Measure would also apply to Bushy hope, but opponents hope legislation can be held up by election

Sustrans, the sustainable transport charity, has welcomed a controversial proposal for parking charges to be introduced at two of London’s Royal Parks.

The charity believes that making motorists pay to park at Richmond and Bushy Parks in South West London would lead to more people walking or riding bikes to get to there, instead of taking their cars, which would ease traffic congestion as well as promoting active travel options.

Richmond Park lies on National Cycle Network Route 4, which also runs close to Bushy Park, and Sustrans is improving links for cyclists and walkers to both green spaces through developing new routes.

Plans to introduce parking charges at the parks were announced last month by Minister for Culture and Tourism, Margaret Hodge, as part of a number of changes to Royal Parks Regulations which are due to be introduced later this year. Proposed charges at Richmond Park, which is hugely popular with commuter, leisure and competitive cyclists, will range from £1 for one hour up to £3 for three hours, while a lower tariff is proposed at Bushy Park.

Because of their Royal Park status, legislation is needed to implement the charges, and opponents to the scheme, including environmental campaigner and prospective Conservative parliamentary candidate for Richmond Park, Zac Goldsmith, are hopeful that proceedings can be held up long enough in Parliament to ensure that the proposals are shelved as a result of the general election.

Carl Pittam, Director of Sustrans in London , backed the proposals, however, saying: “The high levels of traffic in and around the parks, particularly Richmond Park, has a negative effect both on park users and residents, so this kind of measure is necessary to protect the park environment and to encourage people towards more healthy and environmentally-friendly forms of transport.

“Around 40 per cent of people across London do not have access to a car, so making the London parks accessible and useable by bike, foot or public transport, should be the priority to make them an experience that can be enjoyed by all,” he added.

“Richmond is already a special place in terms of its walking and cycling levels, which shows that people are already willing to travel in active ways,” he continued, saying: “But if those levels are to increase even further, and if Boris Johnson's goal of developing the culture of cycling in the outer London boroughs is to be achieved, then action needs to be taken.”

Sustrans says that Richmond already has higher-than-average levels of cycling and walking compared to other Outer London Boroughs, with 4% of journeys undertaken by bike and one in three on foot, while car usage is below average.

Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.