Opinion: Restricting vehicle access to Regent's Park will benefit eight million visitors a year
PUBLISHED: 13:15 25 April 2019 | UPDATED: 15:52 25 April 2019
The Crown Estate Paving Commission (CEPC) controls the roads and gates within Regent's Park.
It recently chose to scupper plans to reduce the volume of vehicles using the outer circle as a cut-through by leaving some (but not all) gates closed a little longer. Its decision was not in the interest of the eight million people who visit the park each year.
Restricting the gate opening hours on the north and south sides of the park would have had very little impact on those driving to the park.
The clear majority of vehicles using the outer circle during the week do so to get into and out of town. Long before London Zoo or other park destinations are open there are queues of vehicles forming waiting to exit the south gates. It's the opposite in the evening.
While the gate closure plans were part of a cycling project (CS11), the impact of park roads being used by very large volumes of unnecessary traffic impacts all park users, not just cyclists.
As part of its budget to improve environmentally friendly travel, Transport for London (TfL) was planning to invest quite large sums of money improving the road and gate infrastructure within the park.
An improved road layout at the zoo is much needed, along with the additional pedestrian crossing that was planned there. The pedestrian islands dotted around the outer circle are clearly designed with cars, not people, in mind. The thin dotted advisory line encourages cyclists to ride in the gutter and when car drivers realise that there is not enough space to get through, they often go the wrong side of the pedestrian island – putting pedestrians crossing in grave danger.
I live within walking distance of the park and represent park users at the Regent's Park and Primrose Hill Safer Parks Panel. We ensure the police dedicate their limited resources to the biggest safety and crime issues. The police target issues such as anti-social behaviour, theft, robbery, violence and possession of drugs. They also deal with road safety.
Ahead of our meeting later this week, I have seen the crime and park regulation breaches. They are frankly shocking.
Of the 778 tickets or fines issued in the last quarter, more than 86 per cent of these tickets were issued to vehicles and their drivers who break the law or park regulations.
I have also received a report from a specialist who spent a week monitoring air pollution on the pedestrian crossing closest to Marylebone Green Playground. Early in the morning, before the gates are all open the concentration of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) was falling. Shortly after the gates opened, the NO2 levels quickly rose to above twice the legal limit of 40µg/m3. That's not acceptable anywhere, let alone within a park.
Ironically, this data was taken directly between the CEPC offices, the Royal College of Physicians and the Faculty of Public Health.
One of the key objectives of The Royal Parks as a charity is to promote the use of the parks for public recreation, health and well-being.
As part of some quirk of regulatory history, it has delegated part of this responsibility within Regent's Park (the roads) to the CEPC. It's time we held the CEPC accountable to more than just a handful of residents.