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Cycling code of conduct for Richmond Park up for discussion amid "rising tensions" betwen users

Questions invited at public meeting this month chaired by local MP Zac Goldsmith with panel including Andrew Gilligan, police and council officials

Zac Goldsmith, Member of Parliament for Richmond Park and North Kingston, will chair a public meeting next month to address cycling within the park and drawing up a code of conduct amid what he describes as “rising tensions” between people who use the space.

Questions are being invited from the public and will be answered by a panel including a senior police officer and London’s cycling champion, Andrew Gilligan.

The meeting will start at 7.30pm on Wednesday 17 December at the Duke St Church in Richmond, and comprises three half-hour sessions. According to an email sent to local residents by Mr Goldsmith, the agenda is:

1.       Legal/Enforcement of existing highway and park regulations:  To discuss legislation of Highway and Parks, whether this legislation is working and how it can be enforced

2.       Physical design solutions for the Park: Can any changes be made to the layout of the park to improve safety for all and increase road capacity?

3.       Behavioural change: Improve communications between users of the Park and agree a code of conduct for the Park

The panel that will discuss the issues at the meeting and field questions from the public will be chaired by Mr Goldsmith and besides Mr Gilligan will comprise Simon Richards of Royal Parks, where he is manager of Richmond Park, the Metropolitan Police’s borough commander for Richmond and Sergeant Michael Boulton, whose beat includes parts of the park.

They will be joined by Richmond Councillor Jean Loveland, the borough’s cycling champion, and Councillor Stephen Speak, cabinet member for highways, plus Peter Treadgold and Richard Lewis of Kingston Council’s Mini-Holland programme team.

The agenda looks as though it will try and pack a lot into the one and a half hours.

Just the park regulations themselves are confusing enough when it comes to bicycles, a point illustrated by our story from last year about whether police were within their powers to fine cyclists ‘speeding’ above 20mph.

The short answer? We’re not sure they were, but can’t be 100 per cent certain.

The reader who alerted us to Mr Goldsmith’s email was one of his constituents, Jon Fray, who expressed particular concern over the second item on the agenda.

He told us: “It seems to me that Zac Goldsmith wants more road capacity for cars. There is already plenty of road capacity for bicycles so it must be capacity for cars he wants.  What he seems to have missed is that if there were less capacity for cars (or none at all for through traffic) the park would be a lot safer.”

The third item, regarding the agreement of a code of conduct, also potentially gives rise to concern among the many cyclists of all types who use the park, ranging from weekday commuters to families with children and roadies getting the miles in at the weekend.

There is already a code of conduct in place for shared use pathways within the Royal Parks – there are 17km of those around the perimeter of Richmond Park alone.

The code, which applies to  “cyclists, roller skaters, roller bladers, skate boarders and visitors using other foot-propelled devices in designated areas,” says:

• Be considerate – Pedestrians have priority over all other users of pathways and shared pathways, even in areas designated and marked for other purposes. You are asked to use these pathways considerately. Other users may not be aware of you, please remember this when passing.

• Be safe – We recommend you wear British Standard approved protective equipment and ask that you adhere to all pathway and road markings. Our pathways are not suitable for fast travel, so please keep to a sensible speed. If you are in a hurry, you may wish to use
another route.

• Be seen & heard – Some park visitors may have a visual or hearing impairment, using a bell and or wearing high visibility clothing will  help others to be aware of your presence. Use British Standard approved lights in low visibility conditions.

• Be polite – Thank other park visitors who allow you to over take or pass them.

As codes of conduct go, it’s reasonably short, so one question arising is whether the meeting in a fortnight’s time will aim to put more extensive obligations on cyclists? And will it just apply to bike riders, or to others using the park? Will it just cover shared use paths, or the roads too?

Last month Ron Crompton, chairman of Friends of Richmond Park, spoke of “the almost daily incidents “involving people on bikes “and the rising level of complaints” in an article published in the group’s newsletter.

Outlining some of the frustrations experienced by motorists, cyclists and other users of the park such as people on foot or on horseback.

He said: “I drive, cycle and walk in the Park and I know the irritation and intimidation I feel as a driver with cyclists crowding me on all sides; if I make a mistake I might kill someone. I also know the mix of adrenaline and fear I feel as a cyclist with drivers close; if they make a mistake it’s me who will be hurt.

“But in spite of these complaints, there are few collisions between cars and bikes; the vast majority of incidents are cyclists coming off their bikes with no one else involved.”

Mr Crompton added: “In all of this, the most vulnerable users – pedestrians, horses and wildlife – suffer. Ten years ago, cars and cyclists stopped for pedestrians and deer. Today they hardly ever do, and if a car does stop, cyclists will carry on. Incidents of pedestrians, horses and deer being hit are mercifully rare but they are increasingly intimidated and need more protection.”

While Mr Goldsmith talks about the meeting focusing particularly on “the rising tensions between the various users of Richmond Park,” many cyclists who use it will recall the death earlier this year of cyclist Dr Sian Tiong Lim in which no other vehicle or park user was involved.

The 40-year-old from Surrey crashed after apparently skidding on gravel while descending at the relatively low speed of 15mph. Shortly after his death in August a fellow cyclist said he too had crashed at the same point a few weeks earlier, but didn’t report his concerns about the road surface to the authorities.

In his email to local residents, Mr Goldsmith said: “Ahead of the meeting, I am hoping for some input from residents, in particular questions you'd like to submit to the panel.

“We will have representatives from Richmond and Kingston Councils, the Royal parks, and the police – and your questions will help me chair the meeting more effectively and ensure that the key issues are addressed.”

You can submit a question here.

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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