Royal Parks row as walkers claim cyclists are using car ban to race through Richmond Park

Patrick Sawer
·5 min read
A cyclist in Richmond Park passes a deer - Buzz Pictures / Alamy Stock Photo
A cyclist in Richmond Park passes a deer - Buzz Pictures / Alamy Stock Photo

It should be a place of calm, beautiful vistas and being at one with nature - but cyclists, walkers and motorists are at loggerheads over the use of one of the country’s most popular Royal Parks.

Walkers and motorists claim a growing number of people cycling at high speeds in Richmond Park are putting other park users at risk.

It comes as the Royal Parks prepares to roll out a permanent ban on through traffic in many of London’s green spaces.

Hundreds of cyclists flock to Richmond Park, particularly at weekend, with some travelling at high speeds, leading to reports of riders narrowly missing or even colliding with pedestrians.

The row has seen angry arguments on social media between cyclists and other park users.

One walker, Gary Matharu, complained on Twitter about “cyclists racing as if there life depends on it”, while another complained that “every road and path on Richmond Park is dangerous due to the high number of idiots who think they’re elite athletes . . . and then try to break some imaginary cycling land speed record regardless of conditions or pedestrians”.

A London Taxi driver said: “I've lived near Richmond Park for most of my life. It's now been basically taken over by sports cyclists training who regard anyone else on the road in there as an unwelcome irritant.”

Even cyclists have expressed some embarrassment at the behaviour of some of their fellow riders.

Richmond Park user Tom Bradley said: “Sadly, aggression and carelessness are not confined to car drivers. I'm a cyclist and I've witnessed some appalling road behaviour from other cyclists particularly in Richmond park. The roads are for all, more education and mutual respect are badly needed.”

But many park users have welcomed moves to limit cars and other vehicles using them as a cut through.

Ian Beable, the winner of the Ironman Switzerland 2017, wrote on twitter: “The traffic jams in Richmond Park recently have been insane. Richmond Park could be the one place in London the roads are for cyclists only!”

The London Cycling Campaign said: "Excessive motor traffic cutting through blights the Royal Parks, endangering people cycling and walking within them, and wildlife. We support the Royal Parks strategy and proposals to reduce through motor traffic in its parks, making sure these precious green spaces fulfil their purpose as havens for wildlife and places of recreation."

Royal Parks says it will “eliminate cycling in non-permitted areas and reduce conflicts between cyclists and walkers” by promoting the priority of pedestrian users and working with Parks Police to reinforce signage and target “negative behaviours” by cyclists.

A cyclist riding along a frost-covered Richmond Park, in south west London, during a cold start to the day in the capital - Yui Mok/PA
A cyclist riding along a frost-covered Richmond Park, in south west London, during a cold start to the day in the capital - Yui Mok/PA

Simon Richards, Park Manager of Richmond Park, told The Telegraph: “The majority of road users are respectful, however there are a small minority who don’t respect the rules. The Metropolitan Police enforce park regulations.

He denied local reports that a deer had been killed in a collision with a cyclist, but added: “The park is home to herds of wild deer which can be unpredictable so we urge all road users to be aware that deer can cross the road suddenly at speed.”

The Royal Parks charity says its proposed ban on motorists being able to drive through them will increase safety for all park users, reduce the impact of vehicle-based traffic and "reduce conflict between different users”.

But there are fears that traffic bans will force drivers to take long detours around the parks rather than being able to use them as a cut through, and that people who rely on cars will find it harder to visit some of London’s most popular open spaces.

Motorists groups say there need to be “viable alternatives” for drivers if through routes are closed.

Steve Gooding, Director of the RAC Foundation said: “Some of these restrictions could be quite problematic for people routinely used to nipping through Park roads as part of their everyday journeys.

“Many of the roads within the Parks have already been subject to trial closures and restrictions over recent months and we will be keenly interested to see the results early next year, in particular on the impact those restrictions have had in diverting traffic onto the surrounding streets.”

The past few weeks have seen one of the biggest consultation exercises in the history of the Royal Parks over the proposals.

Under the plans, which have been trialed since the summer, through-traffic would be permanently banned from Bushy Park, Richmond Park and Greenwich Park.

The Mall and Constitution Hill, going through St James’s and The Green Park past Buckingham Palace, would be closed to traffic on Saturdays until dusk, on top of existing regular Sunday closures.

In Hyde Park, North Carriage Drive would be permanently closed to vehicles, with South Carriage Drive closed on Saturdays in addition to the regular Sunday closures.

Royal Parks defends its decision to introduce widespread road closures, stating: “We believe that most vehicles using the park roads are not stopping within the park but are simply using the park road network as a shortcut. By reducing this traffic, we will enhance the park environment and the visitor experience, by creating a park with lower vehicle emissions and more space for park visitors.”