require a licence to cycle along the canal
towpath. It probably also applies to unicyclists. It appears to be free,
so any idea what is it for?


It all started in the early 90s. ISTR reports that BW were keen to restrict cycling on certain sections of towpath. At that time the permits were laminated tags that were supposed to be hung on your handlebar. I had one, but I stopped carrying it because it was a PITA.

I remember coming across such a sign in 1998 when touring without my permit. I asked a lockkeeper where I could acquire a permit, and he told me not to worry about it.

Not long after that, I read about plans to charge for the permits. This was, of course, challenged by CTC. I think there was some legal reason why they were unable to charge in the end, but I can’t remember what it was.

The permits have been available to download for years now:

It’s a tiny piece of paper (or it was last time I downloaded it, anyway), so I keep one in my wallet just in case I’m ever asked for it. It might be useful if I’m ever challenged by some rambler whinging: “oi, bikes shouldn’t be here”.

I think ultimately the idea is to encourage cyclists to read and follow the Waterways Code. If you apply by post then they’ll also send you a copy of the code, and if you download the permit then the terms and conditions state that you are agreeing to follow the code.

I believe that it’s so that BW can, in principle, retain the right to stop individuals using the towpath. Most towpaths are not public rights of way. BW, however, do (usually) make noises about encouraging (responsible) users of the paths.