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Alan Bennett pushes for pedal power in park

PUBLISHED: 15:10 30 October 2008 | UPDATED: 15:33 07 September 2010

RENOWNED author and lifelong cyclist Alan Bennett wants cycling in Regent s Park to be made safer and permanent. He has joined the Camden Cycling Campaign, which is pedalling ahead with a crusade to get bikes permitted on a small number of routes in the p

RENOWNED author and lifelong cyclist Alan Bennett wants cycling in Regent's Park to be made safer and permanent.

He has joined the Camden Cycling Campaign, which is pedalling ahead with a crusade to get bikes permitted on a small number of routes in the park.

The group also wants changes made to the outer circle in a bid to improve safety for cyclists and walkers - including pedestrianising the area outside the zoo.

Royal Parks is currently running an 18-month pilot cyclist-pedestrian shared-use scheme on the Broad Walk, which runs through the middle of the park.

"There's plenty of room for everybody on the Broad Walk," said Camden Town resident Mr Bennett, who has cycled in London for 40 years ever since he commuted by bike to perform in the smash hit Beyond The Fringe.

"I'm a very gentle cyclist anyway, so speed limits don't apply to me. I hope they'll do the last bit through Marylebone Green, which would allow cyclists to continue through the park as far as Marylebone Road.

"It seems to me the cars are getting faster. Even the traffic on the outer circle around Regent's Park is often speeding."

There are no speed traps on the outer circle, but a friend of Mr Bennett's who cycled across the empty park at 7.30am was stopped and fined. "It's monstrous and inequitable," he said.

In addition to the Broad Walk, the campaigners want more paths in the park made accessible to bikes.

Mr Bennett, known for works such as Untold Stories and The History Boys, wants to be allowed to pedal through Primrose Hill and Regent's Park without the threat of prosecution.

He has welcomed the pilot scheme, which he now uses on the way to the BBC in Portland Place, but wants "a less grudging, more imaginative attitude" from the capital's transport authorities towards cyclists.

But not everyone is content with the new scheme and there are fears it could lead to increased danger for pedestrians and dogs. Chairman of the Friends of Regent's Park, Malcolm Kafetz, said: "The place cyclists are allowed at the moment on the trial does not lead anywhere - it is not worth it.

"There were four dog deaths in Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens, which I feel shows you cannot trust the cyclists.

"I think it is an unnecessary risk mixing dangerous cyclists with children and the elderly. We have a perfectly good inner and outer circle that the cyclists can easily use.

"I do not want belligerent cyclists who seem to think it is fine riding close to people - I do not like it. Many of them seem to think they own the earth. The whole thing is pointless."

Royal Parks conducted a three-month trial earlier this year on the Broad Walk that proved inconclusive because not enough cyclists used the route.

It launched another 18-month trial in August - at the end of which a decision will be made about making cycling in Regent's Park permanent.

Ruth Holmes, landscape development and design manager for The Royal Parks, said: "We aim to balance the needs of all our visitors so have selected a shared-use cycle and pedestrian pathway for the trial.

"We hope the route will provide a safe and green environment for cyclists and an ideal place for learner cyclists to practise.

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