The banning of cyclists from Richmond Park has been condemned by the London Cycling Campaign, who say the decision was not justified.
Royal Parks, the charitable organisation that manages the popular London cycling spot, stopped riders from using the park in March due to health and safety concerns during the coronavirus lockdown.
A Freedom of Information request, submitted by London Cycling Campaign member David Williams, revealed that Royal Parks staff witnessed cyclists using phones and riding at excessive speeds before the ban was introduced.
London Cycling Campaign borough coordinator for Richmond, Tim Lennon, said: “We understand why the decision was taken, but we think it was the wrong one.
“If the problem were crowding at the gates, this could have been fixed with partial opening of gates, or one-way as used at Bushy Park. If the problem was people not being able to socially distance on bikes, we need some evidence of that: perhaps there were instances of this, but none of them justify the way the parks summarily banned cycling.”
Park staff reported seeing 1,072 cyclists travel through the Roehampton Gate entrance in a one-hour period, but did not clarify if that included the same cyclists leaving.
Riders were also clocked travelling at 34mph using a speed gun, while one member of staff witness a cyclist using a phone swerve into the path of another rider, causing both to crash into a verge.
In correspondence obtained through the FOI, park manager Simon Richards also said: “Cyclists exercising hard inevitably cause a plume of exhalation in their wake possibly endangering those behind them. Be good to get a medic to support this assumption on our part.”
The FOI request also revealed park staff referred to cyclists not wearing safety equipment, despite there being no legal requirement for this.
Mr Lennon said: “Regarding the pejorative and poorly informed discussion shown in the FOI, we think the Royal Parks can do better.
“They should know that no-one needs to wear a helmet or distinctive clothing to be on a bike, and they should be celebrating people on ’shopping bikes’, as they so disappointingly characterise them.”
Cycling is still banned in Richmond Park while pedestrians are allowed to use the green space.
There is no indication when cyclists will be allowed back in the park.
Mr Lennon said: “Can people on bikes do more? Yes, of course. For example, we would encourage those needing to time trial or to chase personal bests to avoid using the park right now and to follow the rules when they do use the park. But to close it to everyone because of the bad behaviour of a few is not the right decision.”