Running or cycling down the Regents Canal in central London is one of the city’s great pleasures. The water’s edge is lined with narrowboats. Cafés and galleries occupy once-derelict warehouses and factories, serving delicious coffee at tiny tables. The busy roads of the City, roaring a couple miles away, seem very distant on this long stretch of towpath, grass, and old-fashioned locks.
But the way is treacherous.
Runners, often with their senses blunted by headphones, charge along the path, weaving between slower pedestrians. Cyclists race past, dinging indignant bells. And ducks waddle along, oblivious to it all.
It is chaos.
But one charity says it has come up with a solution: duck lanes. The Canal & River Trust has painted a white line demarcating areas to be used by the wildfowl with a stencilled silhouette of a duck. The lanes were painted by towpath ranger Dick Vincent at four locations in Little Venice, in Kings Cross, and in east London.
It’s unlikely, of course, that ducks will stick to the lanes, which serve a largely symbolic function. They’re a visual reminder that we’re all on this path together, and to get pedestrians, joggers, and cyclists to chill out and slow down.
The Canal & River Trust says it is “calling for the reintroduction of old-fashioned manners to preserve the peace.”
“It just wouldn’t be possible to paint lanes on the towpath for all our different visitors so we thought the ducks could have one instead,” Claire Risino, campaigns manager at the Trust, told Quartz in an email. “We’re keen for everyone to take it as a reminder to think about those around you, be courteous to your fellow towpath visitors and keep our lovely towpaths special places to visit away from the stresses of daily life.”