An oft-neglected issue in traffic management (bear with us here) is the free-for-all on towpaths beside canals. They’re narrow – a bit like pavements, only with the crucial difference that there’s a sharp drop into water one side.
They also lack well-understood rules about how best to share limited space – something that wouldn’t be such a problem, if they weren’t simultaneously used by cyclists and pedestrians.
And, of course, ducks.
The Canal & River Trust is the charity responsible for maintaining more than 2,000 miles of inland waterways in England and Wales, and as part of its “Share the space, drop your pace” campaign, it’s installed temporary “Duck Lanes” along waterways in London, Birmingham and Manchester. Its hope is that the reference to cute waterfowl will encourage cyclists and pedestrians to be more considerate of surrounding wildlife.
The lanes are also meant to highlight the paths’ narrowness: cyclists and pedestrians can’t be properly segregated along these routes due to their width, so it’s everyone’s responsibility to stay alert and watch out for walkers or bikes coming in the opposite direction. The Trust is asking users to stick to something called the “Greenway code for towpaths“, which includes giving way beneath bridges and giving pedestrians priority.
The ducks themselves, though, have not so far seemed keen to stick to the new regulations. This one is following the rules (though to be honest, she looks like she’s travelling in the wrong direction):