'Bargees' demand closure of overcrowded towpaths after lockdown easing

Published: Tuesday, 19 May 2020

THE National Bargee Travellers Association (NBTA) has at last taken action against the continued use of narrow towpaths of less that the width required for distancing, telling us:

As the government announced a partial easing of the coronavirus lockdown, the association has written to Canal & River Trust to demand closure of any canal towpaths where users are not observing social distancing or where the path is too narrow for people to stay two metres apart.

Vastly increased use

There has been a vastly increased use of the towpaths for running, cycling and walking since the coronavirus lockdown began on 23rd March.  The increased use is having a detrimental effect on the wellbeing of liveaboard boaters whose homes are moored on the towpath and on the wellbeing of the public, because users cannot physically keep a two metre separation on narrow towpaths.

Bunching and the volume of users are the problems.  This puts both towpath users and liveaboard boaters at
increased risk of contracting coronavirus.

Campaign largely ineffectual

CaRT's poster campaigns informing people to limit their use of the towpaths during the lockdown and to avoid stretches where boats are moored have been largely ineffectual.

The NBTA continues to receive many communications from its members expressing their fear and distress about this situation.  The NBTA sent CaRT a proposal on 3rd April 2020 with criteria for deciding how and when to close specific stretches of the towpath to protect boat dwellers moored on the towpath. This has been ignored.

Immediate action

The NBTA therefore demands that CaRT takes immediate action until people in the UK are no longer required to observe social distancing to:

• Close all towpaths within one mile of water taps and sanitary facilities for two hours each day (9am to 11am) to allow boat dwellers to access essential facilities safely.

• Using the criteria that the NBTA sent to CaRT on 3rd April, close any towpaths that have excessive footfall or cycle traffic and/or where social distancing is not being observed.

• Continue to discourage the use of towpaths in general with the 'Limit your use' message.