Walkers accused of ‘whipping up hysteria’ over calls to extend Hampstead Heath cycle paths

Camden Cyclists is calling for cycle paths on the Heath to be extended. Picture: JOHN CHAMBERLAIN

Camden Cyclists is calling for cycle paths on the Heath to be extended. Picture: JOHN CHAMBERLAIN - Credit: Archant

A row has erupted after cycling campaigners called for more cycle paths on Hampstead Heath.

Hampstead Heath

Hampstead Heath - Credit: Archant

Bike fans from Camden Cycling Campaign (CCC) want paths to link existing routes across the Heath to allow families to get to shops, pupils to get to schools and swimmers to get to the Heath’s ponds more easily.

But opponents from group Heath for Feet, who fought off a bid for seven new routes ten years ago, have attacked CCC’s bid saying it puts pedestrians at risk.

Heath for Feet’s David Levy said: “Why the CCC believe they should now have another bite at almost the same cherry escapes us, a cherry already rejected by so many Heath users. The Heath should be left free for walkers to enjoy without any fears for their safety from speeding cyclists.”

CCC coordinator John Chamberlain agreed opponents’ fears may be “legitimate” but he argued concerns about speeding were “exaggerated”. “We share those concerns. We don’t think it’s appropriate for cyclists to go fast. You have to have measures in place to manage speed,” he said.

He went on to accuse Heath for Feet of “whipping up hysteria”, but admitted Heath bosses were luke-warm about the group’s proposals. Asked why CCC was still calling for the routes, Mr Chamberlain said: “We’re a campaigning organisation so we never take no for an answer.”

The CCC want the cycle track along Spaniards Road extended to the Whitestone Pond junction and an existing route on New End Way turned into a two lane path.

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The group is also calling for cycling past the men’s pond to be allowed arguing it would make a better east west route from Millfield Lane avoiding steep gradients thus making it safer. Plans to connect Gordon House Road to Parliament Hill Lido to link up Grafton Road and a call for cycling to be allowed on track connecting North End to North End Way have been put forward.

CCC also support a petition to allow cycling between the ladies pond and Hampstead Lane.

But Mr Levy argued “little or nothing” had changed since Heath for Feet last defeated the CCC with arguments that the width and steepness of existing paths rendered plans unsuitable.

A spokesman from City of London Corporation, which manages the Heath, said: “We have no plans to extend the number of cycle paths. Our priority is to maintain existing paths. We will be reviewing this position in our review of the 2018 Heath management plan.”