Have your say on Cycling in Richmond Park

On December 17th, Zac Goldsmith is hosting a meeting about Richmond Park. We don’t want this to be another “cyclists ate my hamster” session, so we’ve got together with Kingston Wheelers, London Dynamo, Twickenham Cycling Club, Barnes Cycling Club, Chevaliers, Kingston Juniors, and Kingston’s own LCC branch, to make the case for why cycling in the park is a good thing, and why the Royal Parks need to be doing more for it.

Here’s our view, and you can find the meeting details here. Come along and support cycling for all in one of the finest natural reserves we have access to.

Richmond Park is there for everyone, and we want it to stay that way. The present situation, where cycling can comprise up to 75% of all the traffic in the park, is clearly objectionable to some users.

However, the usual reaction – especially in the letters page of the local papers, and in frequent conversations even at the Police Liaison Group – is that cycling, and people who choose to cycle, are the villains in this piece. None of the groups representing cycling will tell you ‘All cyclists are angels’, because breaking the law on a bicycle is almost as endemic as breaking the law in a car. That makes it neither right nor acceptable, but we believe that it is time proper consideration were given to making sure Richmond Park can continue to be a recreational space for the thousands of people who flock there, week in, week out.

There are a number of issues that any proposed solution needs to address:

  1. The park is a wildlife haven and Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). It is home to a huge variety of wildlife, large and small.
  2. The park is used by large volumes of traffic during the day which is avoiding roads outside, or ‘rat-running’.
  3. It’s a recreational space for walking and hiking, with the current road effectively acting as a continuous pedestrian crossing. The Tamsin Trail is also used extensively for walking.
  4. It is also a recreational space for cycling, with cyclists tending to use either the main circular route, or the Tamsin Trail.
  5. A number of businesses operate in the park, and require access for themselves and their customers.
  6. This is a park, and therefore street furniture such as posts, signage, etc. is not very desirable. (Although there is clear value in some signage to support safety needs.).
  7. So far as possible, the park needs to be accessible to everyone – whether able-bodied, or with some form of disability.

And there have been quite a few ideas previously floated for how to deal with this combination of issues. But what we think that The Royal Parks needs to consider is this:

What is the purpose of the park, and how can that best be fulfilled?

We think the park is a resource that everyone should be able to enjoy, however they visit it.

Of the proposals we’re aware of, we think there are pros and cons for each of them.

One way traffic

One way traffic will basically encourage the park to be used as a race track one way, and will encourage commuting / rat-running in the given direction, as well as actually requiring more driving (wasted time and pollution) round the park as people have to circumnavigate it in order to get to a particular place.

Congestion charging in the park

Charging people to enter the park if they don’t stay beyond a specific time (for example, charging those who stay for 20 minutes or less), will discourage through traffic.

More pedestrian crossings

Although pedestrians can (and should be able to) cross anywhere in the park, there’s a good case for providing clear places for crossing especially around the car parks. and particularly busy areas. It should not be necessary for a zabra crossing to have the full DfT-mandated paraphernalia of zig zags, Belisha Beacons, etc., as evidence from other 20mph locations indicates good compliance where the crossing is clear.

A new cycle-only route round the park

In the Netherlands, the usual guidance is to build separate provision for cycling when motor traffic is above a particular volume, and or a particular speed. We believe that while the speed of traffic in the park – where the limits are observed – might not require segregation, the volumes certainly do.

Through traffic bans

The park is an area for recreation and for nature, yet there is a significant volume of traffic which uses it as a cut-through to various locations. Especially given the sensitive nature of the park environment, and the very real danger that is posed to wildlife and to other park users by high volumes of traffic which is keener to get somewhere than to enjoy the surroundings.

And a possibly contentious point to make …

If we accept the premise of the public meeting that there is very real conflict in the park, experienced by all users, then we should follow the logic of many such conversations, which come round to “Well, whose fault is it?

On a fundamental level, the conflict which is experienced in the park reflects the day to day experience of driving, walking and cycling in London generally. Many conversations that we’ve heard tend to pick out ‘cyclists’, and often ‘club cyclists’ as significant offenders, and anecdotal evidence is usually called upon to demonstrate how cyclists ‘intimidate’ other road users, including the slightly bizarre assertion in the last Friends of the Royal Park newsletter, that cyclists are a danger to wildlife. (We’ve yet to find someone who wouldn’t stop their bike to avoid hitting a deer …)

At the same time, we hear stories of intimidation, dangerous driving and actual assaults from people who cycle in the park. (As well as stories of dogs causing riders to fall off on the Tamsin Trail, and cyclists intimidating pedestrians there.)

Our response to all of these is simple. Firstly, what does the data say? An investigation of the STATS19 data shows that bicycles are overwhelmingly the victims in Richmond Park incidents, with the other party invariably motor vehicles. Secondly, we argue that no amount of discussion around sharing, mutual consideration or other such proposals is going to resolve the problems in the park, because there is simply too much traffic on the small area allocated to it. .

And this is, very simply, because it is inappropriate to have this volume of cycling and driving traffic in the same place. People who drive, walk and cycle through the park are no more or less lawless than anyone else in London. The solution to this problem is the same as the solution which is about to be implemented in central London – proper and safe separation of the modes, so that both can be done without conflict.

12 thoughts on “Have your say on Cycling in Richmond Park

  1. Thanks for posting this. I was getting worried by the direction this was taking and am glad it won’t all be one-way traffic. In conversations with some of the councillors who will be present I have found them reasonable face-to-face afternoon but unwilling to move beyond standard anticycling rhetoric in the public meetings. It’so important we get the numbers out.

  2. Separation of cycling and driving is the wrong answer – because it would inevitably mean making the roads in Richmond Park wider. This would have three effects: (a) it would make it even harder and stressful for the wild deer to cross the roads; (b) it would mean a major lurch of urbanisation of the Park – something that’s been avoided for 350 years; (c) it would be a response to cyclists and motorists breaking the speed limit – whereas complying with the 20mph limit would be a far better action as then almost all vehicles would travel at the same speed. Remember Joni Mitchell “…they paved paradise and put up a parking lot”….. If you love Richmond Park don’t do it!

  3. I’d like to see cyclists and pedestrians separated on the Tamsin Trail. I’d leave the existing path for pedestrians and build a new one for cyclists. The new one (free of the need to cater for buggies and the less mobile) could be a lot more technical, forcing mountain bikers to slow down – while at the same time being a lot more fun to cycle.

  4. I’m a cyclist , walker and motorist and like to think I’m a responsible user of Richmond Park. I agree the creation of another trail alongside Tamsin for cyclists is not the answer. Lets reduce the speed limit to 15 mph for everyone which might deter motorists using the route and those cyclists and associated pelotons turning it into a velodrome at weekends.

  5. I’m all in favour of any measure that will reduce motor traffic in the Park, but the emphasis by a couple of commentators above on relying solely on enforcement of speed limits (particularly on cyclists) or even reducing limits to 15mph is ridiculous.

    You may not like road bikers making use of the only safe-ish and conveniently located circuits available nearby, but trying to spoil the area for those of us who choose to use the park ring road for exercise is not going to solve the overall issue of too much traffic.

    Please note that I am not a member of a club (my hill climbing is too slow!).

    Personally, I like the solution of making the park one-way for motorised traffic, and reserving the other half of the road for cyclists – this should provide plenty of space for the roadies and more relaxed cyclists to share and overtake each other as necessary. Part of the problem with conflict at weekends comes about when slower riders hold up cars, and faster riders behind them can’t get past the car (because it’s too wide). Of course, the police would need to enforce the speed limits on the one-way motorists…

  6. The speed limit on the Tamsin Trail is 10mph. The speed limit on the roads is 20mph. If they were complied with, by cyclists and motorists, there wouldn’t be a problem.
    As for paving-over more of the Park, forget it. Richmond Park is a NNR, SSSI, ESCA and a national icon. Over 3 million people visit it each year – and cyclists are a tiny minority. It is not an adventure playground for cyclists who see it as a place to speed without traffic lights and are now complaining that cars (on the road) and pedestrians (on the TT) get in the way of their speeding.

  7. You need to unite people using the park for leisure by ensuring they have their own space where possible – separate tracks (not pavements) for walkers and off-road cyclists makes sense but widening the road to separate road traffic is a bad idea. I cycle, run, dog-walk and am a driver of ten years in the local area. The best possible thing in my mind is to charge a toll to motorised traffic passing through as they are not using the park for leisure purposes, via a number plate recognition such as the Dartford tunnel – or even by Oyster card. The toll should be applicable for anything less than the time it takes to go around the park and there should be steep automatic fines for exceeding the speed limit. This would discourage anyone using the park to ‘rush’ to the other side and would help pay for the upkeep of this beautiful facility. Those people accessing the park by car for leisure should not be penalised and the additional revenue from a toll would help keep the car parks clear of charging (which is always a worry) so they may continue to exercise themselves, their dogs and their children for free. Sadly there are those people, on bikes, in cars, wearing skates or running with earphones, their choice is irrelevant, who will always take unnecessary chances that pose risky to themselves and others but one way to make people more considerate of each other is to unite them by a common purpose – the use of the park for leisure. These people are not the majority and do not define user groups so labelling people as one or the other rather than leisure or non-leisure only fuels frustration and a sense of us and them.

  8. Very interesting responses and suggestions. Having read pros and cons from all, I think Sam’s idea of charging a toll for those who use the Park as a through route is the most sensible and workable. My only issue with it being how much traffic would then be pushed on to Petersham and Richmond Roads to avoid paying a charge between Sheen, Richmond, Ham and Kingston. This stretch of road is at breaking point already.

    Ultimately, this is all part of a bigger issue of the amount of traffic on the roads in London, the congestion it causes, the effect on air quality and the need to get more people on to bikes and public transport both to alleviate these issues while promoting a more healthy lifestyle.

    I do get frustrated with the number of people who drive to the park to then exercise, cycle or walk their dogs. Surely, they could use their bicycle to get to park or incorporate the walk/run there as part of their outing. I hesitate to push for charging for parking as this would send more motorists to park on the roads outside the park. Having bike parking at all the gates in the park would be helpful to alleviate some of the car usage.

    I’d also be interested to know if Royal Parks has done a survey of its users at the weekend (on foot, bike or car) to see why they are using the park, how long they stay for and where they have come from.

  9. How about more enforcement of the speed limits for starters? A great way to deter the often reckless driving (cars and bicyles alike) as well as raise the always wanted revenue for the parks.

  10. Hum, many issues here but probably all boiling down to ‘mixed use’ -always a recipe for disaster.

    – The Tamsin trail was designed for cyclists, so I hear at least? Pedestrians are bunching making it difficult and dangerous. Segregation is the only answer here.

    – The road gets really busy with race packs, mostly because roads are so crap around London that Richmond park has become a mamils nature reserve. I reckon one way for cars and the other for cyclists. Oh, and bump the limit back up to 30 -20 is just frustrating for both cyclists and cars.

    – And to finish, why is Royal Parks so anti cycles? A little more could be done for cycles but instead they spend all the dosh on bridleways (always empty). And palatial toilets. And wedding venues.

    Finally, a little more for sports and running would be very nice too. Like a health trail with some stations for press ups, pull ups, sit ups, etc. Can’t be that hard -there’s one in each and every park on the Continent. Yes. Even in Italy and Spain.

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