Canal towpaths could become cycle routes

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Canal towpaths could be used as cycle routes through London and other cities, according to proposals being put forward by transport ministers.

British Waterways, which runs the country's canal network, is setting up a study team to examine the viability of the scheme. The group will consider the possibility of setting up a system where walkers would have the canal edge and cyclists the inner part of the towpath, which may require widening in parts.

Cyclists have long complained that towpaths have not been maintained adequately to allow them to be used as cycling routes and that British Waterways has been hostile to their use by cyclists. However, Steven Norris, the Minister for Transport, has taken up the cause of cycling, which he sees as a healthy form of transport. He recently met Bernard Henderson, who chairs the organisation, to press the case for cyclists.

Mr Norris said: "The use of towpaths for cycling particularly in the London area presents attractive options for both leisure and commuting". He stressed that towpaths could accommodate both cyclists and other users such as anglers and walkers, providing they all recognised each other's needs.