By Alex Ballinger published
NHS staff have been discouraged from cycling to work through Richmond Park because of the abuse they face, according to the London Cycling Campaign .
Richmond Park in west London has been at the centre of a debate in recent weeks as cyclists have been banned from the park because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Royal Parks, the charitable organisation that manages the popular green space, decided to stop cyclists using the park but NHS staff were given permission to cycle through to get to work, if they show their staff pass at the gates.
But according to the London Cycling Campaign (LCC), some NHS staff are avoiding riding through the popular cycling location after receiving abuse.
Last week, Cycling Weekly reported on a Freedom of Information request which revealed that Royal Parks had opted to ban cyclists from the park due to an increased number of riders, some who were using their phones, and people riding at excessive speeds.
The LCC is calling on Royal Parks to re-open Richmond Park to cyclists so people can ride in a “socially distanced, sensible manner.”
Infrastructure campaigner at the LCC, Simon Munk, said: “NHS workers riding through the park have told us they have stopped doing so due to abuse, and families, including those with children who use adapted cycles, have tweeted that they can no longer ride together in the park.
“We hope that The Royal Parks reconsider the situation rapidly, particularly given how important cycling clearly will be in London’s recovery from this crisis, as per the Mayor’s Streetspace Plan and government statutory guidance, and find ways to reopen the park for people to cycle in a socially distanced, sensible manner.”
In March, Royal Parks announced that Richmond Park would be closed to cyclists because riders were not adhering to social distancing guidelines.
A Freedom of Information request, sent to Royal Parks by the LCC, revealed that park staff had witnessed cyclists using phones and riding at excessive speeds before the ban was introduced.
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.
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 Munk added: “While The Royal Parks clearly needed to deal with some of the instances of failures of social distancing and other issues that the initial lockdown saw in Richmond Park, we don’t believe the response was proportionate and appropriate, or ultimately well evidenced.”
Alex is the digital news editor for CyclingWeekly.com. After gaining experience in local newsrooms, national newspapers and in digital journalism, Alex found his calling in cycling, first as a reporter and now as news editor responsible for Cycling Weekly's online news output.
Since pro cycling first captured his heart during the 2010 Tour de France (specifically the Contador-Schleck battle) and joining CW in 2018, Alex has covered three Tours de France, multiple editions of the Tour of Britain, and the World Championships, while both writing and video presenting for Cycling Weekly. He also specialises in fitness writing, often throwing himself into the deep end to help readers improve their own power numbers.
Away from journalism, Alex is a national level time triallist, avid gamer, and can usually be found buried in an eclectic selection of books.