‘Parks should not be for cars to cut through’: Should motor vehicles be permanently banned from Richmond Park?

Cyclists and walkers have been able to enjoy the park traffic-free during coronavirus lockdown

(Image credit: EMPICS Entertainment)

The news that cars would be temporarily banned from Richmond Park will have been a welcome announcement to cyclists, before they were also kicked out of the park.

But as cyclists have returned over the last few weeks, they’ve been able to experience a car free space, prompting calls for motor vehicles to be permanently banned.

In March Royal Parks, the organisation which manages Richmond Park in West London, banned cyclists and cars from the park over concerns about the spread of coronavirus.

But with restrictions on cyclists eased, should cars be kept out of the green space to make it nicer for walkers and riders?

Garry Newton, a product designer from Richmond, has been a regular cyclist in the park since before lockdown.

He said: “Over the years, I'd just adjusted to presence of cars but knew parts of the day that would be busier than others so would sometimes work around that. Naturally sunny weekends would be see a huge influx in cars and would almost certainly reduce the amount of enjoyment you can get from riding around the park, lots of stop start traffic and questionable overtakes.”

The absence of cars has been welcomed by both cyclists and campaigners, as Mr Newton said he’s seen more families using the park roads.

He added: “Being a driver myself, I get the fact that the park does provide a good alternative to the longer and more congested routes.

“No doubt that riding in the park without cars in the future would be a nicer experience though.”

The decision to ban riders proved controversial after a Freedom of Information request revealed the reasons behind the ban.

Royal Parks then began gradually reintroducing cyclists to the park in May at restricted times.

Activists from the London Cycling Campaign (LCC) who initially called on park management to allow cyclists to return, have called for cars to been banned from all parks, with Richmond and Regent’s Park being a priority.

Infrastructure campaigner with the LCC Simon Munk said: “Parks should be for people to walk, cycle, amble and sit in, not for cars cutting though to somewhere else. Richmond Park should never reopen to through traffic.

“The only motor vehicles in our parks should be necessary ones for disability access, park staff carrying heavy loads.”

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LCC borough coordinator for Richmond, Tim Lennon, said the park should remained closed to “virtually all motor traffic,” emphasised access should be allowed to those who have to use cars to aid their mobility.

In 2015, the campaigners revealed that just 12 per cent of traffic in Richmond Park was there to use the park.

But the LCC acknowledge that by banning through traffic there will be a knock-on effect to surrounding area.

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