Each month, we are emailing a bulletin to everyone who has signed up on this site. Below is last month's mailout. If you like it, please sign up on our Get Involved section – you will be showing your support for our work and you will receive future bulletins a month before they appear here.
Hello, and welcome to Richmond Park Cyclists’ inaugural bulletin!
Firstly, thanks for your patience. As you are one of the scores of people who have signed up on our website, you have probably asked yourself what we have been up to. The answer is, quite a bit. We’ve set up a not-for-profit bank account with three of us as trustees, making our organisation a little bit more official. And following the publication of The Royal Parks’ draft report into traffic levels, and subsequent meetings with park stakeholders, we have decided to promote a clear, sensible idea to improve visitors’ experience of Richmond Park.
The idea is Intelligent Road Charging. We believe it will complement the park’s status as a National Nature Reserve, help promote it as a space for public recreation and sport (which are among the charitable objectives of The Royal Parks) and benefit every user. For all these reasons, we hope you will want to get behind it.
If you like the idea of Intelligent Road Charging, please forward this email to anyone - cyclists and non-cyclists - you think might be interested in supporting it. But before you do that, you will probably want to know more about the concept. So here’s some background to Richmond Park’s relationship with cyclists and the events that led to us forming Richmond Park Cyclists.
HOW WE BEGAN
Richmond Park is run by The Royal Parks. This charitable body regularly consults with stakeholder groups that represent the diverse types of park users and the Metropolitan Police. These meetings help shape the way The Royal Parks runs Richmond Park.
For years, The Royal Parks and the Met have sought ways of improving how they communicate with the cycling community. Reaching out to cycling clubs was only scratching the surface as most bike riders are not members of a club. So some of the cyclists who attend these meetings contacted a number of their cycling friends and acquaintances to form Richmond Park Cyclists.
In essence, we are a partnership that represents all types of cyclists - young and old, commuter or competitive, able-bodied or disabled - to the highest level of Richmond Park’s authorities and stakeholders.
This, for the moment, is our organising committee.
Paul Harknett – Former Chair, London Dynamo
Duncan Adamson – Slipstreamers' Coach
Peter Cunliffe – South Western Road Club
Derek Griffiths – Kingston Wheelers
Tim Lennon – Richmond Cycling Campaign
Justin Levene – Weir Archer Academy and Get Kids Going
Marina Lim – Commuter
Martin O'Sullivan – Deputy Head of Turing House School
Martin Winter – Twickenham Cycling Club
We welcome more support, so please get in touch if you would like to help out.
A WAY FORWARD
In December 2014, long before Richmond Park Cyclists formed, Zac Goldsmith MP held a public meeting in response to concerns he had received from constituents regarding the tensions between cyclists and motorists in the park. Such was the strength of opinion on both sides that the Richmond Park MP confessed to being nervous about the atmosphere that might have developed.
He needn’t have worried. The 250 attendees listened to the panel, which included representatives of the Royal Parks, Met Police, as well as councillors, stakeholders and traffic experts. And the biggest applause of the evening - which came from cyclists and non-cyclists alike - was in response to the idea of charging drivers whenever they use the park as a shortcut.
Judging by the public’s reaction that night, implementing the concept of road charging in Richmond Park would be warmly welcomed by a good proportion of park users.
TOO MUCH TRAFFIC
Paul Harknett, who would later set up Richmond Park Cyclists, became part of the working group that Goldsmith convened on a number of occasions to pick through the various ideas proposed at the meeting. Meanwhile, the Royal Parks carried out a traffic survey to gauge the level and types of motor traffic in Richmond Park.
A draft report from the Royal Parks published in March confirmed what you, as someone who visits the park, would probably have already suspected: there is too much unnecessary traffic. Depending on the time of the week, between 68 and 91 percent of motor vehicles in Richmond Park are using it as a shortcut.
AN INTELLIGENT SOLUTION
Given the public support at the Goldsmith meeting for levying a fee against motor vehicles using the park as a shortcut, and the subsequent traffic statistics revealed in The Royal Parks’ report, it is clear to us that road charging is an idea worth exploring.
This is how we believe Intelligent Road Charging could work.
Drivers who have parked - either to have a walk, a run, a bike ride, a cup of tea or enjoy any other activity in Richmond Park - would pay nothing. But motorists simply passing through who enter and leave the park within a set time period would pay. They would not be excluded, but they might be deterred.
Details of motor vehicles that use this private road as a through route would be logged by Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) - a technology which is readily available to authorities these days. If the drivers of these vehicles do not register to pay, there would be a penalty charge. Displaced traffic - journeys that take place outside the park - is already accommodated when the gates are closed, including morning and evening peak periods in the winter, which shows there is capacity on these roads.
The London Congestion Charge has been running for more than 14 years. Transport for London has developed a sophisticated, cost-effective and easy-to-use model that, in our view, could be rolled out in Richmond Park. We will be engaging with The Royal Parks, park stakeholders, the three bordering London boroughs and Zac Goldsmith MP to explore how such a system could be most fairly deployed.
The advantages of Intelligent Road Charging are clear. It would:
*Reduce pollution and congestion in the park, which is an official National Nature Reserve
*Create a calmer atmosphere
*Make the roads safer to cross (for pedestrians and deer)
*Create an emptier road space that would be safer to enjoy by genuine park visitors
*Attract more people out of their cars and onto bikes. Women, children and disabled riders who are put off cycling by traffic and speeding cars (the draft report shows a significant number do this) would be offered a more welcoming environment
*Create revenue for the underfunded and overstretched Royal Parks which could be invested in the park and spent on its upkeep
THE NEXT STEPS
Intelligent Road Charging would take legislation to implement and could not be rolled out without proper consultation, so at this stage we are looking for as much support as possible. We believe the idea deserves broader consultation and support because it would improve the park for everyone - not just cyclists. So if you like what you have read, please forward this email to your family, friends and acquaintances - regardless of whether they cycle or not - and encourage them to sign up to our mailing list so they can receive our updates.
There are many other more cycle-centric issues we would like to tackle, so if you can spare the time to help run our organisation, do get in touch by dropping us an email.
One of the areas we would like to have an impact upon is rider behaviour in the park. Unsafe and disrespectful cycling - even though it is practiced by a small minority - can create friction and hostility on the road and pathways that we all enjoy, so we aim to minimise such conflict by drafting advice for courteous riding. We hope all our supporters will see the value in following the advice, and that they will politely ask fellow cyclists to modify their behaviour if they see obvious transgressions. We know only too well that some motorists are prone to poor behaviour too, and as drivers ourselves we will also draft guidelines for driving in the park.
GET IN TOUCH
Thanks for reading. We welcome any feedback, so please email email@example.com with your comments - good and bad. We aim to get another update out in a month’s time. Until then, enjoy your cycling - and we’ll see you in the park!