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Richmond Park reopens to rat-running drivers after almost five months of car-free roads

Campaigners slam "reckless and drastic" move by Royal Parks...

Richmond Park, which has been closed to motor vehicles since late March, will reopen to rat-running drivers from Saturday in what has been described as by cycling campaigners as a “reckless and drastic” move.

The news has also been met with dismay by active travel campaigners who have been able to enjoy the traffic-free park since the country went into lockdown in late March.

The road closures have also had a marked effect on the park’s wildlife, with many having noticed that its deer are able to roam more freely, whereas previously they would shy away from roads.

Royal Parks, the charity that supports and manages some of London’s biggest and most popular parks on behalf of the Crown, says that the reopening of some roads to motorists will be subject to a six-month trial, detailed in this factsheet.

The road between Kingston Gate and Richmond Gate will be open to through traffic at all times, and motorists will also be able to use Ham Gate, which is about halfway along that route.

The road from Richmond Gate to Roehampton Gate, meanwhile, will be open to motor vehicles only on Mondays to Fridays.

Those will be the only permitted through routes and while the other gates will also be open to drivers, that will only be to provide access to car parks or to White Lodge, home to The Royal Ballet School.

Just two roads will remain fully closed to stop drivers from using the park as a short-cut. Those are the one turning off the Richmond Gate to Roehampton Gate towards Sheen Gate, and the road from the Broomfield Road to Robin Hood Gate.

However, London Cycling Campaign’s infrastructure campaigner Simon Munk described the move as “a hugely disappointing retrogressive step,” while the organisation said it was “a reckless and drastic proposal.”

Shortly after motor vehicles were banned from Richmond Park in March, cyclists other than NHS key workers and under-12s were also excluded to avoid overcrowding as social distancing guidance was introduced by the government.

However, those measures have gradually been eased, first to allow access to commuters and as of 1 August the park is once again open to all cyclists seven days a week.

News of the reopening of some roads in Richmond Park coincides with the Royal Parks announcing changes to access to some of the other parks it manages in the capital, including extending the closure of the Mall and Constitution Hill to motor vehicles, currently in place on Sundays, to Saturdays as well.

Simon joined as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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eburtthebike | 3 years ago

I looked in vain in the article for the justification from Royal Parks for this re-opening, but could find none, so I went to the "fact sheet"; lo and behold, not only was there no justification, logic, reason or even a vague opinion for re-opening to motor vehicles, it didn't even mention the word "re-opening".  All it mentions is restricting traffic, road closures and closing links, but not once does it mention that the roads have been closed and they are being re-opened.

Pardon me if I suspect the motives of people who don't even acknowledge the perfectly clear and obvious actions they are taking.

They do say that they will be consulting in November and December, entirely coincidentally times when walking and cycling will be at their lowest levels.  Given their previous history of anti-cycling measures, this has stitch up written all over it.

From the fact sheet:

"All feedback received during this time will be taken into account to determine the final outcome of the trial. The charitable objects of The Royal Parks will also be taken into consideration."

Does anyone know what those charitable objects are?

OnYerBike replied to eburtthebike | 3 years ago
eburtthebike replied to OnYerBike | 3 years ago
OnYerBike wrote:

Thanks for that.  I'm utterly gobsmacked, astounded, amazed and almost entirely surprised and underwhelmed to find out that the charitable objects don't in any way shape or form include provision for motor vehicles.  I suppose you could argue that providing parking did allow enjoyment by people, but there is no justification for a through road, so are they going against their charitable objects and who could hold them to account for this?

thereverent | 3 years ago

Actually, it been opened this morning for through traffic (all signs and barrier pilled up by the side of the road). The first rat running cars back.

David9694 replied to thereverent | 3 years ago

It starts to sound decidedly fishey when things happen like this...

Bungle_52 | 3 years ago

This is depressing. One by one all the environmental gains from lockdown are being eroded. I guess the government is keen to resume destroying the planet as soon as possible becuase increasing gdp relies on it and that is their misguided priority.

ParkySouthLondon | 3 years ago

A few years back a Royal Parks survey showed 95% of motor vehicles were not stopping in the park (rat running) for leisure pursuits.  Parks are the lungs of any city and need to be kept for breathing fresh air, for dog walkers, horse riding, playing sports, having a picnic, cycling, jogging etc. 
It's mad that in this day and age we let motor vehicles pollute this precious resource. 

Hodge | 3 years ago

I haden't cycled in Richmond Park for years because of the traffic.  In the last few weeks we have been several times in the weekdays and it has been bliss.  The Park is peaceful like I can never remember it.  Everything seemed better.  I think it is a great shame that through traffic is again to be allowed.  We won't go anymore.

LetsBePartOfThe... replied to Hodge | 3 years ago

I regrettably would suggest it has to be the opposite...

It's a terrible decision but if they do proceed with this motor-vehicle trial, it's important that other park users continue making their normal full use of this amenity   - and at all times of day including rush hour
Such as it being made use of by walkers, families cycling for leisure, and horses being ridden.

If everyone else suddenly disappears due to the re-arrival of cars, then there will be a skewed set of results from the trial suggesting that the cars blended in very nicely on the now-otherwise-deserted park roads

it's this unreppelled creep of territorial land-grab that causes our environment to have become so dominated by motor-vehicles 

taking things to an absurd logical conclusion - they could do a trial of cars being allowed to rally across the grasslands. Again the results would show there were no people at all on the grasslands ( anymore ), so no-one was being endangered.




ParkySouthLondon replied to LetsBePartOfTheSolution | 3 years ago
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You and others don't understand that any survey will not involve air quality in the park which will inevitably drop with the introduction of motor vehicles. 
Parks are for breathing fresh air so any vehicles apart from say electric vehicles have no place in a park

chaos | 3 years ago

Sad move by Royal Parks. Sad and so predictable.

As for the "6-month trial", it was 'trialled' for years with cars in the park and briefly during lock-down without the cars: what's to prove? The various tribes - drivers, cyclists, pedestrians do not mix very well.

I used to cycle in the park several times a week, but accepted giving it up for the good and benefit of families and wildlife. Cannot say the same for car usage!

The only car usage I would, unhappily, support is drivers accessing the nearest park car park and then the car occupants, walk, cycle, ride a horse. Not going to add skateboards because those riders constantly remind me I will never master that skill.

Finally, I hope Royal Parks add road-kill to their stat's. Thirteen squashed things is my record count for a 25- mile ride. Well squashed too, more than 25c!



Sriracha | 3 years ago

At a time when the government is trying to increase segregated infrastructure for active transport this does seem like an especially obtuse step.

mpdouglas | 3 years ago

Shame on Royal Parks! Both of the sections that have been re-opened to cars have a perfectly good road running almost exactly parallel (pretty much tracking the brown border to the map). There is not a single good reason why cars need to use these stretches of the park roads other than to rat run. Where is the sense in this? They had a perfect opportunity to leave the restrictions in place and bring about their strategy for change in an accelerated way. Another spineless decision that yields to the car lobby.

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