Agenda item


Purpose of the report: To consider the adoption of a cycling policy statement and a Towpath Users code of conduct for the Canal.



Declarations of interest:




James Taylor, Strategic Manager, Basingstoke Canal Authority

Fiona Shipp, Canal Manager, Basingstoke Canal Authority


Key points raised during the discussion:


  1. Officers explained that this report followed on from a query to the Committee regarding shared cycle usage. It was requested that officers undertake some research on cycling policy and how the BCA could potentially manage cycle usage.

  2. Officers explained to the committee that there were several options available:
    1. Widen areas to fit within the three metre guideline and create joint cycle and pedestrian pathways.
    2. Prohibit all cycle usage along the towpath
    3. Implement a scheme of signing and minorworks designed to reduce cycle speed and implement other soft measures to encourage better relations between cyclists and pedestrians.

  3. Officers noted that the towpath would not be considered a public right of way. It was noted that the BCA and County Councils invite cyclists to use the towpaths for cycling. It was noted there had been several incidents of disputes between cyclists and pedestrians.

  4. It was informed by Surrey County Council’s Legal Directorate that as the BCA/County Councils had invited cyclists to use the towpath, that the BCA does have a duty of care to these users.

  5. Officers noted that national policy indicates that any joint pedestrian and cycle route should be three metres wide. It was noted that much of the canal does not fit within this parameter. Officers did note that this was a national waterways issue, and that there were several campaigns that were able to be used by the BCA, which had formed part of the cycle strategy draft plan to the Committee.

  6. Officers explained that an area of significant contention was in between West Byfleet and Brookwood where the towpath is used by commuter cyclists.

  7. Officers explained that the BCA was prepared to allocate £10,000 to design signage and minor works to reduce cycle speed and encourage considerate usage. Members suggested designing a sign which stated that pedestrians have priority on the canal towpath.

  8. Members questioned the liabilities in case of cycling accidents. Officers noted that this was dependent on the circumstance, but, generally, it would be the case that if the route was at fault then the BCA/County Councils who may bear part of the liability.

  9. Officers stressed that widening the towpath would be a very expensive solution and not recommended.

  10. Members questioned whether officers had met with cycle forums to discuss this. Officers noted that they had discussed this issue, but that many commuter cyclists do not engage with these groups. Members did stress that more outreach could be done on social media.

  11. Members questioned whether the canal towpath could be removed from cycle route maps. Officers noted that this would be contrary to most local authorities’ wish to promote wellbeing.

  12. Members did note that there were some reported issues with night cyclists and bright and intrusive lights blinding canoers and startling animals which could be taken into account with regard to any policy, and that this could be a point of research for the BCA to undertake.

  13. Officers stressed that any group cycle events would be required to inform and pay a charge to the BCA for their use of the towpath under the existing scheme of charges.





  1. Approve the BCA Cycle Policy to be used in reference to the Basingstoke Canal.

  2. Authorise BCA officers to keep the Policy Statement under review adding items and making adjustments as appropriate.

  3. Authorise officers to draw up and implement a scheme of signing and minor works designed to reduce cycle speed in the Woking section of the Canal towpath, and promote a positive shared space in which pedestrians have priority.


Supporting documents: