Thursday, 25 August 2011

Around the Royal Parks on a Boris bike - part 1

London is notable for its fabulous green spaces, and probably the best of all are the spacious and relaxing Royal Parks, providing a welcome bit of breathing space in our busy city.

So today I set off on my trusty Boris bike (and with my camera) to see just how accessible and enjoyable the parks are to cyclists. Today, I'm focusing on the most central of the parks, St James's and Green parks.

Entering the parks through Admiralty Arch is a real joy, and the Mall is wide enough for cyclists and traffic not to annoy each other. And for those wanting their own space, the north side of the Mall has its own cycle lane (which doubles up as a coach and carpark on certain days, and I have to admit is frequently closed). Cycling is not allowed within St James Park, but the park is small and can be circled quickly by turning onto Birdcage Walk. So, do I stop for a visit to Buckingham Palace, or perhaps a coffee at Inn the Park? Neither, because now the first big problem presents itself - there are no docking stations at all nearby. You can see the problem if you look on a map of docking stations; here, for example. See that big hole around St James's Park? I contacted Royal Parks as long ago as last year to ask what was being done, and was told a proposed docking station on the Mall had been abandoned due to objections. I can only hope the Parks authority revisits this, as some of the nicest parts of London, for tourists and locals alike, just aren't accessible at the moment.

Round into Green Park and a lovely cycle lane takes you up Constitution Hill to, at last, a popular docking station at Wellington Arch. But a second problem now becomes apparent, as there is nowhere else to go by bike in Green Park. The park desparately needs a route round the northern edge, and the wide avenue on the east of the park ought to be opened up to cycling. At present a sign sternly warns against cycling there, despite the fact that it would be an ideal shared space. Green Park tube station (on the north side of the park) is currently being redeveloped, and when finished will include cycle hire docks. But where exactly would one go on a bike from there? The only option, unless new routes open up in Green Park, is to go out onto Piccadilly, hardly an inviting prospect!

This is one of my favourite parts of London, but it's a missed opportunity at the moment for good Boris biking. Boris himself has called for more access for cyclists in parks, let's hope the park authorities are listening.

Next time, Hyde Park, but for now, the very first picture of a Boris bike to appear on this blog!

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