Green councillor backs shared use culture on canal towpath

Green councillor Gavin Corbett is backing a new code designed to reduce tensions on the Union Canal towpath.

Scottish Canals is encouraging canal users to ‘share a great space’ with the launch of its first Towpath Code of Conduct since it became a standalone organisation last year.

The Code, created in partnership with Edinburgh City Council, sets out guidelines and safety tips for everyone from boaters and anglers to cyclists, and was prompted by the huge increase in towpath usage in recent years.

The routes, many of which have recently been upgraded to a new all-weather surface as part of a £1 million revitalisation scheme, now attract 22 million visitations a year and play host to everyone from dog walkers to horse riders.

Supported by sustainable transport charity Sustrans, Spokes and Living Streets Scotland, the code encourages towpath users to be considerate on the paths by, amongst other things, managing their speed, picking up their litter and staying alert.

Alasdair Smart, Scottish Canals’ Lowlands Canals Waterways Manager, said: “The towpaths of Scotland’s canals are busier than ever and play host to a wide variety of users. While it’s fantastic that so many people are enjoying the routes, there is the potential for conflict.

“The Code of Conduct isn’t some formal document; it’s a set of guidelines to encourage everyone, no matter how they choose to navigate the paths, to enjoy the routes safely.

“Whether you’re travelling by hoof, boot or bike, the towpaths offer a fantastic environment for leisure and exercise. A little consideration and common sense allows everyone to enjoy them.”

The document also offers general hints and tips for using the canals, including what to do if you see an animal in distress or would like to try your hand at volunteering. The Code of Conduct is due to be handed out at canal festivals over the coming year and can be downloaded from the Scottish Canals website.

Green Councillor Gavin Corbett, who chairs the transport and environment partnership for South West Edinburgh, was instrumental in the creation of the code. He said: “In the last decade the Union Canal in my part of Edinburgh has undergone a remarkable transformation – from a backwater to an exciting asset.

“As I cycle every day, I see both the popularity of the towpath and the new tensions that creates. I wanted to see this code as a way of setting a new tone for the way everyone uses the canal – one of shared space and mutual respect for each other and the plants and animals nearby. I look forward to it being rolled out over the next few months.”