Total inconsistency from the Royal Parks

I can’t really add much to Cyclists in the City’s excellent and thorough analysis of the problems facing the East-West Superhighway route through the Royal Parks – problems, it seems, that are entirely being caused by the Royal Parks themselves, as the Evening Standard reports.

But I would like to examine the apparent rationale tharee Royal Parks are advancing for blocking a separated route for cycling, on the existing carriageway – a route that would look like this, in the visualisation that Transport for London have already prepared.

How the route would look, if it wasn't being blocked by the Royal Parks

How the route would look, if it wasn’t being blocked by the Royal Parks

As is clear from this visualisation, the route would run on existing road space, separated from motor traffic by what look like removable wands, visible on the right of the image.

It is very important to note here that the Royal Parks are not actually objecting to the principle of a Superhighway running through this area; their objection is specifically about the form cycling provision should take.

As the Superhighway comes down Constitution Hill, instead of running it on the road, the Royal Parks want the route to pass directly through this area of shared use, shown below, at the foot of Green Park.


The existing area of shared use at the south side of Green Park. This is where the Royal Parks want the Superhighway to go.

This is already a very busy area, heaving with pedestrians who are coming to and from the Palace, or making their way from Hyde Park into central London. I don’t think mixing cycling and walking here works at all, even at present – the numbers of people walking and cycling here are just too high.

Yet the Royal Parks are apparently proposing that this shared footway is appropriate for what will likely be one the busiest cycle routes in London, pushing more people cycling into this area.

It makes absolutely no sense whatsoever, especially when – just over that wall, visible in the picture above – there is an ocean of road space that could quite easily be used for a protected cycle route, without having any effect on motor traffic, while simultaneously keeping cycling and walking separated from each other at this very busy location.

The 2014 Parliamentary Bike Ride, passing along TfL's preferred route for the Superhighway.

The 2014 Parliamentary Bike Ride, passing along TfL’s preferred route for the Superhighway. As you can see, there is a vast expanse of tarmac here that can easily accommodate a cycling route.

Locating the cycling route here would therefore actually represent a considerable improvement for pedestrians, because cycling would no longer be mixed in with walking on the existing shared use footway. These issues are summarised very well by Andrew Gilligan in the early part of this BBC report from Tom Edwards.

So what is the reasoning the Royal Parks are employing for blocking a segregated track on the road, and insisting that the crap status quo should be maintained (and indeed worsened, through the addition of more cycle traffic into a shared use area)?

All we have to go on at present are the minutes of their Board meeting back in December, at which Andrew Gilligan and Transport for London representatives were present (thanks to Jon Stone, for uploading them) –

TfL set out the consultation concept designs for the east-west cycle superhighway within the Royal Parks. The Board agreed that TfL could undertake public consultation on the proposed road based scheme through Hyde Park. The proposals for St James and Green Parks were not satisfactory for safety, operational and aesthetic reasons. The Board asked TfL to look again at the concept design and come back with revisions and mitigations.

Unspecified ‘safety, operational and aesthetic reasons’.

I have to say it is not especially clear why an expanse of tarmac is more aesthetically pleasing if it is entirely used for motor traffic – perhaps the Royal Parks could provide more explanation. The ‘operational’ reasons don’t make a great deal of sense either, as we’ve known for some time that the segregation at this location would have to be removable, for events.

As for ‘safety’, it makes absolutely no sense whatsoever to pretend that running a busy cycle route directly through an area of footway used by huge numbers of pedestrians is safer than separating that cycle route from those pedestrians, by using excess carriageway space.

The total inconsistency of the Royal Parks on this issue is betrayed by the fact that they are simultaneously insisting that it is not safe for the Superhighway to run along Rotten Row –

In response to Royal Parks Agency concerns about pedestrians, the superhighway will not run on Rotten Row

Because of… concerns about pedestrians!

How can the Royal Parks profess concern for conflict between walking and cycling in Hyde Park, while simultaneously blocking a Superhighway route by Buckingham Palace that would serve to remove that conflict?

This entry was posted in Andrew Gilligan, Evening Standard, Infrastructure, London, Royal Parks, Superhighways, Walking. Bookmark the permalink.

18 Responses to Total inconsistency from the Royal Parks

  1. geoffrone says:

    “Come that glorious day…….”, Wolfie Smith 1981

  2. Colin Gregor says:

    Because they have decided, in this instance, the her Royal Majesty, and her heirs, should not have to cast thier anacronisiticly priviledge eyes over road trains of sweaty cyclists from the windows of Buck ‘Ouse i.e. same reason as buses don’t run down the Mall. The Royal Parks are an anachronism and a near-medieval throw back. Don’t treat them like they are a 21st C democratic institution with sensible accountabilities.

    • There’s no indication that the concerns are coming from them, though – in fact, The Prince’s Foundation has come out in support of the plans. I think it’s more that Royal Parks are fundamentally opposed to cycling in and near the parks, and are looking for any route they can use to block them, however flimsy.

      It seems to me that their logic is that a compromised on road/shared space solution will result in fewer cyclists using the route, and keeping the overall numbers down is their main aim. As pointed out above, it’s completely ridiculous because the route is already choked with cars, and any gap is unlikely to keep numbers down when the route is finalised. It will, however, create a dangerous junction which may put RP at risk if someone were injured there because of their refusal to permit a safe design.

  3. Michael J says:

    A thought: If we could get cycle lanes built to a decent standard so that mobility scooters can use them (as in the Netherlands) then maybe legislation around discrimination could start to come into play in these kind of situations?

    • Given that the present UK cycling population is so heavily dominated by younger/middle aged men, UK cycling policy is already clearly discriminatory towards women, younger people and older people. In any other walk of life this would be a driving force for change, but for some reason we seem happy to tolerate it when it comes to the UK determination to avoid installing the sort of cycling conditions that result in balanced cycling population in terms of gender and age.

      • Joe says:

        That may be the case where you live but here in Cambridge there are mostly everyday commuters & schoolchildren wearing normal clothes. In fact, sporting cyclists rarely venture into Cambridge at all because the roads are so crap. As an old person I don’t feel any more discriminated against than every other cyclist, but we have to elect politicians that care in May (our last chance).

        • davidhembrow says:

          I was in Cambridge a few days ago. Cycling in Cambridge is as it ever was. i.e. dominated by students and near student age-groups. There are more children and older people than elsewhere in the UK, but it’s nowhere near what is normal in the Netherlands.

          The reason why cycling is under stress in Cambridge is exactly the reason you give in your response. “The roads are crap” and there are few opportunities for cyclists to ride elsewhere than those roads.

        • You say, “here in Cambridge there are mostly everyday commuters & schoolchildren wearing normal clothes”. Well, I haven’t been to Cambridge for 4 years or so, but I suspect that you are exaggerating. There’s plenty of statistics to support my observation (eg OECD figures) – can you back up your claim?

          You refer to ‘normal clothing’, but I didn’t mention clothing; similarly you refer to ‘sporting cyclists’, but again i didn’t refer to sub-groups of cyclists; my claim was that the overall UK cycling population is heavily dominated by young/middle-age males.

          • Joe says:

            Your observation? Your sweeping generalisation.
            If you read the above comment from David Hembrow you will see that I’m not exaggerating. The cycling population in Cambridge is well spread across most age groups. Outside secondary schools, there are legions of children on bikes, sometimes several to one bike. In the Arbury area where there are 3 schools in close proximity it is almost like a swarm, just without any road sense, manners or consideration 😉
            Just today I chatted to and past an elderly man (80+) in full camouflage! Eccentricity is alive and kicking here. Yesterday I followed a mother with a baby in a seat escorting a little girl riding on stabilisers down Gilbert Road. Every journey, another example.
            Yes you will see commuters hurtling along in fluo yellow, but again, many are women. I regularly get passed by them. However, as David confirmed, we have a large student population and a sizeable section are foreign students. They don’t wear anything other than normal clothes, certainly don’t have lights, ignore traffic lights completely and quite frequently travel on the wrong side of the road. All normal for Cambridge.
            In most other areas of the UK, cycling males tend to be lycra clad on sporting bikes, but that isn’t the case here. As for backing up ‘my claim’, I’ve lived & cycled here since 1968 – that’s better than your statistics.

  4. Mark Hewitt says:

    I’m not familiar with the powers the Royal Parks have, but could TfL not just paint in the cycle lanes anyway and stop cars from using them, just to make a point?

    • Nick says:

      No, for the same reason they can’t do this with the Boroughs’ roads either. TfL is not the highway authority for the roads inside the parks.

      • Mark Williams says:

        I find it hard to believe that Royal Parks are the highway authority for the large MOAT junctions surrounding the entire front of Buckingham Palace—i.e. everything currently paved with red asphalt, at least. As TFL’s visualisation appears to show the cycle track on the existing carriageway, this section really ought not to be any of Royal Parks’ business. Although, for the sake of consistency, Royal Parks will no doubt be insisting on `indemnifying’ the real highway authority against all of those `vast numbers of pedestrians’ spilling out of their parks and crossing highways (carriageways or cycle tracks) and causing `accidents’…

        If Royal Parks really have managed to remain the highway authority for those roads to date, then it is about time that ownership was transferred to a proper highway authority. Not least because the roads in question already contradict Royal Parks’ mission statement about park roads not having a major transport function—these roads must already be carrying tens of thousands of motor and pedal vehicles per day and are not closed during hours of darkness! So instead of TFL presenting itself as being `furious’ about all this, they should just get on and lodge the requisite traffic order to transfer ownership to themselves.

        I suspect the real story here is that TFL itself are blocking this section and just using the Royal Parks as a smokescreen to avoid tarnishing their [self-promoted and jealously guarded, at considerable expense] PR image as the motorists’ friend first and foremost. Convert a lane or two of the carriageway along Constitution Hill into a protected cycle track such that it is less easy for motorists to impose their dangerous hobby in both directions? Make that end of The Mall impermeable to private [non-event] motor traffic? Simply unthinkable to the motoring addicts at TFL.

  5. Simon says:

    Having spent about six months running round the park whilst training for the marathon (just under three hours, thanks for asking), I can attest that there are a shed-load of people milling around there. Running through there is difficult, and cycling more so. [The cycle path along Constitution Hill is also a right pain to use as it’s just a line of paint along the pavement and there are always pedestrians wandering along it.]

  6. congokid says:

    For years the Mall and Spur Road were on my regular commute into Soho. There are always queues of traffic, as well as big crowds of tourists, many crossing the apparently clear road – not just at the lights – only to have to make a frantic dash as motor traffic accelerates in their direction either away from or toward the lights next to the Victoria monument.

    It’s rather surprising there aren’t many reports of pedestrians killed or seriously injured (though does seem to indicate there have been quite a few over the past few years).

    It’s certainly not a piece of transport infrastructure that the RP or anyone else ought to be proud of, though apparently it meets their arcane definitions of safety, operational function and aesthetics.

  7. Dan B says:

    The members of the Royal Parks board are appointed by the Mayor –

    Is it not possible to replace them with people who would be better at the job?

  8. Nico says:

    Those roads and roundabout in front of the palace are an ugly, vacuous waste of space that pollutes the air for everyone. Bit like the monarchy really, are you sure this isn’t an ironic art display?

  9. Nick says:

    seems that the Royal Parks are, in effect, a motoring body. As well as blocking numerous cycling initiatives for spurious reasons, it is noticeable that the various “no cycling” restrictions are rigorously enforced on safety grounds, yet motor traffic is able to speed through unhindered at 40mph plus on wide roads with no calming measures, enforcement of speed limits etc. I’d be interested to know who actually runs the Royal Parks – I suspect it includes a fair number of (wealthy) individuals who live near the parks, so their objective would be to preserve the parks as a place where they can freely drive everywhere in their (expensive) cars.

  10. Pingback: Cycling in parks | As Easy As Riding A Bike

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