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Campaigners call for reversal of Richmond Park cycling ban – and so does Jeremy Vine

Local campaign groups, London Cycling Campaign, and CPRE and Jeremy Vine urge Royal Parks to allow solo cycling in park

Cycling campaign groups including the London Cycling Campaign have have joined with the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England to as that restrictions on people riding bikes in London’s Richmond Park be reversed.

There call was also backed by broadcaster and high profile cyclist Jeremy Vine who tweeted his support in a succinct style. 

Since last Friday, only NHS staff travelling to work and children under the age of 12 are allowed to ride in the 955-hectare park in south west London.

Cyclists banned from Richmond Park due to "congestion"

One bizarre effect of that is that where children wanting to cycle in the park are accompanied there by their parents, mums and dads have to leave their bikes outside, and enter the park on foot.

The dos and don'ts of responsible cycling in a time of pandemic

Cars had already been banned from the park the previous weekend, and restrictions were placed on cycling due to congestion at the gates as well as some people not observing social distancing guidance.

A Royal Parks spokesman said: “It is necessary to suspend all cycling in Richmond Park to protect public safety and ultimately help keep this vital green space open for everyone. Cycling is still permitted in the other Royal Parks, where there is no current evidence of congestion.”

 

Today, Richmond Cycling Campaign – the borough branch of London Cycling Campaign – wrote to Royal Parks asking for the decision to be reversed.

The letter, signed by group co-ordinator Tim Lennon and co-signed by representatives of the Council for the Protection of Rural England, Kingston Cycling, the London Cycling Campaign, London Living Streets, Merton Cycling Campaign, Parks, Regent’s Park Cyclists and Wandsworth Cycling Campaign, said:

The Covid-19 epidemic is an unprecedented crisis in London and globally in this modern age, and a difficult time for us all. We hope you and your teams are well and safe and wish to commend your actions in keeping the parks open in these difficult times and we fully understand the significant pressures that are on you and your resources. However, as representatives of those who cycle and walk both for transport and health, we are very saddened to see Richmond Park closed currently to responsible and socially-distanced cycling.

While the Government continues to support people going out for exercise once a day, we want to stress the value and importance of families being able to cycle together, and of individuals being able to ride further than they might walk or jog, and the physical and mental health benefits, vital during a time of crisis such as this, these activities bring.

We recognise that, even with the very welcome removal of motor traffic from park roads, Richmond Park was busy for cycling, and a small minority of those cycling (and walking, scooting etc.) were not observing clear rules about leaving 2+m distance.

However, we believe that a different approach from The Royal Parks to these issues is possible, involving working with nearby councils, and perhaps volunteers. We have spoken to councillors in Richmond, and believe they are open to a dialogue on this too.

We further suggest The Royal Parks should and must do all it can to avoid banning cycling in its parks and instead can do more to encourage and enforce social distancing more rigorously prior to that step. While Richmond Park remained open to cycling, but closed to motor traffic, there was clear evidence that many people were using the park that had never felt comfortable doing so prior – including families with children with disabilities etc.

New users of the park for cycling included parents with autistic children and children on mobility devices. Now, the park is closed to many of them (those who are teenagers) and those who were responsibly exercising in the park by cycling. Worse, the risk is that many of those cycling in the park will simply divert to less safe or suitable alternatives.

A number of ideas are worth exploring to reopen Richmond Park (and keep other parks in the portfolio open too) as rapidly as possible. These include:

– If the gates are a congestion point, opening the main gates and using a smaller barrier which allows people to cycle by but prevents motor traffic. Richmond Council may be able to support with such barriers.

– Adding far more prominent signage for all on social distancing and safer behaviour at all gates.

– Deploying temporary bike parking near the entrances and working with local councils to discourage driving to the parks. At present, too many people are still arriving by car, increasing risks for all while approaching the park.

– Making park roads one-way loops for cycling, which would increase safe space for distancing and overtaking – we propose anti-clockwise to simplify turning movements. (Although this should only be considered if the Tamsin Trail remains open to cycling – see below.)

– Restricting and controlling the numbers riding in the park (at peak times). This, and other measures, could be done working with local groups &/or volunteers. And/or implementing specific times (at peak?) when the park is only available to families, younger cyclists and those with adapted cycles, supporting the most vulnerable user groups.

– Closing the Tamsin Trail to cycling but keeping the road open.

– A more concerted, coordinated campaign – also appropriate outside the parks – reminding those cycling, walking (and driving) to give everyone space and moderate behaviour during the current crisis. It would now be appropriate for The Royal Parks (and we will echo this) to hammer home the risks for all of us to those failing to appropriately behave.

It has been a joy to see so many families and so many with adapted cycles cycling, as well as walking and scooting, enjoying the freedom of a car-free park. We hope we can return to those sights in Richmond Park as rapidly as possible. We reiterate our availability (and our members’) to work with you to make the parks safe and available to as many people as possible.

Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.

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