Report deals a bitter blow to Heath cyclists

THE brakes have been put on the campaign for more cycling paths on Hampstead Heath

Marc Mullen

THE brakes have been put on the campaign for more cycling paths on Hampstead Heath.

After a six-month study into walking and cycling on the Heath, a report by independent consultants Atkins has ruled that five out of seven proposed new cycle paths are "not suitable as shared routes" with pedestrians.

And if campaigners get their way the other two will be axed as well.

Tony Hillier, chairman of the Heath and Hampstead Society, said: "We agree with the conclusion on those five paths, but we don't think the other two paths meet the required standards of safety.

"There are too many pedestrians using those paths on days when the Heath is populous for those routes to be safe for shared use."

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The report recommends only the railway bridge linking the Heath to Savernake Road and a path between Parliament Hill café and the lido should be considered for shared use.

The report's recommendations can still be overruled, but privately sources at the City of London Corporation say this is unlikely.

Alderman Bob Hall, chairman of the Hampstead Heath management committee, said: "The consultants' view is that of the existing six cycle routes, one needs upgrading if it is to remain suitable for shared use, and of the seven additional routes proposed by the Camden Cycling Campaign, two are suitable for shared use."

Jean Dollimore, joint co-ordinator of the Camden Cycling Campaign remained upbeat: "I don't think it has been closed off completely. All these routes are still up for discussion."

The report also revealed that 62 illegal cyclists an hour used the path on the west side of Highgate ponds, and 23 cyclists an hour illegally ride between Hampstead and Highgate along Lime Avenue.

The Corporation is considering greater enforcement of on-the-spot fines for illegal cyclists on those routes.

It may also consider allowing new cycle routes to be used at certain times of the day after the issue was raised at a Heath Consultative Committee meeting on Monday.

The report also suggested that four of the existing cycle routes across the Heath were too narrow in places.

Christine Fox, who set up the Heath for Feet campaign in opposition to the mooted bike routes, said: "Heath for Feet has put in a lot of work to make people aware of the threat to Heath pedestrians from an increased number of shared cycle paths and we are pleased with what seems to be the direction this is going in.

"We don't want to presume anything yet, but we have been quite encouraged that a totally objective outside organisation has come up with these conclusions."

The deadline for interested parties to submit any comments on the report to the Corporation is February 1.

The Hampstead Heath management committee will come to a final decision on the cycle paths on July 28.