We’ve written again to the Royal Parks. Their response, which offered neither action nor timetable, wasn’t good enough.
12 May, 2020
Dear Mr Jarvis,
Thank you for your letter of 16th April and your ongoing work around the iconic and wonderful Royal Parks. We are writing again to ask Royal Parks to please reconsider the Richmond Park cycling ban, with some urgency.
You have said you recognise the importance of park space in this current emergency, and we note the Government guidance on this. You may also be aware of how many families used to use the park for cycling, and of people who use cycling as their form of exercise – a sizeable minority for whom it can be difficult to travel any distance by foot alone. (Only at the weekend I told my 9 and 11 year old daughters I couldn’t ride in the park with them, and they would either have to not ride, or go out alone.)
We wish to respectfully question the basis on which you made the decision to close Richmond Park to cycling on several grounds:
- Your letter suggested there was ‘a significant increase in the volume of cyclists coming from across London and beyond’. Was there data behind this statements which you haven’t been able to share at this point? Because it surprises us that rangers/The Royal Parks were able to draw such a conclusion with any degree of certainty.
- Crowding at the gates was clearly an issue, but we and others have made repeated suggestions as to how this could be dealt with, but these haven’t been considered in your response. Additionally, we’re aware you may have seen some suggestions from Richmond Park Cyclists. Options like opening main gates with a plastic barrier, and discussions with the local authority, appear to have been ignored. Similarly, it would be possible to have ‘in’ and ‘out’ gates, as currently used at Bushy Park’s north entrance, at Richmond Park. Again, an approach used by The Royal Parks itself does not seem to have been considered. Obviously it and other suggestions may well have been considered – but not that any of us can tell.
- You quote examples of ‘dangerous cycling at speed’ around wildlife. Are there specific incidents that were observed? Can you explain what wildlife was endangered by this? The only incident we can remember is a cyclist hospitalised after a collision with a deer, which does seem to endorse the anecdotal observation that people cycling in the park do not present, even in large numbers, a danger to wildlife. By contrast, there have been frequent incidences in the last few weeks of dogs chasing deer and actively endangering both the wildlife and visitors, yet there has not been similar actions taken on dog walkers. The concern, obviously, is cycling is somehow being treated differently and more negatively to walking, scooting, dog-walking etc.
We hope that The Royal Parks, in summary, has acted on evidence. We hope you can share that evidence with us, or publicly. We believe open and constructive dialogue is vital in general with stakeholders – and we welcome much that has come from The Royal Parks of late. But this letter, as above, leaves us with significant concerns about the evidence base used to ban most cycling, and indeed the ongoing attitude of the Richmond Park rangers and The Royal Parks to cycling in general.
We also wish to point out that the current restrictions have resulted in real issues for some. For families who would wish to cycle together, but even for key workers – who have posted on local forums after having been shouted at multiple times in the park, and who now refuse to ride through it.
It is likely we will be in some form of ‘lockdown’ for at least another month, probably far longer. We very much ask you and The Royal Parks to look again at the evidence base around Richmond Park and cycling, the suggestions put forward on how to handle the ongoing issues and indeed the changing nature of lockdown, with more and more people socially distancing appropriately while cycling and walking, but also with increasing road speeds and dangerous driving as well as motor traffic volumes outside the parks.
The new ‘Streetspace Plan for London’ stresses clearly and succinctly the role that walking and cycling need to take in London, and we are asking you to look at how the Royal Parks implement this prioritisation in Richmond Park. Whether for transport or exercise, Richmond Park is a core location for the surrounding boroughs, and we continue to believe that it is urgent that we move forward from the current position on cycling, in line with the very latest Government guidance.
Tim Lennon. Group Coordinator, Richmond Cycling Campaign
Alice Roberts, Head of Green Spaces Campaigns , CPRE London
Jon Fray, Coordinator, Kingston Cycling Campaign
Simon Munk, Infrastructure Campaigner, London Cycling Campaign
Jeremy Leach, Chair, London Living Streets
Kathryn Stewart, Coordinator, Merton Cycling Campaign
Adrian Jackson, Chair, Parks for People
Justin McKie, Chair, Regent’s Park Cyclists
Tom Corbett, Chair, Wandsworth Cycling Campaign