The Strategy is a step in the right direction towards creating spaces in which people are prioritised over traffic and parked cars. However, it should be much clearer in setting the overall outcomes and targets for the next five years.
The Strategy has an anti-cycling tone.
It describes the increasing popularity of cycling as a ‘challenge’ rather than an opportunity to improve our health and reduce traffic.
To meet the traffic-reduction and increased walking and cycling aims, the strategy should be more ambitious.
It needs to outline how roads will be redesigned to prevent through-traffic from the Parks, how car parking will only be permitted for blue badge holders, and how walking, cycling and public transport will be used for 95-99% of trips to the Parks.
We would like to make comments on the following principles set out in the Vision (page 8).
“Our parks are places that people visit for relaxation and recreation.
"To make that possible, we will prioritise walking within our parks wherever we can and ensure our parks are accessible for all people, including families and those with limited mobility.”
We support the prioritisation of people walking, and ensuring accessibility for all.
However, there should be explicit support for people cycling.
Cycling is good for our health and the Royal Parks can facilitate more cycling by providing safe spaces.
Regular cycling can reduce the risk of many chronic conditions, including coronary heart disease, stroke, Type 2 diabetes, cancer, obesity, mental health problems and musculoskeletal conditions.
If every Londoner walked or cycled for 20 minutes a day, it would save the NHS £1.7bn in treatment costs over the next 25 years.
The Strategy should outline how cycling to, and within the Royal Parks can be accommodated and increased.
Reallocation of road and parking space away from motor vehicles will be an important part of this, freeing up space for more people to walk and cycle.
The size of some of the car parks in the Royal Parks is testament to where the priorities have been in the past.
And it will need to change to accommodate London’s health objectives.
Nearly 40% of London’s children are overweight or obese, and space in the Royal Parks needs to be repurposed to support tackling this crisis.
Currently, the plan lists the “Increased popularity of cycling” as a ‘challenge’ (page 4).
While we share concerns over people cycling unsafely, this bluntly negative view should be reversed: increased levels of cycling are an opportunity to support London’s health objectives.
With such high levels of visitors using private cars to visit the Parks (eg 37% in Richmond Park), there is a huge opportunity to support a significant modal shift away from cars and towards cycles.
This may be more realistic in some cases than shifting to walks (eg where people live medium distances of 3-5 km from the Parks).
“We will encourage the use of more sustainable ways to access and travel through our parks.”
The Strategy should incorporate targets to outline what the ambition is.
The current number of journeys made by private car to the Parks is in most cases very high:
- 7% in Regent’s Park
- 26% in Greenwich Park
- 37% in Richmond Park
- 60% in Bushy Park.
The number of journeys that actually need to be made to these Parks (eg for the least mobile people) is much lower, potentially under 1% (data on this would be useful to publish).
So a target for private car and taxi mode share could be as low as 1%.
The Action Plan to implement these targets should include specific measures for each park to improve the safety and convenience of walking and cycling, including:
- more pedestrian crossings
- redesigning and re-designating currently non-permitted areas as appropriate for cycling
- redesigning currently hostile cycling infrastructure,
- designing for shared use of space between pedestrians and cyclists (including at junctions)
- removal of barriers to people using wheelchairs, mobility scooters and cycles.
“Our park roads are not intended to be primarily commuter through-routes for motor vehicles…
"Over time, we will discourage the through-movement of motor vehicles within our parks.”
The Strategy should outline that through-traffic should not just be ‘discourage’ but prevented.
The Strategy correctly identifies that congestion is caused by private cars and taxis, but needs to state how this can be eliminated for the benefit of other park users.
The clearest way this can happen is through restrictions on general traffic, such as filtered road closures.
78% of park users supported the “reduction of private motor vehicles using the park roads as commuter routes” – this should be more clearly emphasized by the Strategy.
We would like to comment on the following Strategic outcomes of the Strategy.
“Provide safe and enjoyable walking experiences for park visitors”.
We support the inclusion of an outcome-focused on walking as the easiest way for people to move to and around the Parks.
However, as outlined above, increasing cycling levels in London could have dramatic improvements on people’s health.
Cycling can also be easier than walking for many people with disabilities.
Providing safe and enjoyable cycling experiences for park visitors should, therefore, be an outcome of the Strategy.
There is sufficient space in the Parks to accommodate this increase, as demonstrated by the size of the car parks in Bushy Park and Greenwich Park.
“Reduce speed throughout our parks”.
Along with London Living Streets, we support the immediate adoption of 20mph as the default speed limit.
We note that there was a speed limit of 20mph in most Royal Parks which was increased in 1960 to 30mph explicitly for the benefit of motorists (see HC Deb 18 July 1960 vol 627 cc173-204e).
We also note that 'The maximum speed in most parks open to the public, eg those owned by the National Trust, is lower than 20mph.
For example, the limit in the grounds at Cliveden is 5 mph, as it is in many other places.
The adoption of a 20 mph default has previously been agreed and there can be no further reason for the delay in implementation.
There are still examples of Royal Parks where the surrounding roads have 20 mph limits and the speed limit rises to 30mph on entry into the park.
This needs to be addressed urgently.
The package of measures for this strategic outcome should include lower maximum speeds than 20 mph.
In Greenwich Park, for example, a maximum speed of 15 mph would be more appropriate.
At this speed, even through-traffic could be discouraged while making the wide central parking boulevard significantly safer for all park users.
“Promote considerate cycling behaviour”.
We support this outcome.
And our experience of being custodians of the National Cycle Network means with are familiar with this issue and happy to work through any ideas to support this outcome.
“Reduce the amount of through traffic within our parks”.
The mandate from the original consultation is clear.
The Parks should be for their users and not for through-traffic. Eliminating through-traffic should be one of the first policies to be implemented rather than the last.
There is very little value in the Parks accommodating through-traffic, just the negative impacts of danger, noise, air pollution, and reduced space for park users to enjoy.
This is particularly pertinent in Regents Park and Richmond Park and should be one of the first issues to be tackled.
We particularly welcome any extension of complete traffic-free days similar to those operating in St. James Park at the weekends.
They can be introduced at little cost and offer huge benefits to the public.
Car-free should be the default and not a bonus. The Royal Parks should now see yourselves as armed with a clear mandate to begin to meet the needs of users.
Weekend closures of The Mall should be a starting point only.
And in the summer, it should be the norm for all of those times when people would delight in simply being able to inhabit the whole of the space between Hyde Park Corner and Trafalgar Square.