The importance of parks for cycling

9 Jun 2020 | Stuart Kightley

I ventured outside the comfort of my home this past weekend for the first time in 11 weeks. As I walked through Greenwich Park seeing many children cycling it got me thinking about my own childhood and learning to ride a bike.

All the children in my area would head to the same local park to learn to ride. As my family lived on a road just off a dual-carriageway, this was the safest place to learn to ride. Walking through Greenwich Park this weekend there were people of all ages making the most of the park with the through road and car park closed, from toddlers to teenagers and families cycling together to adults who obviously cycle regularly.

A difference between my local park growing up and Greenwich Park is the through road running through Greenwich Park which connects 2 parts of South East London, however this is only open during restricted times which focus on rush hour periods and is not permitted during weekends and Bank Holidays. Due to social distancing parking is not permitted in the park at present. This means that currently there are no vehicles permitted in Greenwich Park at the weekends (except those owned and operated by the Royal Parks).

Having a safe space where children can learn to cycle is essential and this was extremely clear to me at the weekend. Greenwich Park does have designated cycle paths but these are within certain routes of this 183 acres space. A cycle path may also not be the most sensible place to teach a child to ride if the path is in heavy use by other cyclists.

With social distancing being enforced, the walkways were clear for people strolling through the park to adhere to the advised 2m distance with cyclists able to freely cycle on the road. This gave a large space for children to enjoy cycling, more than their garden would and safer than riding on the road near their homes. This is particularly important for children living in apartment buildings where there is not an outside space.

Whilst there is lots of open green space for people to cycle, at present this is often in use by lots of people making the most of getting out into the fresh air making it harder for cyclists to navigate through and may make social distancing more difficult.

In comparison to other Royal Parks which have through roads, Greenwich Park does try to give a fair balance for all who use the park. It is so important that we keep these spaces open and as cycle friendly as possible for children to learn to ride. Encouraging more people to use their car less and cycle more has my support.

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